Most Dynamic Playmakers in the NBA
With the return of Ricky Rubio came the return of one of the most dynamic and exciting playmakers the NBA has to offer. On his first night back, he showed us plenty of what we have missed over the course of the season.
Rubio had nine assists in just 18 minutes of play, as everyone rejoiced to the return of one of the league's best passers.
Of course, it takes more than just a knack for getting the ball from one player to another to be considered a terrific playmaker. You've got to be able to score, have a terrific handle on the ball and just the ability to control the pace of the game in general.
The league is full of those types of players, but a handful of them stand up above all the rest. They are the guys who elicit the "oohs" and "aahs" from the crowd on a daily basis, and they're the reason we keep coming back for more.
In a league where passing has become more ingrained than it has been in the past decade, we've got an embarrassment of riches in terms of playmakers, but these few are just a tad above the rest of the back.
10. Jose Calderon
Jose Calderon isn't normally a guy we look at with awe and think about the glorious days of yesteryear with. He's really just Jose Calderon.
However, if you were to completely isolate your feelings about the guy in terms of his extreme shortcomings on defense, it's likely you'd come away with a new appreciation for the Spaniard.
Calderon's ability to pass isn't legendary, mostly because he's not dropping dimes between guys' legs, but he's just a damn efficient passer.
Anybody who has a lifetime 4-1 assist-to-turnover ratio deserves some praise, and it seems like the time to give it to the guy.
9. James Harden
Normally, we think of James Harden as a scorer with an ability to drop a nice pass down to one of his teammates every once in a while, but he's much more than that.
There's a reason why he was able to become the primary point guard with the Oklahoma City Thunder when he was on the floor alongside Russell Westbrook last season—he's just a great passer.
Harden has been asked to do a lot of scoring for the Houston Rockets this season, and he has been able to get to the rack with relative ease. However, when he's combining that penetrating ability with his keen sense for a pass, he gets really dangerous.
Omer Asik has turned into a decent offensive threat almost solely because of Harden finding him in the post with enough time for Asik to fumble the ball, recuperate and end up putting in a sloppy up-and-under.
Harden just knows how to play basketball, and that's the reason he was worth the maximum contract from the Rockets.
8. Manu Ginobili
If there's one guy who is constantly amazing me with what he can do when he's got the ball in his hands, it's Manu Ginobili.
Sure, he's been injured for the majority of the season and he hasn't really put together many good games, but there's always the chance of him swerving around the lane and doing something completely mind-boggling.
San Antonio's system doesn't really call for a primary ball-handler to the degree of several other teams, so he and Tony Parker end up doing a lot of the playmaking alongside each other. What that leads to is a lot of confusion for the defense.
With Ginobili's ability to get into the lane and throw down a Eurostep like nobody else in the business, combined with is unique ability to see the floor, there's always a chance for a stunning pass, or just a stunning move, from this cat.
7. Kyrie Irving
We might as well just go ahead and forever label this kid as Kyrie Swerving, because that's all he seems to do with the ball in his hands.
Sure, Kyrie only averages about six assists per game, but he does it all on a team that has seven guys who should be in the NBA, the rest being complete bums.
Give him a reliable wing man, a big man with legitimate post moves (not the inside-outside post moves that Anderson Varejao has) and a cutter who can consistently create space, and Irving would be putting up assist numbers to get him toward the top of the league.
The Greek have a saying, "Kyrie eleison," which translates to "Lord, have mercy." That seems extremely fitting to me, because I end up shouting that at least once during the course of a Cleveland Cavaliers game when he's on the floor.
6. Deron Williams
Deron Williams spent a lot of the early portion of his career being heralded as one of the two best point guards in the NBA, right alongside Chris Paul.
He's still a very good point guard, but he's settled too much recently.
By that I mean, he's ended up taking too many three-pointers and mid-range jumpers rather than getting to the rim, limiting his ability as a playmaker (but obviously not to an extreme degree).
Because of this, the defense doesn't have to constantly be in fear of Williams getting to the rim, which would force the defense to collapse and allow him to kick the ball back out to one of his wing guys to knock down a three.
If he were to go back to his old style of play, Williams could easily be one of the top four playmakers in the NBA. For now, however, he's going to have to settle for a top-10 spot.
He earns that because he's still got the amazing ability to sense what's going on around him, even if he doesn't see it happening.
Plus, he's got one of the wickedest arms in the NBA. Very few people can wind up and whip a pass around the floor quite like Williams.
5. Steve Nash
Steve Nash is the league's ultimate floor general, and despite the fact that he's older and slower than he has been in the past years, he's still a jaw-dropping passer.
Nash's broken leg has kept him out of all but two games this season, but the anticipation for his return is mounting, as we know that we're going to be getting back one of the most exciting players in the league.
Ever since John Stockton retired, Nash has been the premier general in the NBA. He can run the fast-paced offense like nobody else in the history of the league.
When he's able to unleash a bounce pass from just inside the half-court line all the way to the corner to hit a guy on the wing for a three, an angel gets its wings.
Nash is able to score just enough to keep defenses honest, so when he goes somewhere with the ball, defenders watch out. That's when he strikes.
It doesn't matter whether he's looking or not, Nash is going to be able to get the ball to an open man more often than not.
4. Chris Paul
Chris Paul continues his trek as the league's best point guard, and it's his flurry of weapons that allows him to keep the title.
Paul is a terrific passer, of course, but he's also a very good penetrator, which completely opens up his options.
Once he's in the lane, the defense tends to collapse just slightly enough so that he can kick the ball out to Caron Butler or Jamal Crawford on the perimeter.
Aside from that, Paul seems to have two young big dudes who are capable of jumping high. When they get off their feet and end up with their bellybuttons at rim level, it seems like Paul never fails to connect on an amazing alley-oop.
3. Ricky Rubio
You may think that it's a bit early to consider the young Ricky Rubio to be one of the league's best playmakers, but I'm ready to shove him right into the thick of the debate.
Not only is Rubio an amazing passer, he's one of the league's most unfathomable passers.
There may not be another person in the NBA with the ability to see all the angles that Rubio is able to see, and when he's really on a role, there is almost no way to stop the young fellow.
One major advantage for Rubio at this point in his career is that he's teamed up with a coach like Rick Adelman who is going to let him play his game with very few restrictions.
You might not be ready to accept him among the league's top playmakers, but what we've seen from him so far hints to nothing other than the fact that he is on his way.
2. LeBron James
A lot of people are on the fence about LeBron James as a playmaker, mostly because his best weapon is his huge, hulking frame.
In a way, he's more intriguing as a playmaker because of his frame, mostly because it allows him to do some things that nobody else has ever dreamed of doing.
His height gives him a magnificent angle at every possible pass on the floor, and his strength allows him to pass like a fireballing pitcher at any moment.
Combine that with point guard-like instincts, his insane ability to get to the rack and pass out of the post—and you've got yourself the best playmaker his size since Magic Johnson.
1. Rajon Rondo
C'mon guys, you know Rajon Rondo had to be at the top of this list—the dude can't live without making a play.
The fact that the defense gives him so much space around the perimeter when he's making his initial reads might just be his best weapon.
If he were to constantly have a man right in his face, he might find it harder to penetrate would, which means he would have a harder time getting to the lane and creating chaos for the defense.
Rondo has a flurry of passes that few people in the NBA even use any more, including a handful of different bounce passes, coming from different heights, at different speeds and with both hands.
There's a lot to dissect about Rondo, and it's hard to heap love on him without getting called out by the Rondo naysayers on the other side of the argument, mostly because he is so polarizing.
The fact is, however, that Rondo continues to be the league's most dynamic passer, and his ability to get to the rim just puts an exclamation point atop it all.