BEST OF 2012-13: CHRIS PAUL’S TOP 5 DISHES

Chris Paul is arguably the best passer in the NBA, and among the best in league history. He is a wizard with the ball in his hands. In 2012-13 he finished second in the NBA in assists per game (9.7), led the league in assists-to-turnover ratio (4.26), assisted on 44.3 percent of his teammates’ field goals when he was on the floor and had the second best assist ratio of his career (36.9 per 100 possessions). While Paul is a statistical monster, the actual numbers matter very little to the 28-year-old superstar. He is all about making the correct basketball play. However, that hardly means he leaves out the spectacular.

Here are five of his best passes from 2012-13, capturing the range of difficulty, creativity and, of course, the play’s result:

5. March 17, 2013 vs. New York Knicks: In the opening frames of the highlight ESPN’s Mike Breen remarks that the game has not been the “prettiest.” Paul, paired with superstar running mate Blake Griffin, changes that in a hurry. Jamal Crawford rips the ball away from J.R. Smith pushes it up the left sideline and kicks to Paul, who draws Chris Copeland towards him on a 3-on-1 break. After pounding the ball into the floor once he lofts the ball over his shoulder to Griffin barreling down the center of the lane. In some ways, it is merely an excuse to show the highlight again but in other ways it illustrates how deadly the Clippers are in transition and how quickly Paul and Co. can alter the complexion of a game with one swift pass. Two-hundred-seven of Paul’s 678 assists last season went to Griffin, by far the most on the team to any one player.

4. December 25, 2012 vs. Denver Nuggets: The play seems simple, a bounce pass to Willie Green for a fast-break dunk. But watch closer. The move Paul makes prior is wondrous. He grabs a long rebound, sees Caron Butler sprinting to his right and around midcourt fakes as though he’s going to give the ball up to him. The fake is one we’ve seen from Paul before, where he feigns a bounce pass and instead keeps his dribble alive, misdirecting the defense enough to create space for the pass he really wants to make. Of course, the end result was a picture-esqe two-hand bounce pass to Green who catches it in stride and finishes the play.

3. December 15, 2012 at Milwaukee Bucks: Paul has quite a knack for doing majestic things with the ball in the air. In December’s blowout win at Milwaukee, Paul had 13 assists, but none prettier than this play. He uses an inside-out dribble to split two defenders, jumps into Drew Gooden and while in the air switches the ball from his right to left hand, wraps it around Gooden and feeds DeAndre Jordan for a dunk. Imagine how much more effective those drive and dish plays could be in 2013-14 with Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick added to the perimeter arsenal of Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes to free up space on the interior.  

2. March 13, 2013 vs. Memphis Grizzlies: This play is only an assist in hockey. Consider how ridiculous this play is. Paul effectively makes two brilliant passes in a matter of 10 seconds and winds up without an assist. Still, the end result is a dunk for Jordan off a swift feed from his buddy Griffin.  First, Chauncey Billups loses the dribble, Griffin dives to save it only for the ball to wind up in Mike Conley’s hands. Paul snatches it from Conley and falls to the floor on top of the loose ball. From his backside he spins and finds Billups open for three. The shot goes awry and Tony Allen tries to push it ahead, only to have it poked away into Paul’s hands near midcourt. Paul then fakes a drop pass in the lane to Jordan only to throw an underhanded pass to Griffin on the baseline. Jordan fills the lane and Griffin flips to him. Incredible.

1. January 5, 2013 vs. Golden State Warriors: Paul had 82 assists to Jordan on the season, 58 of those resulted in dunks. This one in the January 5 romp of Golden State was as difficult as they come. The Warriors tried to trap Paul at the half-court line and as Paul is leaning backwards he spots Jordan open near the rim. He throws with perfect timing and precision to his big man for the third consecutive assist leading to a Jordan dunk. The play led to a Warriors timeout, a stare down from Mark Jackson and stands alone as one of Paul’s more remarkable assists of the year.

BONUS: Paul racked up his 5,000th career assist on Dec. 19 against his former team, the New Orleans Hornets. He was the fifth fastest ever to 5,000. He later became the fourth player in league history to reach 5,000 assists and 10,000 points before turning 28 years old. Here is his historic assist.

BONUS 2: Considering Paul was the All-Star MVP, it probably doesn’t hurt to have one of his best assists from the All-Star Game in Houston. Here he notches one of his 15 assists in the game with a behind-the-back pass to Thunder superstar Kevin Durant.

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