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Statistical Analysis of Why Chris Paul Will Dominate HORSE

Per ESPN, a HORSE competition is in its final stages. Chris Paul is among the reported contestants. Everyone else should forfeit now.

We are in trying times, my friends. All we have in the NBA world, and frankly the sports world, is a game of HORSE hosted on ESPN.

The logistics of this event are unclear. How will they broadcast a game of HORSE with everyone staying in their respective homes? I petition that they setup a giant Zoom conference call, open to the public, where fans can communicate directly with the players. That would be so awesome. I don’t know if Zoom can handle that bandwidth, but the CEO should be fired if it can’t.

In any case, Chris Paul has been listed among the contestants alongside Trae Young and Zach Lavine. Presumably more will enter, but these three are the only ones reported at the time of this article.

I look it upon myself to do some statistical research as to why Chris Paul will win this competition by a landslide.

The Basics

We’ll begin with the simple stats among these three players.

As we breakdown these players, we have to throw almost all traditional stats out the window. In HORSE, there are no defenders. No crowd. No other players on the court. It’s a different kind of pressure.

Let’s first look at the basic shooting statistics. I think most fans have not realized the incredible consistency of Chris Paul long-tenured career. He has shot above 45% FG in 11 of the past 12 years (the only year was 2018-2019 in the D’Antoni offense). Over his 15 year career he has only shot below 35% 3PT twice, one of which was his rookie season. That right there is marvelous consistency.

Obviously, Trae does not have the same record, but it should be noted that we have only seen Trae shoot above 35% 3PT this season. Last year he was at 32%. He also has a pretty low FG% compared to CP3 because he relies so much on the outside shot. Not a good look for a HORSE competition.

Lavine matches up pretty well with CP3 but still doesn’t have the same midrange game. Although he has recorded 45%+ FG his 6 years in the NBA, his highest is 46.7%. Paul, on the other hand, has recorded a career-high 50.3% in the 2008-2009 season. And from the looks of it, he has not lost a step this season.

Shot Distribution

Trae is a crowd favorite because of his incredible range this season. However, this success is because he can make these shots with a defender in his face. But as mentioned, there are no defenders. I would argue any player with range can make logo 3PT shots alone on the court.

That means overall shot distribution is a significant factor. Sure, you can make the long range shots, but what about everything else.

Chris Paul is, by far, the most consistent player across all shot ranges.

Paul: 44.4% rim, 27.3% midrange, 28.3% 3PT

Trae: 60% rim, 5.4% midrange, 36.6% 3PT

Lavine: 57.1% rim, 6.8% midrange, 36.1% 3PT

The most obvious answer to these stats falls on the recent changes in the NBA that has removed the midrange from most offenses. Little did they know that this would be their demise if and when a global pandemic forced them to play a game of HORSE rather than a usual NBA game.

Did Chris Paul know this would happen the whole time, which is why he continues to succeed in areas that have since been eliminated from NBA offenses? It makes you think.

Endurance

A game of HORSE among NBA superstars is no breeze. One can assume this game will last at least 30-40 shot attempts, if not more.

I took a look at each players’ performance when shooting 30+ field goals in a game. Here, Zach Lavine has the clear advantage.

In his three such games this season, he is a whooping 54-96 (56.3%) from the field, clearly above his season average. Expect Lavine to succeed the longer this competition extends.

Trae Young has more games 5(five) with 30+ FG, but was 56-150 (37.3%) – below his season FG%, indicating there is some tapering in his accuracy over time.

Chris Paul, unfortunately has zero games this year with this criteria. Thunder fans shouldn’t be too surprised here, as we have seen CP3 enter a leadership role in which he tries to get others their shot, specifically SGA and Gallinari. It’s clearly worked, which is why we haven’t seen any crazy field goal attempts from the Point God.

Final Verdict

Let’s break all of this down.

A game of HORSE requires consistent shooting ability, a wide distribution of shot ranges, and endurance.

Chris Paul exceeds in the first two categories, while Lavine has proved incredible endurance in high-offense performances. That said, we don’t know how CP3 would perform because he has not needed to do this. Trae and Zach are on lottery teams with very little offensive help. CP3 has a highly versatile offense with lots of weapons.

This means that while Lavine could prove to be a contender, CP3 has the stats to prove his worth in a game of HORSE. While Trae is a fan favorite, I don’t believe the stats support his success in this competition.

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