Remember back during the Jordan era, when all the best players in the league seemed to be big men, Hakeem, Ewing, Mutumbo, Shaq, Mourning, not to mention the young Garnett and Duncan coming up through the high school and NCAA ranks? As we watch today we all look for these big men but they are nowhere to be found, because now, it’s a guard league. Once again, this raises the issue of, what kind of guards are there? You can be a floor spacer, iso-player, defensive specialist, scorer or a pure point. Personally, I’ve always liked the classic floor general, the quarterback of the team offensively and defensively, in other words, I like Chris Paul.
CP3 is a throwback player, which makes finding a historic player like him easier. Point guards like Westbrook, Rose, or Wall would have been considered shooting guard 20 years ago, despite their size, think John Starks. So when looking for someone who is extremely crafty, balanced, and can make his teammates better, the first guy I think of is the one who delivered to the Mailman, John Stockton.
At six foot nothing, 180 pounds soaking wet, you need fundamentals, and there may not have been any better than Stock and CP3. Below are there career stats, but it’s important to note how long Stock played and that CP3 is just now slipping from his prime, so I expect his career stats to diminish from this point on, but the assist/turnover ratios, steals, shooting percentages are all nearly identical.
Career: Pts-18.7 Rebs-4.4 Asts-9.8 Stls-2.4 TO-2.4 Shooting – 47%, 36%, 85.7%
Career: Pts-13 Rebs-2.7 Asts-10.5 Stls-2.2 TO-2.8 Shooting -51.5%, 38.5%, 82.5%
Admittedly, John Stockton was probably one of the worst athletes on the court during his time, while Chris Paul is a solid athlete, but we’re splitting hairs at this point. The only other argument I could see is some saying Paul is a better scorer. Being a great teammate, leader, and passer doesn’t always put the ball in the hole. A number of people think that CP3 could take games over scoring, more like Isiah Thomas, while Stockton really couldn’t. But the reality is that Stock could, and Paul has never played with a Hall Of Famer like Malone. (For those who compare Blake Griffin to Karl, there is no hope for you…). Their only difference is their surroundings. CP3 is asked to do more because his teams, especially the Hornets, needed him to do more, specifically in the scoring and rebounding, hence the lower shooting percentages. John did have a handful of strong players with him which will change what you do and how you act.
The biggest attribute these men share that sometimes goes unnoticed is their basketball IQ and toughness. With Stockton being at the top of the leaderboard for all-time assists and steals, his ability to play while hurt and still be impactful should go without saying. Both players has been called dirty, chip on the shoulder kind of guys that always find a way to give their team that spark. But what is most memorable, outside the assists, for me is their savvy. Both were great at attacking hedging big men and picking up fouls for the opposition, or sealing off guards while getting back on transition on a fast break to force turnovers or low percentage shots. In a game full of giants and the world’s best athletes, I love to watch little guys like these two dominate with intangibles.