Posted by: Andy Larsen on November 30th, 2010The author's views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of the Utah Jazz.
There are two sides to my basketball fandom: the crazy Jazz fan side and the rational NBA fan side. Those two sides of me feel very differently about which point guard is ranked higher, and while I tried to explain this at my Twitter account: @andyblarsen, I wanted to do a full post here. This post, in many ways, serves as the “devil’s advocate” position to most Jazz fans’ beliefs. To preface, here are Chris Paul and Deron Williams’ cumulative NBA stats:
Player G MP FG FGA FG% 3P% FT% TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS Chris Paul 360 37.2 6.8 14.4 .473 .358 .850 4.7 10.0 2.4 0.1 2.6 2.6 19.2 Deron Williams 403 35.4 6.1 13.2 .466 .361 .802 3.2 9.1 1.0 0.2 3.0 2.7 16.9
Here are the things both the Jazz fan and the NBA fan in me know to be true:
- That Deron and Chris Paul are the top two point guards in the NBA.
- That the debate between which one of them is better is absolutely valid. Some fans of either player say that they’re “not in the same realm(or league, or tier). It’s false, they’re both excellent, excellent PGs.
The Jazz fan in me thinks that Deron is better. There are reasons to believe this is true:
- Deron’s got much better size. This allows him to draw more fouls than Paul. Deron draws a foul on 8.2% of his possessions this season, Paul only draws a foul 3.3% of the time.
- CP3 is 203-157 in his career, while Deron is 245-158.
- Deron wins the head-to-head matchups, pretty convincingly. He’s 12-3 in his career against CP3. Anecdotally, when watching Paul live at the ESA, I’ve never been that impressed. Last Wednesday, for example, he seemed to quit. Over the course of their matchups, here are their statlines:
Player G W L GS MP FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT% TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS Deron Williams 15 12 3 14 35.5 .546 1.4 2.9 .488 .735 3.1 8.6 1.3 0.0 2.9 3.1 17.1 Chris Paul 15 3 12 15 35.2 .416 0.5 2.4 .222 .871 3.2 8.9 2.4 0.1 2.5 3.3 15.7
Deron shoots better on the same number of attempts, makes drastically more of his 3s, and scores more in head to head matchups, while Paul only has a significant edge in steals and FT%. When playing against each other, Deron clearly comes out on top.
- Durability. Paul has missed nearly 3 times as many games in his career when compared to Williams.
- He’s been clutch. Just look at the Laker win, the 4 game miracle road trip, etc. He’s made very few mistakes when it matters most, and made very many positive plays. I’ve watched all of his games, and I’m usually extremely impressed.
The NBA fan in me, however, sees the following:
- Paul has much, much better adjusted +/- stats than Williams. The stats show that the Jazz are 5.4 points worse per game this season when Deron is on the floor. With Paul, the Hornets are 15.2 points better. This isn’t a small sample size fluke: while Deron’s +/- is usually positive, it has always been lower than Paul’s.
Let’s think about that for a second. That stat is adjusted +/-, which means that it’s adjusted for teammate performance. So we can’t use the excuse that Deron’s backups are better than Paul’s (though they are). It is also adjusted for the opposing matchups, so playing against starters vs. playing against bench players is no excuse either. Thinking further about it, that stat also makes sense: it’s largely been the 2nd unit, without Deron, that has caused the comebacks of this season. If Williams was the best point guard in the league, wouldn’t you hope that his time on the floor gave his team more of an advantage than Earl Watson or Ronnie Price?
- Despite his size, Paul is a better rebounder than Deron. He used to be a significantly better rebounder, but Deron has closed the gap some in the last two seasons.
- Paul allows fewer turnovers per game than Deron, this season about 1 per game fewer.
- Everyone says Deron’s a better shooter, it’s not really the case. Paul has a slightly higher FG%(47.3% to 46.6%), a slightly lower 3P%(35.8% to 36.1%) and a better free throw shooter (85% to 80.2%).
- Again, despite his size, Paul is a better defender.
DRTG is a statistic compiled by comparing how a team does defensively while a given player is on the floor. Over their careers, Deron’s DRTG is 109, while Paul’s is 104. This means that, per 100 possessions (roughly the length of an NBA game), Deron’s team can expect to give up about 5 points more on the defensive end. Again, the system attempts to adjust for teammate performance, so Boozer/Okur vs. West/Chandler/Okafor isn’t the issue here.
This season alone, Deron’s given up 0.94 PPP defensively, while Paul has given up 0.9 PPP. This isn’t adjusted for teammate performance, so given that Okafor/West is better defensively than Millsap/Jefferson, their performance this season is about equal. In fact, Deron’s isolation defense has been fantastic this year: only giving up 0.5 PPP, the lowest in the league. Paul’s advantages come on other kinds of plays.
Additionally, Paul forces turnovers more often(17.6% to 11.7%), and fouls less often(2.4% to 8.3%) than Williams.
When taken all together, the statistics show that Chris Paul has MVP level seasons, while Deron Williams has All-Star level seasons. Jazz fans, that shouldn’t be taken as an insult, Chris Paul really is that great of a player. We just don’t notice because he’s so consistently outplayed by Deron in the head-to-head matchups. However, against the other 28 teams, Paul has been statistically better over the course of his career.
And that’s what is so hard about this argument for me. I’m a stats guy, and I truly believe that statistics can eliminate the bias introduced when watching games. When I watch the games, I think Deron is better, but how much of that opinion is because I’m a Jazz fan? How much of that is because about half of the time I watch Paul, it’s while he’s playing the Jazz? It’s impossible to tell. I honestly have no idea who would be better playing for the Jazz. I am very glad, however, that Deron and Lebron aren’t friends, nor is Deron demanding a trade like one CP3.
I expect the comment section to be highly favorable to Deron. However, if you prefer Deron, and you have plenty of reason to be, please say why you favor him over Paul, and ideally we can have a constructive conversation about the topic.
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