By Christian S. Kohl
With just three teams remaining in the NBA postseason, the attention of many have turned to the free agency period in the upcoming offseason. GM’s will search high and low for the missing pieces to potentially put them over the top in the elusive quest for a championship ring. Perhaps the two biggest names available in unrestricted free agency this year are superstars Chris Paul and center Dwight Howard. The question is, which of them is the best value?
From the perspective of a General Manager, which of these two players to prioritize depends entirely on a respective team’s needs. A case can be made for either man that he is the best player at his position, and it just so happens the positions they play are entirely different. Howard solves nothing for a team lacking a point guard, and vice-versa in the case of Paul.
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A head-to-head statistical comparison of the two yields fairly comparable numbers. Howard averages 18.3 PPG for his career to Paul’s 18.6. They each can be counted on to play roughly 36 minutes per game, and each is a few years away from 30. Both have spotty histories with injury. Howard dominates the glass with nearly 13 boards per game across his career, while Paul is extraordinary at finding ways for teammates to score. His 9.8 assists per game virtually yield him a double-double as a career average.
The more important considerations between these two players, therefore, boil down to the subjective. Which player is hitting his stride, and which player is struggling to find his role and optimally contribute to the team strategy? It is when compared in this light that Paul edges Howard in terms of value. The baggage Howard brings, along with a handful of important unanswered questions, makes him marginally less of a surefire acquisition than CP3.
Neither one of these stars can be acquired cheaply, and not knowing where Howard’s head or heart is affects his value in the free agency market. Chris Paul, conversely, delivers in all setups and scenarios, and is very easy to envision as the missing piece on a team already featuring a powerful supporting cast. Howard’s foray into Los Angeles in many ways left fans and front offices alike with more questions than answers.
Superman shoots 57% from the free throw line for his career; during his tour with the Magic, that used to be the only knock on him. Yet the scrutiny and bright lights of Los Angeles were unkind to him. Perhaps he was too heavily scrutinized. Perhaps in certain ways he wilted on a bigger stage. Any team willing to sign him will certainly feel their cap space tighten immensely, and that type of commitment ideally brings with it some guarantees. Howard’s size and skills are undeniable, and both players will absolutely elevate the play of any team they join, but the edge in this battle of premium free agent value goes to Chris Paul.
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Christian S. Kohl is a sports contributor for CBS Local Digital Media.