Power Ranking Rajon Rondo and the Top 10 NBA Point Guards
Many of you might remember Rajon Rondo's comments from July 30th, when the 25-year old Boston Celtics point guard told a French newspaper outlet that he was the best point guard in the league (via NESN).
As B/R's Ben Shapiro pointed out, the answer to the question "Who is the league's best point guard?" is a tough one to answer. There are so many right answers that your head starts to spin once you've heard the same five names rearranged over and over at the top.
It might be easier to just put the top contenders as 1a through 1e, but then where would the rhetoric and feisty debate go?
Read on as I sift through the mess and determine who I believe are the top 10 point guards in the NBA. Enjoy!
10. Brandon Jennings (MIL)
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Since he's entered the league, Brandon Jennings has done nothing but improve on an impressive rookie season that earned him All-Rookie honors.
He isn't your prototypical facilitating point guard, as he averaged 19.1 points but only 5.5 assists per game in 2011-12. On a Milwaukee team that until midseason of last year lacked another major scoring threat, he was asked to do much more than simply be a floor general.
After the Bucks traded for Monta Ellis, Jennings' playing style changed. He still showed that he can score and get to the basket when needed, but he was much more willing to dish the ball out than he was two years ago.
If he wants to enter the elite realm of active NBA PGs, Jennings will need to improve his passing and three-point shooting, but he's still one of the finer young players at his position regardless.
9. Stephen Curry (GSW)
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Stephen Curry is one of the more underrated point guards in the league, partially due to his nagging injuries and partially due to his lack of conventionality.
Like Jennings, Curry is a score-first—"shoot first" is probably more correct—guard who can dish it out when necessary. He isn't the most refined facilitator, but that issue stems from his days at Davidson when he had to score upwards of 25 points per game for his team to compete.
Translate that to the NBA, where he has enough talent around him to be more of a facilitator. He's struggled at points with his development as a passer, and injuries haven't helped.
That said, his talents on the offensive end are impressive, and his shooting statistics prove that. In his three-year career, he's shot 47.3 percent from the field, 44.1 percent from deep and 90.1 percent from the free-throw line. Among guards, he's in the top five for all three statistics during that time period.
When Curry is healthy, he can score 20-25 points in any game. On nights when he's especially hot, containing Golden State's explosive offense becomes too much of a chore for even the best of defenses.
Curry's ability to open things up for his teammates will be an even more valuable asset than his ability to read defenses as he develops into an All-Star-caliber guard.
8. John Wall (WAS)
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He can dance, he can pass and he can score. Who are we talking about? Wizards phenom John Wall, of course.
Wall has been the victim of terrible management, surrounded by players like Nick Young, Andray Blatche and Rashard Lewis on a yearly basis. On a team where he's the leader, best scorer, passer and perimeter defender, Wall has impressed by coping with all those responsibilities and even excelling in a few.
Turnovers were certainly a problem last year as he led the league with 3.9 per game, but as he's surrounded with more talented players—Bradley Beal, for example—he won't be asked to score 16.3 points, dish out eight assists and grab 4.5 rebounds per game. His load will lighten, and he'll be free to run the point with more prudence.
Wall is part of the next generation of point guards and will help lead the way as the position adjusts to the new style of basketball being played in the NBA.
7. Tony Parker (SAS)
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In his 11-year career, Spurs veteran Tony Parker has done nothing but defy all odds again and again.
Ranked fourth in points and first in assists on San Antonio's all-time list, Parker is one of a select few to have so much individual and team success all with one franchise.
He has always been a dual threat, averaging 18.3 points and 7.7 assists per game just last season as he led San Antonio to the No. 1 seed in the West.
His ability to find the open man, score when needed and be the team's floor general is what makes him so valuable; not many players have as many quality traits as him, and even less in today's game where role players have moved to the forefront of an NBA roster.
Even with last year's great performance, I just don't think Parker can outplay any of the other guys ahead of him right now.
That said, he's a three-time champion and a four-time All-Star. He's one of the greatest point guards in the history of the league.
6. Russell Westbrook (OKC)
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Russell Westbrook, like any young star, has his share of flaws: He takes too many shots at times, he needs to slow down and control the ball before he tries to make a play and he doesn't shoot the ball particularly well from beyond the arc.
But he makes up for many of those flaws with his incredible athleticism, uncanny playmaking ability and aggressive defense.
Westbrook is even less conventional than Curry and Jennings, playing the role of shot creator and scorer more often than passer. His 23.6 points per game last season compared to 5.5 assists is testament to that.
What those numbers don't show, however, is what he does for his teammates without even making a pass. Teams often have to devote one or two help defenders to his side of the court, knowing that he can slash to the hoop and slam it home faster than a defender can bat their eyelid.
He commands so much direct attention that players like James Harden and Serge Ibaka can emerge as legitimate offensive threats in their own rights.
As he develops under Scott Brooks, Westbrook will learn not to waste possessions and instead find Durant, Ibaka and other teammates for open, short-range looks. When he does, he will likely be the league's most dangerous player not named LeBron James or Kevin Durant.
Even now, he can be considered an elite player at point guard.
5. Steve Nash (PHX)
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This is the part where ranking starts to great tricky, seeing as it'd be just as easy to classify the next five players as 1a through 1e; they are all elite at what they do, but in the end some are just slightly better than others.
Steve Nash is a two-time MVP, eight-time All-Star and three-time member of the All-NBA first team (which means he was voted as the best point guard).
In that time he has amassed 16,649 points, 9,916 assists and shot over 90 percent from the free-throw line. He's known as one of the greatest shooter, facilitators and passers all time, three things that make an excellent point guard.
Nobody on this list, even Parker, has had a career quite as great as Nash; he is a sure-fire Hall of Famer given that he is likely the best point guard of the last decade—it's down to him and Jason Kidd.
Nash also has longevity, and his recent success is testament to that: He averaged 12.5 points and 10.7 assists per game last season in his 16th NBA campaign. Paired with Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol will be a sight to see.
All that said, he is 38. He isn't quite as quick or athletic as the four guys in front of him, and even though he's still a world-class facilitator, I don't think it's prudent to put him ahead of the next four at this stage in his career.
4. Derrick Rose (CHI)
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Derrick Rose is an excellent all-around player, and it was unfortunate to see him suffer a nagging knee injury that caused him to miss 27 regular season games and then five playoff games in 2011-12.
What he's done when healthy, however, is impressive. In his last healthy season, 2010-11, Rose asserted him as one of the league's best young stars by averaging 25 points and 7.7 assists per game on his way to winning the league's MVP award over the likes of Kevin Durant and LeBron James. He was the motor that made the Bulls go that season, and it was nearly enough to get past the Heat and advance to the NBA Finals.
Injuries are mostly what is keeping him a little lower on this list. He isn't expected back until midway through the season, and who knows if he'll be as productive coming off serious knee reconstructions. His ability to be a dominant presence depends on him being able to beat any defender to the rim, and that might be tough to do with a tender knee.
That said, he's good enough to be fourth on the list regardless, which is just a testament to his game-changing ability at the point guard position.
3. Deron Williams (BRK)
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Even on a team that had little to nothing on its starting roster with the injury to Brook Lopez, Deron Williams showed that he was once again worthy of an All-Star selection by averaging 21 points and 8.7 assists per game. His PER—player efficiency rating—was upwards of 20, impressive considering the lack of talent around him.
If you remember Deron's Utah years, when he had Carlos Boozer, Andrei Kirilenko and Mehmet Okur complementing him on the offensive end, you'll remember a dominant point guard. In his last three full seasons with Utah, he averaged double-doubles. With a revamped Brooklyn starting five, he can be expected to return to his form from those years.
Williams' ability to shoot the three-pointer and fit passes into tight spots is what makes him so valuable; he can spread the floor and then find players down low for easy shots even with a crowded paint.
He has all the abilities to lead Brooklyn deep into this year's playoffs and will prove again why he deserves a spot as a top-three PG in the league.
2. Rajon Rondo (BOS)
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When I think of a playmaking facilitator, I think of Rajon Rondo. When I think of triple-doubles, I think of Rajon Rondo. When I think of excelling when it matters most...I think of none other than Rajon Rondo.
Rondo has all the skills Boston has needed from a pure point throughout the Big Three era. He's what makes Boston run as smoothly as it does: He can run the fast break, find bigs down low for easy jumpers and drive to the rack, which opens up easy three-ball opportunities for Boston's sharpshooters (formerly Ray Allen but now Jason Terry).
He is by far the best playmaker on this list, showing excellence in the half-court set that only a handful of point guards in the history of the NBA have shown. He may be a third-rate outside shooter, but his ability to score on the drive makes him a large enough threat that he racks up double-digit assists on a nightly basis.
Not to mention that he excels when it matters most, accumulating triple-doubles in the postseason like it's easier than making layups. When you throw in his quick hands and stingy defense, Rondo has all the makings of a future Hall of Famer.
All of that said, Rondo's poor shooting and short temper on defense put him in a slight hole, one large enough to put him behind...
1. Chris Paul (LAC)
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Chris Paul is always looking to improve himself, a trait that explains why his turnovers are down, his three-point percentage is up and he has earned himself the No. 1 spot on this star-studded list.
Paul has been a perennial All-Star since he joined the league, excelling as a penetrator, passer, shooter, facilitator and man-to-man perimeter defender. He is constantly near the top in terms of free-throw shooting, three-point shooting, steals, assists and points, showing how wide of a skill set he possesses.
In the two best years of his career, '07-08 and '08-09, he was surrounded by an offensively-minded team that featured David West and Peja Stojakovic. Paul averaged 20-plus points and 10-plus assists in both seasons, showing the league why he should be considered one of the greats in the game.
When you look at "the best players" at a position, you can't just look at one attribute. While Rajon Rondo put up incredible playoff numbers and is probably a slightly better facilitator—which is partially due to his superior supporting cast—he just doesn't match up with CP3 in terms of shooting and consistency.
Chris Paul simply has the edge over everyone else on this list. He has more consistency than Rondo, is a better facilitator than Williams, can score better than Nash and is healthier and more well rounded than Derrick Rose.
In other words, he's the best.