B/R NBA 200: Top Point Guards in 2013-14
Chris Paul has been sitting atop the point guard rankings for quite some time, but has he maintained his grip on that No. 1 spot throughout the 2013-14 season? Or has a challenger like Stephen Curry or John Wall managed to take over the throne?
The NBA is a point guard-driven league, and for good reason. There's a lot of talent at the position, and it's comprised of both up-and-coming studs and established veterans. "Pure" point guards, score-first guards and defensive aces abound at the spot in the lineup that features the greatest depth of quality play.
Just think about the players who didn't make the All-Star team this year—Kyle Lowry, Russell Westbrook, Eric Bledsoe, Mike Conley, Ty Lawson, Deron Williams and so many more. Already an impressive bunch, huh?
The NBA 200 metric identifies the players who performed best during the 2013-14 season. Potential doesn't matter, and neither does reputation. It's all about what happened this season, and this season only. All positions are graded using the same criteria (though rim protection was added into the equation for bigger positions), but the categories are weighted differently to reflect changing roles, with max scores in parentheses:
- Scoring (20)
- Non-Scoring Offense: Facilitating (20) and Off-Ball Offense (5)
- Defense: On-Ball (20) and Off-Ball (20)
- Rebounding (5)
- Intangibles: Conduct (5) and Durability (5)
For a full explanation of how these scores were determined, go here. And do note these aren't your father's classification schemes for each position. Players' spots were determined by how much time they spent at each position throughout the season, largely based on data from 82games.com, and we're expanding the traditional five to include four combo positions.
In the case of ties, the order is determined in subjective fashion by ranking the more coveted player in the higher spot. That was done by a voting committee comprised of myself, NBA Lead Writer D.J. Foster, National NBA Featured Columnist Grant Hughes, NBA Lead Writer Josh Martin and Associate NBA Editor Ethan Norof.
Notable Injury: Derrick Rose
Derrick Rose didn't play enough during the 2013-14 season to qualify for the rankings (10 games and 311 minutes), but he's still worth mentioning. While the Chicago Bulls point guard struggled in between his return from an ACL injury and a subsequent knee injury, he remains one of the most dynamic talents at the position.
To avoid spoilers, I'll refrain from mentioning any specific names of comparable players, but it's easy to believe that Rose would have finished in the top five had he stayed healthy throughout his return. Pinpointing the exact spot is too difficult and doesn't offer you much information, seeing as it would merely be a complete guess.
Rose did struggle during his 10 outings, shooting only 35.4 percent from the field and earning a below-average player efficiency rating. But we're talking about a former MVP in his athletic prime playing for a team that affords him every offensive opportunity he could possibly desire.
The Chicago floor general may not be featured in these rankings, but that's by no means a death knell for the rest of his career.
Expect him to regain his elite status in 2014-15.
37. Ish Smith, Phoenix Suns
Ish Smith doesn't spend an inordinate amount of time on the court for the Phoenix Suns, but he's managed to score points at a semi-decent rate when he does find himself leaving the bench. While he has a terrible jumper that leaves him looking hopeless beyond the arc and at the charity stripe, the diminutive point guard does an excellent job slicing through defenses en route to the rim.
Smith isn't an off-ball threat for the Suns, nor is he much of a cutter who demands respect. That said, he's a competent distributor who usually tends to produce positive assist-to-turnover ratios. The fourth-year pro can get careless with his passes, but it's tough to swipe the ball away given his compact dribbles and nice feel for the rock.
A pesky off-ball defender, Smith seems to love nothing more than frustrating opponents by denying the ball and inserting his nose where it doesn't typically belong. He struggles in isolation and can easily be posted up, but he routinely displays an intuitive understanding of defensive positioning.
Size isn't a problem for Smith, even though he stands only 6'0". He's one of the better per-minute rebounders at the position, showing fearlessness while often challenging bigger players for contested boards.
It's funny to see what happens when players are just happy to be receiving opportunities. Such is the case for Smith, who has stayed healthy and happy throughout Phoenix's surprising 2013-14 campaign.
Continuity does wonderful things. Smith played for the Houston Rockets and Memphis Grizzlies in 2010-11, the Golden State Warriors and Orlando Magic in 2011-12, the Magic and Milwaukee Bucks in 2012-13 and now the Suns in 2013-14. He's receiving the most playing time of his career, and he's become one of the better bench bargains in the league.
36. Brian Roberts, New Orleans Pelicans
It's not often that Brian Roberts takes a bad shot. He'll never become a volume scorer, but he's an efficient backcourt option thanks to his incredible touch from mid-range zones and his work at the charity stripe. Don't look now, but the 28-year-old is on pace to have one of the highest free-throw percentages of all time.
Roberts has established himself as a dangerous spot-up shooter, one who demands attention, even if the New Orleans Pelicans don't often run a drive-and-kick offense that gives him looks. He's also a competent distributor, although he'll never excel in that area due to both a lack of opportunity and a dearth of elite floor vision.
It's not exactly difficult for opposing floor generals to abuse Roberts and leave him on skates. He's one of those players whom opposing coaches game-plan around, knowing that it's in their best interest to run plenty of isolation plays and more complicated sets that leave the undrafted second-year player as a primary defender.
Roberts tends to monitor the perimeter, which makes it rather difficult for him to make much of an impact in the rebounding column. In fact, his contested-to-uncontested ratio is one of the worst in the entire Association, as he only grabs loose balls and rarely ventures in among the bigger players.
No complaints here, as Roberts rarely makes headlines—whether positive or negative ones—and stayed healthy for the mast majority of the season.
Roberts has to be pleased with the niche he's carved out for himself. He'll thrive as a backup point guard, whether he remains by the bayou or signs on with a new team once he hits the open market. But still, that's a great role for a guy who went undrafted out of Dayton in 2008 and played in both Israel and Germany before joining forces with NOLA.
35. Raymond Felton, New York Knicks
Raymond Felton—just like what seems to be everyone else on the New York Knicks except for Carmelo Anthony—really struggled with his shot throughout the 2013-14 season. Without the athleticism necessary to get by perimeter defenders, he's been forced into settling for three-pointers and deep twos with far too much frequency.
If there's one thing Felton still does quite well, it's pass the rock. Though it sometimes feels like he's playing hot potato rather than swinging the ball with a purpose, the veteran point guard does a nice job racking up assists while buying into Mike Woodson's philosophy of completely eschewing turnovers.
Watching Felton try to stay in front of a ball-handler alternates between being funny and sad. He lacks virtually any lateral quickness, and laziness often prevents him from making more than a minimal impact on the less-glamorous side of the court. In other words, he fit in perfectly with the 2013-14 Knicks.
Felton is a bit better than average on the glass. He does a decent job committing to the defensive boards, but for the most part he chooses to chase down long rebounds and get things started in transition.
Injuries are the least of Felton's concerns. Whether he's embroiled in a legal drama revolving around felony gun charges, complaining about the seemingly incessant fat jokes, yawning in an overtime huddle or pouting on the court, the point guard has been quite the distraction during a season in Madison Square Garden just bubbling over with negative headlines.
The decline has been fast and furious for Felton, who became a punchline during the 2013-14 season. Had he stayed distraction-free and completely healthy, thereby earning a 10 in the intangibles section, he'd still barely have been a top-30 floor general.
34. Nick Calathes, Memphis Grizzlies
Nick Calathes is by no means a volume scorer for the Memphis Grizzlies, but he is able to penetrate into the teeth of the defense, get to the rim and finish attempts for himself. That makes up for his lack of top-notch shooting touch from the outside and prevents him from being a complete scoring liability. He also showed flashes of upside, particularly when he averaged 14.7 points during a seven-game stint in place of an injured Mike Conley.
For a rookie point guard, Calathes has done a nice job flashing high-level distributing skills. He has the size (6'6") to see over defenders, the instincts to find passing lanes before the rest of the players on the court and the technical skills to actually hit his teammates in the right spots.
It's no easy task to make the defensive-minded Grizzlies better at preventing points when you're on the court, but that's exactly what the former Florida Gator did in 2013-14. His size is extremely advantageous, allowing him to body up against smaller guards and take on multiple defensive assignments.
Here's another area in which Calathes' size helps him out quite a bit. He's on the brink of earning a perfect score as a rebounder, but it's tough to maintain such excellent per-minute rates when faced with more playing time than he mustered up as a first-year player.
Calathes is mature beyond his years, showing the confidence and leadership traits you'd hope to see from a player who didn't make his NBA debut until he was 24 years old. Getting suspended 20 games from violating the substance policy isn't exactly a positive, though.
Perhaps the most surprising featured player in the rankings of any position, Calathes was a second-round draft pick for the Minnesota Timberwolves back in 2009 and bounced around in Greece and Russia before coming to the Association. He may not be a highly coveted player and doesn't get much attention from the national media, but his first year was filled with a surprising amount of success.
33. C.J. Watson, Indiana Pacers
You'd think the Indiana Pacers would want a scoring specialist coming off the bench as the primary backup point guard, but that's not exactly how you should describe C.J. Watson. He can put up a decent amount of points, due largely to his prowess in pick-and-roll settings, but "efficiency" isn't usually a word in his vocabulary.
No point guard in these rankings fared worse in this category, as Watson isn't much of a distributor and struggles as a spot-up shooter, which is a brutal combination for a point guard playing without the ability to dominate the ball. In fact, Dennis Schroder, Shane Larkin and John Lucas III were the only three qualified 1-guards to earn 10 points or fewer here, and none of them were remotely close to gaining a featured spot in these rankings.
If Watson isn't on the Indiana roster for offense, he has to be good at defense. The backup floor general fares well both on and off the ball, thriving in just about any situation. No one in the NBA was better at guarding players coming off screens, and Watson wasn't far from the top in isolation sets or when closing out on spot-up shooters.
Watson does just about what you'd expect from a point guard when it comes to rebounding. He's hesitant to go after contested boards, but he still ends up with a fair amount of ticks in the column by the time his time on the court is through.
Elbow and hamstring issues have kept Watson off the court for stretches of the 2013-14 campaign, but that's the only negative when it comes to his intangibles. He's a solid veteran presence who won't set anything but a good example for his younger teammates.
Watson is a strong ball-handler and consistent player who fits in nicely with the Pacers' defensive schemes. While he won't win games for them, he also won't lose them, as he ensures the bench unit isn't quite as detrimental as it's been in years past.
32. Jordan Farmar, Los Angeles Lakers
Apparently a year in Turkey didn't help out Jordan Farmar's scoring skills. He may have improved his three-point shooting to quite impressive levels, but his free-throw stroke and overall offensive game took a proverbial step in the wrong direction.
Farmar tends to force the issue, setting up in spaces that force defenders to stay close to him out of respect for his perimeter marksmanship. But when he has the ball in his hands and isn't running around screens, he's only a solid passer. The turnovers—particularly those that stem from bad passes—have to be eliminated.
Charles Dickens might as well have been writing about this particular point guard when he opened A Tale of Two Cities. When Farmar is working as an on-ball defender, whether in isolation or navigating a pick, it's the best of times for the Los Angeles Lakers. But when he's put into chase mode, it's the worst of times in L.A.
Farmar is one of the better 1-guards on the offensive glass. While he's not as strong on the other end, due primarily to a lack of proximity to the basket that stems from his limited nature on defense, that doesn't prevent him from faring well in this category.
Unfortunately, Farmar's body just can't stay in one piece. Hamstring woes belabored him during the early/middle portion of the season, and hamstring maladies affected him at the end.
When healthy, Farmar was a nice piece for the Lake Show. However, that didn't happen very often during an injury-plagued return from playing for Anadolu Efes, the Turkish squad for which he suited up throughout the 2012-13 campaign.
31. Steve Blake, Golden State Warriors
Beyond his perimeter shooting, Steve Blake doesn't bring much to the table as a scorer. The vast majority of his looks come from beyond the arc, which isn't too problematic since he's honed that shot over his decade-long career.
Blake hasn't been as comfortable distributing the ball out to the Golden State Warriors as he was with the Los Angeles Lakers, but the 2013-14 season has still seen him rack up quite a few dimes. While he doesn't take many risks, the veteran point guard picks his spots aggressively and is usually able to create looks that many less-skilled passers couldn't.
The saving grace here is the ability to get involved in off-ball proceedings, which Blake does quite frequently. Even though his quickness is rather lacking, the veteran 1-guard does manage to close out on spot-up shooters nicely, and he's not afraid to chase players through screens. Just don't ask him to settle down into a defensive stance.
Blake staunchly refuses to attack the offensive glass, usually opting to fall back and prevent easy transition run-outs. But on the defensive boards, he's quite savvy when it comes to picking up angles and beating other small players to the caroms.
The desire to play through a UCL injury basically says it all. Blake is a tough, feisty competitor, but he's also prone to injury. It's been quite a while since the point guard was able to play anything close to a full season, and this was no exception.
Blake struggled after leaving his comfortable purple-and-gold threads behind, but he's still a valuable veteran presence who can create offense for others and keep a defense honest with his three-point shooting. While he lacks upside, the floor is pretty high for a backup point guard.
30. Norris Cole, Miami Heat
Much like Mario Chalmers, who starts ahead of him for the Miami Heat, Norris Cole is only granted limited scoring opportunities. Many of them come from beyond the three-point arc, where the third-year player has gotten better each and every season, even if his percentage has declined slightly. But until he starts attacking the basket more frequently, he'll be an extremely limited scorer.
Cole just doesn't offer much when he isn't handling the ball. He's not a threatening presence on the wings or in the corners, and his passing leaves quite a bit to be desired. While he's found teammates with more frequency during his third professional go-round, the turnovers are popping up with too much frequency, especially those of the "bad pass" variety.
This would be the reason Cole receives significant playing time for the Heat. Both on and off the ball, Cole is a pesky defender who knows that preventing points is his calling card. The flat-topped 1-guard understands the trap-heavy scheme, and he thrives in it, especially when he's not left in a one-on-one situation.
Miami doesn't ask Cole to do much work in the rebounding column, and he behaves accordingly. While he's good at tracking down long rebounds, it's quite rare to see him elevating for a board in the presence of bigger players.
Cole has been an incredibly durable guard throughout his NBA career, and the 2013-14 season wasn't an exception. Each night, he suits up. And each night, he delivers as much energy as he can muster up whenever Erik Spoelstra gives him playing time.
Cole is one of the better backup guards in the Association. He's a self-aware player who understands it's not in his nature to take over games offensively, instead providing steady contributions and focusing his energy on the less-glamorous end of the court.
29. D.J. Augustin, Chicago Bulls
D.J. Augustin went from hitting 9.1 percent of his three-point attempts with the Toronto Raptors to lighting up scoreboards from beyond the arc in the Windy City. All it took was opportunity, and he showcased the best shooting performance of his six-year career while serving as a scoring sparkplug off the Chicago Bulls bench.
While he's a score-first point guard, Augustin has still flashed the occasional highlight pass, and he's generally able to find the open man. Though he'll never make you think he has pinpoint accuracy on tight passes, he's a smart distributor who doesn't hesitate to make good basketball plays, even if it comes at the expense of his own shot.
Even the Chicago Bulls are allowed to have weak defenders in the rotation, seeing as the team desperately needs players who can put up points in bunches. Augustin's weaknesses are often covered up by the prowess of his teammates, but it's impossible to just overlook his struggles both on and off the ball.
Don't expect the first-year Bull to make much of an impact with his rebounding. In fact, Chicago probably considers itself lucky whenever he manages to pull down even three boards during a single outing.
Augustin goes about his business in a professional, passionate manner and rarely misses time. What more could you want out of him?
So, who expected this? Augustin went from being a castoff in Toronto to finding a home and absolutely thriving for the Bulls, all in the course of the 2013-14 season. There's no award for in-season turnarounds, but he'd be a leading candidate if such an accolade existed.
28. Trey Burke, Utah Jazz
Trey Burke's lack of size has worked against him, as he has a tough time connecting on looks among the trees who typically inhabit the paint. Fortunately, he's a tough competitor with a knack for hitting the freebies he earns, so there's still a great chance he becomes a dynamic scorer when the outside jumpers start falling with more frequency.
Even though he's struggled with his jumper, Burke is such a precocious point guard that defenses still have to respect him when another player has control of the ball. That won't change for a long time. However, the Michigan product's passing is only going to get better, even if the rookie wall hit him during the closing stretch of his first go-round.
Defense was never Burke's forte with the Wolverines, and that hasn't changed with the Utah Jazz. He's generally able to keep up with cutters and players working their way free via screens, but he's prone to being embarrassed when thrust into an isolation setting.
Every once in a while, Burke showcases great instincts on the boards, but those games come few and far between. The 10-rebound outing he had in December against the Sacramento Kings was clearly an exception to the rule that typically sees him struggle to collect three missed shots.
Burke is as quality a leader as you'll find in this rookie class, but he hasn't always been able to showcase those skills on the court. A fractured finger delayed the start of his first professional season, forcing him to work from behind the eight ball in the Rookie of the Year hunt.
The first point guard to earn a "passing" grade, Burke is only going to improve as he gains his sea legs with the Utah Jazz. A confident young player, he's still figuring out how to take advantage of his skills and make up for his weaknesses (namely his 6'0" frame and lack of elite shooting skills).
27. Patty Mills, San Antonio Spurs
Patty Mills can flat-out stroke the basketball. One of the better three-point marksmen in the game, the San Antonio Spurs point guard (though obviously not the No. 1 floor general) shoots the ball with plenty of efficiency beyond the arc and displays an impressive ability to create looks for himself.
Mills is the type of shooter who draws plenty of attention from defenses, but that's only one part of non-scoring offense for a point guard. Facilitation matters quite a bit for any player expected to lead the offensive charge, and Mills displays some passing chops you might expect to find from a high-quality frontcourt player, not a guard.
While he's a decent thief and showcases some quick hands when guarding an opposing floor general, Mills is a lackluster defender who looks better because he's playing in a San Antonio system designed to minimize defensive flaws. For example, he's not a very good off-ball defender, but he's also not asked to insert himself in the passing lanes all that often, limiting the number of times he has to make lengthy recoveries.
Don't look at Mills' per-game stats. Instead, look at the rate at which he grabs boards, because it's quite impressive for a point guard playing alongside a number of skilled glass-eaters. And it's even better when you remember the point guard is barely 6'0" tall.
Do you actually expect any member of the Spurs to be a distraction? I didn't think so.
Mills just keeps getting better and better in his role off the San Antonio bench. The Aussie is a vintage example of Gregg Popovich's ability to maximize the talents of relatively limited players, as he's turned into quite the offensive sparkplug without being too much of a liability on the defensive end.
26. Jameer Nelson, Orlando Magic
Age is taking away from Jameer Nelson's attacking mentality, but he's made up for the decline in drives with increasingly impressive sniping abilities. Nelson isn't really a score-first point guard, but he's remained quite effective in half-court sets, particularly when he's running pick-and-rolls early and often.
Now a savvy veteran, Nelson is quite good at using screens and handoffs to his advantage, which makes him an attention-drawing player even when he doesn't have the ball in his possession. And as for his passing, it's only getting better and better, as his assists and turnovers just keep trending in opposite directions.
It takes a lot of searching to find positives when Nelson is playing defense for the Orlando Magic. He's a solid isolation defender, but few teams grant him the ability to go one-on-one, instead preying on his lackluster nature in virtually every other aspect of the game.
Sometimes it seems like everyone on the court is a plus-rebounder for the Magic, and Nelson is no exception. Just as he always has, the 6'0" floor general looks far bigger than his measurements when he goes to work on the glass.
If only Nelson could always stay healthy. Alas, the 32-year-old hasn't been able to do so in 2013-14, missing a moderate amount of time due to knee soreness that popped up periodically throughout his 10th season in the Association.
Nelson is presumably in the process of being phased out by the Magic, serving as a mentor for Victor Oladipo before his contract expires and he hits the open market in 2015. But all the while, he continues to be an upper-tier placeholder with a nice offensive game.
25. Brandon Knight, Milwaukee Bucks
Brandon Knight transitioned from a complementary player with the Detroit Pistons to a featured one for the Milwaukee Bucks, and that change suited him quite well. Though his three-point stroke hasn't been as beneficial in his new digs, Knight has done a great job attacking the basket off the dribble and converting at the line.
Just as he did with the Pistons, Knight has functioned as a great off-ball cutter, which requires constant vigilance from defenders. But his passing still needs some serious work, as he doesn't have the distributing chops required of most starting floor generals, even those of the score-first variety.
Off-ball defense has been particularly problematic for Knight. Not only does he tend to be rather lethargic when not directly involved in the action, but he's been absolutely atrocious at maintaining positioning when his man is setting up for a drive-and-kick opportunity.
Knight has always been a physical player, and that thirst for contact doesn't dry up when he's attacking the glass. The Kentucky product routinely works around bigger players and manages to come down with unexpected boards.
While there are no real gripes about his leadership skills, Knight hasn't been able to maintain a clean bill of health. A foot injury and hamstring malady both plagued him throughout the 2013-14 season, preventing us from seeing what he can do while at 100 percent over the course of an entire year.
Knight is still tracking in the right direction, and he should only improve next year when the Milwaukee Bucks aren't such a futile squad. Pairing him with a few more potent offensive players will only help draw away from the inordinate amounts of defensive attention he received in 2013-14.
24. Kendall Marshall, Los Angeles Lakers
Kendall Marshall has been surprisingly effective as a spot-up three-point shooter—due largely to the extreme caution he exercises when met with even the slightest contest—but he's putrid inside the arc. Finishing around the basket is problematic, and mid-range adventures are almost always ill-fated. Add in some poor free-throw shooting, and things are just ugly.
If there's one thing Marshall does at an extremely high level, it's pass the ball. Dating back to his UNC days, the Los Angeles Lakers point guard has always been a potent passer, and the 2013-14 season has been no exception. Chris Paul is the only player who received a higher score for facilitation.
A slow-footed defender, Marshall is better served as a matador than a player expected to stay in front of the man he's guarding. This has always been a concern for the young floor general, and he hasn't done much to remedy those worries during his first season as a full-time starter.
The Lakers generally have good rebounders on the court when Marshall plays, but that hasn't mattered. He does a fantastic job putting himself in situations conducive to crashing the boards, and he grabs an extremely high percentage of the opportunities he receives.
Not only has Marshall stayed healthy during his first season in purple and gold, but he's immediately looked and acted like a leader. You rarely hear or see him do the wrong thing, and he's one of those players who seems wise beyond his years.
Is there any reason he can't be a left-handed version of in-his-prime Andre Miller? Marshall will always lack foot speed, and shooting is a work in progress, but he's a heady player with insane court vision. That's a great set of building blocks for any young floor general.
23. Mario Chalmers, Miami Heat
Mario Chalmers doesn't score many points for the Miami Heat, but that's also not his role. If Erik Spoelstra made him a featured player at the expense of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh, that would be grounds for immediate termination. So 'Rio just keeps doing his thing—putting up mediocre levels of scoring output but maintaining efficiency, especially from beyond the arc.
The former Kansas Jayhawk is a pretty solid spot-up threat, but it's tough for him to draw much attention away from the aforementioned trio. In the same vein, he has trouble handling the rock enough to make a significant impact as a distributor. Chalmers does a great job limiting his turnovers and making the most of his opportunities, but those are quite limited.
This has become Chalmers' bread and butter. No player in the Association was better at stopping pick-and-roll ball-handlers, and it's not like he struggled in too many other areas. Only spot-up shooters seem to give 'Rio much trouble, and that's largely due to the movement-heavy scheme employed by Spoelstra's soldiers.
Again, Chalmers does the most with what he's given. There are so many players ahead of him in the line for rebounds that his numbers are still moderately impressive, especially given that he spends less time on the court than most starting point guards.
He's the Miami Heat punching bag. When something goes wrong, he invariably gets yelled at by one of his teammates, and it's LeBron more often than not. But what do they do when he's missing time?
Chalmers is exactly the right point guard to play with a Big Three. He doesn't do more than he's capable of, and he thrives in his role as a spot-up shooter, occasional ball-handler and solid defender. Maybe Chalmers would do better as more of a lead player, but his career has gone quite swimmingly thus far.
22. Jose Calderon, Dallas Mavericks
Jose Calderon knows how to pick his spots. Never forcing the issue, the Spanish point guard is one of the most efficient shooters in basketball year after year, and 2013-14 has been no exception. Though his percentages inside the arc have declined, he's still spent the year up near the top of the leaderboard for three-point percentage.
Calderon is such a dangerous shooter that defenses can't afford to leave him alone. He might not create looks for himself very often, but he knows how to position himself in a place that should result in an open look at a triple.
Calderon is a terrible off-ball defender, struggling to follow faster players around the court. But he makes up for some of his flaws in that area by playing solid on-ball defense and producing surprisingly adequate numbers in isolation sets, when navigating pick-and-rolls and against bigger guards who decide to post him up.
The 6'3" point guard isn't much of a threat on the boards. In his first 74 games of the 2013-14 campaign, he recorded more goose eggs in the rebounding column than he did games with at least five boards.
Calderon isn't usually one to stir up trouble, either on or off the court. And because he's always on the court for the Dallas Mavericks, there's no reason to dock points in this category.
Even though he's 32 years old and moving out of his athletic prime, Calderon is a point guard who makes Dennis Green proud. He's exactly who we've always thought he is—a pesky player who thrives as an efficient shooter.
21. Patrick Beverley, Houston Rockets
Patrick Beverley isn't much of a scorer, but he's still a fairly competent one due to his wide variety of skills. Though the tenacious point guard doesn't excel in any one aspect of offensive basketball, he's a solid finisher around the basket and a decent outside shooter.
Expect to see Beverley spotting up effectively and cutting to the hoop with high degrees of frequency. But don't count on seeing him function as a high-level distributor, seeing as he recorded no higher than eight assists during any one game of the 2013-14 campaign.
Beverley is a fantastic on-ball defender. The only point guards to receive higher scores in that area were...well, no one. However, he can often be caught out of position when guarding someone without the ball, and his gambling doesn't always have a positive result. More discipline is required going forward, so long as it doesn't come at the expense of his insane effort levels.
The second-year point guard is a fairly inconsistent rebounder, but he still manages to explode on the glass during some outings. There's always rebounding upside when he steps onto the court, even if there are nights when he expends too much energy in other facets of the game.
Other players might not like going against Beverley (cough, Russell Westbrook, cough), but the Houston Rockets have to love the effort level he brings night in and night out. The only problem is that he's sometimes a brittle player, with the latest blow coming to his right knee.
This former second-round pick should always wear the mask he donned during the middle of the season, one that made him look like he was coming straight out of a horror movie. That represents his style of play perfectly—physical, unrelenting, tenacious and terrifying, at least to opposing ball-handlers.
20. Brandon Jennings, Detroit Pistons
Brandon Jennings seems to play like he's completely convinced he deserves a perfect score in this section, and that's both a good and bad thing. On one hand, it gives him the confidence necessary to forget about missed shots and work until he's in a rhythm. On the other hand, it's a big reason why his field-goal percentage is often on the wrong side of 40 percent, basketball's version of the Mendoza Line.
Jennings struggles as a spot-up shooter, but he's quite the threat cutting to the basket or navigating the field of play and using screens to free himself from a defensive presence. On top of that, his passing has continued its encouraging development since he joined the Detroit Pistons, and his creative flair only helps him out.
Jennings is the biggest reason the Detroit defense failed to look even remotely competent during large portions of the 2013-14 season. While he's a solid isolation defender, that's about it. Asking him to engage in any sort of mental exercise on the less-glamorous end is a recipe for disaster.
Although his per-game numbers (and per-minute ones, for that matter) are rather pedestrian, Jennings is a quality rebounder at the point guard position. He grabs a high percentage of the boards in his area, and he does a better job than most at pulling them down when other players are fighting for the ball as well.
Jennings is a bit too outspoken for his own good, though he's done a fairly decent job keeping his mouth shut during a rough year for the Pistons. At least he's been able to stay completely healthy and play the season almost entirely at full strength.
The southpaw has flashes of brilliance every once in a while, ones that remind us of the precocious rookie who scored 55 points in the seventh game of his NBA career. But they're too few and far between, and the lack of consistency diminishes what is otherwise a still-promising talent.
19. George Hill, Indiana Pacers
George Hill might fare better if he were able to function as more than a fourth or fifth option. Generally, the Indiana Pacers look to Paul George, Lance Stephenson and David West for the first opportunities, then it's between Hill and Roy Hibbert. The former IUPUI standout is fairly efficient, but he just can't get the volume aspect working in his favor.
Hill isn't particularly threatening as a spot-up shooter, nor is he much of a distributing point guard. Again, this might be the fault of opportunity more than anything else, but No. 3 rarely racks up big assist figures. In his first 70 outings, he hit double digits only once—an 11-dime game against the Portland Trail Blazers in early December.
Would you actually expect a member of Indiana's starting five to play bad defensive basketball? Hill is better off the ball than he is on it, but he thrives in both facets of the less-glamorous type of play. In particular, the third-year Pacer is absolutely fantastic at making split-second decisions when faced with a pick-and-roll set.
Someone has to pick up for Hibbert's slack on the boards, and that someone is often Hill. Though he doesn't always go for contested rebounds, the point guard is a tough, gritty glass-crasher who usually manages to stick his nose into traffic. Amazingly enough, he's one of the few point guards who plays often and averages as many rebounds per game as he does assists.
Just look at those shoulders. Does Hill seem like someone who gets hurt easily? He doesn't, and he's never a source of controversy for the often outspoken—both on and off the court—Pacers. A low-profile role is fine when playing alongside true stars who appeal to the national market.
Solid. That's the best word to describe Hill, who is in the perfect situation to thrive with the Pacers. He's not asked to overexert his limited scoring and distributing talents, but he's instead able to play efficient offensive basketball while focusing on his defense and rebounding.
18. Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers
Michael Carter-Williams' scoring prowess declined after he shocked the world at the start of his rookie campaign, but he still spent his first go-round in the Association proving he could do more than excel in transition. A lanky athlete who has no fear attacking the rim, MCW was able to put up points in bunches. Now he desperately needs an outside shot to complement his driving game.
Not much of an off-ball shooting threat, MCW functioned as a capable cutter and tremendous distributor throughout his first season with the Philadelphia 76ers. While turnovers popped up too often, it's still impressive to generate more than a handful of assists per game while playing with a collection of D-League talents and a few legitimate NBA players.
If the Sixers' tanking ways were bad for one aspect of Carter-Williams' game, it would be this one. He was given free rein to gamble incessantly, even when those risks came at the expense of the team's overall efforts. As a result, he racked up steals but failed to develop all of the defensive fundamentals he'll need to thrive down the road, especially as he transitions out of that vaunted Syracuse zone mentality.
Those long arms and 6'6" frame help quite a bit. MCW had a better rebounding season than any other point guard in the league—gaining a slight edge over Russell Westbrook and Rajon Rondo because of games played—and there was even an 11-contest stretch in March that saw him average 9.5 boards per outing.
Maybe the Sixers kept him out of the lineup a bit too often, knowing that his presence on the court would only add the undesired winning outcomes. Regardless, MCW missed a significant amount of time during his rookie campaign, failing to suit up due to a shoulder injury and a knee problem that led to infection.
At the beginning of the 2013-14 season, MCW looked like a future All-Star. After running into the rookie wall and seeing his shooting percentages follow an Icarian route, it's time to temper those expectations. Carter-Williams has that type of potential, but there are plenty of glaring flaws he'll need to fix in the coming years.
17. Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves
Ricky Rubio is a pretty atrocious shooter, but he's at least able to put points up on the board. The Spaniard is fairly adept at drawing contract and getting to the line, and his three-point stroke isn't awful when he's given space by the defense. Still, scoring isn't exactly a strength for this third-year member of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
This category brings out the best and worst of Rubio. On one hand, he's such a non-threat as an off-ball scorer that defenses can essentially forget about him and play five-on-four basketball. But facilitating also matters here, and few are better at racking up assists. Some of the angles Rubio sees make you sit and wonder if he's operating on a different set of geometric rules than the typical Euclidian ones.
Does Rubio rack up steals like a kid in a candy store? Absolutely, but don't let that fool you into thinking he's an elite defender. The Minnesota floor general has a gambling addiction and usually looks completely lost when he's not being asked to guard a straight-up isolation set. Whether he's going under/over a pick or chasing a man without the ball, it usually doesn't end well.
Rubio is unquestionably one of the best rebounding point guards in the business. Not only does he crash the boards frequently, but he's able to grab the ball away from bigger players surprisingly often. While Minnesota's floor general might pick and choose his spots, he does so quite well.
There's nothing to complain about here, as Rubio seems to play with a contagious joie de vivre. And since recovering from his ACL tear during his rookie season and taking time into his sophomore campaign to recover, he's been the very picture of health in the Minnesota lineup.
There just aren't many point guards like Rubio. An elite distributor with lackluster shooting skills, he's very much an old-school player going to work in a new-school game. It works for now, but Rubio has to get better as a scorer if he's going to make any sort of leap in the future.
16. Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics
Rajon Rondo's three-point stroke, while much improved from where it's been in the past, is still pretty awful. And the rest of his scoring game hasn't made up for the flaw, as the Boston Celtics floor general has struggled to put up points since returning from his ACL tear. Rondo would typically earn a slightly higher score in this category, but his shooting hasn't been pretty since coming back from such a major injury.
Although he isn't much an off-ball threat thanks to the complete lack of a consistent jumper, Rondo is still one of the best distributors in basketball. His passing numbers are right up where they were before the ACL woes, particularly because he's never been better at minimizing turnovers since first being thrust into a a featured role early in his career. Whether or not he's at full strength, Rondo is one of the best assist men in the Association.
Rondo is typically one of the standout defenders at his position. In fact, he put together four All-Defensive seasons in a row before missing the honor due to missed games in 2012-13. Since returning from the ACL tear, he's been a fantastic on-ball defender, but a lack of mobility has prevented him from making much of an impact in the off-ball category. Chalk this one up to circumstance, and expect Rondo to bounce back in a big way during the 2014-15 campaign.
Well, there's been no decline here. Rondo just keeps piling up the rebounds as well as any point guard in basketball, just as he has for years. The combination of instincts, vision and long arms serves the 28-year-old floor general quite well.
Don't make the mistake of thinking Rondo loses a point here because he chose to attend a birthday party rather than support his team. That was interesting but overblown. More problematic is the surly nature and lack of bonding with most teammates. Oh, and the whole missing well over half the season thing.
Remember, this ranking is based solely on the 2013-14 season. Rondo's grade is hindered by missed time and numbers that understandably declined as he tried to work himself back to peak form. When healthy, the Boston 1-guard is easily a top-10 point guard in the Association, and that's a spot he'll almost certainly regain in 2014-15.
15. Isaiah Thomas, Sacramento Kings
Isaiah Thomas has become an absolute scoring stud. The diminutive point guard has been one of just a few 20-point scorers at the position, and he does so while A) shooting a solid percentage from the field, B) showcasing a decent stroke from downtown, C) getting to the free-throw line with remarkable frequency and D) hitting those freebies. Once his outside shooting catches up to his mid-range game, the sky is the limit.
While he's a solid spot-up shooter, he's not especially threatening because the three-ball is the weakest aspect of his scoring game. Defenses can focus on other players when he isn't handling the rock. And as for Thomas' passing, it's likewise solid, but nothing special.
Evaluating Thomas' defense is tricky. While he's matador-like in his ability to usher offensive players into the paint, he's quite effective working off the ball. Thomas is an unrelenting bundle of energy who constantly forces the issue, whether he's closing out on shooters, bolting around screens or just pestering players without the ball.
What do you expect from the man who's tied with Nate Robinson as the shortest player in the NBA? Throughout the history of the Association, only a dozen players have ever been listed below Thomas' 5'9" frame. That's not an excuse for the point guard, though, as he still manages to pull down a respectable number of rebounds each outing.
A fiery competitor who can sometimes follow in DeMarcus Cousins' footsteps and get engaged in a bit of extracurricular activity, Thomas hasn't done anything meriting the loss of even a single point. He's used those competitive instincts for good.
How's this for an impressive turnaround? In the summer of 2011, Thomas was Mr. Irrelevant, drafted by the Sacramento Kings with the final pick of the proceedings. Less than three years later, he pops out as a top-15 point guard in the entire NBA.
14. Jeff Teague, Atlanta Hawks
As soon as Al Horford went down, Jeff Teague's numbers began to decline. Without the added luxury of having another offensive hub in the lineup, his scoring was a bit exposed. That said, Teague has still posted stellar scoring numbers throughout the year, driven largely by his unrelenting confidence and ability to drive into the teeth of the defense.
Teague is one of the biggest reasons that the Atlanta Hawks generate assists on what seems like nearly every made field goal. He controls the ball movement and has the ability to rack up gaudy dime totals on a nightly basis, which is made all the more impressive by the lackluster nature of his supporting cast and the injury woes that beset Atlanta throughout the year. If only his perimeter shooting actually made defenses feel threatened...
If you put Teague into a one-on-one situation, he's going to struggle. But in a switch-heavy defensive scheme that allows him to spend plenty of time tracking non-ball-handlers around the court, he thrives. Few point guards have been better fighting through screens and closing out on spot-up shooters.
Teague doesn't spend much time around the basket, but he's quite adept at tracking down long rebounds. It's when he ventures in among the big boys that he's unable to make much of an impact on the glass, and contested rebounds aren't exactly his biggest strength.
By nature, point guards are supposed to be vocal leaders, but it's rare to see Teague in a role that asks other players to look toward him for direction. He's by no means a hindrance to the Hawks' efforts, and he has been getting more vocal, but it's just not quite enough for the perfect score.
Teague began the year in All-Star fashion, but he declined as the year went on. The responsibility of controlling the ball and directing offense took its toll, forcing his efficiency and the volume of his output to trend in the wrong direction. It's still unclear if Mike Budenholzer views him as a franchise centerpiece, but he could do far worse.
13. Jrue Holiday, New Orleans Pelicans
Part of what made Jrue Holiday so special during his final season with the Philadelphia 76ers was his willingness to attack the basket with reckless abandon. But before he got injured, the New Orleans Pelicans floor general was hesitant to put his head down, instead relying on an inefficient mid-range game that didn't allow him to thrive as a scorer.
Holiday isn't exactly a terrifying off-ball threat, and defenses can often forget about him when he gives up possession of the ball. But that doesn't happen too often, seeing as the point guard is an incredible passer. He's continued to get better and better during his NBA career, and the healthy portion of the 2013-14 campaign was his distributing piece de resistance.
Holiday does a great job remaining in his defensive stance and making only smart gambles. If he were a blackjack player, he'd be one of those guys who refused to hit on anything more than a 12, which does sometimes inhibit his ability to make off-ball plays and jump the passing lanes. However, he does have a few notable weaknesses—navigating pick-and-roll sets and locating spot-up shooters quickly enough to contest those jumpers.
Not only does Holiday do a better job grabbing contested rebounds than most point guards, but he also grabs boards with remarkable volume. Though he's not quite on the level of a Michael Carter-Williams or Russell Westbrook, he's one of the few floor generals capable of routinely challenging upper single digits.
Durability is a tough category for Holiday, who played in only 34 games before succumbing to a stress fracture in his right tibia and the subsequent surgery that knocked him out for the rest of the 2013-14 season. It's the first year of his career that Holiday has experienced a major injury, but it's significant nonetheless.
Expect Holiday—a first-time All-Star during the 2012-13 campaign—to rebound with a strong season next year, especially now that he's surrounded with talent by the bayou. But this go-round was a rough one, largely because of that unfortunate season-ending injury. A perfect durability score, after all, would've earned the UCLA product a top-10 spot.
12. Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets
Gone are the Utah Jazz days when Deron Williams could routinely challenge the 20-point barrier while making over half of his shots from the field. In their place lies the Brooklyn Nets version of D-Will, one who can still light up the scoreboard but relies far more heavily on his outside shooting than his devastating crossover.
Finding a point guard more dangerous without the ball in his hands is the equivalent of finding a needle in a haystack; it exists, but it's pretty darn elusive. Then again, the assists have been becoming increasingly elusive as well for Williams, who is finding it difficult to maintain his grasp on elite status.
D-Will's defensive skills don't often get focused on, but he's left no doubt during the 2013-14 season that he's an above-average stopper in most aspects. Not only are the Nets significantly better at preventing points when he plays, but his off-ball defense got better and better as the season wore on.
You'd think such a big floor general would make more of an impact on the glass. Sadly for Brooklyn, Williams has never shown off much desire to help out on the boards, and he's content just grabbing up loose balls when no one else gets there first.
Williams' reputation as a coach killer hasn't irritated his relationship with Jason Kidd, but there are times when he seems rather testy on the court. The bigger problem, though, is his health. Ankle problems severely inhibited him throughout the season, and it's not like this is anything new.
The 29-year-old is clearly entering the declining phase of his career a bit early, but a fantastic second half has allowed hope to enter back into the equation. The 6'3" point guard has been an offensive and defensive sparkplug for the Nets, even if wear and tear are keeping him from looking truly elite.
11. Kemba Walker, Charlotte Bobcats
Is Kemba Walker an efficient shooter? Nope, not really. But he does manage to add value from beyond the arc and spends quite a bit of time knocking down freebies at the charity stripe, so don't let that ugly field-goal percentage scare you off.
Walker's passing has taken a step in the wrong direction during the 2013-14 campaign, but he's mitigating the negative impact by showcasing more control over the ball than ever before. That, along with some smart cutting and threatening perimeter shooting, allows him to fare nicely in this category, though not too nicely.
Under Steve Clifford, everyone on the Charlotte Bobcats has become a more competent defender. Walker is no exception, even if he can still find himself out of position during the occasional possession. His weaknesses often allow shooters to free themselves from him, but he's turned into a surprisingly effective individual stopper.
Size-deficit? What size-deficit? Even though he's generously listed at 6'1", Walker manages to collect more than his fair share of rebounds, giving the 'Cats a nice boost on the glass. This is no fluke either.
It's hard to find fault with either Kemba's leadership skills or his durability. Stemming all the way back to his days with the Connecticut Huskies, the point guard has shown an innate ability to motivate his troops while staying healthy and on the court for the vast majority of the season.
Though many people haven't spent much time watching Walker lead Charlotte, it's a sight that's definitely worth seeing. He's an offensive sparkplug who spent his third season in the Association figuring out how to put everything together, and now he's within sniffing distance of the true elites.
10. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
Between the precocious confidence, unbelievable—dare I say best in the league?—handles and picture-perfect shooting stroke, Kyrie Irving is just dynamite in the scoring column. He can put up points with the best of 'em, and he's only missing consistency from his arsenal. Once he gets better at finishing around the basket and avoids the inexplicably lackluster outings, he'll earn a perfect rating here.
Although Irving doesn't always connect on his spot-up attempts, he's still such a dangerous shooter that defensive schemes center around preventing him from heating up. It's only the former No. 1 pick's passing that gets dinged here, as he hasn't been able to show much improvement over his three professional seasons.
Defense remains a big problem for the Cleveland Cavaliers floor general. While he shows good instincts as an on-ball defender, he's been awful when working on a man that isn't dribbling. Caught out of position often, Irving routinely gets abused by spot-up shooters and fails to make much of an impact in the proceedings.
The former Duke Blue Devil does a nice job getting into position for rebounds, but he's often beaten to the punch by a bigger player. Even if he's regressed on the boards during each professional season—look past those deceptive per-game averages—the signs of Irving being a huge asset on the glass down the road are still there.
Since the All-Star break, Irving has shown off much better leadership traits, but it's hard to just look past the pre-break troubles. Between the clashes with Dion Waiters, the pouting that was noticed by other general managers and a decided lack of fiery intensity, the All-Star didn't exactly have a glowing reputation. On top of that, he's had a lot of trouble staying healthy, both this year and throughout his career.
Irving should still assert his name in the "best point guard in basketball" conversation down the road, but he hasn't done so yet. The leadership/efficiency/defensive struggles all work against him, and he's not as far along the developmental curve as many either hoped or would still like to believe.
9. Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets
For the first season of his career, Ty Lawson has really struggled with his field-goal percentage. But that's only a surface-level statistic, and the Denver Nuggets are presumably quite pleased with the speedy point guard's ability to connect from downtown and get to the line. His attacking mentality has paid large dividends in 2013-14.
Lawson's height (5'11") prevents him from being much of a cutting threat, but he makes up for that with incredible passing skills and a knack for knocking down spot-up perimeter jumpers. Few players have done a better job distributing the ball on a nightly basis than this vertically challenged point guard.
Defense isn't exactly Lawson's forte, but he's prevented himself from being an extreme liability by figuring out how to navigate pick-and-roll sets. Opposing guards love pulling up after using a pick when Lawson is guarding them, taking advantage of his short stature, but the UNC product rarely makes the wrong decision when deciding whether to go under or over the screen.
Lawson doesn't typically make much of an impact on the glass, but he can consistently be counted on for either three or four boards during any given game. He speeds to the ball well when it escapes the bigger players on the court, and he shows good instincts when anticipating bounces.
Only health works against Lawson in this category, as rib injuries, groin pulls and other various maladies have kept him out of the lineup throughout the season. The Denver Nuggets point guard has avoided major blows, but the little ones add up.
Increased offensive responsibility has treated Lawson well in 2013-14. Without Andre Iguodala in the lineup, the point guard has been forced into developing more on-ball skills, particularly when it comes to utilizing his insane speed while changing directions.
8. Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies
Mike Conley is shouldering a lot more scoring responsibility than he did last year, and his efficiency is only going up. The southpaw has looked better shooting the ball from nearly every spot on the court, and he's playing with the confidence of a go-to scorer. At this point, that's a designation he's actually earned.
While he does a fantastic job avoiding turnovers, Conley hasn't exactly thrived as a passer in David Joerger's new system for the Memphis Grizzlies. He may be receiving a bunch of opportunities to rack up assists each and every game, but the holes he's presented with aren't lending themselves toward dimes with too much frequency.
Conley's reputation as an elite defender at the point guard position is slightly overblown. He's a good off-ball stopper, but he's had trouble both navigating pick-and-rolls and corralling isolation players. Going to work without the security blanket named Marc Gasol behind him did a bit of exposing during the middle portion of the 2013-14 campaign.
If you're looking for a middle-of-the-road rebounder, look no further. Conley doesn't stand out in any one way when it comes to this category, instead doing exactly what's expected of an average 6'1" NBA athlete.
Very few complaints exist here, as Conley is only being docked a point for his lack of extreme durability in 2013-14. While he's been an ironclad warrior in the past, an ankle sprain and deeply bruised thigh have both knocked him out of action this year.
Conley was a minor All-Star snub this year, and he's continued to prove it by thriving as one of the league's best two-way guards. He can push the Memphis Grizzlies to victory on either end of the court, even though he sometimes has trouble putting both sides together during a single game.
7. Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix Suns
Whenever he's been healthy, Eric Bledsoe has functioned as an incredibly dynamic scorer who shows absolutely no long-term retention of plays that failed earlier in the game. He can put up points attacking the basket and either finishing or getting to the charity stripe, pulling up from the perimeter or serving as a dangerous spot-up shooter.
Bledsoe's off-ball scoring is great, which makes him the constant focus of defensive attention, but he doesn't pass the ball well enough to make you think his first name is Drew. Not yet, at least. Bledsoe's distributing skills are still developing, and he'll make the leap into superstardom as soon as he shows a bit more care for the ball and an unwillingness to take too many risks.
While not a potent on-ball defender, Bledsoe moves with a calculated fluidity that allows him to insert himself in almost every play. He can sometimes give an air of nonchalance, but nothing could be further from the truth; off-ball defense is where he thrives, and he's been one of the better players in basketball when it comes to that facet of the game.
There are no weaknesses here. Not only has Bledsoe asserted himself as a deadly pound-for-pound rebounder, but he's been able to fight through contact and still come away with the ball quite a few times in 2013-14.
Bledsoe's health was problematic in 2013-14, as he suffered a devastating meniscus injury that required surgery and knocked him out of the lineup for 33 games. He's been durable in only half of his professional seasons, and that needs to change if he's going to rise up the rankings next year.
Had Bledsoe stayed completely healthy and maintained his level of performance throughout the year, he would have moved up into a tie for the No. 4 spot in the rankings. "Mini LeBron" proved he could function as a lead guard in 2013-14, and the future is quite promising.
6. Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
If only Kyle Lowry were a little better at knocking down shots from mid-range zones. Particularly on the left side of the court, he loves pulling up and attempting jumpers, but the efficiency just isn't there. Lowry has taken massive strides as a scorer, though that's still the missing piece to the overall puzzle.
The Toronto Raptors trading Rudy Gay was the best thing that could've happened to Lowry's game. He was granted more control over the ball in half-court settings, and the increased responsibility allowed him to showcase advanced passing skills that come without those pesky little turnovers.
While Lowry is good at sticking his nose in where it doesn't belong and pestering the opposition, he still has a few glaring flaws to his defensive game. Not only does he struggle recovering to his own man after helping out a teammate, but he's prone to getting beat in isolation sets, when navigating pick-and-rolls and when getting posted up by a bigger guard.
The tough, grind-it-out mentality shows up here, as Lowry is one of the best rebounding floor generals in the Association. Unlike many players at his position, the former Villanova standout isn't afraid to mix it up with bigger players when the ball is loose.
Nothing to complain about here. Lowry is a bulldog on the court, inspiring teammates with his gritty play and relentless effort, and he's stayed healthy throughout the year. Even when plagued by a nagging injury, he's managed to suit up.
Lowry's season can be summed up in just one sentence: He easily should've been an All-Star in the Eastern Conference during the 2013-14 campaign.
5. Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs
While Tony Parker has spent less time on the court (and at the charity stripe) during the 2013-14 season, he's made up for the diminished scoring opportunities by showing off increased skills from beyond the arc. The French floor general just keeps doing what he always does—showing off slippery skills navigating in traffic and only taking what the defense gives him.
Even though Parker is posting career-best numbers from downtown, he's not much of a spot-up threat. In fact, he doesn't do much to dissuade Gregg Popovich from running a team-based offense and avoiding thrusting the focus of the point-scoring efforts onto any one player. Parker is a great facilitator, but he's best with the ball in his hands.
Parker has never had great tools as an individual stopper, but his experience and veteran savvy allow him to play nearly perfect off-ball defense. No. 9 has a flawless understanding of the San Antonio Spurs' defensive schemes, and that allows him to find himself in exemplary position at all times.
The six-time All-Star doesn't offer much on the glass. He's always been a lackluster rebounder, but the 2013-14 season has seen him make even less of an impact after missed shots, particularly on the defensive end.
You'll never find flaws with Parker's leadership skills, but he does spend a bit too much time on the sidelines. Part of it is an aging body that takes tons of contact, and part of it is Pop's willingness to hold his point guard out of the lineup for what amounts to a maintenance day.
Parker is a system point guard, and that's not an insult. He thrives running an offense and defense that he's intimately familiar with, but he also does that better than most point guards could. It's a bit of a "chicken or the egg" scenario here, because the system makes Parker great, and vice versa.
4. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
Russell Westbrook is one of those point guards who was just born to score the basketball. He has all of the necessary tools at his disposal—ridiculous athleticism that allows him to burst toward the rim and finish plays, loads of confidence (perhaps too much at times) and a decent stroke from the perimeter.
While Westbrook keeps getting better as a distributor, just as he has every season, he's taken a step backward when it comes to turnovers. The bad passes and lost balls are popping up with far too much frequency, which prevents him from making the most of his ability—and often undersold willingness—to find open teammates.
The dynamic floor general isn't afraid to take risks on the defensive end of the court. It makes him an incredibly dangerous off-ball defender, one who's able to track his man while taking time to jump passing lanes and wreak havoc on offensive schemes, but it also makes him a vulnerable player when his man has the rock.
It took Westbrook only 31 tries to record a literal handful of double-digit rebounding games. He's blessed with remarkable athleticism, and he puts it to good use, flying through the air en route to gaudy totals on the glass and an incredibly entertaining style of play after a missed shot.
Westbrook loses points for two things: temper tantrums and missing time. His passion is normally a good thing, but he takes it too far every once in a while. As for the latter, it's unfortunate for the Oklahoma City Thunder point guard that only the 2013-14 campaign is being accounted for; while he'd never missed a game during the first five seasons of his career, multiple knee surgeries have limited his amount of time on the court this year.
Normally, Westbrook would score even better. But don't let the unfortunate injuries change your opinion of a two-way threat who brings far more positives to the table than negatives. The OKC floor general forces you to live with the occasional bad times, but he makes up for them quite nicely.
3. John Wall, Washington Wizards
The development of a consistent three-point stroke has done wonders for John Wall's scoring efficiency, but it's still not quite up to the standards produced by many of the NBA's top point-producing standouts. To remedy that, he'll just have to keep getting better as a mid-range sniper and finisher among the trees who often inhabit the painted area.
While Wall's outside shooting has been getting better, it's still not threatening enough to keep defenses fixated on him when the ball rests in the hands of a teammate on the Washington Wizards. That's the biggest knock here, as it's hard to find many flaws in Wall's status as an elite distributor outside of his penchant for the occasional unforced turnover.
Don't look now, but Wall has become a fantastic on-ball defender. Not only does he have a remarkable knack for picking the best routes to catch up with a player and swat away a shot attempt, but he's become increasingly able to settle down in a defensive stance and make the opposing point guard have to fight for any sort of positioning.
Wall likes to pick and choose the times when he crashes the boards. It makes him an efficient rebounder, but the fact that he pulls down over four rebounds per contest is a bit misleading. Every once in a while, he uses those insane hops to sky over a bigger player, but it would be nice to see him do so with more frequency.
No longer is Wall a kid trying to justify being the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft; he's blossomed into a true leader capable of motivating his troops into the playoffs. Throughout the 2013-14 season, the point guard has been both a vocal leader and a veteran who leads by example.
We'll look back someday and view this as the year that Wall truly became an elite floor general. His arsenal expanded to include a dangerous outside shot, great defensive skills and heretofore unseen amounts of leadership.
2. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
How can you possibly complain about Stephen Curry's scoring numbers? Not only is he the league's premier three-point shooter, but he manages to create more looks for himself than any other perimeter specialist in the league. Then again, I suppose calling him a "perimeter specialist" is really selling his all-around scoring game short.
While Curry does a remarkable job setting himself up off the dribble, he's also a potent off-ball threat who constantly requires the undivided attention of at least one defender. And on top of that, he's used his creativity and flair for the one-handed pass off the bounce to become one of the top assist men in basketball.
Curry can still spend time acting like a sieve against quick point guards, but he's made noticeable strides on the less-glamorous end under the tutelage of Mark Jackson. Particularly evident is both his ability to chase off-ball threats around the court and his knack for navigating pick-and-roll sets.
He may not look like much of a rebounding threat, but Curry is one of the best in the business—at least among point guards. The Davidson product displays a preternatural ability to anticipate bounces off the hoop, so while he can't elevate and steal the boards away from bigs, he's often the first person to a below-the-rim rebound.
Durability is the only thing working against Curry in this section. Though he's done a great job of avoiding any major injury blows since the 2011-12 season, he still has a penchant for succumbing to minor issues, especially ones that revolve around his lower body
Don't make the mistake of considering Curry "just a shooter." He creates for himself off the dribble, passes the ball better than the vast majority of the players in these rankings, rebounds well for his position and is finally figuring out how to use his mind to overcome his lack of natural ability on defense. He's a complete point guard.
1. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
Chris Paul might not be known as a score-first point guard—and for good reason—but he's routinely able to post gaudy scoring figures while maintaining his efficiency from all relevant areas. A true master of the mid-range game, CP3 is one of the few floor generals capable of shooting high percentages while scoring in such high volume.
Paul is one of the greatest on-court manifestations of leadership, and he never closes his mouth when he plays. Not because he's like Michael Jordan, wagging his tongue incessantly, but because he's always barking out instructions and ensuring that his teammates are in the best positions possible to thrive.
CP3 has justifiably earned a reputation as one of the NBA's premier defenders at the position, but he's not without flaws. While he excels with his quick hands and lane-jumping instincts, Paul can be beat to the basket in isolation sets by quicker point guards, and he still has a hard time following an off-ball mark around loads of screens.
Paul may stand only a smidgen over 6'0", but he routinely pulls down impressive rebounding figures. Not many point guards without the blessing of unbelievable size can grab five boards during a single outing with such frequency.
It's hard to knock Paul's on-court intangibles, but he's not always, well, on the court. A separated shoulder was the biggest culprit during the 2013-14 season, but CP3 pretty regularly misses time with various maladies.
If you're looking for the league's most balanced and impressive point guard, here he is. Paul does everything you could ask of a floor general, and he thrives in each facet of the game. The seven-time All-Star just keeps trending up in any historical rankings while maintaining his perch atop the Association.
Below you can find the publication schedule for the rest of the NBA 200 series. Remember that we're not using traditional positions, but rather subdividing those to account for the positionless schemes used by many NBA teams.
- Combo guards: Wednesday, April 23
- Shooting guards: Monday, April 28
- Swingmen: Wednesday, April 30
- Small forwards: Monday, May 5
- Power forwards: Wednesday, May 7
- Combo bigs: Monday, May 12
- Centers: Wednesday, May 14
- Combo forwards: Friday, May 16
- Top 200 Players: Monday, May 19
Don't forget to check back, but in the meantime, feel free to discuss any or all of these rankings with me on Twitter.
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