Ranking Kyrie Irving with the NBA's Best Point Guards in 2012-13
Kyrie Irving exploded onto the scene as a rookie in 2011-12, and it's clear he's poised to take the NBA by storm once again.
The Cleveland Cavaliers cornerstone opened up his 2012-13 campaign with 29 points, six rebounds and three assists on 55 percent shooting.
And it got me thinking: Where does this superstar-in-the-making rank among the NBA's best point guards? Is he even in the top 10?
To spoil the latter, yes, he is.
But where exactly does he fall, and can he climb any higher?
That's what we're here to find out.
10. John Wall, Washington Wizards
Let's call John Wall what he is—awesome.
Though the budding floor general has only shot 41.6 percent from the field in his first two seasons, he's much more talented than basketball pundits give him credit for.
Not only has Wall still averaged 16-plus points per game in each of his first two seasons, but averaged over eight assists as well.
Last year, his eight assists per contest ranked seventh in the NBA, above both Derrick Rose and Tony Parker.
Simply put, the kid can both score and distribute. He can even defend, as his quick feet and 1.4 steals per night make evident.
Does the 22-year-old have a long way to go?
Yes, but there's no denying he's established himself a top 10 point guard talent nonetheless.
9. Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets
Ty Lawson is perpetually underrated.
But not anymore.
The wily point guard is now clad with a new extension and preparing to lead the suddenly championship-worthy Denver Nuggets on a championship-caliber campaign.
Though he has flown under the radar for the past three years, Lawson has always been an explosive ball-handler who can score from anywhere on the court and create open looks for his teammates.
His assists per game have risen by over two per year like clockwork, and he has never shot less than 48.8 percent from the field for his career.
Throw in his superior ball protection, and you easily have a top 10 point guard whose stock is on the rise as he continues to lead a team on the rise.
8. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
And here we have our inspiration.
Yes, Kyrie Irving is only in his second season, but he's already proven to be one of the most efficient point guards in the league.
Last year, the then-rookie averaged 18.5 points, 5.4 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game. He showcased his ability to get to the rim, run an offense in the early goings of his career and maintained a level of defensive competence that is lost on many.
Most importantly, though, at the ripe age of 20, he's already established himself a top-20 player overall.
And his stock is only rising.
Which essentially means he's only going to continue his already impressive ascent within the NBA's point guard hierarchy.
7. Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs
Few point guards are as crafty as the San Antonio Spurs' Tony Parker.
Though Park has never been what you would call an efficient outside shooter—just 31 percent from beyond the arc for his career—he does everything else exceptionally well.
San Antonio's finest averaged 18.3 points and a career-high 7.7 assists last season, leading the Spurs to the league's best record. He's a proven playoff performer and, as Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan have aged, has become the heart and soul of San Antonio's offense.
Does he possess the same type of explosiveness, the same penchant for flair, as many of his peers?
No, but he's fundamentally-sound and as consistent a point guard as there is.
In the most quietly prolific of ways possible.
6. Steve Nash, Los Angeles Lakers
This one stings a little.
Steve Nash may just be the best passer in the NBA, but as he continues to age, he finds himself outside of the top-five.
Though the point guard has averaged 10 or more assists per game in seven of his last eight seasons, his scoring has continued to drop off as he becomes less inclined to look for his own offense.
That said, when he shoots the ball, he's been extremely efficient. He shot over 50 percent from the field to lead all starting guards last season.
At 38, the fact he is able to navigate the floor at all is an accomplishment in itself, rendering his continuing accolades nothing short of magnificent.
So while considering a top-five point guard is a bit of a stretch at this point, he's still easily a top-10 talent.
One who will eventually help the Los Angeles Lakers piece their act together.
5. Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics
Rajon Rondo is not—despite his personal belief—the best point guard in the NBA.
But he's not far from it either.
Rondo led all point guards in assists per game last season, dishing out a cool 11.7 per night. He's also proved to be a defensive stopper who's great at locking down opposing offenses both on and off the ball.
For all that he does well, Rondo still has plenty to improve upon.
He's never been a formidable jump shooter, and his free-throw shooting has been even worse. He also needs to understand that there is such a thing as being too unselfish.
That said, Rondo took over in the playoffs for the Boston Celtics last season, averaging 17.3 points on 46.8 percent shooting in addition to his 11.9 assists per game.
If he can keep up that level of production along with that type of efficiency, he'll find himself climbing even further up this ladder.
4. Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets
People forget how good Deron Williams is.
That needs to change.
This is a guy who has averaged eight or more assists over the past six seasons and boasts a career scoring average of 17.2 points per game.
Though he takes a lot of flack for being a perennial All-Star on an underwhelming roster, we shouldn't shortchange his abilities. If anything, we should appreciate that he was able to lead the Utah Jazz to relevancy despite a shortage of talent around him—Carlos Boozer included.
So no, he isn't overrated.
What is he, you ask?
He's an aggressive scorer, deft passer and a staunch defender who, given an adequate supporting cast, can be the fuel that drives a championship cause.
3. Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
I understand that Derrick Rose has been fighting a losing battle with his knee for the better part of the year.
What we all must understand, though, is that when healthy, he has the potential to be the absolute best point man in the league.
With the exception of perhaps Russell Westbrook, there isn't a single point guard in the NBA who is as explosive and elusive as Rose.
He's a flashy ball-handler with an extremely quick release who can also not be stopped when he decides to attack the rim. His defensive sets—especially when it comes to manning the passing lane—often goes overlooked as well.
Could he stand to improve upon his lukewarm three-point percentage?
Definitely, but what he lacks from the outside he more than makes up for in his career average of 20.8 points and 6.8 assists per game.
And outside of his long-range jumper, I dare you to find another glaring weakness in his game.
But you won't, because you can't.
Rose is one of the most complete floor generals in the NBA and will undoubtedly resume his MVP-caliber play if and when he returns from rehabilitating his torn ACL this season.
2. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
People tend to criticize Russell Westbrook, and I have yet to understand why.
Is he a pass-first point guard?
Absolutely not, but he doesn't have to be. The Oklahoma City Thunder need him to attack the rim first and defer later.
And that's what he has done. It's also what has worked. Last time I checked, the Thunder did make it all the way to the Finals last year, didn't they?
Throw in the fact that he was still good for 5.5 assists per game in addition to his 23.6 points, and I'm inclined to overlook his supposed "shortcomings" as a playmaker.
Yet if that's not enough, his 23 PER rating last season—good for 10th in the entire league—should do the trick.
Yes, there are holes in Westbrook's game. I personally would like to see him put an increased focus on his three-point efficiency, but his overall offensive dominance coupled with his superior rebounding have propelled the 23-year-old to superstardom.
As well as just shy of being the NBA's best point guard.
1. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
Chris Paul isn't the most athletic or explosive of point guards, but he is the most dominant.
The 27-year-old Paul not only transformed the Los Angeles Clippers into a title contender overnight, but his 27.09 PER was second to only LeBron James.
Not bad for a player operating on a surgically-repaired knee, is it?
No, not at all.
And while does have a reputation for being too unselfish at times, he is as close to a perfectly balanced floor general as the NBA has right now.
He's one of most skilled passers in the game, a potent scorer when he needs to be and is easily one of the most lockdown of perimeter defenders the league has to offer;
How many point men can give you nearly 20 points and 10 assists per game while shooting nearly 50 percent from the field on a consistent basis?
Not many, if any. But Paul can.
It simply doesn't get any better than him.
And it arguably won't for quite some time.