GRIFFIN AND PAUL FORM DYNAMIC ALL-NBA TANDEM
Outside of the Most Valuable Player award, there is perhaps no more difficult end-of-season honor than being selected to one of the league’s 15 All-NBA spots.
Four-hundred-sixty-seven players attempted at least one field goal this season. Twenty-five, including one injury replacement, earned an All-Star selection. But just 15 were announced Thursday as members of the 2012-13 All-NBA first, second or third team.
Chris Paul and Blake Griffin were among the group, again.
For the second year in a row, the Clippers’ duo was picked by a panel of sports writers and broadcasters among, effectively, the best 10 players in the league.
Paul earned the third most points of any honoree for his second consecutive first-team selection, and Griffin became just the fourth player since 1995-96 to make at least the second team twice in his first three seasons.
Griffin and Paul have changed the course of the Clippers franchise in fewer than 150 regular-season games. The organization had two All-NBA selections since the beginning of Ronald Regan’s presidency. Elton Brand was second team All-NBA in 2005-06 after an MVP-caliber season that ended it in the second round of the playoffs, and Dominique Wilkins, who played 25 games for the Clippers in 1994, was a third team selection.
The Griffin-Paul tandem has doubled that, and then some.
They played 2,078 minutes in 70 games together in 2012-13. They accounted for 34.5 percent of the Clippers’ 101.1 points, 56 percent of their 23.9 assists, and 37.5 percent of their league-high 9.6 steals. Combining their contributions as scorers and passers, Paul and Griffin had a hand in more than 4,300 points (52.5 percent of the total scoring output), including 253 assists to one another.
While the Clippers were one of the deepest and more balanced teams in the NBA, there was never a question who their leaders were.
Paul was fourth in MVP balloting, the Western Conference Player of the Month for December, finished second in the NBA in assists (9.7), led the NBA in steals per game (2.41) and assist-to-turnover ratio, won the 2013 All-Star MVP in Houston, and became synonymous with what he likes to call “winning time.” He sealed several games in the final minutes with key baskets, and while it wasn’t factored into his All-NBA selection, Paul nailed one of the most dramatic game-winners of his career in Game 2 of the playoffs against Memphis, banking in a difficult right-handed runner with one tenth of a second remaining.
Griffin may have been honored for the nuanced improvements in his game as much as anything else. His numbers (18 points and 8.3 rebounds) dipped from the previous two seasons, but the three-time All-Star played nearly four minutes fewer per game. He was a factor as a passer, ball-handler, defender and improved his free throw shooting to a career-high 66.0 percent. Of course, Griffin, who was the only player in the NBA to average at least 18 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists and one steal, remained a relative fixture on highlight shows as well. He led the NBA with 202 dunks and for the third-straight season threw down an iconic slam that will live well beyond the confines of a nightly highlight show when he windmilled a between-the-legs lob from Jamal Crawford on a fast break. He was the Western Conference Player of the Week for Dec. 3-9, had 28 double-doubles in 80 games and led the Clippers in scoring and rebounding.
Clearly, the Clippers don’t get to a franchise-record 56 wins, first Pacific Division title or win 17 games in a row without them. But there’s more to Griffin and Paul, two of the most driven individuals in the league, than the regular season accolades and accomplishments.
“They’re both such tremendous players, but they’re also great people,” Clippers Vice President of Basketball Operations Gary Sacks said. “I think that gets lost sometimes in the shuffle here in terms of all the games, and winning, and all of the excitement that the team has. What they do for the organization off the floor is just as important as on the floor.”
They are entering the prime years of their careers, Griffin, 24, and Paul, 28, and in 17 short months in Los Angeles have given the Clippers unique cornerstones that have often eluded the franchise in decades past. Players like Griffin and Paul are so difficult to come by in tandem it almost makes the All-NBA selection seem easy. Almost.