The blogfather, Kevin Arnovitz, analyzes Chris Paul’s newfound willingness to score this season, which is allowing him to maintain his pass-first style of play and output. Here is an excerpt of the TrueHoop piece:
Through the first five games of the Clippers’ season, Paul has defied his own doctrine and incorporated a little of that shoot-first mentality. His goal hasn’t been to make the other team think he’s trying to score. It’s been to score.
This season, Paul is averaging 24.8 points per game (25.1 points per 36 minutes, good for fifth in the NBA). Per 36 minutes, he’s taking 3.8 more shots this season than last season and getting to the line significantly more (5.0 free throw attempts per game in 2012-13 versus 8.3 this season).
The book on Paul is that there’s always been a tension in his game between asserting himself as a scorer and maintaining his role as the pure distributor. The case for the latter has been predicated on the idea that if he were to look for his shot as a scorer, he’d be shelving his most rarefied skill as the commander of each possession, the point guard who can get a shot for anyone — and people should work their strengths.
Paul’s performance in the early going suggests that the scorer-facilitator debate has always been a false choice. His usage rate so far this season is a career-high 29.2, and his assist rate of 35.8 is just a scant below last season (36.9), but considerably higher than his first season with the Clippers (32.1).
What’s going on? How can Paul up his shot attempts and individual production as a scorer without diminishing his role as the team’s facilitator?