Let’s face it. It’s extremely, extremely difficult to win an NBA championship. In the past 20 years, the only teams who have won are the Heat (3), Mavericks (1), Celtics (1), Lakers (5), Spurs (3), Pistons (1), Bulls (3) and Rockets (2). We’ve seen a handful of players collect most of the rings: Jordan (3), Olajuwon (2), Shaq (4), Kobe (5), Duncan (3), LeBron (2).
Role players have the opportunity to move around and sign with championship contenders without severely discounting their salaries, but for marquee players, All-Stars, true game changers, it is much harder to join forces from personal financial perspective, a team salary cap structure, competitive instinct and media influence.
Guys like Allen Iverson, Steve Nash, Patrick Ewing, Reggie Miller, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone and John Stockton are all first ballot Hall-of-Famers because of their skills and impact on the league, but were unable to break through to win a championship.
Sure, Gary Payton hung around long enough to get a ring with Shaq/Wade in Miami, but top tier veterans adjusting to smaller roles to win championships are the exception rather than the norm (Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady).
So it’s not a knock on his talents, but I can easily see a future where Chris Paul remains ring-less. In fact, I think it’s the most likely future.
Sacrilege, maybe. How dare I criticize the Point God! ESPN recently debated whether Chris Paul was currently one of the top 5 PGs of all time, and discussed what it would take to put him there if he was not.
He’s a little guy (by basketball standards) who lacks elite level explosiveness, but dominates gameflow with prescient knowledge of where everyone is and will be on the court, makes phenomenal decisions with the basketball (#1 in the league both in assists and assist:turnover ratio), and shoots exceptionally well from all over the floor.
I know it’s really early in the season to be making claims about this year’s playoffs, but I just don’t trust this Clippers team. They are constructed to be a regular season juggernaut. With so much (good) shooting spacing the floor and the freakish athleticism of their big men (and the underrated depth to Blake Griffin’s offense), giving the keys to Chris Paul means a team that will churn out win after win, burying their opponents in a barrage of 3s and dunks.
But once the playoffs hit…
The Grizzlies have owned the Clippers in last year’s playoffs largely because of Zach Randolph’s dominance of Blake Griffin. I think, as much as I like Griffin and DeAndre Jordan individually, that the Clips frontline defense will get shredded by San Antonio over a 7-game series. Nobody on the roster can match up with Kevin Durant (You expect Matt Barnes and Jared Dudley to slow down KD??). Jamal Crawford, aesthetically incredible as his behind the back crossover is, gets roasted on D.
I think Doc Rivers’ impact is overrated; yes, he brings credibility and helped persuade CP3 to resign with the Clippers, but Boston’s defense was a product of Thibodeau and Kevin Garnett. Despite having three hall-of-famers and an All-Star point guard, the Celtics offense was frequently mediocre. Other than “Championship Pedigree,” and the obvious addition by subtraction that happened by getting rid of Del Negro and substituting an actual NBA head coach, what does Rivers offer?
I would expect the Thunder and Spurs to both beat the Clippers, and think that the Warriors, Grizzlies and maybe even the Rockets would have an advantage over 7 games. Which means the only potential playoff teams I am confident the Clips can beat are the Timberwolves, Mavs and Trail Blazers, teams that I think would be lucky to get out of the first round.
Keep in mind Chris Paul has never even made the Conference Finals. He has won two individual playoff series in his career, against the Mavericks in 2008 with the Hornets (4-1), and against the Grizzlies in 2012 while with the Clippers (4-3). He is already 28 years old (the next generation is breathing down his neck), and his shot attempts at the rim last year (233) were ½ of what they were in his 07-08 MVP runner-up season (454). His usage rate that season was higher that season (25.7% of possessions), but not much (22.6% in 12-13).
If they don’t win this year (which clearly I don’t expect), they will have to run it back next year with the same team. They have no cap space and their primary problem (acquiring legitimate defensive big man) is shared by most of the league. Paul’s contract runs until 2018, when he will be 33.
I suppose it’s likely a competitor like Paul would take a tiny contract to ring-chase with a significantly smaller role on a contender, but no one knows what the NBA will look like at that point, and he may want to retire and spend more time with his kids.
Am I just a hater? Or will CP3 be considered one of the best guards of all time without an MVP or Championship on his mantelpiece?
(Find out why Melo is also stuck as a Throne Watcher.)
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