LOS ANGELES – No other player in the history of the game has accomplished what Chris Paul’s doing right now.
It may actually be more about what Paul’s not doing, and that’s committing turnovers. Paul’s the only NBA player with at least 160 assists and 26 turnovers or fewer through 17 games of a season since turnovers started getting recorded in 1977.
Paul’s averaging 9.5 assists per game and just 1.5 turnovers per game, something that’s never been done through this portion of the season, leading the NBA with a 6.19 assist-to-turnover ratio. No other player possesses a ratio of 6-to-1 or better and only three hold a mark of 4.5-to-1 or better. At one point this season, Paul’s assist to turnover ratio was more than 10.5-to-1, starting the year with 63 assists and just five turnovers.
Leading the NBA in the assist-to-turnover category is nothing new for Paul, who accomplished the feat each of the last two seasons and has done so four of the last five seasons.
But given how consistently he’s taken care of the ball while creating opportunities for teammates, head coach Doc Rivers said it can be easy to take all he can do for granted.
“I don’t even know what his assist-to-turnover ratio is, but I know he doesn’t turn the ball over and he gets a lot of assists,” Rivers said. “That’s all you want. I think all the great players eventually, if they’re in one place for a while, people just don’t even pay attention to it. They just kind of assume the numbers, because they see them.”
Whether fair or not, Rivers said that’s something that also happened for Dominique Wilkins for a different statistic.
“It happens with any player,” Rivers said. “I played with Dominique for a long time. After a while of him scoring 30 a night, he had 26 and nine and it’s like he didn’t play well. I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ The guy is amazing. I think Chris is very similar.“
He’s been doing this same thing now so consistently that no one even notices. That’s probably normal.”
What separates Paul even more is he has the most assists per game and assists per 48 minutes (13.1) of any player in the top five of assist-to-turnover ratio. Of the players in the top 10 in assists per game, Paul’s the only one with fewer than two turnovers per game and the only one whose assist-to-turnover ratio is better than 3.5.
Paul’s player efficiency rating is higher this season (27.3) than it has been in six years, and he also recorded his first triple-double as a member of the Clippers this season.
“That is who he is,” Rivers said. “He’s just a tough guy, a warrior, and you love having him on your team.”
Only three times this year has Paul committed three or more turnovers in a game, while he’s got eight games with double-digit assists. He’s also third in the NBA in both assists per game and steals per game and passed Jerry West for 25th all-time in career assists.
I played with Dominique for a long time. After a while of him scoring 30 a night, he had 26 and nine and it’s like he didn’t play well. I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ The guy is amazing. I think Chris is very similar. - Doc Rivers
Paul’s doing all that while leading all point guards with a 52.6 field goal percentage this season. His ability to shoot and defend make him dangerous, but it’s his ability to operate out of the pick-and-roll and to drive and dish that make him and the Clippers’ bigs so lethal. Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are starting to find their stride, and a five-game winning streak has followed.
“You’ve got to pick your poison,” Paul said. “When we’re playing like that, I think we’re tough to beat.”