The NBA's Top 10 Point Guards
What defines a great point guard?
Do you have to be a pass-first floor general in order to be an effective one? How important is outside shooting ability? Is it optimal to push tempo or consistently settle into a half-court offense?
These are all difficult questions to answer with certainty.
Personally, I prefer point guards with the balance to create for themselves and their teammates. We all expect PGs to distribute the rock and keep their teammates in rhythm, but it's an added bonus when floor generals can force opposing defenses to account for their scoring ability.
As far as my rankings go, I'm placing the most emphasis on the current season, but considering the previous couple of years as well. Obviously rookies like Stephen Curry and Tyreke Evans will not be punished for lack of a track record.
There will be honorable mentions, No. 14 down to No. 11, followed by No. 10, and so on.
In regards to decision-making, I'll do my best to explain my rationale on each and every slide.
That said, let's get it poppin'...
Nos. 12-14: Baron Davis, Russell Westbrook, and Devin Harris
As you can see from the photo, "B-Diddy" is pissed that I left him out of my top 10.
Formerly one of my favorite players (particularly during his days with the Warriors), Davis is on career cruise control. He's collecting the big bucks from the tragic Clippers' franchise, but is loafing around the court and getting away with as little defense as possible.
His numbers are still OK (15.2 ppg, 7.9 apg, and 1.7 spg), but when it comes to point guards, there's more to it than stats.
Westbrook is an explosive athlete who does a nice job getting to the rack, but needs to improve his assist-to-turnover ratio and pure passing ability. Long term, he may be more of a combo guard.
Harris is a shoot-first PG with excellent slashing ability, but he's selfish and certainly hasn't contributed to a winning atmosphere in New Jersey.
No. 11: Andre Miller, Portland Trail Blazers
It took a little while for Miller to get settled in Portland, and head coach Nate McMillan is really to blame for that. GM Kevin Pritchard acquired Miller in an effort to upgrade a glaring weakness from the '08-'09 season, and McMillan ignored that effort by opening the season with PG Steve Blake.
With Blake out of the picture now (shipped to the lowly Clippers), Miller has settled in nicely with stars Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge. The trio is developing palpable chemistry.
Miller is in the "pure" point guard mold, always looking to get his teammates the ball in their preferred areas of the court. While highly unselfish, Andre did have a 52-point outburst this season against the conference rival Mavs.
No. 10: Tyreke Evans, Sacramento Kings
I'm not gonna lie: I think Evans' outstanding rookie numbers are more a product of his situation than his pure basketball ability.
Nonetheless, his production has been ridiculous. Evans is averaging 20.3 ppg, 5.6 apg, and 5.3 rpg.
Twenty, five, and five as a rookie? That's unheard of.
Statistically speaking, he's surely benefited from the underwhelming nature of his teammates, but Evans is a physical point guard who likes to get to the cup or pull up for manageable jumpers inside the foul line.
He understands his strengths and weaknesses, and that suggests a mature on-court attitude.
Like Russell Westbrook, I'm not sure that Tyreke is a lifetime starting PG, as his skill set resembles that of a combo guard.
No. 9: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Curry's primary numbers may not be as spectacular as Evans', but I think the former projects better as a long-term point guard.
Curry is averaging 5.7 apg to Evans' 5.6, but that's mostly a result of Monta Ellis' presence. Ellis (another combo guard) often demands the ball, which takes away from Curry's time of possession and limits his opportunities to rack up assists.
As far as pure passing goes, Curry is definitely superior to Evans; he's also a better perimeter shooter. Though only a rookie, Curry has proven himself to be have one of the deadliest outside strokes in the entire NBA.
Steph is shooting an incredible 43.3 percent from beyond the three-point arc, while hitting over 46 percent of his shots from the field.
No. 8: Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs
Parker has battled injuries throughout the '09-'10 campaign, but shouldn't he get some credit for netting Eva? Last I remember, she's pretty good lookin'.
In all seriousness, I can't simply ignore all of the playoff success that Parker has had. He's a three-time NBA champion as the member of the San Antonio Spurs who has averaged over 20 ppg in each of the past four postseasons.
Though often considered a "scoring" point guard, Tony is also a slick passer. He runs the pick-and-roll extremely well with Tim Duncan, and when you leave him open off Duncan's screen, there's a good chance he's burying it.
Especially under pressure.
No. 7: Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
The No. 1 overall selection of the 2008 NBA Draft has settled in as the franchise player of the Chicago Bulls. His supporting cast isn't great (John Salmons and Tyrus Thomas were traded, Luol Deng has been hurt), but D-Rose has the Bulls just one game out of the eighth and final Eastern playoff spot.
He's an explosive athlete who has provided some incredible, highlight-reel dunks this season; not to mention 20.2 ppg, 5.8 apg, and nearly four rebounds per game.
After momentarily stumbling out of the gate, the consistency of Rose's mid-range jumper has improved during his sophomore season. He'll be looking for some help in free agency, as Chicago has a nice amount of cap space.
No. 6: Jason Kidd, Dallas Mavericks
To those of you who are thinking, "J-Kidd's over the hill," look at the photo...
Jason's saying, "Nah, relax, I'm not done yet."
I must admit, there's a little bit of bias here. Kidd led my Nets to back-to-back Eastern Conference titles, and showed me that the right point guard can single-handedly create a winning culture.
Sure that was awhile back, but Kidd is averaging 10.1 ppg, 9.2 apg (good for fifth in the NBA), and 5.5 rpg this season. He's still an elite distributor, as evidenced by his assist numbers and the Mavs' collective offensive production.
Kidd's scoring is down but that's appropriate for a team with Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, and the recently-acquired Caron Butler.
He's not called upon often these days, but if you need a big shot, he's more than willing to be your guy.
No. 5: Chauncey Billups, Denver Nuggets
One of the coolest customers in the game, "Mr. Big Shot" is an assassin in the clutch.
Billups is a more-than-adequate distributor, but has made his name as a lights-out shooter at the point guard position. Just when you think he's going to slow things down and get the ball to one of his stars, he steps into a long-range bomb and sticks you with a dagger.
Like Tony Parker at the No. 8 spot, Billups has had his fair share of postseason success. He won a championship with the Detroit Pistons, and went on a nice playoff run with the Nuggets just one year ago.
I like the explosiveness of his Denver teammates, particularly Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith, but Chauncey will have to get his fellow Nuggets to commit to defense if they want to make a run to the Finals.
No. 4: Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns
I'm sure they'll be a little controversy here. I wouldn't be surprised if some people had Nash No. 1 on this list.
Let me give him his due first -- Nash is probably the best pure passer in the NBA, outstanding on the fast break and in the half-court. He's an excellent ball handler, known for keeping his dribble alive and probing for weaknesses in opposing defenses.
In addition, he's a high-percentage shooter from both the field and foul line.
Notice, however, the common denominator in Nash's strengths: they're all on the offensive side of the court.
Nash is No. 4 on this list because of his lack of size, strength, and defensive effectiveness. Sure he deserves credit for any offensive success that the Suns have had in recent years, but he also deserves some of the blame for their defensive woes.
Regardless, I'd take Steve on my team any day of the week.
I think we all would.
No. 3: Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics
In many ways, Rondo is the exact opposite of his predecessor on this list, Steve Nash.
While Nash is a smooth and accurate outside shooter, Rondo is inconsistent and unreliable from the perimeter.
While Nash is weak and a detriment on the defensive end, Rondo is abnormally strong for his size and a tenacious defender.
So I guess this debate is a matter of personal preference, right?
Well, Rondo has fresh legs and an NBA championship ring; Nash has neither. Rondo is also faster and more explosive, especially when attacking the rim.
In addition, Rondo has been the best player on his team this season, a team with three Hall of Famers in Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen (possibly four, if you include Rasheed Wallace).
Rajon earned this prime position with his defensive impact and overall improvement.
No. 2: Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets
I punished Tony Parker a little for being injured this season, so I guess (to some extent) I'm doing the same to "CP3."
Personally, I've always preferred the point guard at the No. 1 spot, but it has been awfully difficult to argue with CP3's statistical production in recent years. He's a freak in both the assists and steals categories.
Yet, for one of the league's supposed "elite" players, Paul hasn't had any postseason success. He hasn't shown that he can single-handedly carry the Hornets to the NBA Finals, or even the Western Conference Finals. Sure more of the blame should go to the Hornets' front office, but the fact remains.
Also interesting to note is that the Hornets didn't seem to falter much with Darren Collison running the point in CP3's absence. Maybe the latter isn't as valuable as we thought.
No. 1: Deron Williams, Utah Jazz
There's no doubt in my mind...Deron Williams is the most underrated player in the NBA.
Sure there's the running Chris Paul/Williams debate, but everyone seems to lean in favor of CP3. Whenever there's discussion about the superstars of the NBA, we hear the names LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, and Dwight Howard.
Relative to his position, "D-Will" should be on that list.
I don't think there is any question that Williams is one of the top 10 players in the game—a perfectly balanced point guard with no weaknesses on the basketball court. He's a deadly outside shooter with a lightning-quick release, and he's undoubtedly a premier passer.
I feel like the Western Conference is wide open this season...
Maybe D-Will can take the Jazz to the top.