How Jeremy Lin Stacks Up Against PGs in Western Conference
There's no doubt that Jeremy Lin was easily the hottest commodity at the All-Star break last season as he became an overnight sensation with a string of great games for the New York Knicks.
However, this season Lin will be put to the test as a full-time starter in Houston with a big paycheck (three years, $25 million) to live up to. The world will be watching to see if this success story of bench warmer to global darling was a fluke or if Lin is the real deal.
Since he has made the jump from Eastern Conference to Western Conference, it's only fair to see how he ranks up there against his fellow starting point guards in his conference.
15. Greivis Vasquez, New Orleans Hornets
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Starting off our ranking is Greivis Vasquez of the Hornets, who is a respectable point guard in his own right. However, his title as a starter may be short-lived depending on the development of first-round pick Austin Rivers.
Vazquez does bring a decent skill set to the table and was able to dish out an average of 5.4 assists last season with limited help around him. As a starter, he's definitely not an ideal guy to have there long term, but it would be fair to peg him as a solid backup.
Depending on how quickly Rivers gets acclimated to the NBA and how well Vazquez does with facilitating the offense, he may end up coming off the bench.
14. Damien Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
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I am a huge believer that Lillard may be the best point guard in his draft class and maybe even one of the best overall players.
He has a high ceiling and the Blazers are fortunate to have someone to reinvest some of their faith in after their other cornerstones, Brandon Roy and Greg Oden, were hampered by constant injury.
Lillard hasn't proved anything yet in the NBA, but there is reason to believe he is something special. He came from a mid-major college in Weber State, but that doesn't mean his talent can't push him to the same level as guys who went to big name universities.
Watch out for Lillard and Portland's new core of youth as they try and get back on the playoff track.
13. Goran Dragic, Phoenix Suns
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Goran Dragic was the primary backup for Steve Nash for three years in Phoenix before leaving for the Houston Rockets.
Now that he is back, Dragic should finally be able to find the starting role he has sought but has been unable to attain. That may not last long, however, as Dragic is in a situation similar to that of Greivis Vasquez. The first-round talent under Dragic is former Tar Heel Kendall Marshall, who could eventually work his way into the starting rotation.
Whether he starts or not, Dragic is a solid player who can contribute on offense with his shooting range and quickness. Nevertheless, the question remains: Will Dragic be okay playing second fiddle once more in Phoenix?
12. Jeremy Lin, Houston Rockets
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Sure Lin was explosive in his few games as a starter in New York, but if you are trying to tell me that he is ready to fulfill the duties of a starting point guard, then color me unconvinced.
Lin had a lot of points in his streak of games, but he also had a high rate of turnovers (3.6 per game). Besides just his scoring, Lin will also be expected to run the offense for the Rockets in other areas, something he didn't have much experience doing as a Knick.
I am not doubting that Lin can do all of these things such as facilitate an offense or cut back on his turnovers, but I am saying that as of right now, he isn't worthy of being ranked a higher point guard in the Western Conference.
Looking at last season, Lin has proved a lot of his doubters wrong. So here's hoping he continues to do so in Houston.
11. Mo Williams, Utah Jazz
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Mo Williams was a part of a handful of good point guards on the Clippers last season, but now he will have the chance to take the lead as the starting point guard as a member of the Utah Jazz.
The 10-year veteran has been given this responsibility before during his time in Cleveland and Milwaukee, so he's no stranger to this position. Therefore, I can see Mo Williams thriving for the Jazz and still contributing close to his career averages.
However, Williams is on the wrong side of 30 and there are too many young, talented point guards in the West for him to be considered among the top. So for where he is at in his career right now, this is the best spot for Williams in the rankings.
10. Isaiah Thomas, Sacramento Kings
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After being picked 60th in the 2011 NBA Draft, the odds were not in the favor of the 5'9" guard from Washington.
However, like the adversity he faced with his height, Thomas was able to overcome his low draft position and make teams in the NBA wonder why they didn't take him earlier. Thomas displayed great heart, hustle and leadership for a downtrodden Sacramento Kings team that needed some stability in their rotation.
Last season, Thomas was able to capture two Western Conference Rookie of the Month awards, but only finished seventh in the Rookie of the Year voting. Don't expect the lack of recognition to get him down, though, and expect Thomas to come into this next year looking to prove even more.
9. Darren Collison, Dallas Mavericks
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Collison joins the Mavericks this year, as they are desperately trying to make one more championship push in the era of Dirk Nowitzki.
Besides Collison, the Mavs added the likes of O.J. Mayo and Chris Kaman to help with the cause, but will that be enough? Simply put: no.
However, the Mavericks at least have a secure starter for the future in Darren Collison, who is only going into his fourth season. Collison is a solid scoring guard but has proven in Indiana that he can work well with being the third or fourth option on offense.
His numbers won't be eye-popping or spectacular, but Collison has the potential to continue improving under Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle and could be one of the cornerstones moving forward.
8. Mike Conley Jr., Memphis Grizzlies
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Anchoring the backcourt for the Grizzlies is Mike Conley, Jr., one of the more unsung players in the NBA and a great contributor for Memphis.
He's another guard whose numbers aren't astounding or All-Star worthy, but Conley is very valuable to the Grizzlies regardless. Since being drafted by Memphis in 2007, Conley has grown with the team and has been a leading force in getting them to become the playoff team that they are now.
His name is often lost among the elite guards in the West, but his performances in big moments for the Grizzlies give him enough credibility to make his way into the top 10 in this list.
7. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
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Though he has been hampered by some injuries as of late, Curry has the potential to be one of the guards of the future in the Western Conference if he can stay healthy.
He is at the helm of a very high-octane offense in Oakland, and it fits his playing style perfectly. Curry could become one of the better shooters in the NBA if he continues to develop and maybe one of the best overall scoring guards too.
Getting healthy is the main focus for Curry, who will now have some help down low with the addition of Andrew Bogut. If he is able to keep his name off of the injury report, there's no doubt that we will start seeing his name on the All-Star roster in the near future.
6. Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves
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Before tearing his ACL last season, Rubio was proving to the NBA and the fans that he was worth the wait.
The Timberwolves selected Rubio with the fifth pick in the 2009 draft, but it wasn't until last year that he finally made his debut with the team. Even with the waiting period, Minnesota was certainly glad to see Rubio live up to the hype surrounding him.
He was running the offense efficiently and his passing ability was translating well into the bigger and faster NBA-style of play. Rubio's flashy play was a treat to watch for Minnesota fans who had playoff hopes for their team, until he went down with a season-ending injury.
Now that he is recovering from surgery, Rubio will come back to his starting job and try to continue the improvement that he started with the Timberwolves, alongside superstar forward Kevin Love.
5. Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets
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Another case of a great point guard flying under the radar is Ty Lawson of the Denver Nuggets. In his third season last year, Lawson stepped up to his increased playing time and performed very well with it.
Though his 6-foot stature is not the ideal height for an NBA point guard, Lawson has been able to work through it and use his blinding speed to make up for his lack of size. Aside from his quickness, Lawson also has a good shooting touch that he can use to generate his own offense.
The Nuggets have a great core to work with in Lawson, Andre Iguodala, Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried, and JaVale McGee. Lawson will have plenty of help around him to continue to improve his game and will work his way into elite point guard company in the process.
4. Steve Nash, Los Angeles Lakers
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Steve Nash is in hot pursuit of an NBA Championship to be the cherry on top of his illustrious NBA career and what better place than a Los Angeles team featuring Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol.
Nash put up with a lot of disappointment in his tenure as a Phoenix Sun, which featured a lot of individual success including two MVP awards. However, his team was never able to make the push for the NBA Finals and Nash finally decided he had given Phoenix all he had and that it was time to move on.
Though he is a seasoned 38-year-old going into this year, there's reason to believe that Nash has found the fountain of youth considering he has not seen a noticeable decline in his numbers at all in recent seasons.
He is known for making the players around him better and for being one of the best players to lead an offense, something the Lakers hope to get out of him on a team full of superstar talent.
3. Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs
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Much like the Spurs themselves, Tony Parker refuses to be written off as past his prime. Though he is now in his 12th season in San Antonio, Parker is still hanging with the younger guys in the West and continues to produce big numbers for an elite team.
His play last season led a veteran Spurs team to yet another Western Conference Finals, but they were out-dueled by the Oklahoma City Thunder and fell in six games. Parker did have one of his best seasons, however, as he averaged a career-high in assists with 7.7 per contest.
Parker is a savvy player who doesn't look to be slowing down, even after logging plenty of miles on his legs. Expect to see another All-Star-caliber year from Parker this season as he continues to remain in the company of elite NBA point guards.
2. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
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Bring in all the hate you want on Russell Westbrook, but that won't take away the fact that he was fifth in the league in scoring last year while playing alongside the player who led the league in scoring.
The point is, Westbrook is a great basketball player whether you like him or not. Does he take bad shots sometimes? Sure. Does he force the issue a lot when it's unnecessary? Yeah. But that doesn't mean that he can't take the game over with his own efforts and he has proven this even as recently as the 2012 NBA Finals.
While Kevin Durant was having a tough time in Game 4 against the Miami Heat, Westbrook stepped up and took control of the offense with his 43-point performance. Though the Thunder lost that game, you could hardly pin that on Westbrook.
It's performances like these that give you insight into how deadly he can be on the floor and the fact that he's only been in the NBA for three years should be downright terrifying. Love him or loathe him, Westbrook is an elite NBA point guard.
1. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
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Even with Steve Nash in town, Chris Paul remains the best point guard in Los Angels and the Western Conference as a whole.
CP3 is the total package for an elite point guard. He passes well, he defends ridiculously well, and he can score well if he so chooses. There is no one in the Western Conference and possibly the NBA who plays the point guard position better than Chris Paul.
His new scenery and drive to win an NBA Championship only increase his willingness to get even better than he is now, meaning that the Chris Paul we see next season and from here on out may be a completely different beast than we've already seen.
Assuming he stays in L.A. for the long haul, the Clippers should be overwhelmed with glee about their future at the point guard position and their future of team success as well.