Four seasons ago, Chris Paul finished second in MVP voting. He was coming off a historic regular season, and he followed that historic season with a magical- well, Magic-like, actually- playoffs. Not since Earvin Johnson himself had a point guard combined such flawless playmaking with the ability to volume score on ridiculous efficiency. Smaller package, but similar results.
However, CP3 has been overlooked ever since those 2008 playoffs. The season after was marred by injury, and the New Orleans Hornets weren't the same thereafter. Furthermore, several other perimeter superstars either emerged or had their situations radically shifted for the better. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade hooked up in South Beach. Kobe Bryant received two more rings. Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook brought uber-athletic ability to Paul's position while still remaining smart enough to handle an NBA offense.
And Chris was put on the back burner, a player in basketball exile waiting to be moved, waiting to have his "Decision" summer.
Thankfully it came early when he was traded to L.A. And then it didn't when the trade was rescinded. And then it did again, to a different team in the City of Angels.
And thus, the public perception of Paul has ascended once again to acceptable levels. He still probably doesn't get the respect he deserves, but at least people are recognizing him again. Paul should be on the All-NBA First Team this year along with Westbrook (Wade and Rose have all missed more time), and he should be in the running for MVP as well. He is the best player on a high-level team, and he has assumed a large load on that team, especially since the season-ending injury to veteran Chauncey Billups.
Paul is leading the third-best offense in the NBA and orchestrates "Lob City" as the true mayor in town. Blake Griffin may get the highlights, but it's usually Paul setting him up for those dunks. Paul is averaging 19.4 points and nine assists (with just 2.1 turnovers!) per game while shooting 48.1 percent and 37.3 percent from 3-point range. His ability to handle the ball as much as he does, create the amount of offense he does, and play over 36 minutes per game while only turning the ball over 2.1 times is mind boggling.
When it's crunch time, Paul seemingly always recognizes the situation and takes the game by the throat. According to 82games.com, Paul has the fifth-highest scoring average under its definition of a "clutch situation." He's also tenth in assists and ninth in FTAs while shooting a staggering 95 percent from the charity stripe in "clutch situations."
Perhaps more importantly, he's taught Griffin how to flop at an ALL-NBA level. It's not in the scope of this article to make fish jokes about Clippers and flopping, so do that on your own time.
But Paul is back and on a relevant team with weapons, and if history is any indication, he's going to go bonkers in the playoffs. He's arguably the second-best player in the league, and he's on a mission to prove it to NBA fans.