The Great Debate: Who Is the NBA's Best Point Guard?

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The Great Debate: Who Is the NBA's Best Point Guard?
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

This article is a companion to the slide show found here. See the slides if you don't like reading.

It deals more with the methodology than the results. I will preface by saying that I do not claim to be a statistician, a mathematician, a professional analyst or scout.

Deciding the Best

Point guards are often called floor generals or quarterbacks. Good ones are heralded for their court vision, their passing, their leadership and their abilities to control the offense of their team. In an effort to make this list of the best NBA point guards simple, I’m going to run data for the top five starting point guards according to their assists per 48 minutes. I will also look at the top five scoring point guards.

AP48M
1. Steve Nash
2. Deron Williams
3. Chris Paul
4. Rajon Rondo
5. Jason Kidd

PP48M
1. Monta Ellis
2. Chauncey Billups
3. Derrick Rose
4. Aaron Brooks
5. Tyreke Evans

Some people will not like the fact that I haven’t included a defensive category in determining which ten point guards I start out with, however, this shouldn’t be a problem when you look at the names listed. I think we can all agree that these are the best point guards in the NBA, talent-wise.

Now we must determine what criteria will be used in comparing the players. One of the most widely-used methods of evaluating players is the efficiency rating. Because of injury-shortened seasons, as with Chris Paul, and some of the players getting less playing time than others, I’m going to use EFFP48M to provide an initial ranking.

1. Chris Paul
2. Steve Nash
3. Deron Williams
4. Rajon Rondo
5. Chauncey Billups

6. Jason Kidd
7. Tyreke Evans
8. Derrick Rose
9. Monta Ellis
10. Aaron Brooks

Keep in mind that this ranking is comparing only the ten players we have narrowed this down to. Devin Harris ranks above Aaron Brooks in EFFP48M, but he is not being considered because of how I’ve limited the pool.

The next data set I would like to use compares each player’s effect on games. This may be the best way to measure intangible facets of a player's performance. There is no statistic for leadership, but we can rank players based on what happens while they’re on the floor with their teams. In this case, we’ll use the NBA’s plus-minus statistic, limited to a per-minute basis this time. Again, only the ten players we’re comparing will be listed, ranked from highest to lowest.

1. Deron Williams
2. Steve Nash
3. Rajon Rondo
4. Jason Kidd
5. Chauncey Billups

6. Chris Paul
7. Aaron Brooks
8. Derrick Rose
9. Tyreke Evans
10. Monta Ellis

One important thing to remember about this stat, however, is how it is affected by the entire team. Chris Paul, one of the most efficient point guards, dropped to sixth place because of his team’s performance. This is also the case with the prolific scorer, Monta Ellis. While this hurts individual numbers, basketball is a team sport.

One of the things we must consider in determining the best point guard stems from their durability and dependability. While injuries are always a problem, and nobody wants them, some players have missed significant portions of the season. Minutes, in this case, are not as important, ranging from a per-game low of 32.9 for Steve Nash, to a high of 41.4 for Monta Ellis. That low of a range isn’t as significant as you would think considering what Nash is able to do in the minutes he is on the floor and his team’s overall winning percentage this year. Games played, on the other hand, are pivotal.

The following is a ranking of the players based on the fewest games missed.

T-1. Steve Nash, Rajon Rondo, Aaron Brooks
4. Jason Kidd
5. Derrick Rose

6. Deron Williams
7. Chauncey Billups
8. Tyreke Evans
9. Monta Ellis
10. Chris Paul

While this order is not meant to harm the position of any player, if they’re unable to play, they’re not helping the team. It’s that simple.

Next, I will rank the players based on defense. While I feel that defense is a team concept and it takes total team effort, I do realize that some people place a special emphasis on defense. Although efficiency ratings account for rebounds, steals, and blocks, I’m going to rank the players based on the total number of rebounds (both offensive and defensive although I’d rather use defensive), steals and blocks per 48 minutes from highest to lowest.

1. Jason Kidd
2. Tyreke Evans
3. Rajon Rondo
4. Chris Paul
5. Monta Ellis

6. Deron Williams
7. Derrick Rose
8. Chauncey Billups
9. Steve Nash
10. Aaron Brooks

Now it’s important to figure out which of these rankings are most important to a point guard. Because efficiency is so important to every player, regardless of position, I’m placing more emphasis on it than the plus/minus. However, I believe that the plus/minus is more important than defense, at least for a point guard in the NBA. The thing I will score the lowest is the dependability/durability factor, because I don’t want it to hurt the players who have missed games this season too much.

How do I score the results?

In each category, first place receives five points, second gets four, third three, fourth gets two, and fifth gets one. Any players who are not in the top five, receive no points for that specific category. However, because I need to weigh the categories against each other, all efficiency scores are multiplied by 10 points, plus/minus by seven, defense by five, and, finally, dependability/durability is multiplied by two.

This simple way of looking at players compared to one another and ranking them, scoring them, and totaling the points, provides an interesting look at today’s point guards.

Are you ready for the results?

1. Steve Nash – 78 points
2. Rajon Rondo – 66 points
3. Deron Williams – 65 points
4. Chris Paul – 60 points
5. Jason Kidd – 43 points

6. Tyreke Evans – 20 points
7. Chauncey Billups – 17 points
8. Aaron Brooks – 10 points
9. Monta Ellis – 5 points
10. Derrick Rose – 2 points.

Having spent a considerable amount of time researching this, it’s nice to see Nash coming out on top since I'm a Phoenix and Nash fan. However, this is based on statistics and statistics can be misleading. Their strength is found in their objectivity, but their weakness is exemplified by the fact that Rajon Rondo’s competing for a championship while Nash is not.

If I may have one alibi, the scoring multipliers were subjective on my part. While I don’t guarantee the end-result, thanks to that little bit of subjectivity, I do guarantee the positions of each point guard for the respective categories I've listed. Feel free to devise your own system of scoring, depending on what you feel is most important for a point guard.

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