CP3 Goes Both Ways: Chris Paul and the NBA's Best 2-Way Point Guards

Brian LendinoCorrespondent IIJanuary 27, 2012

CP3 Goes Both Ways: Chris Paul and the NBA's Best 2-Way Point Guards

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    Unlike its offensive counterpart, defensive prowess is much more difficult to assess. 

    With only a handful of statistics to base any judgement off of, defense relies a lot upon the eye-test that can formulate conclusions about a player's defensive ability based on effort and skill. 

    Do aging wonders Jason Kidd and Steve Nash still make the cut? What about newcomers Ricky Rubio or Kyrie Irving?

    Stay tuned to find out which five players join Chris Paul as the NBA's best two-way point guards.  

6) Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies

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    Since being drafted fourth overall in 2007, Mike Conley has blossomed into one of the league's better young point guards and is a major contributor to the Memphis Grizzlies' transition from obscurity to relevance in the Western Conference. 

    On the season, Conley is averaging 12.8 points per game and 7.4 assists per game while shooting the highest percentage of his career at 45.3 percent. 

    He has the ability to control game tempo when he needs to but making the correct decisions and not turning the ball over. His 3.03 assist-to-turnover ratio is seventh-best in the NBA while playing upwards of 35 minutes per game. 

    As for his defense, he's just as skilled. Conley currently leads the NBA in steals at 2.69 per, which is a classic number that shows Conley's tendencies as a gambler on the defensive end. 

    It should be noted that it's because of his steals numbers that he's on this list. Standing at only 6'1", taller point guards have the ability to shoot over him, but Conley is quick enough to not let people by him off the dribble. 

    Mike Conley is one of the more underrated defenders in the league and I'll state that firmly. 

5) Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves

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    I alluded to the possibility of Ricky Rubio being included on this list and in just his first 20 games as a professional he's already made an impact on both sides of the ball. 

    On offense, Rubio is your classic pass-first point guard who also has capabilities of scoring when needed. And let me say this: he wouldn't have cracked this list without improving his jump shot. 

    As a rookie, Ricky Rubio currently ranks fifth in the league in assists at 8.7 per game and also second in steals at 2.6 per game. 

    If you dig a little deeper you will see that early in this season Rubio ranks tied for first in Defensive Win Shares, which estimates the number of wins a player contributes to his play on defense. 

    Rubio is accomplishing something very few "experts" believed he could at an NBA level. As he continues to grow as a player, he, along with Kevin Love, will make the Timberwolves a contender in the Western Conference. 

    He's still young, but he's definitely earned this spot. 

4) Deron Williams, New Jersey Nets

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    Deron Williams undoubtedly ranks among the top two as far as scoring point guards are concerned and when you factor in the total offensive package he has an argument to be the top of his class.

    He's also very skilled defensively, however, you can make a case that moving to New Jersey has killed all of Williams' swagger on both sides of the ball. 

    Williams has averaged a double-double in a season five times in his career, proving his offensive prowess. But what about his defense?

    Over the course of his career Williams has earned the reputation as a top defensive point guard in the NBA. However, like I stated before, Williams just hasn't been the same player since heading east. 

    We revisit the question, "Do numbers tell us every thing we need to know here?" The answer is no. 

    He's playing with a worse defensive roster than he did in his years in Utah and that fact was made worse when the Nets lost Brook Lopez for the entire 2012 season. 

    Deron Williams is still a top-flight NBA point guard and despite slumping numbers due to a new home with less talent, he still ranks among the elite two-way players in the league. 

3) Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics

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    The only thing keeping Rajon Rondo from cracking the top two is his limitations as a scorer on offense. 

    On defense, Rondo is a pest. He's a classic example of a true shutdown point guard that keeps the ball in front of him while forcing the offense into difficult shots. 

    What Rondo lacks in scoring offense he compensates for by facilitating and putting his teammates into the right positions. He ranks second in the NBA with 9.4 assists per game.

    Rondo is a two-time First Team All-Defensive Team honoree and in his six-year career Rondo's Defensive Win Shares have exceeded his Offensive Win Shares four times proving that his contributions are felt on the defensive end more than maybe any point guard on any team. 

    He's currently battling a wrist injury that has kept him off the court for the past few games, but when he's healthy and playing there is no better example of a point guard using his skills on one end of the court to compensate for his lack of on the other. 

2) Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers

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    Chris Paul has been honored on the first or second All-Defensive Team three times in his career as well as being the league-leader in steals three of the last four seasons.

    Thus far, Paul is third in the NBA with 2.55 steals per game.

    Paul is one of the more physical point guards in the league who doesn't shy away from contact on either side of the ball and will pull all of the stops to prevent penetration on the defensive end. 

    That's CP3 on the defensive end, so what about the offensive end?

    Well, it's a valid argument to say that Chris Paul is the best all-around point guard in the NBA. Those who argue this will state his ability to score at will when he wants to, as well as his absurd 9.9 career assist per game numbers. They'll also argue that he did this with virtually no help in New Orleans for six years. 

    Listen, no one is going to argue Chris Paul's skill as a point guard, but there is one other player who stacks up better than Paul, and until this season you probably would have seen CP3 ahead of him on this list. 

    Guess who it is...

1) Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls

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    Derrick Rose has ascended up the mountain onto the pedestal of the best all-around point guard in the NBA.

    There isn't a thing this kid can't do. 

    Let's start on offense. He is the most explosive point guard in the NBA and he's virtually unguardable off the dribble. His maturation as a team leader and a wildly improved jump shot helped him become the league's Most Valuable Player in 2011.

    In 2012, while playing through injury, Rose has maintained his role as the Bulls' main scoring threat at almost 21 points per game. But now he has help. The addition of Richard "Rip" Hamilton has aided in Rose's assist numbers climbing nearly 0.6 per game to 8.3 per game. 

    On defense, all he does is fight and he is often the player guarding a team's best offensive threat in crunch time. 

    Beyond the stats you see what this kid is really made of. He fights through every screen, he uses his 40-inch vertical to rise up and contest jump shots and will never let you waltz past him on isolation drives. 

    Simple steals and blocks numbers don't tell the full story with D-Rose, and while his numbers are respectable, it's his "heart, hustle and muscle"—as Bulls' announcer Stacey King would say—that make him the league's best two-way point guard today.