Ranking the Best Score-First Point Guards in the NBA
Score-first point guards have become a dominant breed in the NBA. These players are adept passers but flourish when given the keys to the offense.
Over the last five years, we've entered a golden age of point guard play. It wasn't all that long ago that point guards were one-dimensional, but today, some of the league's most marketable players are its smallest.
Passing the ball and facilitating the offense used to be the primary responsibility of the league's floor generals, but that role has changed drastically with some new talent at the position.
Here are the best score-first point guards in the NBA.
Note: All stats are accurate as of December 4, 2012.
10. Damian Lillard
Damian Lillard has been playing with maturity on the offensive end well beyond his years.
A highly touted prospect out of Weber State, Lillard's play thus far has validated all of the pre-draft hype that saw him drafted No. 6 overall by the Portland Trail Blazers.
According to NBA.com, Lillard has attempted more three-point shots from above the break than any other spot on the court (107) and is converting at a 39 percent clip on all shots from beyond the arc.
Lillard has shown a fearlessness that few expected and put himself in position to win the league's Rookie of the Year award with his speed and quick release off the dribble.
9. Brandon Jennings
Brandon Jennings has quickly discovered that when you're playing alongside Monta Ellis, it's imperative to get your shots up when you can, because you may not get the ball back if you dish it off.
Jennings is hardly efficient, shooting below 40 percent from the field for his career, but he's capable of scoring in spurts once he heats up.
Not only can Jennings score points in bunches, but he has proven to be a gamer in the clutch, knocking down big shots against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics already this season.
Jennings may have some frustrating tendencies, but he is far less erratic when it comes to making big plays in the clutch.
8. Ty Lawson
While Ty Lawson's play so far this season has been disappointing, his production during his breakout 2011-12 campaign was an indicator of just how effective a scorer he can be.
Lawson averaged 16.4 points per game on 48.8 percent shooting a year ago, knocking down 37 percent of his three-pointers including 38 percent from above the break (per NBA.com).
In contrast, Lawson is shooting a miserable 24 percent from three-point range through one month this season, making only 10 of his 36 attempts from the corner (per NBA.com).
However, it would be unfair to discount Lawson's success to this point just because of one bad month.
Lawson has the athletic and fundamental tools to be considered one of the game's most dangerous point guards, but further development will hinge on his ability to be more patient and selective with his shots.
7. Jrue Holiday
At this time last year, Jrue Holiday would not have been anywhere close to earning a spot on this list. However, the departure of ball-handlers Lou Williams and Andre Iguodala has opened up the offense for Holiday.
Holiday is now called upon by head coach Doug Collins to not only facilitate the offense, but to be the team's go-to scorer.
So far this season, Holiday is setting career marks from the field and from distance, converting 46 percent of his twos and 39 percent of his threes.
As opposed to last season when he was working more off the ball, Holiday has seen his on-ball responsibilities increase, and his scoring average of 18 points per game is indicative of his newfound success.
At just 22 years of age, Holiday is well on his way to becoming a dominant score-first point guard.
6. Stephen Curry
Stephen Curry is a point guard, but he is hardly a conventional one. Ever since his days as a standout at Davidson College, Curry has been one of basketball's premier marksmen.
Curry's steady hand from deep has been a lethal weapon, and his numbers exemplify a new type of point guard in today's NBA.
Although his career to this point has been plagued by injuries, Curry has earned his title as the Golden State Warriors' go-to player on the offensive end, though David Lee is a close second.
Currently in his fourth year, Curry has never shot below 43 percent from three-point range, and his 2011-12 numbers serve as a model of what we have come to expect from Curry.
Playing in 26 games last season, Curry shot 65 percent on corner threes and knocked down 41 percent of his looks from above the break (per NBA.com).
Curry has also proven that he's a capable mid-range scorer, converting on 59 percent of his attempts inside the arc last season.
5. Tony Parker
Tony Parker's ability to score the basketball has kept the San Antonio Spurs competitive for years.
Parker's offensive awareness is the key to his well-rounded game, and his arsenal of crafty moves around the basket contributed to a 64 percent conversion rate on shots in the restricted area last season (per NBA.com).
Parker's usage rate (27.8 percent) was higher than either Tim Duncan's or Manu Ginobili's last season as well, and as the youngest member of the Spurs' core trio, he will be called upon time and time again to pick up big baskets for his aging team.
4. Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving shattered expectations during his successful rookie campaign, and he's doing it again in year two with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Although he's been limited to just 10 games due to injury, Irving's numbers indicate that he's on pace to become one of the NBA's most dominant scorers, period.
Through 10 games, Irving is averaging 23 points per contest, up nearly five points from his average from a year ago.
A notable trend in Irving's shot selection has been his confidence in his mid-range jumper. While it's just a small sample (per NBA.com), over 30 percent of Irving's shots are coming from mid-range, up more than five percent from last season.
Should the mid-range jumper become a staple of Irving's game, his offensive repertoire will be loaded. Irving has already established that his three-point shot and dribble-drive are well ahead of the curve.
3. Deron Williams
Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams possesses an arsenal of offensive moves, many of which involve using his 6'3'', 209-pound frame to overwhelm smaller opponents.
Williams has implemented a dominant post-up move into his game, and he makes it even more difficult for opponents to defend because he's perfected the art of hitting the fall-away.
In addition to his polished mid-range game, Williams is a capable outside shooter, converting on 35 percent of his three-point field attempts for his career.
So far this season, though, Williams has struggled on the offensive end, shooting a weak 39 percent from the floor and an even weaker 30 percent from beyond the arc.
2. Russell Westbrook
Some day, there will be a lengthy dissertation published on the career of Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook could be credited with helping to transform the point guard position, thanks to his fearless style of play that has resulted in some awe-inspiring performances, as well as some highly questionable ones.
What separates Westbrook from a pass-first point guard like Rajon Rondo or Chris Paul is that he's unlikely to take efficiency or selflessness into account. While it may not be a positive attribute per se, it's what makes Westbrook a threat to explode on any given night.
He could easily be the league's premier score-first point guard, and at times he is, but his inconsistencies are detrimental to his overall standing among the league's elite scorers.
While he's averaging a steady 21 points per game this season, Westbrook has needed almost 18 field-goal attempts per contest to post that number.
According to NBA.com, Westbrook is shooting 34 percent from three-point range, and he is knocking down a meager 32 percent of his shots from mid-range.
1. Derrick Rose
With the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks grabbing early-season headlines, it's easy to forget that the Chicago Bulls are still without point guard Derrick Rose.
Rose's absence has left a big void in the Bulls backcourt, as they have struggled without his electrifying athleticism.
While Rose is still working on perfecting his jump shot, his ability to blow by defenders from any spot on the court puts him in a category of elite point guards all his own.
In Rose's 2010-11 MVP campaign, he posted a career-high 25 points per game and improved his three-point shooting numbers to a career-best 33 percent.
Whether he returns this season or next, Rose's re-emergence will surely thrust the Bulls back into elite company in the Eastern Conference.