Thus far, the general consensus on NBA MVP candidates are the usual suspects: Kevin Durant, LeBron James and even Derrick Rose to repeat. ESPN and Sports Illustrated recently surveyed their panel of hoops experts to predict who will win the MVP. 23 out of 30 and six out of seven chose either KD or LeBron to win it, respectively. When the likelihood of a season was at its bleakest during the lockout — even here at Dime — the popular candidates of KD and Blake Griffin were given the nod for Fantasy MVP and SportsCenter MVP, respectively. However, don’t get it twisted, though. Sean Sweeney was on to something when he deemed the Los Angeles Clippers as “The People’s Champion”.
“They’d be the 2010 Thunder of this year… everyone would be ready to crown them already,” said Sweeney.
This prediction has proven to be an ominous one since it was practically a month prior to their franchise-altering trade. Likewise, the MVP award is given to the player that best represents the utmost value to their team through the confluence of their stats, team success, and talent-driven bravado and marketability. That said, ain’t nobody in the league right now seeing the one and only cat that epitomizes what an MVP is and carries the burden of an entire franchise: Chris Paul.
Still, what the hell do these ESPN and SI pundits know about who the $#&%in’ real MVP will be anyways? Durantula is a lock to win a third-straight scoring title, but he is on the most well-run squad from top-to-bottom outside of the San Antonio Spurs. LeBron is on the path to prove all the haters wrong once and for all this season, but everything he’ll do is a moot point until he gets to the fourth quarters of The Finals. D-Rose won the award last season, but he can’t one-up himself for an encore unless he can lead the League in dimes and guide the Bulls to the best overall record again. Conversely, CP3 got traded to the best possible destination to capture all of the Drake-like headlines and virtually single-handedly transform the laughingstock Clippers to LA’s Hollywood team.
First and foremost, it’ll serve one well to go back to the 2007-08 season just to see how nice CP actually is at his finest hour. Kobe Bryant robbed ’em of the MVP. The sole reason why Black Mamba “won” the award was because the media realized they did an injustice of not granting him the MVP a couple seasons earlier when he had the epic 81-point game. The Los Angeles Lakers finished ahead of the New Orleans Hornets by just one game (57-25 to 56-26). CP’s stats were among the most impressive the game has ever seen. Not only was he tops in the league with 11.6 dimes and 2.7 steals, he did it while also being second among point guards in scoring with 21.1 points a game and an outrageous 28.3 PER. The most remarkable stat of all: his league-leading 17.8 win shares — his second best mark in his career — ranks only behind His Airness and The Big O amongst guards all-time, based on basketball-reference.com.
Now, fast-forward to last year’s New Orleans playoff run. CP was somehow able to take that squad filled with vagabonds like Carl Landry and Marco Belinelli (David West was out for the year) to battle the then-reigning champion Lakers to six games. In hindsight, his Game 1 onslaught of 33 points, 14 dimes, and four cookies as he shot 61 percent from the field was probably what ultimately convinced the Lakers to attempt to trade for him — even if it meant losing Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol in the process.
As long as the Clippers give ’em full control of the offense, the entire league should be put on notice. Rohan, who has covered CP since his rookie year from SB Nation’s At the Hive, notes:
“The 2011 regular season Chris Paul was definitely an All-Star caliber player, but the 2011 playoffs Chris Paul? That’s a Hall of Famer,” he says. “On-the-ball Chris Paul is, when healthy, arguably the most impactful offensive player in the league.”
And even though the season is only two weeks-old, Clips Nation’s own John Raffo has also witnessed enough to recognize how great CP has been and what kind of influence he is already bringing to the Clippers:
“His record speaks for itself: he repeatedly took a lesser team further than anyone would have thought possible. He turned the Hornets into winners when he arrived in 2006…forcing an under-talented and under-achieving team to become more than the sum of its parts.”
His leadership is so genuine that, “Clipper fans haven’t seen anything like this since Sam Cassell was with the team,” says Raffo.
Most importantly, though, is the overall cultural change CP is imparting, making him leaps and bounds ahead of the so-called MVP competition. Amongst Angelinos, the Clippers have always been casted the lesser brother playing under the shadows of the big brother Lakers. While Griffin deserves credit for brushing off any notion that the “Clippers Curse” still exists, it hasn’t been until now that all of Los Angeles can look up at Hotel Figueroa and see the change in basketball hierarchy in town. How many other cats in the league have the balls to go on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno and call him out for routinely dissing your team for decades? It is because of instances like this that CP has been embraced by Clipper Nation and even Lakers fans like another former New Orleans resident and now Los Angeles transplant, Frank Ocean.