Generous to a fault? Paul, Wall challenging trend of assists vs. rings

VIDEO: John Wall recorded 21 points and 17 assists vs. the Wolves

John Wall has been making a case through the season’s first seven weeks to be considered the NBA’s best point guard, a title that he’d be wresting away from veteran Clippers playmaker Chris Paul. But Wall might want to heed that old saying about being careful what he wishes for, because that title might get in the way of an even greater goal the Washington Wizards’ guard has for him and his team.

Within the feature on Paul by Michael Lee, the Washington Post’s NBA writer, was some cause for pause, as far as how the league’s elite point guards have fared in their quest for championships. There’s a trend at work that doesn’t just seem at odds with Paul but with any of the players typically thought of as the game’s greatest playmakers:

Since Magic Johnson won back-to-back championships in 1987-88 and finished first and second, respectively, in assists, no player has ranked in the top five in helpers and won a title. Johnson is also the last point guard from a championship team to average at least 10 assists per game in the regular season.

[Isiah] Thomas and Jason Kidd are the only championship point guards in the past 25 years to average at least eight assists. In that time, John Stockton, Gary Payton, and Kidd held the subjective crown as the league’s best floor general, led their respective teams to the NBA Finals and failed to win it all. [Steve] Nash reached the conference finals three times but never made it to the ultimate stage. Aside from Tony Parker and Rajon Rondo, most of the championship point guards have been the non-intrusive, move-the-ball-and-get-out-of-the-way variety, such as Avery Johnson, Brian Shaw, Derek Fisher and Mario Chalmers.

Paul’s postseason record seems to support the, what should we call it, trend? Theory? Pattern? As Lee notes:

In his first nine seasons, Paul has never reached the conference finals, let alone the NBA Finals. It doesn’t matter that only Michael Jordan, George Mikan, LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon have a higher career postseason player efficiency rating, Paul’s 22-31 postseason record diminishes his greatness in the eyes of those who value rings over everything else.

“That’s just the world we live in,” Paul said with a shrug. “It comes with it, but what can you do? Keep playing. I don’t know what else to say. We’re playing. I know I’m going to compete, day in and day out. Trying to get one.”

Heading into Wednesday night’s action, the assists leaders among point guards were Wall (10.6 apg), Rondo (10.6), Ty Lawson (10.3) and Paul (9.7) – all above that demonstrated cutoff of eight per game. Meanwhile, guys such as Kyle Lowry (7.6), Stephen Curry (7.6), Jeff Teague (7.0), Mike Conley (6.2), Damian Lillard (6.1), Tony Parker (5.3) and Kyrie Irving (5.2) are safely below it, and Russell Westbrook (6.8) and Derrick Rose (6.7) would be too if they qualified for the leaders board.

Should Wall and Paul stop passing the ball so much, in an effort to avoid the distinction? That doesn’t seem to make sense. But it is an unexpected quirk that might say a few things about defending against attacks run by elite point guards and the value of guys who seek out their own shot. That other old saying, the one about cutting off the head of a snake, might come into play.


  1. Alex says:

    I think, this is, only true ,because of the am ount of talent at the point guard position in today’s nba. So even a supreme pg like Paul is only a a small step ahead of the Curry, Wall, Lowry, Irving, Lilliard, Rondo, Parker, Westbrook, Conley, Rose.

    Other Positions, on the other hand, are less competitive. For example at small forward there is Lebron James and Kevin Durant then everyone else. Pf- Griffin, Love, Aldridge

  2. Indiana'sownLarryBird says:

    Chris Paul is good player but not a great player. They had Paul the 2 best player on espn’s ranking coming in to the season??? As the season has played out there are 5 players i can think of right now as MVP and none of them are named Chris Paul. Curry, Gasol, Harden, Davis, even Westbrook is begin talked about in the MVP talk.

  3. pasigiri says:

    Paul vs. Wall??? Maaaaaaaan. Got me sittin side wayz, boy in a daze.

  4. chaser says:

    This claims Gary payton, tony parker, Jason kid, rondo, chauncy billips all have championships but dosent try to write why cliff Paul dosent advance in the playoffs at 30. All those teams. Tyson chandler and Peja teamed with paul after they win post season match ups. LA looks great on paper the best ranked power foward and point guard

  5. Kal says:

    the one who handles the ball most is typically the finals MVP.

    Dwyane Wade handled the ball most in 2006 — finals MVP.
    Tony Parker in 2007 won finals MVP and was the best player on the 2013 and 2014 Spurs finals teams, also a member of the 2003 and 2005 teams.
    Steve Nash came very close in 2007 but a Robert Horry strategically dirty play resulting in Suns suspensions marred the whole thing otherwise, for all we know, Nash would be a total success story.
    Bob Cousy with the old Celtics.
    Jerry West did most the ball handling for old Lakers.
    Rajon Rondo mentioned.
    Chauncey Billups 2004 finals MVP don’t forget.
    Payton eventually won a ring and made it to the finals two other times.
    Jason Kidd eventually won with Mavericks and those ragtag Nets teams only got to the finals because of Kidd. (how Duncan won again over Kidd for MVP that year I’ll never understand…)
    John Stockton just plain got robbed by MJ twice.
    and then Isiah Thomas, Magic Johnson and don’t forget Oscar Robertson…

    so given that above list, I don’t think you can say there’s much to the point guards / ball handlers lose theory. I do think you can say there is something to the “MJ & Kobe & LeBron & Bird are better than everybody so they win more theory” and the “having one of the best bigmen ever (Chamberlain, Kareem, Olajuwon, Shaq, Duncan)” theory…

    Chris Paul’s teams are just never in the right place at the right time, the West is just too heavy, the truly incredible lob city Clippers squad just can’t seem to break through… you look in the East now, the three best teams record-wise are winning in large part because of point guards Kyle Lowry (heart of a champion type player who deserves a deep playoff run this year), Jeff Teague and John Wall … and then there’s Derrick Rose and Kyrie Irving (skys the limit for this kid if he can grow) right behind them. and the best Western team has Steph Curry, a superstar point, already one of the most memorable players the league has seen… Mike Conley on the Grizz is a decent point, too, followed by Damian Lillard with the Blazers, the unforgettably fierce Westbrook… point guards matter as much as ever.

    Pete Maravich was as amazing a player as you’ll ever see highlights of, too, regardless of lack of playoff success. so was one man ball handler show Allen Iverson.

  6. harriethehawk says:

    John Wall is all that!

  7. Stan says:

    This might be a case of not seeing the bigger picture behind the numbers. Perhaps teams with superstar point guards have not been able to win championships because money that is given to them has not been able to be spread out among the other positions and having stars at other positions – especially the frontcourt – seems needed to succeed in today’s NBA.

    • Stan says:

      That being said, unless Houston or Dallas win a championship this season there will be at least an all-star calibre point guard hoisting the Larry O’ Brian this summer. Not in any way a slight to Beverly or the Harris/Nelson combo that those two teams are respectively sporting. The NBA is just that deep at the point guard position for teams that have any hope to contend.

  8. ty says:

    rhymes is what i mean.

  9. ty says: