Chris Paul is 22 years old and a little more than halfway through his third season in the NBA.
If you were to take a trip to Paul's house and look through his trophy case, you'd most likely find his Rookie of the Year award, an NBA 2K8 cover, and several honors from his college days at Wake Forest. He has played in 195 regular season games, one All-Star game, and zero playoff games since being drafted by New Orleans in 2005.
Steve Nash is 34 years old and a little more than halfway through his twelfth season in the NBA.
If you were to take a trip to Nash's house and look through his NBA trophy case, you'd most likely find his two Most Valuable Player awards, the Time magazine article that lists him as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, Canada's highest civilian honor, the Order of Canada, and several different Canadian Athlete of the Year awards. He has played in 835 regular season games, six All-Star games, and 97 playoff games since being drafted by Phoenix in 1996.
Judging by all of this information, which player do you think should have been intimidated going into Wednesday night's battle between the Phoenix Suns and New Orleans Hornets?
Everyone who said Chris Paul, try changing your answer.
The young guard has had Steve Nash's number all season long—the Hornets swept the season series against Phoenix with yesterday's win—and with each passing day, Paul is slowly prying away at Nash's torch and making more and more people realize that he is the best point guard in the NBA.
Let's take a look at how each player performed on Wednesday.
Steve Nash's stat line: 8 points, 13 assists, 0 rebounds, 0 steals, 4 turnovers
Chris Paul's stat line: 25 points, 15 assists, 6 rebounds, 3 steals, 1 turnover
This isn't just about one game either. While Nash averages .8 more assists per game, Paul makes up for this with his scoring, defense, and rebounding. He trumps the Canuck in all of these categories and most importantly, he does this without all of the weapons Nash has at his fingertips.
Rather than being surrounded by Amare Stoudemire, Shaquille O'Neal, Leandro Barbosa, and Grant Hill, Paul distributes the rock amongst David West, Tyson Chandler, Jannero Pargo, and Peja Stojakovic.
There is no doubt that Steve Nash and Chris Paul are the two best playmakers in the league. They are numbers one and two in assists per game respectively and neither the Suns nor Hornets would be where they are today if you were to remove them from each team's attack. I do believe, however, that Paul can impact a game in more ways than Nash since he is the superior defender, rebounder, and scorer.
Following the Phoenix game, Mike D'Antoni was asked about Chris Paul's progression and had this to say: “He’s pretty good. I don’t think anybody has an answer for him. Chris is going to get his, and there’s nothing anyone is going to do about it."
D'Antoni wasn't the only person singing Paul's praises.
Shaquille O'Neal added, "Chris Paul is an established floor leader, he gets everybody involved. He is a pretty hard guy to stop."
What Paul is doing at age 22 is incredible. His name has been mentioned in Most Valuable Player talk and has turned the Hornets into legitimate contenders in the insanely competitive Western Conference. In comparison, it took Steve Nash nine years in the league to become an amazing point guard and win his first MVP award.
If you don't agree that Paul is the best point guard in the league at this moment in time, then so be it. He'll change your mind eventually. He comes out and dominates against the league's other top point guards because he has something to prove and you doubting him only fuels his fire to be the best.
I'll leave everyone with one last thought that might scare you:
Chris Paul is still a few years away from his prime and he's already tearing up the league.
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