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The Great Debate

January 4 is an important day. No really. Just ask Wikipedia. Did you know that Isaac Newton was born on this day? How about that Jesse "The Body" Ventura was sworn in as governor of Minnesota? Or that Utah became the 45th state on this day? Bored yet? You should be. Newton was a virgin, Superfly Snuka was better, and nobody would've cared even had Utah been one of the 13 original colonies.

January 4 will also see the Utah Jazz taking on the New Orleans Hornets at the Energy Solutions Arena, and you know what that means? Chris Paul and Deron Williams together again at last! This will mark the 14th time that these two have played against each other since the 2005 draft. And no doubt over the years you've heard the virtues and flaws of each espoused ad-nauseum by their respective supporters and critics. Even my cat has an opinion (though that could just be a hairball).

Deron Williams is without a doubt on of the top players in the NBA. Since being drafted 3rd overall by the Jazz in 2005 he has career averages of 16.3 points and 8.7 assists per game. The Jazz have never finished with a losing season since drafting him, and they have made the playoffs each of the last 3 years (including one trip to the Western Finals). That being said I think Chris Paul is a better player.

Sorry. It’s true

I understand that we as Jazz fans have an inherent persecution complex fostered through years of nationwide scrutiny of the local religion. And that because of this scrutiny we always feel the need to enthusiastically support any and all things associated with our state even if we come across as more desperate than the class nerd turned millionaire at a 10 year high school reunion. Remember how drunk with lust Utah soccer moms and teenage girls became when David Archuletta went through puberty on American idol before our very eyes? How proud did you feel when Ken Jennings laid waste to the Jeopardy landscape like a 7th century Viking horde or Trogdor the Burninator? So naturally when the Jazz picked Deron Williams over Chris Paul in the 2005 draft we talked ourselves into believing that it was the right decision.

It wasn’t.

Now before you make up your mind to have me killed for such blasphemy, allow me to explain myself. I’m not comparing this to Bowie over Jordan in 84’. Think of it more in terms of Olajuwon over Jordan in 84’. Should the Rockets have taken Jordan over Olajuwon? Probably. Are they disappointed with the 2 titles they won with Hakeem? Probably not. I had a business-law class in college where each question on the tests had 5 answers. Of those 5 answers, only one was completely wrong and earned you no points, the other 4 earned you points based on how “right” they were. If you answered Olajuwon or Deron, you were definitely passing the class with a good grade; if you picked Jordan or Paul then you were probably class valedictorian (If you picked Bowie, then yes, I WILL have fries with that).

Still with me?

Why Paul over Williams? Let’s compare them using a 3 season window starting with the 06-07 season and ending with last season (I’m disregarding their rookie seasons because Paul was clearly better as a rookie and Deron hadn’t been given the keys to the car yet)

Chris Paul: 20.6 PPG, 10.6 AST, 4.7 REB, 2.5 STL, 48.1 FG%, 84.9 FT%
Hornets: 144-102

Deron Williams: 18.1 PPG, 10.1 AST, 3.1 REB, 1.1 STL, 47.8 FG%, 80.9 FT%
Jazz: 153-93

Head to Head: 11-2 Deron Williams

From an individual perspective Chris Paul is better across the board. Dig deeper and those differences become even more pronounced when you consider that the Hornets played at one of slowest paces in the league, averaging over 3 less possessions per game than the Jazz. Even the better W-L record by Deron is misleading when you consider that Chris Paul’s teammates are recruited directly from the local YMCA. In fact I’m pretty sure that it was Morris Peterson who I dropped 20 on in a church-ball game last year. Offer to switch their supporting casts and I’d bet their answers would go something like this…

Deron Williams: What!? Hell no! I left those guys behind in high school.
Chris Paul: Thank you God!

Deron Williams has had 3 All-Stars for teammates (Boozer, Okur, and Kirilenko), all of whom are still in their physical primes. Chris Paul has David West and the corpse of Peja Stojakovic as his "All-Stars". Deron has had role players like Matt Harpring, Ronnie Brewer, Derek Fisher, Kyle Korver and Paul Millsap. Chris Paul has had Tyson Chandler, James Posey, Count Chocula, Jackie Moon, and Ollie from Hoosiers as his supporting cast. Big difference. In three years playing with Paul, Tyson Chandler was a borderline All-Star; averaging 10 points and 11 boards a game while shooting 61% from the field. That 61% percent is more amazing when you consider that Chandler has shot below 50% in 4 out of the 6 seasons Chris Paul wasn’t his point guard. David West's breakout season just happened to coincide with Paul's rookie year; before that he was a spot starting backup forward that averaged 6 points on 43% shooting for a team that went 18-64. Now he's a two-time All-Star. What changed? Hurricane Katrina certainly didn't give him any sudden superpowers.

When you think about it, how is Andrei Kirilenko much different from Tyson Chandler? If anything Andrei is a slightly smaller, more versatile version with a better offensive skill-set. Imagine Kirilenko and Ronnie Brewer (Two of the better players in the league when it comes to moving without the ball) running off screens, slashing to the hoop, and just waiting for Chris Paul's lob passes at the rim 10-15 times a game? Under these circumstances do you think Andrei is crying in the 07' playoffs against Houston because he’s frustrated with his role on the team? He might still be crying, but those tears are tears of joy after he just dunked on T-Mac's lazy eye for the 10th time off of an alley-oop (Either that or Masha just told him he could have 2 freebies a year instead of one).

I love Deron Williams, believe me I'm not complaining about the nightly 20-10 he gives my fantasy team; but Chris Paul is just the better player.

Remember January 4 is an important day.


Elliott Zgraggen

4 comments:

  1. Because I enjoy dissension so much (starting with the most minor point first):

    - Curiously, if you asked Newton himself, he would have told you that he was born on Christmas Day. This isn't any error on anyone's part, but just confusion due to the switch from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. (Conversely, if you had asked Leibniz when Newton's birthday was, he would have said Jan 4, even back then.)

    - Over the 3 statistical seasons you looked at, Paul played more per game than Williams. The difference is about 38 seconds per game, which seems extraordinarily trivial. In fact, it would account for about 0.4 points, 0.2 assists and 0.1 rebounds per game. Which makes it's contribution very small, but I think that keeps it out of the realm of "extraordinarily trivial".

    - The example from your class was apt, though the tests would have been slightly more difficult if it had been impossible for anyone (including the instructor) to know which of the answers was most correct at the time the test was given. Most students would object strongly to the sort of test that the NBA draft represents. You give us an answer, we wait 2, 5 or 10 years and then give you a grade based on future events. (And we mail you your diploma some time after that . . . ?)

    - I don't even know what it means for Boozer to be in his "physical prime". Surely you saw the irony in that statement even as you wrote it?

    - At this point in their careers, Williams is up 15 games on Paul. (Excluding their rookie years pushes this to 13, while looking only at the previous 3 years drops it to 8.) Conventional wisdom is that the larger Williams will be more durable than Paul. That will remain to be seen, of course.

    - At 6-3, Williams can match up defensively against a wider range of opponents. Against certain teams, Paul can be a defensive liability at 6-0, 175 lbs. On a related note, Williams has more than 3 times as many blocks as Paul, though neither has very many.

    And, to be fair, another pro-Paul point:

    - I'm surprised you didn't mention turnovers. As primary ball handlers their ability to not give the ball to the other team is important. Williams is "ahead" 955 to 797 in this category.

    -Clark

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  2. In regards to Boozers "physical prime" I should have said "theoretical physical prime", as he is only 28 years old which should be prime years for a Power Forward. And when healthy (like this year) he's still All-Star calliber.

    I agree with conventional wisdom in that Williams will probably have a longer career than Paul due to his superior size. But then we are just comparing John Stockton with Isiah Thomas (in careers, not size). Stockton had the much longer career, but Isiah was the best player on 2 championship teams. Both were great, but if as a fan I want nothing more than a championship parade in my city, I'm taking Isiah.

    Williams can matchup better defensively from a physical perspective, but it's not like he's a lockdown defender. Look at the numbers for opposing PG's when they go against him. They're scoring fairly easily against him, and the quicker ones are taking him to the basket. Up until last game's 22, Jason Kidd's season high was the 19 he had against Deron. It's true that Paul gambles for steals more, but there's something to be said for the havoc that can play with an opposing team's psyche. When Paul is getting 5-6 steals a game, that can make an opposing PG real jittery with his passes or dribble, and when your PG is jittery you better hope your team defense is top notch, because your offense is TOAST.

    I don't know how I forgot to mention the turnovers. In my defense it was almost 3 in the morning when I finished :)

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  3. Why are you always trying to harsh my buzz?
    Your article just killed my Deron boner I have been tucking in my belt the last several years.

    I think that I will just take a handful of lunesta and when I wake, pretend that this was all just a bad dream!!!!!!!!!

    P.S.
    I am pretty sure that D-Will could beat up CP3. So thats another in the win column.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Elliott --

    Sorry to highjack this thread, but this is Kendo from Sloan Hands and I want to let you know you won the Caption This Contest and I didn't know how else to contact you.

    Email me at kendo@loosli.us and I'll get you your prize.

    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete