First of all, this article will take the place of the all star preview, which is taking longer than I thought to edit (I’m looking at you editor!) It is also not being written to end the debate of who is better. I’m writing this to keep it going, because currently everyone seems to have conceded that Paul has won.
With Chris Paul hurt, the Hornets are in a tail spin. They’ve lost the past four games and seem to be on pace to lose to the Raptors tonight. To be fair, Chris Paul was with the team for the first two losses, but without him the team has been completely different. They lack direction on offense without their floor general, but that was to be expected. They are now also a complete train wreck on defense as well. Again, it is a really small sample size (it’s been just one and a half games sans Paul, whereas Tyson Chandler, who is a much larger defensive presence, has been out for a long while as well), but the difference has been incredible.
Meanwhile, Deron Williams missed a few games earlier in the year, and the Jazz were just fine. In fact, they even went so far as to have a five game winning streak to open the season. In other games, a hobbled Williams who seemed too unsure of his body’s capabilities to drive in was enough, as the Jazz beat some opponent or the other.
So is this conclusive evidence that Paul is better than Williams? Is this the evidence that people like Bill Simmons have said they don’t need, but secretly want? The answer is somewhat mixed. Clearly, stat-wise, Paul leads Deron Williams in points, rebounds, assists, and steals. So it is done, right? Paul > Williams?
Nope, that’s not true. There is much more that goes into it than that. To understand why the debate should still rage on, one should first start with the stats. Now initially, it does look like Paul has the edge in all of those categories; however, some things should be taken into consideration. First of all, Paul plays more minutes than Williams, and Williams was hobbled getting those stats. So, taking those two parts into consideration, the stats come out to look about even.
Then you need to factor in how their respective teams are built. Chris Paul is the New Orleans Hornets. He is the face of the team and it is built completely around his whims. He has complete control. On the other hand, you have the Utah Jazz, where Deron Williams is not the figure head; Jerry Sloan is. So whatever Williams says does not go. In fact, if he ever tried a power trip like that, he would get benched and never be seen again. Ask Carlos Arroyo, who tried to cross Sloan, and now plays in Europe. It is Jerry Sloan’s way or the bench.
Thus, the two point guards play in completely different systems. Byron Scott has his team running plays that maximize the talents of his stars—especially Chris Paul— because he has to. Jerry Sloan’s system maximizes the talents of his role players and hides his players’ weaknesses, because it’s the best thing to do, and because he can. Thus, Chris Paul is able to play at a faster pace should he choose to, which for one thing can explain why he has better stats (more possessions equals more stats). By the way, Chris Paul doesn’t play at a faster pace to accumulate more stats. He plays at whatever pace he feels will grant him the win. Anyway, The Jazz are not in the same boat. They are atrocious on defense (they are better this year, but it’s a smaller sample size than the full defenseless season last year was). Thus, Jerry Sloan slows the game’s pace to be akin to the movement of a snail. That way his team’s offense (led by Williams) is asked to score efficiently in fewer possessions and, in turn, limit the times another team can score, so as to beat them in a way that masks their physical, but still poor, defense. Considering the Jazz are over five hundred with all their injuries, I would say it’s working well. In any case, this also limits his statistics, which—it should be noted—are still very close to Paul’s, regardless of possessions.
So, it’s actually a lot closer than you would think. Let’s keep this debate raging on. Also, look for the All Star Preview on Wednesday.
Update courtsey of Fanhouse: Also, Deron Williams can do this to Jason Terry!