Paul Already Making History – and a Game Preview

So, after attacking the whole "Playoff Inexperience" argument thingy yesterday, I wanted to address something else that is irritating me.(It's nice to have a blog)  I'm sure at some point this season you've heard that if Chris Paul can just raise his steals numbers a little bit, he'd be the first player in NBA history to average more than 20 points, 10 assists, and 3 steals for an entire season.  And, you know, that would be amazing.

So here's my problem.  I know people like round numbers, but Chris Paul's current stat line of 21.7 points, 11.2 assists and 2.7 steals is already setting history.  No player has ever averaged 20, 10 and better than 2.5 for a season.  In fact, Paul is just the 3rd player ever to average at least 20 points, 10 assists and 2 steals.  Detroit's Isiah Thomas did it three times in 1983, '84 and '85.  Denver's Michael Adams, in one of the weirdest fluke years I've ever seen, did it in 1990 as well.  Isiah's best effort produced only 2.5 steals a game, a number Paul will beat as long as he manages to rip 18 more steals over the next 13 games.  I'm guessing he makes it.

As a sidebar, all those articles and announcers who compare Paul to Isiah?  They appear to be spot on.  Thomas is the closest statistical comparison I can find to Paul.  Here are the seasons they both produced at the age of 22:

Thomas 36.7 21.3 46.2 73.3 33.8 4.0 11.1 3.7
Paul 37.6 21.7 49.7 85.6 37.6 3.9 11.2 2.5

Amazingly similar – and we can be even more proud about our guy because he's got better shooting percentages across the board, and a lot less turnovers.  Paul is a wonder of efficiency.

If he continues at this pace, he'll not only be gunning for the MVP, he should be gunning to join Thomas in the HOF.

Game Preview
Matchup: Hornets (48-21) @ Cavaliers (40-31)
Off Efficiency: Hornets 108.6(6th), Cavaliers 103.5(17th)
Def Efficiency: Hornets 102.4(5th), Cavaliers 103.5(12th)
Cav Blogger: Cavalier Attitude

The Hornets handled a disinterested-looking LeBron James and his Cavs earlier this season in New Orleans, and tonight buzz into Cleveland to try and take them down again.  I have a feeling that LeBron won't play so lamely this time – when he's got motivation, he plays hard, and I think Paul suddenly being mentioned as MVP will give him that motivation.  That makes the Cavs dangerous.

Still, the Cavs supporting staff is a lot like the Hornets bench from earlier in the season – excellent defenders, but couldn't score in a whorehouse with a fistful of dollars.  Even after the mid-season trade with the Sonics and Bulls, not much has changed.  They now have slightly more reliabe scorers, but  their defense has gotten worse, pretty much negating any gains they made.

Injures: Morris Peterson's shoulder was bruised last night, but I've seen no word on whether he'll play tonight.  I'll go forward assuming he will.  Ben Wallace is injured for the Cavaliers, which is good for them.  Ben takes up minutes that would be better given on players who can still play.  Ben doesn't qualify any longer.  Deadeye shooter Daniel Gibson also continues to be out for Cleveland.

Positional Analysis
PG: Delonte West v Chris Paul
Advantage: Hornets
Delonte West is a good combo guard with a so-so shot, mediocre defense, and barely adequate point guard skills.  As a sixth or seventh man, he'd be good.  As a starting point guard, he's a weakness.  One that CP3 will exploit over and over and over and . . .

SG: Sasha Pavlovic v Morris Peterson
Advantage: Even
Guess which player this description applies to:

"This SG is shooting poorly on the season, is currently in a worse slump than usual, and is having his minutes limited in favor of a bench player.  He does, at least, play solid perimeter defense."

If you said Peterson, you're right!  If you said Pavlovic, you're still right!  Inspiring matchup, I must say.

SF: LeBron James v Peja Stojakovic
Advantage: Cavaliers
Yeah, Peja will get some open shots against LeBron's lackadaisacal defense.  He'll even play LeBron decently on the perimeter on the defensive end, but if LeBron decides to go to the basket, Peja is toast.  LeBron just does too much all over the offensive end of the court for Peja to match him.  Tough matchup.

PF: Anderson Varejao v Fluffy
Advantage: Hornets
Varejao is pure energy and defense coupled with limited offense, playing a similar to Tyson though he's heavier and more floor-bound.  David West will have some difficultly scoring against him, especially since he'll be backed by the very, very tall Zydrunas.  I predict one of those 6-16 shooting nights for West, that he makes up for his poor shooting by drawing fouls against Varejao and getting to the line.

C: Zydrunas Ilgauskas v Tyson Chandler
Advantage: Hornets
Zydrunas is a good rebounder and scorer from the post.  Expect Tyson to give up some open shots and have trouble keeping him away from the basket because of his size.  That said, Tyson will still be able to clean the glass, outrun Ilgauskas regularly in the open floor, and at least bother the big man and tire him out – something he's susceptible to.

Advantage: Hornets
This is only an advantage if Wright or Wells aren't starting to replace Morris.  The Cavs have a scoring guard in Wally Sczcerbiak, a solid backup in Devin Brown, and a loud-mouthed shooter who can get hot named Damon Jones.  Without Daniel Gibson, though, the backup squad has too many holes, and Wright, Pargo, and Wells should pick it apart.  I also look forward to seeing Chris Andersen run amok again.  Let's see if he can get some points and not get so lost on defense like he did last night.

I'm thinking the Hornets win this, despite the Wrath of James.  103-92.

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