I decided to write this article partially in response to some of the other articles I've read ranking players in the NBA. I choose to start out with the starting point of the offense and defense, and (usually) the most diminutive guy on the court as well as (sometimes) the most important one.
Of course, none of these lists are definitive, they are all subject to change, and they do not represent the opinion of the NBA, it's teams, players, or affiliates.
With that said, I have a simple basis for ranking these guys. If I were starting up a franchise today and had no idea what other players would be on the team, the point guards I would choose would be as follows (assuming availability).
I am excluding rookies because they are rather unpredictable, though I think Derrick Rose would probably be somewhere in the top ten or fifteen at this point.
1. Chris Paul - 6'0" Age: 23
Paul is a unique player. Aside from being able to move seemingly effortlessly pretty much wherever he wants on the floor, he is the definition of athleticism. At six feet, this fact is verified every time he rises over a bigger man to jam it in his face.
There are also very few guys that are able to see the open man and create space for their teammates by causing havoc and drawing a second defender away from the man he is reading himself to pass to. He also does not do overly complicated and fancy things on defense. He does do them, but not to such an unnecessary degree as to disrupt the flow of the offense.
If you were lucky enough to have drafted him in fantasy basketball last year, you know that he should have been strongly considered for MVP. If you saw him play last year, you should know this, too.
2. Rajon Rondo 6’1” Age: 22
Rondo might not crack some people’s top five when considering the best point guards in the league, but this reflects my stated purpose of this article: to identify the best point guard to build around.
Rondo has proven his many doubters wrong this past season with a championship ring. Many basketball commentators assumed he would be unable to shoulder the load of playing with three all-time greats, but he pulled it off magnificently.
This underscores one of the most important roles a point guard can fulfill: leading a team in harmonious coexistence.
Rondo not only stayed cool under pressure and maintained a level of mental intensity usually attained only by veterans, he was also able to perform many of the physical point guard duties that were his biggest question mark going into last season.
If he can maintain his cat-like reflexes on defense, nice finishing around the basket, smart decision-making on offense, Bob Cousy cradle fakes, three point consistency remains his main obstacle in becoming a truly elite nba player.
3. Deron Williams 6’3” Age: 24
Williams is a superb talent. Each year he adds a little something to his game, and he has apparently established himself as a team leader in Utah.
His three point shooting is better than Rondo’s and similar to that of Paul. He can also finish a bit harder than either of the two with a few inches aiding him in that respect.
However, he seems a bit more inclined to score than to set up his teammates. If this is a product of having fewer options to pass to, perhaps he deserves to be in the number two spot.
However, the Jazz team of last year was one of the most well-rounded in the league, so he should have had people to pass to.
Of course, he did pass the ball to the tune of an excellent 10 apg, but he perhaps could have had more and in doing so, helped a team that I thought was good enough to reach the finals win a bit more often.
This is what Rondo did, which is why I give him a paper-thin edge.
4. Tony Parker 6’2” Age: 26
As much as I’ve disliked Parker’s celebrity wife and seemingly fake humbleness in interviews and such, I’ve got to give credit where it’s due.
He has been the engine behind the Spurs machine for years, but he’s still young since he entered the league at such a young age.
Between his slicing through the lane and finding Tim Duncan exactly where he needs it, Parker has proved invaluable at crucial times for the Spurs.
Though his three point range is a bit shaky, he manages to get past defenders or shoot over them with his floaters and fall aways. His defense is pretty solid, too.
4. Mike Conley 6’1” Age: 20
This spot is hard to justify seeing as I haven’t seen Conley (or the Grizz) play as much as most of the other guys on this list.
However, his numbers are creeping on the come up, and what I have seen of him bodes very well for a solid NBA career.
The fact that he’s only 20 gives him the potential for another fifteen years in the league, which is hard to come by, especially for a player with his experience playing with Greg Oden in Ohio, and already having a year of solid NBA work on his resume.
5. Gilbert Arenas 6’4” Age: 26
This was not an easy pick (none of these really are) because I think Gilbert Arenas has off-court issues.
Despite his offseason offer to take a pay cut to allow for Antawn Jamison to resign with the Wizards, it is his otherwise audacious and flamboyant behavior that grates on me a little bit.
His shot selection has never been particularly judicious, and I always feel like he is one season away from getting called for palming, walking and/or charging on every other offensive possession.
He sometimes appears unwilling to give up the rock when he probably should, and this may have stymied the Wizards in their past few chances at the playoffs. Engaging in ego-driven games of one-on-one does not seem to work very well in the NBA over long stretches of games.
That said, Arenas is a terrific athlete and amazing scorer. He doesn’t seem to have any problems with confidence or physical ability. He is entering his prime, and assuming his body holds up, this season could be his best yet.
The contract cut shows a bit of maturity, and perhaps this is about the time that he eliminates the me-first from his game. If I were picking him up, I would simply have to hope I could get other big time players who would command the ball from Gilbert, rather than just hope for it.
6. Baron Davis 6’3” Age: 29
Baron Davis loses major marks for age. His knees (sadly) have given him trouble. His back and most other parts of his body are also seemingly in continual disrepair.
However, after all the injuries, he goes out and gets NBATV’s second best playoff dunk of all time (against Andrei Kirilenko. In case you haven’t seen it, there are about 400 versions of it on youtube). Seeing this kind of thing harkens me back to the days of true OGs.
Does Davis have another three years as an elite point guard? Four? It is hard to say, but he is definitely one of the best in the league as of right now.
7. Rodney Stuckey 6’5” Age: 22
Stuckey is already known as a player who can drive into the lane and finish with authority. Like Rajon Rondo, his outside shot is his main question mark.
If he can develop into a consistent threat from the three-point line, opposing guards will have to stop defending him so loosely.
He is expected to make major leaps and bounds this year, but if Billups returns to the starting lineup (which appears likely) he’ll be fighting an uphill battle for playing time.
8. Louis Williams 6’2” Age: 21
Williams is so young, it is sort of expected for him to struggle with his shot. He is following an excellent path to development, though, being given major minutes as a rookie on an overachieving team.
His athleticism is ridiculous and with a few more summers in the gym, his defense could really be a strength for whichever team he might play on. This kid is going places. Good ones.
9. Raymond Felton 6’1” Age: 24
Felton is a solid player, though somewhat unspectacular. He is an excellent guy to have distributing the rock.
Can he hit the gym hard enough in the offseason to get into tip top shape? This is a major question for Felton. He has all the tools, but with virtually no improvement in his game between his second and third seasons, you have to wonder if he has reached his ceiling.
I, personally, think he has not.
10. Jose Calderon 6’3” Age: 26
Calderon is a classic jack of all trades, master of none. He can do everything effectively. Defense, like many of these guys, is a concern.
It doesn’t appear as though he has reached his prime/full potential, though. This is a guy that I would be comfortable seeing bring the ball up the court for my team and find the guy most likely to score.
11. Mo Williams 6’1” Age: 25
Williams is a class player. He knows how to handle the rock, he can put the biscuit in the basket, and he can play a bit of defense.
Over the past year, his assists have taken a slight downturn. This should be somewhat expected, though, as the only guy he had to pass to was Michael Redd. I would’ve expected him to up his scoring average a bit, but it stayed about the same.
He should be able to find plenty of assist opportunities with LeBron James.
I think playing with other good players makes good players look better themselves and I suspect this is what will happen with Mo.
12. Chris Duhon 6’1” Age: 26
13. Randy Foye 6’4” Age: 24
He’s going to be good. As he continues to rehab from knee surgery, he can only get better. He’s even starting to make Kevin McHale look good (not easy) by playing at around the same level as the man he was traded for—Brandon Roy.
Looking at guys like Tony Allen and Amare Stoudamire come back from serious knee injurious breeds confidence in the way modern medicine is able to deal with these problems.
A couple more years and maybe he and Shaun Livingston will be breaking down the doors of the top echelon of my list.
14. Leandro Barbosa 6’4” Age 25
Barbosa is a tough guy. He is so fast, I was surprised to find out that he’s 6’4.” Shouldn’t he be able to dunk more?
Oh well, he is another guy that I could have put higher up, but my main gripe is that he plays the game a bit more like a two. We still haven’t seen what it would be like for him to be running the show as a starting point guard.
Yes, he’s done it occasionally but on a run and gun team like the Suns, perhaps a combo kind of guy works better at the point. I don’t see this style of play succeeding in the NBA, so I would like having him as a backup guy who can occasionally play some shooting guard.
He’s shown he can light it up in bunches, though, so it’s hard for me to put him any lower.
15. Chauncey Billups 6’3” Age: 31
Billups has just recently come into his own, so I don’t think that he’s as worn down as some of the guys who have been crashing and banging with the big guys for years and years.
Billups has the same smooth game that has been characteristic of Detroit basketball for several years. If you need someone to run the length of the floor and get a last second bucket, there are few better.
His age is of concern, but I would suspect him to last longer as a top point than, say, Baron Davis owing to his different style of play. Some of the guys below might eventually be better than Chauncey, but for now, the finals MVP is ahead.
16. Jordan Farmar 6’2” Age: 21
Farmar is nice. His outside shot is good, and he shows a lot of confidence for such a young guy.
Even though he has the haircut of a punk, his teammates seem to respect him.
Having Bynum patrolling the paint should help Farmar on defense and offense, perhaps to the point of becoming an all-star.
17. Luke Ridnour 6’1” Age: 27
Luke has been given up on by the Sonics. He can shoot the ball a bit, but he is a nifty playmaker, and has the speed to penetrate the lane.
Not quite a premier point, but if he’s supplied with weapons to distribute the ball to, he should be solid.
18. Daniel Gibson 6’2” Age 22
Boobie is coming along. He has several deficiencies including strength, defense, turnovers and the like. Most of his issues seem to be mental.
Of course he should be taking a backseat to LeBron, as should all of his teammates. Having a guy like Mo Williams around can only help this kid. His shot is pretty nice, and I think it will get better, along with virtually all aspects of his game.
19. Marcus Williams 6’3” Age 22
Marcus Williams is a young guy. He has a lot of upside, including the ability to throw it down. Add to that a decent shot and a solid build, you can expect him to be productive for years to come.
The laptop stealing incident doesn’t bother me as much as the fact that he hasn’t really chiseled out his body in order to better cope with taller or stronger players.
20. Jameer Nelson 6’0” Age 26
Nelson is another solid but unspectacular guy. Having Dwight Howard to lob the ball to makes his job a bit easier, but he can definitely still play.
He is a smart player when it comes to decision-making, but not that smart. Leave him alone at the three point line and he is a very consistent shooter. Not enough speed or height for Nelson to be considered a top-tier guy.
21. Rafer Alston 6’2” Age: 32
Rafer is an old man in point guard years. However, he still maintains the zip in his step that earned him the nickname, "Skip to My Lou."
Instead of sticking with his crazy dribbling and trying to beat his man every time down the floor, Alston found his shot and was able to give the ball up at a reasonably effective rate last season.
His play is likely to start fading, but he should be able to provide another few years of quality play.
23. Kirk Hinrich 6’3” Age: 27
Hinrich is not the guy you want starting as your ball distributor. He is a shoot-first sort of point guard. He is athletically challenged and I heard he hates America.
Just kidding on that last part, but Hinrich has a similar game to Ben “Air” Gordon, but he’s not as good or tall.
So, when the Bulls tell him to play point, he does the best he can, tosses more bricks than a stonemason and occasionally gives the ball to his teammates on the perimeter.
If only the Bulls had pulled the trigger on the Gasol trade, they might be a hell of a lot better and have unloaded the ball hog to Memphis, yay!
24. Steve Nash 6’3 Age: 34
Nash is straight up garbage. The kid’s been running the show in Dallas and Phoenix for years without so much as a shred of criticism. He followed up Cuban’s denial of a new deal with back to back MVP seasons, ensuring his place in the hall of fame.
However, Nash is not one of the all-time greats. He’s good. Perhaps garbage is too strong. The reason it comes to mind is as simple as one word: defense.
Nash has been getting shredded by opposing point guards since he got in the league. A phenomenal offense talent, Nash apparently forgot that there are two ends on a basketball court.
The Kings, then the Suns and now perhaps the Raptors are trying to prove to the basketball world that run and gun can work as a basketball strategy. Maybe in high school. Nash goes out and drops 45 on you, and your guards combine for 55. He hits a running three in traffic, you respond.
He takes it to double overtime, you finally smarten up and send Robert Horry to slam him into the boards. There are so many ways to beat his teams, it is actually funny that he is considered one of the greatest by so many.
Perhaps when his career is over, they will remember that this is a game where the object is scoring the most points, not merely scoring many.
25. Sebastian Telfair 6’0 Age: 23
I was thinking about Beno Udrih and a couple of other guys for this spot, but Telfair is still quite young. His entire game could use help, but that’s the kind of help he’s going to get on a young team like the T-wolves.
Duhon has always had the skills to play in the league. Playing in Chicago seems to be a ticket to inconsistency for many players there for whatever reason. It looks as though the Knicks may have stolen him away as the Bulls grew tired of his demands to be given starter’s minutes.
Now he gets his chance. His handling, three point shooting, and passing have always been solid.
Like many NBA players, he can get a bit out of control in trying to do everything, but if he had been given the chance to make more mistakes as a Bull, perhaps those tendencies would have dissipated by now.
He’s 26, so I don’t think it’s time to give up on him.