Chris Paul needs an assist


By Spencer Brown

It’s time to address the elephant in the Clippers’ locker room.

And that elephant is none other than Chris Paul.

It’s tough to break the news so publicly to the Clipper Nation and the greater Los Angeles area, but the Clippers will never win a championship with Chris Paul as their best player.

This has nothing to do with the Clippers’ Game 1 home loss to the Golden State Warriors on Saturday. This has even less to do with the spectacular skill set and leadership ability of Chris Paul. It’s just a hunch that’s a soon-to-be reality.

There is a method to my madness.

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    Chris Paul has only been to the second round of the playoffs twice in his career. In 2008, his New Orleans Hornets lost in seven games to the San Antonio Spurs. In 2012, the Clippers were swept by the Spurs.

    Paul has no appearances in the Conference Finals, let alone the NBA Finals. This is not by accident.

    The fact of the matter is your point guard cannot be the best player on your team. Superstar point guards traditionally just are not champions.

    Let’s take a historical look.

    The top five leaders in assists all time (in order) are: John Stockton, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Mark Jackson and Magic Johnson.

    John Stockton. Ringless.

    Steve Nash. Ringless.

    Mark Jackson. Ringless.

    Jason Kidd won a championship with the Dallas Mavericks at the tail end of his career. Kidd was serviceable but nowhere near the best player on that team. Dirk Nowitzki obviously held that title.

    Magic Johnson is Magic Johnson. Even though he played on arguably some of the greatest teams in NBA history, he also had James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, so it’s debatable whether he was the most important or best player on the Lakers during that era.

    There may be folks out there who think assists don’t determine a point guard’s greatness, ability to win and so on and so forth.

    Fair enough.

    There’s another way to approach this.

    Here is the list of starting point guards who have won championships since Isaiah Thomas won back-to-back championships.

    John Paxson, B.J. Armstrong, Kenny Smith, Ron Harper, Avery Johnson, Derek Fisher, Tony Parker, Chauncey Billups, Jason Williams, Rajon Rondo, Jason Kidd and Mario Chalmers.

    It’s a hard sell persuading anybody that any of those players were the best on their team at the time they won championships. Chauncey Billups may be the one exception.

    What is there to make of all this? More importantly, what should Clippers’ fans make of all this?

    They could choose to ignore everything being written and live their lives in the same basketball denial they wallowed in before Chris Paul’s arrival.

    The best scenario would be to hope that management makes some big-time roster changes, and that doesn’t necessarily mean moving Chris Paul.

    He just needs some kind of help, and that brings us to the basketball portion of the show.

    The addition of J.J. Redick is nice. Jamal Crawford is one of the premier sixth men in the league. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan have improved. Great.

    In the clutch, however, it’s always Chris Paul trying to make the big-time play and shot, almost simultaneously.

    I call it the Steve Nash-Derrick Rose effect.

    When your point guard is your best or only playmaker and the best scorer, defenses tend to key in on them at the end of games. Paul has no one to throw it into the post consistently that will get him a must-have basket late. Paul doesn’t have the most reliable wings down the stretch either. As a result, he becomes a one-man solo act in the last three minutes of games.

    Perfect example: Game 1 against the Warriors. Chris Paul had 28 points, seven rebounds, eight assists and four steals. Paul made two threes late in the game to keep it close. Griffin fouled out. Jordan missed free throws. Everyone else was pretty much ineffective. The Clippers lost.

    The book is far from closed on Paul’s career and whether he will win a championship. From the looks of it, we shouldn’t expect a happy ending.

    Spencer is a senior in LAS. He can be reached at [email protected].