Breakdown: CP3 is an attention seeker with all these options
Los Angeles Clippers point god Chris Paul is the best point guard in the NBA not because of his passing but because of the threat he poses.
Chris Paul is an attention seeker.
It's not the egomaniacal superstar athlete persona that drives his thirst for attention on the basketball court. We're not looking at a situation in which Paul is trying to make sure the spotlight is on him or the cameras are catching his every move. We have players in the NBA like that and you see it throughout professional sports when the most menial athletic tasks become cause for celebration.
That's not what we get with CP3. What we get with the best point guard in the NBA is a diversionary tactic in which he wants to draw the spotlight of the defense so that a jailbreak can happen with his teammates. The Los Angeles Clippers have surrounded him with more weapons than he's ever had.
For basketball fans, that grand reveal usually ends up being a 3-point shooter left far too open or a lob at the rim that we're all rushing to Twitter and YouTube to see again. Through the first five games of the season, Chris Paul has created an inordinate amount of points on the floor. His 12.6 assists per game have accounted for 28.6 points per game. Add that total to his scoring average of 24.8 points and that makes Paul responsible for 53.4 points on average in the Clippers' games.
That's a lot of offensive production.
Finding shooters on the Pick-and-Roll
When Rivers came over to coach the Clippers, a more serious threat was going to be on the court than Lob City. While the lobs that everybody seems to be fond of are still in the minds of the opponents, the Clippers have beefed up their perimeter game to provide a better balance between the two scoring areas. The key to cutting off the lobs that CP3 is so good at tossing to DeAndre Jordan or Blake Griffin is taking away dribble penetration.
The problem with that this year is you've added J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley to the fold. They know spacing the floor and coming off screens so well that when the defense commits to taking away driving lanes, it compromises their ability to hound the shooters on the perimeter.
Chris Paul has the attention of three different defenders on this one pick-and-roll, and that's before Jordan is even close to being a threat at the basket. It leaves a 40.6 percent 3-point shooter open on the right wing and Dudley knocks it down.
On another pick-and-roll against the Rockets, Paul spins toward the right side to execute the play. As Jordan and Paul both make their way toward the hoop, four different defenders are paying attention to the Clippers' point guard and center combination.
Leaving the weak side shooter is technically the correct play defensively there. You have to collapse on the paint to take away anything at the rim and then hustle into a good closeout on the shooter. Here, Chandler Parsons is in no position to recover to Jamal Crawford in the corner and it leaves him with an easy corner 3-pointer. This is the beauty of Chris Paul as the point guard. You can make the correct play strategically but if you don't execute it perfectly, he'll find a way to beat you.
Finding shots at the basket on Pick-and-Roll
Against a less disciplined defense like the Sacramento Kings, Chris Paul was able to draw attention away from his infamous lob catchers by using the side pick-and-roll. If you have defensive players not taking the right angles and not dropping down into proper help, Paul ends up with multiple options on the highlight he's creating.
Jason Thompson starts it off by taking a terrible angle against CP3. Isaiah Thomas seems to hang back a bit in recovery because of the passing angle to Blake Griffin rolling down the lane. DeMarcus Cousins is getting into position late and not fully committing to where he needs to be. In the process, Marcus Thornton never drops to help against Jordan, which leaves Paul with two options to get a dunk.
He's such a dynamic scorer that he draws the attention of three defenders who all hesitate to commit against him. If you hesitate against Chris Paul, you might as well start calling out your next offensive set.
Another side pick-and-roll for the Clippers against the Kings but they don't even need to worry about getting it to the weak side player cutting toward the basket. Instead, there isn't nearly enough ball pressure on Paul and the Kings give Griffin far too much room between him and the rim. It doesn't really which way the Kings try to cut it off here or play the pick-and-roll; Paul is able to read the situation and drop a pocket pass for the easy layup.
It also helps that DeMarcus Cousins and Travis Outlaw apparently don't recognize where to be in help defense.
On the fly directing
The improvisation of Chris Paul is also just a fantastic tool to watch him utilize. The Clippers love to get out in transition and the secondary transition plays might actually be where Paul is the most deadly. As you can hear in this video, he's immediately recognizing where the Rockets are shading their transition defense (hint: it's to stop Chris Paul) and calls for Dudley to "step up."
Getting Dudley to circle back toward the top of the key to get either an open jumper or a one dribble jumper past a closeout from Parsons is set up entirely by the threat of Paul getting into the team of the defense and making plays happen. Whatever you give him, he'll gladly take for his team.
And then there are times in which Chris Paul is just standing 30 feet from the basket and he can perfectly pinpoint a lob to Griffin with action happening on the weak side of the floor. He called out for his team to run this play during the dead ball before this possession started. He brought Crawford over and let him know what the play was going to be.
It shows you that even though he can burn you with the drive, you have to pressure the ball with him at all times and not give him such easy passing lanes.
Even on broken plays like this offensive rebound by the Clippers that extended a possession, the defense has their eyes fixated on the threat of what Chris Paul is going to do. While the Warriors begin to overload the strong side of the court, Crawford comes back into the picture and finds a cozy, open spot on the other side of the floor to take and make an easy 3-point shot.
He makes the disjointed chaos of a second chance points opportunity look like he's been planning this execution all game long.
It is possible to stop the Clippers. It's happened twice this season and it mostly involves attacking a defense that simply can't stop anybody right now. If you can do that, stay at home on the dunkers inside, and pressure the ball to take away Chris Paul's passing lanes to the shooters then you can hang with the Clippers and their incredibly fun offense.
Just don't get caught paying too much attention to Chris Paul when he's orchestrating the play; that spotlight isn't meant for him.
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