Why Chris Paul is better than you think

Updated: May 9, 2006, 2:00 PM ET
By John Hollinger | ESPN Insider
Editor's note: This article was originally published on April 13. It has been updated through the end of the regular season.

Portland. Boston. Utah. Milwaukee. Atlanta. Charlotte. Toronto.

All of them, and perhaps a few other teams, could have had Chris Paul in the 2005 draft. And with each passing game, the mistake those teams made became more and more obvious. Based on his rookie year, Paul was essentially the next Magic Johnson ... only better.

Chris Paul
Gregory Shamus/NBAE/Getty ImagesTake a second to enjoy the season Chris Paul just had.

"CP3" (not be confused with his pal R2-D2) almost single-handedly rejuvenated a reeling New Orleans/Oklahoma City team that was coming off an 18-64 season, had been forced to relocate just weeks before the season started and had traded its All-Star center in the offseason. Observers were stunned to see Paul's Hornets steadfastly cling to life in the Western Conference playoff race -- and the Hornets more than doubled last season's win total.

As a result, Paul is going to win the Rookie of the Year award. Check that -- Paul is going to win unanimously, with a Jupiter-sized gap between him and whichever guy comes in second. (And if they gave out an award for having your jersey neatly tucked in at all times, he'd win that too.)

Paul's Rookie of the Year status is well known, of course ... so why am I bringing it up now? Because I don't think most people realize what a remarkable season Paul put together. At first glance, most folks think of his year as good, yes, but not great ... and certainly not historic.

One reason is that his traditional stats don't jump off the page -- 16.1 points, 7.9 assists and 5.1 rebounds. That was sure as heck better than any other rookie this year, but didn't exactly evoke visions of Bird and Magic taking the league by storm. And he shot only 43.0 percent from the floor and 28.2 percent on 3-pointers, so one might think he wasn't terribly efficient, either.


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