Power Ranking the NBA's Most Fearless Take-It-to-the-Hole Guards
The NBA's guards are getting more and more athletic as time passes, and this current batch doesn't seem to hesitate before lowering their heads and driving to the rim.
When these 10 point guards and shooting guards decide to move towards the hoop, their amygdala might as well be impaired. Fear leaves the equation, and the guards do everything in their power to finish the play at the basket.
Some of them use their size. Others use their physical prowess. Others still use speed and athleticism. No matter how they get to the rim, they attack relentlessly and tend to finish for two points more often than not.
10. Eric Gordon
Team: New Orleans Hornets
2011-12 Stats: 10 games played, 34-of-50 at rim (68.0 percent), four dunks
We're dealing with a small sample size when looking at 2011-12 stats for Eric Gordon, whose knee problems made a compressed season even shorter, but the numbers still don't lie. Gordon is getting better at taking the ball to the rack.
Although the shooting guard took shots at the rim with a similar frequency to his career precedent, he made them at a higher rate and tended to create the shot for himself more often, relying on fewer passes from his teammates to set up the in-close opportunities.
Gordon has an innate ability to power his way through a defense and finish at the rim with a thunderous dunk. At the very least, he puts himself in position to lay the ball in off the glass if the rim manages to avoid his onslaught.
9. Kyrie Irving
Team: Cleveland Cavaliers
2011-12 Stats: 51 games played, 169-of-280 at rim (60.4 percent), three dunks
Kyrie Irving doesn't finish a play with a dunk unless he's wide open on a fast break, but don't let that completely detract from his fearlessness when driving to the hoop.
The Rookie of the Year was sensational with the ball in his hands and the rim in his mind. He can weave and spin his way through any defense and displays near-perfect body control when challenging players who stand at least half a foot taller than him.
Irving doesn't have anything to fear when he's on the move. His handles are incredible, and his ability to alter his shot in the air and finish the play with some nifty spin is just sensational. Some of the shots he was able to make while utilizing the backboard are the kind we only dream of making in H-O-R-S-E.
8. Deron Williams
Team: Brooklyn Nets
2011-12 Stats: 55 games played, 120-of-216 at rim (55.6 percent), 13 dunks
While Deron Williams doesn't have the same hops as some of the younger point guards in the league, he does have the massive size and brutalizing strength that allows him to get to the rim. As a result, D-Will throws down some powerful dunks when he gets the opportunity.
After utilizing his breathtakingly quick crossover to throw his defender off balance, Williams just explodes into the middle of the paint and isn't afraid of contact in the slightest.
While he doesn't have the grace that the other members of these rankings possess, he still isn't afraid to take the ball to the hole when he calls his own number.
7. Monta Ellis
Team: Milwaukee Bucks
2011-12 Stats: 58 games played, 178-of-279 at rim (63.8 percent), 23 dunks
Doesn't it seem like Monta Ellis manages to convert a circus shot at least a few times per year?
While the high-scoring shooting guard scores around the rim at a high level and hammers home his fair share of dunks, he stands out in two areas here.
First is the fact that he's mind-numbingly quick. Even with the ball in his hands, Ellis has track-star speed. That allows him to blaze by his defender and start his journey into the paint and towards the rim.
Then, there's the more impressive part. Very few players in NBA history have ever been better at altering shots in the air. As soon as he draws contact and sees where the defenders' arms are, he contorts his body and finds the angle that the ball must travel at.
Ellis could be higher up in these rankings, but to earn a more lofty spot, he'd have to stop hoisting up so many jumpers.
6. Tyreke Evans
Team: Sacramento Kings
2011-12 Stats: 63 games played, 287-of-444 at rim (64.6 percent), 15 dunks
No guard in the NBA made more shots at the rim during the 2011-12 campaign than Tyreke Evans. Then again, he also had 40 more attempts from that distance than the rest of the field, which Russell Westbrook led with 404 attempts.
Evans has to be a dominant player when driving to the hoop because his outside game is almost nonexistent. Fortunately for the position-less player, he's quite adept at getting to the hoop and drawing contact.
Even when Evans slams into opposing players, he still has a certain knack for finishing the play successfully.
The only thing holding back the former Rookie of the Year is a lack of dunks.
5. James Harden
Team: Oklahoma City Thunder
2011-12 Stats: 62 games played, 150-of-213 at rim (70.4 percent), 39 dunks
James Harden might not drive as often as Tyreke Evans, but he's significantly more effective when he does go strong to the hoop. Although the new flopping restrictions might limit some of his effectiveness, he's still very proficient when it comes to drawing contact.
The bearded, mohawked shooting guard is one of the more creative ball-handlers in the league, and he often Eurosteps and jukes his way to the basket. We're never going to see another Manu Ginobili in the NBA, but Harden might be the closest thing we get when he has the ball in his hands.
Harden converted 70.4 percent of his shots at the rim and threw down 39 times over 62 games. Only eight guards who played 20 or more minutes per game during the 2011-12 season managed to make a higher percentage: Raja Bell, Rudy Fernandez, John Salmons, Ginobili, Steve Nash, Lester Hudson, Gerald Green and Cartier Martin.
Of the eight, only Nash attempted more than 100 shots at the rim, and his 105 tries fall significantly short of Harden's 213.
4. Derrick Rose
Team: Chicago Bulls
2011-12 Stats: 39 games played, 138-of-238 at rim (58.0 percent), 12 dunks
Derrick Rose was only able to play 39 games during the 2011-12 season, and he was limited in some of those games. So instead of looking at his 2011-12 stats, which were included for posterity's sake, let's look at the numbers from his 2010-11 campaign.
The former MVP made 308 of his 513 attempts at the rim that season, which amounts to 60.0 percent.
Rose is at his best when he's using his contortionist-esque skills to squeeze through the defense and his sensational athleticism to finish the play. His dunks leave the crowd picking their jaws up off the floor, and his finishes off the backboard aren't too shabby, either.
The only thing keeping Rose from the top is his relative lack of efficiency around the basket when compared to the remaining players.
3. John Wall
Team: Washington Wizards
2011-12 Stats: 66 games played, 237-of-383 at rim (61.9 percent), 47 dunks
John Wall doesn't have anything that even resembles a three-point shot, so he's had to rely on his athleticism and explosiveness during his young career with the Washington Wizards.
As a result, Wall thrives when driving to the basket, using his plus-speed and ball-handling skills to leave defenders in the dust. And when he gets to the basket, the former Kentucky Wildcat can elevate as well as any guard.
Wall is no stranger to throwing down monstrous dunks, but he's just as effective when driving to the hoop, putting his head down and finishing the play right around the basket. He also draws a lot of contact as opponents try to stop him when he's in whirling-dervish mode.
If he'd stop taking so many mid-range and deep jumpers, especially coming off pick-and-rolls, he'd be so much more effective.
2. Russell Westbrook
Team: Oklahoma City Thunder
2011-12 Stats: 66 games played, 249-of-404 at rim (61.6 percent), 48 dunks
During the 2012 Summer Olympics, it was Russell Westbrook who inspired a timeless debate while he was helping Team USA sweep through the competition. Despite the presence of the world's greatest athletes in every nook and cranny of London, Westbrook sparked a discussion about the absolute top athletes out there.
That's how dynamic this guy is when he drives to the hoop and jumps over everything in his path. Westbrook is truly a once-in-a-generation athlete, and he by no means hesitates to utilize his natural talent.
The point guard is at his best when he recklessly drives to the basket. At least he seems reckless, but given his 61.6-percent shooting at the rim, he's definitely under control.
Westbrook shows no fear whatsoever when the ball is in his hands.
1. Dwyane Wade
Team: Miami Heat
2011-12 Stats: 49 games played, 217-of-329 at rim (66.0 percent), 63 dunks
Of the players who dunked the ball the most in the NBA during the 2011-12 season, Dwyane Wade was the only player in the top 30 who lines up at one of the two guard positions. I'm not counting Andre Iguodala, who scarcely ever played shooting guard for the Philadelphia 76ers.
Paul George, Landry Fields, Russell Westbrook and John Wall were the only other members of the top 50 who played the majority of their minutes at guard. You've already seen Westbrook and Wall. George and Fields both fell just short of these rankings because of their proclivity to use assists from their teammates rather than creating their own shots.
Wade has been one of the premier slashing guards in the game for quite some time now. Whether he's cutting without the ball or dribbling through the defense, Wade's entire offensive repertoire seems to be predicated upon his ability to get to the basket.
His outside shot hasn't ever fully developed, which has left him attempting to dominate as close to the hoop as possible. And dominate is exactly what he does.