They are both point guards, drafted in 2005 in consecutive order.
Chris Paul and Deron Williams proved themselves as premier basketball players last year, and have shown no signs of slowing down.
Listed at 6'0" and 175 pounds, Chris Paul was a star in Wake Forest, establishing himself as one of the best floor generals in the history of the team.
He entered the NBA with a terrific resume, and immediately broke into the under-developed New Orleans Hornets' starting lineup. Not only did he improve the team's overall play, but he established himself as a league-wide factor and claimed the Rookie of the Year award.
Deron Williams, on the other hand, is 6'3'' and 205 pounds, and was a standout at Illinois, where he lead his team into the NCAA Championship game.
After a relatively slow start in the NBA, Williams picked up his game in his sophomore year, leading the young Utah Jazz all the way into the Conference Finals. Now in his third season, Deron's play with teammate Carlos Boozer has drawn comparisions with the legendary duo of John Stockton and Karl Malone.
Over the years, stars like Bob Cousy, Magic Johnson, and John Stockton have establised the characteristics of what a good point guard should be. In this new era, Paul and Williams have both shown extraordinary ability in their respective roles for their teams already. Their aptitudes at point guard are undeniable, but who is the better of the two?
Both Paul and Williams are so skilled individually that in the current rankings of assists per game, they are listed in the top five, amongst veteran point guards such as Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, and Jamaal Tinsley.
Such an achievement is not easy for a third-year player in the NBA, as the duo are competing with more than 60 other point guards in the league.
Chris Paul is currently third in assists per game, averaging 10.3 assists, behind the two-time MVP Steve Nash and "Mr. Triple-Double" Jason Kidd. His spectacular court vision might not be as flashy as these two other guards, but it is enough to allow him to find shooters and post players at just about any time, whether it is during a transition or in a drive-and-dish situation.
And it is because of his penetrating abilities that shooters like Morris Peterson and Peja Stojackovic are able to "stay at home," and get into their zone with much more ease.
Williams, despite averaging one less assist than Paul (9.0), is also providing the playmaking skills coach Jerry Sloan needs. His one-two combination with Carlos Boozer is extremely effective, but Williams can also find open teammates when needed.
His 20-assist game this season proved why he is one of the best passers currently in the league.
Sure, the assists category looks impressivefor these two—but what is even more impressive is their ability to score. Chris Paul is currently averaging 21.9 points per contest, and yet finds enough time to add in 10 assists every game. On the other hand, Deron Williams is averaging 19.1 points per contest, and still has the strength to finish tremendous plays.
These two point guards are so close in skill level that even their turnovers and steals per game are very similar, as Paul averages 2.3 and 3.9 respectively, and Williams averages 3.3 and 1.1. The difference in steals per game might be a little too big, but Williams is just as aggressive as Paul when it comes to on-ball and off-ball defense.
So who is better?
It is very hard to tell right now.
Maybe in a few years' time, one will improve more than the other.
But it is guaranteed that the NBA will soon see two very high-level point guards competing with each other.
Perhaps it will be another Magic-Bird battle.
Time will tell.