The point guard position is a tricky one to master at the NBA level.
As the catalyst for a team's offense, the point guard isn't just responsible for bringing the ball up the floor (in most cases), nor is he expected to simply distribute. He's expected to shoot (though not too much) and score, and even play off the ball when the situation or personnel calls for it.
Today's NBA is brimming with talent at the point, yet few are truly masters of their craft, tactical chameleons who represent everything a team needs in a floor general.
Jrue Holiday, for starters, has come to represent the next generation of balance.
Holiday is often considered a scorer first, facilitator second, but in reality, he plays one of the most equalized games at the position.
Presently, Holiday is the only player in the league to be averaging at least 15 points and taking 15 shots while also dishing out eight or more dimes and assisting on 40 percent of his team's field-goals.
It's amazing that some still tend to see a habitual scorer in Holiday. With Rajon Rondo removed from the ranks, he's now fourth in assists per game (8.7), and that 40.3 assist percentage we alluded to is good for fourth.
And yet, while Holiday was named an All-Star, much of his offensive value goes unnoticed, in no small part thanks to Philly's sub-.500 performance this season. That he's able to score 19 points and dell out 8.7 assists per night on a team that ranks near the bottom of the NBA in offensive efficiency, however, is incredible.
Of course, Holiday is not without his flaws. He tends to be a little out of control when running the break or just attacking the rim in general, and—once again with the injured Rondo out of the picture—he leads the league in turnovers committed per game with 3.9.
As one of the league's youngest superstars, he's still developing, but he has also thrust himself into the top five point guard conversation.
Kind of like Kyrie Irving.
Irving also represents a newfangled balance between volume scoring and bona fide catalyst.
He's currently one of just four NBA players dropping at least 20 points a night while assisting on 30 percent or more of his team's baskets. That has put him in the same company as LeBron James, Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook, which has done wonders for his career.
The sophomore's assist totals aren't the most flamboyant (5.6 per game), but he's still one of the best passers off drive-and-kicks. He's also one of the most deadly shooters from beyond the arc (42 percent), and he's one of just 12 players attempting 15 or more shots a night while connecting on at least 45 percent of them.
Moving over to the defensive side of the ball, Irving has issues. Opposing point guards are posting a PER of 18.7 against him, and the Cavaliers are actually allowing fewer points per 100 possessions with him on the bench. He cheats right far too frequently, and against a savvy floor general, that leaves an open weak side path to basket.
While most would compare him to Chris Paul on the offensive side of the ball, his defense is more Russell Westbrook-esque.
Which brings us to Westbrook himself.
For more than four years, Westbrook has been coined a movement-killing serial shooter. This season, however, he's complemented his volume scoring with some extra passing.
After dishing out a subpar 5.5 assists per game year in 2011-12, he's handing out eight this year. His assists percentage (39.5) is the second highest of his career, and he and LeBron are the only two players in the Association currently averaging at least 20 points, seven assists and five rebounds per game.
Where Westbrook differs from most point guards is his shooting touch. He's easily the most explosive scorer at his position, but he's never shot better than 34.3 percent from three, and his effective percentage of 46.6 is 63rd among all guards.
He is fifth in the league in steals per game (1.9), and his defensive sets are also surprisingly inconsistent. Not that we've come to expect more from him, but given his athleticism and superior quickness, he's built to stymy the opposition.
Pinpointing Westbrook's struggles on that end are admittedly difficult. Most evident is his aggressive overkill. Going for steals instead of defending with his feet can often get him into trouble.
For all the criticism he receives, though, Westbrook has helped re-define the point guard position. He's really set the stage for guys like Holiday and Irving to not just be successful, but revered.
Looking for a floor general who embodies a little bit of everything, though, leads us to Tony Parker.
The San Antonio Spurs point guard is having an MVP-worthy season, averaging 21.1 points and 7.6 assists on 53.6 percent shooting. His assists percentage also stands at a career-high 41.1. More than a decade into his NBA tenure, that's nothing short of astounding.
But not as astounding as the efficient manner in which he does just about everything. He ranks second in the league in field-goal percentage behind LeBron amongst all who score at least 20 points per game. He also commits just 2.5 turnovers a bout, third fewest amongst point guards who dish out at least seven assists.
Parker is a precise passer and someone who can play on or off the ball at this stage of his career. He's one of the most dangerous players in transition, and while the box score hardly shows it, he's upped his efforts on defense considerably. He's actually holding opposing point men to a 13.3 PER on the season.
More than ever, it's difficult to find flaws in Parker's game. He's become a more reliable three-point shooter (37.9 percent) and hitting on a career-best 83.1 percent of his free throws.
As impressive as Parker as been, he's still not the best. None of the floor generals we have discussed are. They're all behind (you guessed it) Chris Paul.
Arguments against him exist and there are cases to be made for a guy like Parker and perhaps Westbrook, but no one mans the point guard position quite like Paul.
Beginning with the bad, we'd love to see Paul shoot more. But that's only because he's so good. Attempting 11.7 shots a game isn't enough.
Because he's the only guard, and one of just two players (Dwight Howard), in the league averaging 16 points while attempting fewer than 12 field-goals. That's a level of efficiency his 47.5 percent shooting doesn't justify.
With Rondo nursing an ACL injury, Paul also tops the league with 9.5 assists per contest in addition to leading in steals (2.5 a night).
Good, because the list goes on.
He's also fourth in win shares (nine), third in PER (25.8), first in assist percentage (46.7) and committing the second-fewest turnovers (2.2) of any player dishing out seven or more dimes per game.
Paul separates himself even further as the only player in the NBA to be posting at least 15 points, five assists and two steals per game.
Parker and Westbrook, among others, have the edge in certain areas. When it comes to the most well-rounded of catalysts and potent of influences, though, no one has the edge. Not Parker. Not Westbrook. Not even a healthy Rondo.
Because Paul stands alone as the best point guard in the NBA today.
*All stats used in this article were compiled from Basketball-Reference, Synergy Sports and 82Games.com unless otherwise noted.