Since NBA point guards carry the most responsibility on the court, the position is widely considered the most important position on the court.
Point guards not only must have talent, but have to understand every aspect of their team’s gameplan, and what defenses are trying to do to stop them. They must be reliable since they generally have possession of the basketball more than other positions, and they must know the ins and outs of everybody on the court—team-mates, opposing players, referees—so that team-mates are put in the best position to succeed, and opponent’s weaknesses are exploited.
Oh, and since opposing point guards have the same responsibilities, being an ace defender is also a must.
This list does not take into account a player’s future prospects or past salad days. The criteria is simple: Which NBA point guard would be best suited to winning a championship with a random collection of starting-level talent? For example, if Andris Biedrins, Pau Gasol, Joe Johnson, and Courtney Lee are your teammates, who would you want as your point guard?
Due to the way some NBA lineups are presently constructed, a handful of potential point guards will be asked to play different positions this year. For that reason, Allen Iverson, Delonte West and Jason Terry are listed as shooting guards this year.
No rookies made the list, as neither you nor I have seen them play in meaningful games against meaningful competition to know where they should be ranked.
With the prologue out of the way, on to the list.
1) Deron Williams—Utah Jazz
Before Chris Paul’s legions eviscerate me, consider what Williams would be able to do with a system that allowed him to be the point scorer, or assist maker on nearly each of his team’s possessions.
Williams is both explosive and strong which allows him to always get into the paint, and subsequently, do more damage once inside. Williams may not be as quick as Paul, and Paul is a very strong guard in his own right, but Williams’ size, body, speed, and leaping ability allow him to assault the rim and finish through people.
It’s an element that shouldn’t be underappreciated.
Williams can also play off the ball and is an excellent post player, again, overpowering opponents with his size. He’s one of the league’s premier passers, throwing, arguably, the second best bounce pass in the game behind Steve Nash. He’s also a much better dribbler and passer than Paul using his offhand.
Williams’ three point jumper is spotty, but his midrange pull up jumper is one of the most advanced in the league. His ability to score one-on-one is also much more advanced than Paul’s, who usually needs a screen to start his offense.
Williams has the keys to the most complicated offense in the NBA, and Utah’s scoring output has been extremely successful under his command—no small feat.
While that has as much to do with coaching (and Byron Scott’s lack of coaching) as anything, consider New Orleans’ simple screen/roll or double screen/roll gameplan. If an opponent takes away New Orleans’ screens (something Denver did exceptionally well last postseason, for example), what can Paul do but isolate, something he isn‘t exceptional at?
If Williams’ base offense is taken away, he knows how to get into other options, something Paul can’t do.
Defensively, Williams doesn’t get as many steals and doesn’t have the anticipatory skills that Paul has, but he’s a better screen defender, simply by the fact that he doesn’t give up on screens nearly as much as Paul does. He also gambles less, and is out of position less often.
You can’t go wrong with either stud, but the ability to finish, the mastery of a more diversified offense, and the fewer defensive mistakes give Williams a slight edge in my eyes.
2) Chris Paul—New Orleans Hornets
The best speed guard in the NBA, the best screen/roll player in the NBA, arguably the best point guard in the NBA, Paul’s game is a symphony of superlatives.
He has incredible natural talent—pure speed, agility, leaping ability, shiftiness, and strength despite a small frame. He has refined skills—wonderful court vision, a high basketball IQ, anticipation on both ends of the court, a perfect right-handed dribble with more trickery than a three-card-monty dealer.
He has total mastery of his team’s gameplan and excels in screen/roll situations.
Paul’s flaws that keep him behind Deron Williams are minor. He’s neither as tall nor as strong as Williams, and subsequently isn’t as dominating a finisher. He’s also a worse screen defender, and his rambling, gambling style that can be taken advantage of by disciplined defenses.
His left hand is appreciably worse, and he’s vulnerable to being trapped hard while driving left. Paul’s ability to run an offense is less extensive because of New Orleans’ system.
Also keep in mind, Paul’s numbers inflate because of the needs of New Orleans, compared to the needs of Utah. The Hornets need Paul to score or assist on nearly every possession, while Utah can afford to spread the ball around more.
Also, while Paul’s rebounding numbers are exceptionally high, and a testament to his toughness, it comes at the expense of Paul not leaking out in early offense to lead a potential fast break.
Williams has poor defensive rebounding numbers, but Utah generates more transition baskets, factors that go hand-in-hand. Also, Paul isn’t competing with Andrei Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer, and Paul Millsap for defensive boards, especially when Tyson Chandler was injured.
Either way, Paul is a legit superstar with potential MVP-worthy talents.
3) Tony Parker—San Antonio Spurs
Blessed with electrifying speed, Parker is virtually unstoppable one-on-one. He’s probably the fastest player in the sport and breaks his man down in isolations better than any other point guard out there.
Parker is a good passer who knows how to run an offense, though his instincts are to attack. His jump shot has improved over time, though it’s still only average. It’s the one area in his offensive arsenal that keeps him from being a dominating, MVP-caliber player.
Though Parker’s small, he’s fantastic at taking a hit and completing a play, possessing a championship-level toughness that supersedes a lack of raw strength. He’s a good individual defender who can stay in front of most opponents, and like anybody who has earned premium minutes under Greg Popovich, is an excellent team defender as well.
Williams and Paul are clearly the class of the point guard position, but Parker isn’t as far behind as people realize.
4) Rajon Rondo—Boston Celtics
Rondo’s evolved into the best defensive point guard in basketball. With his tremendous speed, and incredible wingspan, getting around Rondo is like getting around the Great Wall of China. Rondo will gamble on screens more than his coaches would like, but his rangy hands allow him to poke away dribbles as well as anybody.
Offensively, Rondo’s a tremendous facilitator who keeps improving as a finisher and a leader. If he ever consistently learns to knock down jump shots he’ll be scary on both sides of the ball.
5) Chauncey Billups—Denver Nuggets
Billups has made a career out of posting smaller guards, pulling up over slower guards, running an offense expertly, and playing sound defense. His leadership and experience was a calming influence on an extremely excitable Nuggets team, helping to add discipline to a wildly talented roster.
Billups actually wasn’t as disciplined as the rest of his team-mates last season, taking a lot of bad shots early in the shot clock. However, on a team that emphasizes a quick pace and a controlled havoc, Billups’ ability to shoot over 40 percent from downtown is an asset, even if some of those threes are transition pull-ups.
Defensively, Billups was the leader of Denver’s wing screen-trapping defense that decimated a number of opposing offenses. He’s not a particularly quick guard, but he’s strong enough to take away the post, and smart enough to be an excellent help defender.
Just how good is Billups? According to where the Nuggets and Pistons were with and without him, he’s worth two extra playoff series.
6) Steve Nash—Phoenix Suns
Nash may still be the league’s most potent offensive point guard.
Nobody passes better than him—not Paul, not Williams, nobody. Try running at full speed and throwing a perfect bounce pass with zip to a streaking cutter from half court to inside the free throw line—with your off hand. Nash makes it look like a rudimentary skill.
Besides his passing, Nash is one of the best shooters in the league, has brilliant court intelligence, sees everything, and is a clever finisher.
Why isn’t he ranked higher?
As good as he is on offense is as bad as he is on defense. Not only is incapable of being even just a bad defender, his aversion to a slower, more defensive-minded style of play was a major factor in the firing of Terry Porter, and has been a major factor why the Suns haven’t been able to take the next step and earn a trip to the Finals.
One-way players aren’t Top five players.
7) Derrick Rose—Chicago Bulls
A sparkling youngster who will someday join Chris Paul and Deron Williams as the best point guards in the game. Rose has prime-time athleticism—speed, strength, height, and major ups. No other point guard besides Williams combines speed, power, and the ability to play above the rim the way Rose can.
Rose sees the floor like a veteran and is an excellent passer and decision maker, especially for someone so young. His jump shot and defense need work, but the expectation is that he’ll improve considerably in those areas before everything is said and done.
It’s doubtful he appears this low on a top point guards list until a very long time.
8) Devin Harris—New Jersey Nets
Harris really blossomed last year as a scoring point guard. New Jersey gave him a chance to be their team’s leading playmaker and he took off. He’s always been fast and shifty, but his jump shot and defense have improved considerably since he first came into the league.
He’s not a physical scorer, he’s not a great team defender, and he’s not a world-class distributor. In a league of dynamic point guards, those nitpicks are the difference between being very good, and being exceptionally good.
9) Andre Miller—Portland Trail Blazers
A difference maker due to his leadership and court vision, Miller creates offense with his eyes, brain, and will. There are players who see the floor as well as Miller does, but none who see it better. He’s able to manufacture points just by seeing defensive mistakes, mismatches, and opportune angles.
He’s one of the best transition point guards in the game because of his ability to finish and his masterful decision making with the ball in his hands. When the game slows down, he can post anybody and has a deadly midrange pull up jump shot.
His defense is poor and he has no range, but Miller’s one of the most underrated point guards in the game. Few players can do with as much with less like he can.
10) Gilbert Arenas—Washington Wizards
A point guard in name only, Arenas dominates the ball, takes awful shots, plays zero defense, passes only as a last resort, and doesn’t improve his team-mates. He’s a wonderful streak scorer, but little more.
11) Jason Kidd—Dallas Mavericks
By finally learning how to shoot, Kidd has salvaged his career. He’s not explosive enough to get to the rim in a halfcourt set anymore, but he still sees the floor beautifully, makes perfect passes, and excels on the break. By being able to knock down threes, he remains a dangerous offensive weapon.
Defensively, Kidd’s lost a step and a half and the premium point guards in the league blow by him at will. However, he’s strong enough to defend smaller two-guards and is a bear in the post.
12) Jose Calderon—Toronto Raptors
Calderon can run an offense with anyone. He’s a good pull-up jump shooter, and an extraordinary free throw shooter. He doesn’t do anything he shouldn’t and is a very efficient player. However, there is a certain degree of creativity a star point guard needs, and Calderon doesn’t have it.
13) Maurice Williams—Cleveland Cavaliers
Mo Williams is a scoring point guard with a history of not being able to score when it matters most. He improved his defense last regular season, but was exposed in the postseason as a poor defender.
His ability to put the ball in the basket as a second option was invaluable to the Cavs last season. If he can duplicate that success in the postseason, Cleveland can win a title. If not, he’ll be hard pressed making it this high up on the list again.
14) Jameer Nelson—Orlando Magic
Nelson is a strong point guard, with a jump shot and moxie. He played with confidence last season and his production skyrocketed to All-Star levels. He’s a creative finisher that can finish with contact, and he has no qualms about making big shots in big moments. His edges still need to be rounded out, and he’s not a dazzling athlete, but he’s turned himself into a valuable point guard.
15) Kirk Hinrich—Chicago Bulls
It’s easy to forget, but Hinrich does so many good things for a team. He’s one of the best defensive point guards going, both on-ball and as a helper. He can run an offense as a passer, or look to attack as a scorer. He’s a dependable shooter, and can play the two-guard in a pinch. Not overwhelmingly talented, Hinrich makes the most out of what he has.
16) Rodney Stuckey—Detroit Pistons
Stuckey’s strong, talented, defensively tough, and has a scorer‘s confidence. He has trouble running an offense and he could work to improve his three-point shooting, but both areas should improve with experience.
17) Monta Ellis—Golden State Warriors
Which Monta Ellis will show up this season? The 2008 version who was ultra-quick, could get to any spot on the court, and scored in bunches? The 2009 post-injury version who had no bounce, was two steps slow, and couldn’t score enough to offset his horrible defense and offense-running skills.
If Ellis’ athleticism hasn’t returned all the way, he won’t be an offensive star, and since scoring is the only thing he does, he won’t be much of a player.
18) Baron Davis—Los Angeles Clippers
Talented, selfish, moody, all are adjectives that describe Davis. Two seasons ago,
His uneven play down the stretch saw him benched by player-friendly Don Nelson. Last season, he didn’t even bother, and turned in an embarrassment of a season. If he cares, he’s a top ten point guard, easily, but his history of me-first, self-centered play isn’t worth the trouble.
19) Aaron Brooks—Houston Rockets
Brooks is a pint-sized scorer who can get off his own shot anytime, and will fight on defense. He’s not a good passer yet, and he’ll always be a defensive mismatch against big guards, but talent and toughness are good qualities in a young player.
20) Mike Bibby—Atlanta Hawks
Bibby has no quickness anymore and never was a good defender. He’s still a dangerous jump shooter who will knock down big jumpers at big moments of a game, and is a smart player. With his age and deteriorating athleticism, he’ll drop down the list with each passing year.
21) Derek Fisher—Los Angeles Lakers
Fisher may be the slowest point guard around nowadays, but he knows how to run the triangle offense perfectly (a talent in its own right), shoot, and defend bigger guards. And with a game in the balance, is there anybody you’d rather have shooting the ball than Fisher?
22) Steve Blake—Portland Trail Blazers
Blake is a good shooter, an underrated athlete, a smart floor general, and a passable defender. He’s a capable starter, who becomes an outstanding backup.
23) Rafer Alston—New Jersey Nets
Alston has come a long way since his all-style, no substance NBA beginnings. He does a good job of running an offense, has decent quickness, is a decent defender, and can shoot. However, when the lights shine their brightest, for all Alston’s yapping and barking, his game becomes awfully quiet.
24) Raymond Felton—Charlotte Bobcats
Felton has reached his plateau as a decent player on both ends, but hardly special in any category. He can run an offense, is an acceptable defender, and has good athleticism, though he can’t shoot consistently, and isn’t a terrific finisher. He’s a useful low end starter, though he’d probably be best off as a backup.
25) Russell Westbrook—Oklahoma City Thunder
If running and jumping were the only criteria a point guard were judged on, Westbrook would already be an All-Star. You can tell he’s a newcomer to the position by his inexperience running an offense, and like all young players, he makes a lot of mistakes on both ends. Still, you can see that he’s a defensive playmaker by his long arms, quick hands, and anticipation.
Offensively, Westbrook needs to improve his awareness and his jump shot, but by being fearless, he draws tons of fouls careening to the basket. He has a bright future in the league.
26) Chris Duhon—New York Knicks
Duhon does a lot of things well.
He’s a very good defender for his position, can shoot the three reliably, will drive and dish, and will take care of the ball. He’s best off as a backup, but before running out of gas last season, did a fine job steering their ship.
27) Louis Williams—Philadelphia 76ers
Williams can score, but isn’t terrific at running an efficient offense, or setting team-mates. He has talent, but he’d be better served in a backup role.
28) T.J. Ford—Indiana Pacers
Ford’s selfish, puny, defenseless, and a poor shooter—a list of traits you don’t want on a point guard.
29) Mario Chalmers—Miami Heat
Chalmers is an aggressive defender who will rack up a bunch of steals over his career by hawking the ball. He’s still learning how to run an ofense on an NBA level, and he’s very mistake prone, but aggressive players usually do better in the NBA than passive ones.
30) Shannon Brown—Los Angeles Lakers
Brown really burst on the scene during last year’s postseason. He’s both athletic and strong, can shoot, finish, and defend. The question is if he can do it all on a consistent basis.
This article originally appeared on ballerblogger.com