Everybody Loves Chris

The fadeaway, or fallaway jumper, does not discriminate based on age or years in the league, but rather is a dependable weapon for all types of players. A younger player who prefers to explode towards the rim can have it in his arsenal if ever there comes a need for it, while a veteran can use it to remain effective as father time takes hold. The point is this- when mastered (for example, at 20 sec mark of this video), it stands in the upper echelon of un-guardable shots.

Chris Paul and his mid-range fadeaway jumper off the pick-and-roll—I’ve seen it called the Paulaway—is a thing of beauty. I am constantly impressed by Paul’s composure and control on the floor.  Watching CP3 with the ball instills a sense of calm in me.  Like a beautiful jazz piece, his game has a certain amalgam of individuality and collaboration, combined with a beautiful mixture of improvisation and structure.  Most notable is his understanding of speed and tempo in an NBA game, impressively employing a change of pace only the likes of Thelonious Monk could understand.

What differentiates Paul’s fadeaway from that of every other player is in its success as a result of Paul’s varied skills. Because the shot comes off the pick and roll, the defense is on on its heels since there’s always the chance he’ll build a play for the man rolling. We’ve seen this threat often lead to a switch off the pick, which forces the big man (now guarding Paul) to concede space.  As a result, Chris Paul creates one of the most effective situations in basketball for himself: plenty of space, near the foul line.

The focus on facilitating from the mid-range area, approximately foul line extended, is the key component to the shot. Paul doesn’t settle for anything less than mid-range. He’s extremely clever, and his constant yo-yoing with the ball at the top of the key brings him closer to the hoop than the average pick and roll. Paul almost never has to call for a second pick and roll after the first, he usually finds a way to get the shot or probe around for the right pass.

About half of Paul’s field goal attempts come in the mid-range. The league shoots 37% of its field goals in these areas, while CP3’s percentage is much higher than that. As you can see, he not only can the get decent looks in the mid-range off a PnR or dribble drive, but he is also astronomically effective there too. He is notably above average in every mid-range zone in the chart. Without a doubt, he is one of the NBA’s best mid-range scorers, a lost art in today’s game.

Memphis lost Game 4 101-97, mostly because of Paul’s mid-range mastery in OT. After failing to get a good look at the basket on the final play of regulation, Paul took over the extra frame, hitting four mid-range jump shots to get the win.

Despite his mid-range prowess, Paul’s most effective shot seems to be at the top of the arc. What better spot for a point guard to optimize from than here? The defense can’t give him any space to shoot, and playing him up-close most likely leads to a basket off a PnR.

With such skill, it’s difficult to determine which part of the Paul’s game holds everything together. Is it the pure mid-range jumper that allows Paul to maneuver through the defense? Or is it his passing skills off the PnR that makes his game deadly? Could his reliable fadeaway jumper, in fact, be the the poison of his bite?

Trying to figure out all this is most likely a futile effort. I am not even close to being a fan of the Clippers, or hopping on the bandwagon this year, or any year for that matter, but my dislike of the team doesn’t stop me from appreciating what Paul is doing. His shooting tendencies correspond well with his shooting abilities, giving us a product of a very well-aligned game.

I anticipate the Clippers having some trouble winning game 5. The fans won’t be on their side, the refs won’t be on their side, and fate, too, won’t be on their side. If the Clippers are to close out this series, it’s completely dependent on whether or not Chris Paul can will them to another victory.

Game 5 of this series will be on Tuesday, 9:30 ET in Memphis.