The Taco Bell Skills Challenge

Is Chris Paul becoming more John Stockton than Isiah Thomas?


Chris Paul insists he’s healthy. He says his knee isn’t bothering him. But if you watched him in December and you watched him in March, you’re going to have a hard time buying it.

The question is — will Paul ever be right? I mean right like he was three seasons ago?

Maybe it doesn’t matter. Ryan Schwan (of Hornets247) wrote a fantastic column at TrueHoop about the evolution of Paul. He has never been a baller who solely relies on being more athletic than you. He has skills, he has hoop IQ. He has the ability to adjust. And the template of exists.

Whereas Paul was once on track to be Isiah Thomas 2.0, he has become something else entirely without that lightning first step. It might be time for a new comparison: Paul has become John Stockton 2.0…

He’s still quick, elusive and able to free himself and his teammates for baskets, but these days, his play in the half court is almost entirely reliant on misdirection and clever ballhandling. He goes to the basket less, but compensates by shooting at a better clip than ever before. With his strength and low center of gravity intact, he often relies on running into opposing players to force them to retreat and give him room to shoot….

Regardless, it has been an amazing transformation over the course of less than a year. As he’s encountered new limitations, he has shifted his focus to being the best floor general he can be.

Schwan notes that the tables have flipped — it used to be that Deron Williams was the less athletic and more cerebral player of the two elite point guards (who will forever be compared because they were taken back-to-back in the 2005 draft). Now, Williams relies more on his athleticism than Paul.

The problem is that despite Paul’s evolution, the team is struggling — 3-7 in their last 10. The problem is that the lack of evolution by the team may have him taking his talents elsewhere in a couple years. And there will be a large market for those Stockton-like talents.

Somebody looks comfortable: Paul George drops 20 in first quarter

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Paul George‘s first experience starting as a power forward was going up against Anthony Davis — not just one of the best power forwards in the game, one of the handful of best players in the game period. That didn’t go well for George, and he wasn’t happy about it.

His second experience was in another preseason game Tuesday, going up against the Pistons and their four, Ersan İlyasova. He’s not quite as intimidating.

George scored 20 points on 7-of-8 shooting, 4-of-5 on threes — and that was just the first quarter (you can see it all in the video above).

As we have said before, George at the four is not a bad call by the Pacers, but some of that depends on the matchup. On the nights the Pacers face Davis or Blake Griffin or LaMarcus Aldridge or Zach Randolph (or a handful of others) the Pacers’ coaching staff is going to have to adjust. But there are a lot of nights where George at the four is going to force the other team to adjust, and that will play into the Pacers’ hands.

Is DeMarcus Cousins MVP worthy? “It’s mine to grab”

DeMarcus Cousins

Last season, DeMarcus Cousins received zero MVP votes (the same as every year of his career). Even though he averaged 24.1 points, and 12.7 rebounds a game, which was enough to get him his first All-Star berth, MVP is another thing entirely. Only players on winning teams tend to draw the attention of MVP voters.

This season, can Cousins — arguably the best center in the game — get in the conversation?

He thinks it’s more than just that, he told Kevin Ding at Bleacher Report.

The topic is the 2015-16 NBA MVP award and whether it could be reachable for DeMarcus Cousins.

“Reachable, man?” Cousins told Bleacher Report, his voice rising high. “It’s mine to grab.”

As noted above, the only way Cousins gets into the conversation — fair or not — is if the Kings are in the playoffs (at the very least). He understands that.

“It’s going to take a full team effort,” Cousins said. “I’ll try to play at a high level and bring my team along with me.”

Vlade Divac built a Kings’ team designed to start winning now — as you would expect from a team a year away from moving into a new arena they need to fill. Owner Vivek Ranadive is not about selling hope anymore, he wants to sell wins.

I think Cousins can help provide that.

I’m less sold on the cast around him being able to help.