Chris Paul and Eric Bledsoe are both fundamentally a different breed of player than Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. I’m entirely certain that statement is true, but I only half think that I know how to explain why.
Brandon Jennings flashes a particular type of swagger, but he can only flash it. His confidence swells and shrinks in response to his level of play. He puffs his chest out only after unleashing a devastating scoring performance – in a way, his swagger often becomes a post-hoc rationalization of his manifest skill. If you decided to stop watching Bucks games, you could predict his on-court mood with stunning accuracy simply by looking at the box score.
To frame it in existential terms, the egg must necessarily come first, before the chicken, in Jennings’ world. More importantly, the chicken is only ever strong enough to break through the shell and meet the world when things are going especially well. If the circumstances aren’t perfect, the egg can be a great place to hide until things turn around. In contrast(?), Monta Ellis can’t comprehend that a come-and-go style could ever apply to him. In his mind, he runs on shot opportunities like a flashlight runs on batteries – how else could he possibly shine?
Chris Paul and Eric Bledsoe could give a fat baby’s ass about the primordial primacy of the chicken or the egg. They ooze confidence while on the floor and have each figured out a way to constantly glow with a greater intensity than Monta could ever contemplate for his own lusty shine. For CP3 and Bledsoe, it’s a crystallized, "I’m better than you because that’s how things are"-type swagger that makes the term "swagger" feel a bit silly in the first place.
Jennings and Ellis play with a sense of urgency that can come off as insecure and undisciplined. They spend plenty of time glancing at the scoreboard for affirmation after each basket. They treat defense like it’s a way to pass the time between offensive possessions. They gamble for steals and launch off-balance jumpers because basketball is a now-or-never proposition – it’s as if moments in a game come alive and demand they take action, and they have no choice but to answer the call, regardless of their preparedness, because the next moment might be too late (for reasons unknown).
CP3 and Bledsoe either don’t feel the same compulsions, or they consistently find ways to avoid acting upon them. Paul strikes surgically and aims to break the spirit of an opponent. Patience is his best virtue, unless you count eye-popping skills or a killer instinct as virtues. Bledsoe isn’t an exponent of Paul – his approach can hardly be described as patient -- yet he seems to understand why his elder is so effective.
Uncomfortable opponents devolve into impatient prey on a regular basis. Paul confidently waits for opponents to break. Bledsoe aggressively steps out and breaks them. One thing is certain, however: the opposition will be broken. That inevitability seems to be the true source of confidence for the standout Clippers guards. It’s not swagger, it just is. They are a different breed of player, and it’s no surprise to me that they operate at a higher on the NBA food chain.