Die hard as well as casual fans love to gravitate towards point guards and it makes perfect sense. The casual fan feels as though it’s easy to identify with the player that is typically the shortest on the court and that must seemingly overcome the odds on every trip, as he battles bigger and stronger opponents that come over and knock him down when he gets in the lane. Die hard fans on the other hand appreciate the ability for this one player to manage everything on the court: running the team to create high percentage shots, riding the hot hand, running the fast break, getting the ball to the right player, creating good looks late in the shot clock and taking over late in ball games when the surest option is no one else.
Those are traits that every great point guard should have, but if they are able to have flair, a killer crossover as well as a deadly floater, we appreciate them even more for the aesthetically pleasing basketball they provide. Let’s be clear though, the entertainment value is crowd-pleasing but not an absolute prerequisite to running a team well. With that said, let’s round up our top 10 NBA point guards in reverse order (all statistical data compiled prior to Tuesday night games).
10. Deron Williams
25 games, 20.4 PPG, 8.6 APG, 1.0 SPG, 40.7 FG%, 19.46 PER.
The Nets’ record as well as Deron’s play early in the season have made fans forget about him, but Williams is still one of the best guards in the NBA. He still has the ability to break down people off the dribble and can still score with the best of them as evidenced by his explosion in Philadelphia two weeks ago as he led New Jersey to an upset road victory in overtime.
Williams may not have a lot of talent to work with in NJ, but he still finds ways to get his best options the ball in scoring position and runs the team as best he can considering the pieces in places. His shooting has been less than stellar this season but the Illinois product is still one of the best floor generals in the league.
9. Brandon Jennings
23 games, 20.0 PPG, 5.4 APG, 1.7 SPG, 43.5% FG, 20.41 PER
Ty Lawson, Kyle Lowry and John Wall are probably names that most would have expected to see here based off of last season’s play, but Jennings has been playing like a stud point guard for the Milwaukee Bucks so far this season. Although his field goal percentage could still be a little higher, his shot selection has been far better during the 2011-12 campaign in comparison to last season and he has played with an edge especially late in ball games that one would want from their floor general to ensure the primary ball handler is not rattled under pressure.
8. Stephen Curry
12 games, 16.3 PPG, 6.5 APG, 2.2 SPG, 46.6% FG, 20.29 PER
No one in this list has played less games than Curry, thus one would understand if some were to raise their eyebrows at him making the list. Nonetheless, the former Davidson player is an absolute magician with the ball who has seen some of his playmaking responsibilities take a slight hit because Monta Ellis is handling the ball more.
And yet, Stephen Curry still finds creative ways to get the ball to his teammates and also routinely manages to make shots from just about every spot on the court besides the low block. He is a perfect candidate to run a pick-and-roll and also handle the ball late in the shot clock because of his impressive handles and shot making ability.
7. Rajon Rondo
15 games, 13.8 PPG, 9.5 APG, 1.5 SPG, 50.3% FG, 18.94 PER
An argument could easily be made that Rondo and Ray Allen were the only players that were in any semblance of shape for the Boston Celtics early in the season. And true enough, it often seemed as though the Celtics’ starting point guard was playing at a completely different speed than his teammates as he routinely took the inbounds pass and raced down the court as a one-man fast break.
Rondo has been his usual self this season, setting up teammates for open looks and getting to the basket for some crafty finishes in the paint. His defense is still just as good as its always been but this season Rondo seems much more comfortable and willing to take midrange jumpers when defenders sag off him. The ability to make open jumpers will make Boston almost impossible to defend given the three other more than capable scorers on the team (Allen, Pierce and Garnett).
6. Kyrie Irving
22 games, 18.1 PPG, 5.0 APG, 0.8 SPG, 50.0% FG, 22.12 PER
Although he is just a rookie, the Duke product has proven himself to be the Cavaliers’ franchise player thanks to his impressive play in his first season in the NBA. Irving is still learning how to run the team, but is slowly figuring out where to get the ball to his teammates and how to do so depending on what defenses are doing.
With that said, Kyrie Irving has truly wowed fans thanks to his impressive scoring ability and the efficiency with which he converts from the field. He possesses a solid jumper, good handle on the ball and seems to be ambidextrous around the basket, which all make him a scary scoring threat especially late in ball games when opponents think they know what to expect.
5. Tony Parker
26 games, 18.2 PPG, 7.7 APG, 1.1 SPG, 45.5% FG, 21.20 PER
It used to be that Tim Duncan was the clear-cut best player on the San Antonio Spurs with Manu Ginobili being an acceptable second answer. But with Manu injured and Duncan now long in the tooth, one could say that Parker has been the best Spurs so far this season.
Parker has always been a scorer but this season he has been much more of a playmaker thanks in large part to the absence of Ginobili. The Spurs have relied more on Tony to create for others and he has responded with a career high in assists.
4. Russell Westbrook
24 games, 21.9 PPG, 5.8 APG, 2.0 SPG, 45.4% FG, 22.72 PER
Most people will tell you that Russell Westbrook shoots the ball too much, turns the ball over far too often and does not do a good job of feeding Durant and especially when he is hot. A lot of time is spent discussing all of the things that Westbrook should change about his game, but rarely do we hear about al of the things he brings to the table.
Indeed, the former Bruin is difficult to guard off the dribble thanks in large part to his speed and quickness, but he is a nightmare for opposing defenses when he gets inside the paint because of his ability to elevate and finish at the rim. In addition, Westbrook can absorb punishment from opposing big men and come right back and attack the rim completely undeterred.
A case could be made that the Thunder’s starting point guard should be a two-guard more than anything, but his exceptional play at the one warrants keeping him there and perhaps giving him a few minutes per game at the off-guard.
3. Steve Nash
22 games, 15.0 PPG, 10.0 APG, 0.5 SPG, 55.6 FG%, 23.96 PER
At this point, we should consider the possibility that Steve Nash is Agent Smith from The Matrix. If there was ever a time for him to slow down, it would be this season at the age of 38, while playing a condensed schedule that allows for very little rest time.
And yet, Nash is leading the league in assists and shooting a career high from the field. His decision-making is still as great as it’s ever been and he continues to find ways to score despite his penchant to distribute the ball to others. It just seems as if he will never decline.
As far as point guards go, Nash may well end up being the prototype that future generations try to emulate to be a successful floor general.
2. Derrick Rose
22 games, 22.7 PPG, 7.9 APG, 0.9 SPG, .46.0% FG, 25.23 PER
The league’s reigning MVP has scaled back his scoring a little this season and distributed the ball a little more than he did last season, all the while shooting better from the field.
Rose is still as scary as they come in the open court and still puts fear in the eyes of defenders whenever he gets inside the paint with a head of steam as players anticipate vicious dunks.
This season Rose has been a great floor general and he continues to take the majority of his shots from spots on the floor where he is the most successful. Indeed, his points typically come at the rim, just outside the paint (where he takes and makes the most beautiful and yet ridiculous floaters) and 3-point range.
Any other season, the former Memphis Tiger would probably own the top spot in these rankings, but one player has been slightly better this year…
1. Chris Paul
17 games, 18.5 PPG, 8.9 APG, 2.4 SPG, 51.5% FG, 26.38 PER
Far too often the term Point God gets bestowed on some undeserving point guard that managed to have an extraordinary night but then failed to live up to the hype in subsequent contests.
But in the case of Chris Paul, the expression fits perfectly.
Other than perhaps his steals figures, none of Paul’s numbers are truly jaw dropping, and that’s the best thing about the Clippers’ guard. So far this season, CP3 has taken a very simplistic offense and made it at times look like a sophisticated one with multiple layers of reads to be made.
Paul has willingly deferred to his teammates and allowed them to get their points within the flow of the offense but has also asserted himself as the team’s primary playmaker whenever the offense has stagnated.
His ball handling allows him to get to any spot on the floor and he moves in concert with his teammates to get them terrific looks. Complicating matters for defenses, Paul has been a deadly sniper this season, shooting a staggering 49 percent from 3-point range.
Between the dribbling, scoring, passing, quick hands and basketball IQ, Chris Paul has all the tools a coach would want from his lead guard. This in turn makes the former Demon Deacon arguably the best clutch performer in the NBA so far this season.
Although the Clippers struggled early in the season with their late game execution, they have figured out that it is simply best to give the ball to CP3 and let him operate as he sees fit. The end result is that Lob City has been able to execute down the stretch of games as Paul has more often than not taken over with a host of jumpers to shut the door on opponents. According to Stats Cube, Chris Paul has converted 6-of-11 on midrange jumpers in clutch situations (clutch situations are viewed as the last five minutes of the game when the score margin is within five points) and sports a plus-9.7 net rating in clutch scenarios.
Put it all together, Chris Paul is the best point guard in the NBA.
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