NBA Playoffs 2011: Chris Paul Could Hurt the L.A. Lakers, If It Was 2008

The New Orleans Hornets would probably be underdogs in their first-round playoff matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers even with injured forward David West, but if the Hornets had the 2008 version of point guard Chris Paul, at least it might be interesting.

In 2008 Paul battled Lakers guard Kobe Bryant down to the wire for the NBA's MVP award, and his Hornets fought Bryant's Lakers tooth and nail for supremacy in the Western Conference.

Bryant and the Lakers prevailed in each instance, but during the 2007-08 season there were many people who considered Paul to be not only the league's best point guard, but its best player period.

Paul averaged 21.1 points, 11.6 assists, 4 rebounds, 2.4 steals and shot 46 percent from the field and 38 percent from the three-point line that season. Paul's numbers would be even better the following year.

But during the 2009-10 season, Paul suffered a series of leg injuries and missed 37 regular-season games as a result, and his game hasn't been quite the same since.

Paul is arguably the NBA's most complete point guard, and there are few others who are able to boast of such a wide and varied range of skills.

Paul's court vision may be unrivaled, he is one of the best ball-handlers I have ever seen and Paul's instincts in the passing lanes always keep him near the top of the NBA in steals.

But the one thing that made Paul truly exceptional was his burst off the dribble and his explosiveness.

Paul's quickness combined with his superior ball-handling skills and vision made him a terror to defend in the open court, and a nightmare in the Hornets' pick-and-roll offense.

There was simply no way to stay in front of Paul in transition, and he regularly dribbled past defenders in half-court sets.

But surgery on his left knee and numerous ankle problems have robbed Paul of his former explosiveness, and now there are...

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