Chris Paul is the surprising entrant to the MVP race this season, not because of Chris Paul the player, but because of who Chris Paul plays for. A Clippers player has never won the MVP, and frankly there hasn’t even been many All Stars from the franchise. But because of the Clippers’ near NBA best 30-9 record, Chris Paul is an obvious choice for the award.
But now that Chris Paul has missed the last two games of the season with a bruised knee cap after bumping knees with JJ Redick, and the Clippers won both of them. Is it time to question whether the should be NBA MVP is the Clipper’s most valuable player this year?
Shortly, Yes. The Clippers MVP nearly halfway through the season is Jamal Crawford. The veteran is once again a candidate for 6th man of the year, and even though he plays with 2 All Stars Crawford with his sixth NBA team is the Clips’ MVP.
Chris Paul and Blake Grffin average less than 2 points per contest more than Crawford on nearly the same number of attempts. Paul and Griffin average more assists and rebounds respectively, and more steals. Chris Paul’s vocal leadership is the best in the NBA, and Blake Griffin’s athleticism draws a crowd giving Crawford more room to make plays.
Crawford averages 16.2 points per game in his almost 30 minutes of play. But those points aren’t much planned for. His length and craftiness make him a tough matchup problem. Other players need shot opportunities created for them. Crawford seems to prefer the challenge of a one on one defender, and many of his apparently foolish shot opportunities hit nothing but net. And the attention defenses have been giving him creates opportunities for his teammates. But Paul and Griffin can create shots too.
The Clippers bench has been the best in the league. A Tribe called Bench often outplays the other teams starters, and they’ve closed out many games this season with a big Clippers lead that the bench has built. And the main reason that Crawford is the team’s MVP is the way he seamlessly blends between the 2 units.
Given how effective the Clippers roster has been Vinny Del Negro has a tough assignment of establishing a rotation. But the continuity Crawford brings between what could be two very separate units is the difference in the Clippers being a formidable team. Crawford is first off the bench, blending with the starters usually at the 2 or even at the 3. He is not shy about his shot no matter who is on the floor, either in early offense or late in the shot clock. Then he becomes the go to scorer as Bledsoe, Barnes, and Odom filter onto the floor. Without a matchup problem a bench can be game-fillers. But Crawford creates problems for the defense, and then can close out games and knock down his own shot.
The Clippers had trouble scoring a season ago. They were 14th in the NBA averaging 97.5 points per game. But this season with Crawford melding the team, they are in the top 10 with 102.1 points per game.
Everyone knows how good Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are. Matt Barnes could even be considered the team MVP for similar reasons as Crawford, especially how well he has shot the ball from 3. But Crawford sets himself up as the team MVP because he creates his own shot, and seamlessly blends the whole of the Clippers team.
It’s well documented that Crawford is a scorer, but it’s a big surprise this season that he has made the Clippers team so much better, so much better he should be the team MVP through the first half of the season.