The Point Guard position is one of the most important positions in basketball. A team's point guard is the quarterback, the field general, the strategist, and the one who directs play.
There have been many great point guards who have graced the NBA throughout the years, including Bob Cousy, "the Big O" Oscar Robertson, Earvin "Magic" Johnson, and John Stockton to name a few.
Each player revolutionized the game with his play, adding a different aspect that opened up possibilities for future NBA players.
6'1" Bob Cousy started off the tradition of great point guards, averaging 18.4 points, 7.5 assists, 5.2 rebounds per game for his career.
6'5" Oscar Robertson, whose career averages of 25.7 points, 9.5 assists, and 7.5 rebounds per game, was the first triple-double threat point guard and opened door to hybrid guard-forwards like Magic Johnson and later, Jason Kidd.
6'9" Earvin 'Magic' Johnson took it a step further, averaging 19.5 points, 11.2 assists, and 7.2 rebounds per game, literally able to play all five positions and doing so, culminating in a start at Center during game 6 of the 1980 NBA finals against the Philadelphia 76ers. Without him paving the way, players like LeBron James would probably not be around.
Later, 6'1" John Stockton brought back the prototypical pass-first PG role, averaging 13.1 points and 10.5 assists during his illustrious career. He was also the first player to surpass Magic Johnson's career assist total of 10,141, and eventually topped off at 15,806 assists, one record that will probably not be broken any time soon.
These legends created the position and they have solidified their claim as some of the greatest PGs ever. Today's NBA has many different types of point guards, some with more of a scoring emphasis, and others with a pass-first mentality.
Fortunately, while there don't seem to be any hybrid point guards in the mold of Magic Johnson, there are many possible future Hall of Famers in this generation's group of PGs, and many of them will be looking to build on their past performances. They range from the young to the very old, and each has a unique style that separates them from the rest. But who should be number 1?
Here's a look at the front runners for the best point guard of the upcoming NBA season.
With all due respect to the other very good point guards in the league, some of these players barely missed the cut. These players could end up having better seasons than the top five, but it will take a lot to go right for them, and a lot to go wrong for everyone else.
Aaron Brooks of the Houston Rockets, for example, had an amazing year as the primary scoring option last season, averaging 19.6 points and 5.3 assists per game. Brooks has proven to be an amazing offensive threat and he can score with the best of them. But with Kevin Martin in the mix, and Yao coming back from injury, Brooks is going to be playing a different role in this upcoming season and will probably split time with backup Kyle Lowry, who is the better defender.
Similarly, after averaging an uncanny 21.3 points and 6.9 assists two years ago, the New Jersey Nets' Devin Harris was brought back down to earth, averaging a 'mere' 16.9 points and 6.6 assists in only 64 games. It remains to be seen whether he bounces back from last year's severe disappointment, individually and as a team, but until he can prove that the 2008-09 season was not a fluke, he cannot be considered an elite PG.
Another younger player, the Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook, manned the point admirably last season, averaging 16.1 points and 8 assists. He is definitely on his way up, but he still has a lot to learn He is on a very young team, and he will probably stake his claim as one of the best point guards in the league someday soon, but for now, he just doesn't have the experience or achievement to match the top five.
Former NBA finals MVP Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs also unfortunately just misses the cut for the top five because of his injury-plagued last season, which was a terrible season overall for the Spurs. He averaged just 16 points and 5.7 assists in 56 games and was a shell of his former self. This upcoming season could see a magnificent comeback from him, but until he proves that he can come back to his best, he cannot be part of the top five.
Another point guard who will ultimately just fall short of the top five is the Boston Celtics' 24-year-old phenom Rajon Rondo, who despite not scoring an absurd amount, is very assured at the point and produced nearly a double-double last year, with averages of 13.7 points, 9.8 assists, 4.4 rebounds, and 2.3 steals per game. He is a typical pass-first PG who is also a tenacious defender. If there is one criticism he draws regularly, it is his inconsistent jump shot. Then again, Jason Kidd has had an inconsistent jumper his whole career and will probably be inducted into the Hall of Fame one day.
On the other hand, the ever-reliable Chauncey Billups of the Denver Nuggets, who averaged 19.6 points and 5.6 assists per game, is probably losing one of his teammates, who just so happens to be one of the best players in the league. If Carmelo Anthony leaves, then Billups can expect defenses to key in on him as the primary scoring threat. Furthermore, his age will be factor next year.
All these players can stake legitimate claims to being among the best point guards in the NBA. But each player has many questions that need answering and unfortunately just miss the cut for the best PGs in the NBA.
2009-10 NBA Season Statistics:
17.5 ppg, 46.2 FG%, 43.7 3P%, 88.5 FT%, 5.9 apg, 4.5 rpg.
6'3" Stephen Curry took the NBA by storm his rookie year, averaging 17.5 points on a very efficient 46.2 field goal percentage.
Along the way, the 22-year-old talented son of former-NBA-sharpshooter Del Curry established himself as the face of the Warriors franchise. He was so good last year that he started 77 games out of 80, bumping legitimate star scorer Monta Ellis from his preferred PG position to the SG position.
Don Nelson must have known that Curry had all the tools to excel in his quick-fire, run-and-gun offense and drafted him for his great offensive potential. A lightning quick first-step combined with a quick release and unlimited creativity and control, Curry was an efficient scorer and was a great court general for the Warriors.
Next year, Curry can build on a superb rookie season with an even more impressive sophomore year, with a better supporting cast and two legitimate stars in Ellis and David Lee, who can both draw double teams and defenses away to give Curry more freedom to shoot and direct the offense.
He is poised for a great year, and after his impressive rookie season, he can only get better with experience and a better team.
2009-10 NBA Season Statistics:
16.5 ppg, 50.7 FG%, 42.6 3P%, 93.8 FT%, 11.0 apg, 3.3 rpg.
At age 36, 6'3" Steve Nash is doing things better than most of his opposition. In fact, his 11 assists per game was tops in the league, besting even young upstarts Chris Paul and Deron Williams.
He has amazingly maintained some of his freshness and vigor despite his age. He is still quick, decisive, and has impeccable vision. Like the legendary John Stockton before him, Nash proved that he can play at a high level even at such an advanced stage in his career.
He may have lost a step, but it isn't that apparent to the naked eye, and even though Amar'e Stoudamire has left for New York, he still has plenty targets to pass the ball to, and as long as he puts it in the perfect places, just like he always has.
An efficient scorer and prolific passer, he is, and always has been, the leader of his team, and now more than ever, the Suns need him. Nash will keep proving his doubters wrong by passing and scoring with youthful abandon and experienced decision-making.
As a two-time NBA MVP, he will very likely one day make the basketball Hall of Fame. Even though he no longer plays at that unbelievably efficient level, he will still be a force to be reckoned with.
2009-10 NBA Season Statistics:
20.8 ppg, 48.9 FG%, 26.7 3P%, 76.6 FT%, 6.0 apg, 3.8 rpg.
Another young promising point guard, 6'3" Derrick Rose improved his average of 16.8 points during the 2008-09 season up to 20.8 points last season, scoring at an efficient 48.9 field goal percentage.
Trained under former University of Memphis head coach John Calipari, and the de facto predecessor of Calipari's other one-and-done college sensations Tyreke Evans and John Wall, Derrick Rose was ready to lead his time from the day he was drafted.
Still only 21-years-old, the lightning quick point guard has the strength, skill, and athleticism to be one of the best players in the NBA. He can still benefit from more experience at the position and in the NBA, but he has unlimited potential.
With the additions of ex-Utah Jazz players Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer, and new head coach Tom Thibodeau, the Chicago Bulls and Rose are poised for a monster year this upcoming season, and Rose will be key to any success the team enjoys.
When he was first drafted, there were questions about choosing him over Michael Beasley, who experts believed had a higher potential. But he has shown over two years that his contribution individually and to his team has proven that he was worth it.
He is destined for stardom and is poised to one day become a bona fide superstar and maybe even surpass the two men in front him on this list.
2009-10 NBA Season Statistics:
18.7 ppg, 46.9 FG%, 37.1 3P%, 80.1 FT%, 10.5 apg, 4.0 rpg.
One of the best point guards in the league for the past few years, along with Carlos Boozer, 6'3" Deron Williams has guided the post-Stockton-and-Malone Utah Jazz team to 4 consecutive playoff appearances, registering 51, 54, 48, and 53 wins respectively, with the highlight being a Western Conference Finals appearance against San Antonio four years ago.
Strong, composed, and with great decision making, Williams couldn't have replaced the production and presence of legendary PG John Stockton. But he made the transition a lot easier, bringing confidence and self-assurance to this key position in the Jazz offense.
For the last four years, 26-year-old Williams has averaged a near double-double, with the exception of his averages of 16.2 points and 9.3 assists per game during the 2006-07 season. He had deserved a place among the league's best for years, yet 2010 was the first year that Williams made the All-Star team, finally legitimizing his claim with the title of NBA All-Star.
He will have some adjusting to do this year, as he replaces his one-two punch partner Boozer with former Minnesota Timberwolves big man Al Jefferson. Whether they acclimatize to each other as well as Williams' previous dynamic duo partnership is yet to be seen.
But what is certain is that the Jazz will need their court general to lead the team again this year if they are to make the playoffs for a fifth year in a row. He has shown that he can perform under a lot of pressure before, and there is no doubt that he can emulate those performances again this upcoming season.
2009-10 NBA Season Statistics:
18.7 ppg, 49.3 FG%, 40.9 3P%, 84.7 FT%, 10.7 apg, 4.2 rpg.
A little short on height but lacking nothing in terms of skill and talent, 6'0" Chris Paul is undoubtedly the best point guard playing in the NBA today. Even at that height, Paul manages to do it all, averaging an impressive 18.7 points on 49.3 field goal and 84.7 free throw percentage, 10.7 assists, 4.2 rebounds, and 2.4 steals per game in an injury-ravaged season.
He has seen a changing of the guard at New Orleans, with coach Byron Scott and caretaker coach Jeff Bowers replaced by new head coach Monty Williams, and Darren Collison, James Posey, Julian Wright and Tyson Chandler being replaced with Marco Belinelli, Trevor Ariza, and Emeka Okafor.
Only time will tell if these new teammates will eventually allow Paul to shine even brighter and push New Orleans back and further in the playoffs.
But with many of those former coaches and players close friends and mentors to Paul, it seemed that Paul had become disenchanted by the Hornets (mis)management and wanted out. A few weeks into the offseason, with rumors swirling about his unhappiness, he told everyone that he never wanted to get traded by the Hornets.
Say what you will about his loyalty to his team and his desire to move, but it is hard to question his heart and skill. He works and plays hard no matter who is there with him, how he is feeling or what the team record is.
There are a precious few players who can consider themselves at the same elite level as Paul, and at only 25 and with two All-NBA team selections under his belt, his best years are still ahead of him.
With a disappointing year with the Hornets now behind him, expect to see another routinely amazing year from Paul for the 2010-11 season, and hopefully a much improved one from New Orleans.