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Ranking Kyrie Irving Among the NBA's Top 10 Point Guards

Jerry BuloneContributor IIIDecember 26, 2012

Ranking Kyrie Irving Among the NBA's Top 10 Point Guards

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    When Kyrie Irving was drafted first overall in the 2011 NBA Draft, many agreed he had the potential to become one of the NBA's best.

    Little did they know that at only 20 years of age and with only 69 NBA games under his belt, he would already among the best. That’s a testament to the unique talent of the youngster out of Duke University.

    As deep as the point-guard position is in today's NBA, being able to crack the top 10 would be impressive but Kyrie has done much more than that.

    How does Irving's game stack up against the other top point guards?

    All statistics accurate through Dec. 24, 2012

     

10. Jrue Holiday

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    Holiday is only 22 years old and has already shown the ability to be a great point guard in this league.

    He is almost single-handedly keeping the Philadelphia 76ers in the playoff race while they figure out if they will ever get a contribution from Andrew Bynum.

    Holiday is averaging 18 points per game and 8.8 assists and is shooting .449 from the field.

    He also has made some big plays in clutch time. According to 82games.com, Holiday is shooting .650 from the field and .500 from three-point range when it counts most. 

    Holiday is above the league average in every statistical category, but one that particularly stands out is his efficiency rating, which is 19.32 according to hoopdata.com. This is more than double the league average and better than some on this very list.

    One thing he needs to work on to join the elite is taking better care of the ball. 

    At one point he averaged 4.4 turnovers a game. Currently he is at 3.7, which is better but still way above his career average of 2.4.  

9. Steve Nash

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    At one point in Nash’s brilliant 16-year career, he was the best point guard in the game. When he played with the Phoenix Suns he won the MVP award twice.

    He has led the league in assists five times and has impressive career averages in field-goal shooting (.491), three-point shooting (.423) and free-throw shooting (.904).

    Unfortunately, like with every great athlete, time has caught up to Nash.

    Last year he had his lowest points per game average in 12 years. His three-point percentage was the lowest since the 1999-2000 season, and his assists-to-turnover ratio was the lowest since the 2001-2002 season.

    This season he has been plagued with injuries and as a result has played in only four games.

    That being said, even at the age of 38, Nash is still a top 10 point guard.

    While his scoring may never quite recover, he can run the floor with the best of them. His vision and playmaking ability make him a valuable asset to the Los Angeles Lakers.

    If he can turn their season around this year, it may be his best achievement yet.

8. Tony Parker

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    For some reason, Parker always seems to get overlooked. 

    All the guy has done is win three NBA championships, earn the finals MVP nod, make multiple All-Star games and lead the Spurs in all-time assists.

    Despite all of this, he is still better known for his former marriage to Eva Longoria than for his achievements on the court.

    At first glance, Parker's stats might not jump off the sheet and make you take notice. But one thing that does stick is his consistency.

    He does everything well.

    His is near the top of the NBA in efficiency rating (20.42), assists-to-turnover ratio (3.40) and field-goal percentage (.504). He also has the lowest turnover rate of anyone on this list (8.06).

    He is a proven winner who makes very few mistakes, takes smart shots and makes plays for his teammates. He is everything you would want in a point guard. 

    Even at 30 years old he is still one of the NBA's top point guards and should be for a while.

7. Deron Williams

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    At one point in his career, Williams was definitely an elite point guard. Unfortunately those days have passed.

    During his time with the Utah Jazz he was among the league leaders in assists, assists-to-turnover ratio and efficiency. Since coming to Brooklyn, all of his stats have taken a hit, especially on the offensive end.

    Williams is shooting lower than his career average in field-goal percentage, three-point percentage and free-throw percentage.

    Also his overall efficiency went down from 23.55 in 2010-11 when he led the league to 17.04 this season, which is worse than almost everyone on this list.

    He is still one of the best in the game and fun to watch. However he is now 28 years of age, and one has to wonder if this disturbing downward trend will continue.

6. Stephen Curry

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    Curry is only 24 years old and has already made great strides in his point-guard play.

    He could always shoot lights out, that has never been a question. He is currently shooting .435 from three-point range and over 90 percent from the free-throw line while averaging over 20.2 points per game.

    The real improvements in Curry's game are in the other aspects. He is getting his teammates more involved by averaging a career-high 6.4 assists per game. He is also averaging 4.3 rebounds, which ranks him third among point guards, and 1.6 steals.

    While he has improved in many areas of his game, he still has a few issues keeping him out of the top five.

    One is his shot selection; his field-goal percentage is actually at a career low right now.

    Another is his clutch shooting—according to 82games.com, he has only shot .294 in clutch situations.

5. Rajon Rondo

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    Rondo is one of the best all-around point guards in the NBA.

    He can run the floor like few can due to his vision and great ball-handling skills. He also is great at penetrating and creating for himself when needed.

    He is one of the most well-rounded point guards with 17 career triple doubles, which is second only to Jason Kidd among active point guards.

    On the defensive side he is a tenacious defender who is great at disrupting passing lanes with just under two steals per game for his career. He also has the speed to get to spots on the floor before his opponents, thus disrupting plays.

    One weakness Rondo does have is his shooting ability. While it is better than it once was, he is still only shooting .242 from three-point range and .635 from the free-throw line. Both are just slightly higher than his career average.

    While he is only 26 years old, he is probably at the point in his career where what you see is what you will get. He is a great player, but his overall offensive skill set is what is keeping him from the truly elite.

4. Kyrie Irving

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    First of all, just the fact that Irving is fourth on this list at the age of 20 is just plain scary, and yet there are some who will think I ranked him too low!

    He possesses all the tools needed to be the next elite point guard: great vision and ball handling, ability to create his own shot, above-average jump shot and the uncanny ability to step up his game when it is needed most—clutch time. 

    According to 82games.com, no other player scored more clutch points in the NBA last year than Irving, who averaged 56.4 per 48 minutes. During this time he shot .544 from the field and .667 percent from three-point land.

    This is a skill that is only possessed by the true greats of the game.

    There are still a few things Irving has to work on, mainly cutting down on turnovers and playing better defense. However these skills are learned and will improve as he gets older and more experienced.

    People will also point to his low assists totals (5.4), but this is due more to the talent around him than his skill.

    You need look no further then the Dec. 15 game against the New York Knicks, where Irving carried the Cleveland Cavaliers on his back, scoring a career-high 41 points. With the Cavaliers down 93-99 and just 31 seconds left, Irving scored eight points in 17 seconds to get them right back in the game.  

    They fell just short that night, but it is still a great example of the unique resolve of this youngster.

3. Russell Westbrook

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    This was a tough one because I think that eventually Irving will be better than Westbrook, but he just isn't quite yet. Westbrook is only 24 years old and has shown this year that he has the ability to improve.

    He already is one of the most athletic and well-rounded players in the game. This year he is averaging career highs in assists per game (8.8), steals per game (2.1) and three-point shooting (.352). His overall efficiency rating is at 21.58, which is third in the NBA among point guards.

    He can bring it during clutch time as well. He shot .493 percent during clutch time last season and is second only to Irving in point average during clutch time.

    Westbrook does have holes in his game that prevent him from being as good as he could be.

    He often takes questionable shots, which is easy to see because he is playing next to one of the most efficient players in the NBA, Kevin Durant.

    Also, while he has improved, his assists-to-turnover ratio for his career is only 1.98, which is below the NBA average.

2. Derrick Rose

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    Rose could have been No. 1 on this list had it not been for the crushing injury he suffered on April 28th of this year

    With an injury that severe, there is always a concern. However, he is only 24 years old, and the way people come back from ACL injuries these days, there is a great chance he will return better than ever.

    Most of his game centers around his athleticism and size. He can use both tools to get to the basket almost at will. He also has a pretty decent jump shot to fall back on.

    Perhaps the best thing I like about Rose is that his offensive game does not suffer when he plays against tougher defenses.

    In 2011 according to Basketballreference.com, Rose led the league in offensive efficiency against the league’s toughest defenses. Even more impressive, his efficiency rating actually went up against the top defenses.

    The best thing about Rose is his determination. He seems to care only about one thing—winning.

1. Chris Paul

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    Paul is the best all-around point guard in the game. He literally has no weaknesses at this point in his career.

    You can check every statistic, and Paul will be at or near the top. He is second in the NBA in assists, second in assists-to-turnover ratio and first in steals and efficiency rating.

    While his scoring average is down, his shooting percentages are all good with .479 in field-goal percentage and .888 in free-throw percentage. 

    Beyond the stats he has proved to be a winner.

    He led the New Orleans Hornets to the playoffs in multiple seasons. When he joined the Los Angeles Clippers, he did the impossible—he made them a winner too.

    Now he has the Clippers among the elite with a 22-6 record while riding a 14-game winning streak.

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