Should Chris Paul truly be considered a superstar player?

As the time whittled down to zero in Houston, Chris Paul’s team was once again eliminated from the playoffs before the Conference Finals. Although most fans are content with their team being one of the last alive in the playoffs for two consecutive seasons, the Clippers once again went home disappointed after only one playoff series win. After losses, especially ones that end a season, it is typical for analysts to overreact (hopefully I am not doing so right now).  However, the same question was once again asked about Chris Paul: is he truly an superstar player in the NBA?

The statistics and numbers speak for themselves and show that Chris Paul has been one of the best point guards in NBA history. Since being drafted 4th overall in 2005, the Wake Forest product has competed in 8 straight All-Star games, been selected to All-NBA first team four times, accumulated 7 playoff appearances, and averaged 19 and 10 throughout his career. Although all of those stats are impressive, his biggest accomplishment may have been carrying the then New Orleans Hornets and Los Angeles Clippers to heights that each franchise has never seen before.

However, the one fact that still haunt the 6 foot ball handler is that he has never achieved success in the playoffs. For NBA players, unlike any other sport, one’s legacy is defined by his success in the playoffs. As many current stars without a championship have realized, they are not seen in the same light as those who have held the Larry O’Brien trophy (ie Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, and previously LeBron James before he won in 2012). Even Carmelo Anthony, who may be the player with the most scrutiny due to the New York market, his talent, and his age, has reached the Conference Finals when he led the Nuggets there in 2009. Like Anthony, other players who are viewed as inferior to Paul have carried their teams to at least the Conference Finals (Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Paul George, and Marc Gasol).

However, the difference between those players and Paul is that they have at least reached the Conference Finals. Maybe it is due to his like-ability, his fiery competitiveness, or his team’s situation, but Paul does not receive the same amount of heat as the other stars. When Paul was with the New Orleans Hornets, he had a legitimate excuse because his best teammate was David West and he was forced to play against great teams like the Lakers and Spurs. During his firs two years with the Clippers, people gave him a pass because Blake Griffin was considered soft and inexperienced and Vinny Del Negro was not a competent head coach. However, over the last two seasons, Paul no longer had any legitimate excuses. The Clippers spent millions of dollars to improve the club, traded for Doc Rivers, one of the five best coaches in the league, Blake Griffin became one of the three best power forwards in the league, and DeAndre Jordan developed into a competent scorer and the best defensive player in the league. In addition, the West, although very difficult, has become more wide open than ever as six different teams have advanced to the Finals over the pat 7 years from the West. However, analysts still attempt to provide excuses by stating that the Clippers’ bench was the reason for their demise or that he always loses to a team that is better than his team.

After this series, even the most ardent of Chris Paul’s supporters cannot defend him. Although they will attempt to point toward the teammates inability and his hamstring injury, they fail to see that it is his job as a point guard to create shots for his role players. The other great players in the league, James, Harden, Curry, have shown during these playoffs that they have the ability to raise the level of their teammates during the most crucial situations. When the Clippers were up 3-1 in the series and had the Rockets on the ropes, it was his job to deliver the final blow. When the Clippers were up by 13 in game 5 AT HOME heading into the fourth quarter with James Harden on the bench, it was his job to deliver the final blow. When the Clippers were in a due or die game 7 on the road, it was his job to deliver the final blow. However, not once was he able to come through and lead his team to a victory.

As I watched Chris Paul this postseason, I was left amazed by his competitive nature, tenacity, and stat line. However, I was also left with an answer to my question above, is he truly an NBA superstar, and the answer is no.

Which NFL first round selection earned the highest grade?

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jameis Winston

Grade: A

Many believe that Winston is the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck, which made him a lock to be the number one overall selection. Although he has obvious off the field concerns, his on the field talent and leadership is undeniable.

2. Tennessee Titans

Marcus Mariota

Grade: B

Marcus Mariota was the second quarterback taken because he has good accuracy, but he has never played from behind center. The Titans were offered a King’s Randsom for Mariota, two first round picks, Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks, Branden Boykin, and possibly Sam Bradford. Quarterbacks like Mariota have not succeeded at a high level over an entire career.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars

Dante Fowler

Grade: A

Dante Fowler was the best edge pass rusher in the draft, which was a desperate need for the Jaguars. The Jaguars lack talent, but the defense will certainly improve with Fowler playing outside linebacker.

4. Oakland Raiders

Amari Cooper

Grade: A

Amari Cooper was the best wide receiver in the draft because he is the most polished route runner and has incredible hands. The addition should assist Derek Carr as he attempts to lead the Raiders back to the playoffs.

5. Washington Redskins

Brandon Scherff

Grade: A-

The Redskins had an obvious need for a stalwart on the offensive line and drafted the best offensive lineman on the board. However, it must be seen, if Scherff can become a left tackle and prove that he is worthy of a top five pick.

6. New York Jets

Leonard Williams

Grade: A

The Jets may have selected the best overall player in the draft at the sixth spot. Although the Jets are deep on the defensive line with Muhammed Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson, Williams can provide a consistent pass rush, which is necessary for every defense.

7. Chicago Bears

Kevin White

Grade: A-

Even though the Bears lost Brandon Marshall, Kevin White should be able to replace some of Marshall’s production. However, the Bears could have used a defensive pass rusher who could have returned their defense back to an elite level.

8. Atlanta Falcons

Vic Beasley

Grade: A

The Falcons had an obvious need at the outside linebacker position and were able to draft the best pass rusher available.

9. New York Giants

Ereck Flowers

Grade: B

Although the Giants needed an offensive lineman, Ereck Flowers may have been drafted too early, which is strange for the Giants since they usually draft the best player available.

10. St. Louis Rams

Todd Gurley

Grade: B+

The Rams did not have a great need for running because of the emergence of Tre Mason. The Rams had a need at corner and offensive line, but decided to take the best player.

11. Minnesota Vikings

Trae Waynes

Grade: A

The Vikings had a need at both wide receiver and corner back and were able to draft the best corner on the board. Waynes can play a press style of defense, which coincides with the Vikings game plan.

12. Cleveland Browns

Danny Shelton

Grade: A-

Danny Shelton is a fabulous player and the Browns obtained get value at the position, but they desperately needed a wide receiver. DeVante Parker was still available, which makes this pick very questionable.

13. New Orleans Saints

Andrus Peat

Grade: B+

The Saints needed help on the defensive side of the ball, but decided to address the offensive line. Although Peat is a solid player, he may be moved to guard, a position the Saints could have taken later in the draft.

14. Miami Dolphins

Devante Parker

Grade: A

The Dolphins have attempted to find a legitimate number one receiver over the past few years. Parker has the potential to be a stud and help Tannehill reach the next level as a quarterback.

15. San Diego Chargers via San Francisco 49ers

Melvin Gordon

Grade: A

The Chargers needed a running back that can catch ball out of the backfield, protect Philip Rivers, and possess break away speed. The Chargers believe that Gordon can accomplish all of those tasks and enable the Chargers to become multidimensional.

16. Houston Texans

Kevin Johnson

Grade: A-

The Texans did not have an obvious need at corner, but decided to draft a potential shut down corner with ball skills.

17. San Francisco 49ers via San Diego Chargers

Arik Armstead

Grade: B

The San Francisco 49ers had an unexpected mass exodus on defense this offseason. Arik Armstead has great physical attributes, but he did not succeed at Oregon and it must be seen if he will achieve at the pro level.

18. Kansas City Chiefs

Grade: A-

The Chiefs had an obvious need on the offensive line, but drafted a player that may become the best corner in the draft. Andy Reid is an experienced coach and should be able to teach him reach his potential.

19. Cleveland Browns

Cameron Erving

Grade: B+

The Browns are attempting to solidify the rest of their team while they find a starting quarterback. Like Shelton, Erving is a very good player, but does not fill their need at wide receiver.

20. Philadelphia Eagles

Nelson Agholor

Grade: A-

The USC wide receiver quietly rose lately because of his impressive measurable and success in college. The Eagles needed a wide receiver after the loss of Jackson and Maclin.

21. Cincinnati Bengals

Cedric Ogbeuhi

Grade: B

The Bengals need a tackle for the future to replace current star Andrew Whitworth. Although Ogbeuhi has incredible talent and entered this season as a top five pick, he is coming off of an ACL tear and there were other offensive line options on the board.

22. Pittsburgh Steelers

Bud Dupree

Grade: A

The Steelers are in the middle of a defensive rebuild and they hope that their linebackers will hasten their return to dominance. Along with Ryan Shazier, Dupree should form an aggressive and talented linebacking core that can rush the quarterback with their speed.

23. Denver Broncos via Detroit Lions

Shane Ray

Grade: A-

The Broncos traded up in the first round because they believed that they can snag a top ten value late in the first round. There is no question that Ray has talent, as seen by his performance at Missouri, but his off the field questions and toe injury make him a risk pick for a team who needs to win now.

24. Arizona Cardinals

DJ Humphries

Grade: A-

The Cardinals possessed one of the best pass blocking offensive lines in the league last season, but their running game left much to be desired. Humphries showed during his days at Florida that he could pave lanes for running backs.

25. Carolina Panthers

Shaq Thompson

Grade: B-

The Panthers needed to address their offensive line to keep Cam upright in the pocket, but instead decided to improve their defense. Although Thompson can be a productive player, he is a tweener without a true position because he is too slow to play safety but too small as an inside linebacker.

26. Baltimore Ravens

Breshad Perriman

Grade: A-

Although Perriman has questions about his route running and NFL readiness, Ozzie Newsom deserves the benefit of the doubt and Perriman fits a glaring need with the loss of Torrey Smith. Perriman should become a valuable deep threat for Flacco.

27. Dallas Cowboys

Byron Jones

Grade: A-

Jones has the size and skill type to fit perfectly into the Cowboys’ defense under Rod Marinelli.

28. Detroit Lions

Laken Tomlinson

Grade: A

Laken Tomlinson may have the highest floor of any player in this draft because of his size, intelligence, and experience in college. The guard should be a staple on the Lions’ offensive line of the next decade.

29. Indianapolis Colts

Phillip Dorsett

Grade: B

This offseason, the Colts already made moves to strengthen their offense with the addition of Andre Johnson and Frank Gore. Although they had a pressing need at safety and Landon Collins was on the board, they decided to draft a wide out.

30. Green Bay Packers

Damarious Randall

Grade: A-

Going into the draft, the Packers had a major need for a corner. Although Randall is listed as a safety, his size better fits as a corner, ho could play safety in nickel packages.

31. New Orleans Saints

Stephone Anthony

Grade: B+

After improving their offensive line with their first pick, the Saints needed to enhance their defense with their second first round selection. Although Stephone does not fill the need as a pass rusher, he should be a tackling machine in the middle of the defense.

32. New England Patriots

Malcolm Brown

Grade: A

The Patriots’ biggest need was a the nose tackle position and they drafted one of the premier nose tackles in the draft. Brown has the size and athleticism to replace Vince Wilfork, unlike last year’s first round pick Dominique Easley.