HOUSTON — Chris Paul is having one of his best overall seasons, leading a deep and talented Clippers team to top-tier status playing among the elite in the Western Conference.
Paul’s importance as the main cog that keeps the Clippers machine running was spotlighted recently, when his team struggled with a record of just 2-7 during a nine-game stretch when he was sidelined with a bruised right knee.
LeBron James has been other-worldly, and Kevin Durant might finish the season in the rarified 50-40-90 air in terms of shooting percentages from the field, the three-point line, and the free throw line before it’s all said and done. But Paul has been just as important to his team’s overall success, despite his not-as-gaudy numbers.
When asked if he deserves to be in the MVP conversation during his All-Star media availability on Friday, Paul chose to focus on his team’s goals for this season rather than his own personal achievements.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t even worry about it to tell you the truth. I’ve been runner-up for like three years or something like that, so it is what it is. I’m more focused on winning a championship.”
The MVP is subjective, of course, and is maddening to pin down when fans try to win arguments either for or against a certain player’s candidacy. Paul defined it fairly simply.
“On every team in the league, they know who their most valuable player is,” he said. “It’s that team that wouldn’t be the same without that guy. Everybody has a different person on their team that fits that category.”
When told the award typically goes to the best player on one of the two best teams in the league from a regular season win-loss perspective, Paul seemed fine with that.
“Obviously you need to be winning games, because if you’re the most valuable then you play a part in making your teammates better and winning games,” he said. “You can’t win 20-some games and think you’re most valuable, because obviously you’re not, then.”
While Paul was humble in discussing his MVP worthiness, he was willing to talk up the position he plays, and emphasized his belief of how important it is to a given team’s overall success.
“The point guard position is the toughest position in the NBA right now,” he said. “And it’s been that way for a nice little while. I always said, everyone in the NBA is talented; some are more talented than others. At the point guard position you never have a night off. You never have a night off.
“Most nights, every night you play, the point guard is going to be the go-to guy — the guy that you’ve got to slow down in order to slow down the team.”
There’s virtually no way Paul passes LeBron or Durant in MVP voting unless his Clippers go on an incredible tear in the second half of season that finds the team with the one seed in the Western Conference playoff picture. And even then, if James continues his insane level of play, there might not be anything stopping him from taking home the award for the fourth time in his career.
Paul is certainly aware of this, which is likely the reason he’s not entertaining thoughts of his chances this season. But when you look at the way his Clippers have played both with and without him, there’s no question he’s in that conversation.