NBA: Ranking the Back-Up Point Guards and Their Chances at Starting
This year has truly been the year of the point guard.
We have seen Deron Williams sign a huge contract with the New Jersey Nets, Russell Westbrook mature into a legitimate all-star on a title contender and Chris Paul almost single-handedly beat a far superior L.A. Lakers team in the first round of the playoffs.
The league is becoming more point guard dominated. Without a great point guard, your team can only go so far—with the Miami Heat being the only exception, but LeBron and Dwayne Wade are more or less point guards anyway.
With that being said, there are definitely some back-up point guards in the league that are ready to take their shot at running a team. Some are veterans, some are young, but they all want a chance for something more.
With the draft and free agency coming up, here's a look at who has the best shot of becoming a starting point guard in the near future.
30. Mustafa Shakur (Washington Wizards)
At the bottom of the list is Mustafa Shakur. Is he the worst point guard on this list?
Maybe not, but he does have the least amount of experience. He has played in only 16 games in the NBA and he's 26 years old.
Last year he was a D-League All-Star, though, and his career D-League averages are really good: 18.4 PPG, 6.3 APG, 4.6 RPG, 2.1 SPG, all while shooting 49% from the field and 36% from deep.
So is this guy just getting overlooked? Maybe he'll find a nice home in Washington playing behind John Wall. Maybe he'll get noticed.
29. Pooh Jeter (Sacramento Kings)
Like Shakur, this was Eugene "Pooh" Jeter's first year of getting any time in the league. He only ranks ahead of Shakur on this list because he played in 62 games as opposed to Shakur's 16.
Jeter, who is already 27, has been a part of one D-League team and four Euro teams. This year, while backing up Beno Udrih and Tyreke Evans, Jeter posted 4.1 PPG and 2.6 APG.
His underwhelming stats and inexperience in the league are a fair reason that many believe the Kings may be taking Kemba Walker with their first pick in the 2011 draft.
28. Acie Law (Golden State Warriors)
I was a huge fan of Acie Law while he was at Texas A&M and I thought he would have a bright future in the NBA if he went to the right team.
Well, he has already played on five different teams in four years in the league, arguably having his best season as a rookie for the Hawks: 4.2 PPG, 2.0 APG.
I still think Law has some value in the NBA, but he's definitely not going to see his production value soar in Golden State behind Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry.
27. Steve Blake (LA Lakers)
I'll admit it, when the Lakers more or less replaced Jordan Farmar with Steve Blake, I thought there wouldn't be much of a drop-off. I was wrong.
Blake has underperformed all year (4.0 PPG, 2.2 APG in 20 MPG), but the postseason was even worse: 2.2 PPG, 2.2 APG in just under 17 MPG.
Also, Blake is 31 years old. He is likely stuck in a back-up role for the rest of his career, but after his play this year, I'm not sure if anyone will want to pay him any more than he's already making.
26. Keyon Dooling (Milwaukee Bucks)
While Brandon Jennings was injured, Keyon Dooling got his chance to start 22 games for the Bucks this year.
His numbers actually weren't bad, but his minutes decreased significantly when Jennings came back. Dooling, at 31 years of age, is destined to play the back-up role for the rest of his career.
He's not a bad back up by any means, but lets just say I'm sure the Bucks were more than happy to see Jennings return.
25. Earl Watson (Utah Jazz)
Meet the slightly better version of Keyon Dooling.
Earl Watson will never be a starting point guard in the NBA again. Unless, of course, the starter (currently Devin Harris) gets injured and he has to take on the role for an extended period of time, which actually happened this year.
Don't get me wrong, I really don't think Earl Watson is a terrible player. He's never been offensive-minded—his career best season for points was 10.7 PPG—but he has always been a reliable source of assists.
He knows how to play the point guard position, and that's what makes him a reliable back-up. But this list is for back-ups who are ready to become starters, not aging veterans who can still pass.
24. Carlos Arroyo (Boston Celtics)
I am only ranking Arroyo ahead of the others because of his back-up. Sounds dumb, I know, and it likely is, but hear me out.
Arroyo, after being traded from the Heat—where he started 42 of the 49 games he played in—became an instant back-up to Rajon Rondo in Boston. Arroyo went from playing over 20 MPG to just under 13 MPG. The Celtics didn't need him.
Arroyo's immediate back-up became Avery Bradley, who has been underused since he was drafted, in my opinion.
I feel like Bradley has the talent to become a starting point guard in the league, but he hasn't been given a chance.
So why is Carlos Arroyo ahead of the other point guards? Because I like Avery Bradley.
Yeah, that didn't make much sense to me, either.
23. C.J. Watson (Chicago Bulls)
It's both a blessing and a curse to be a back-up point guard when the starter is someone like current MVP Derrick Rose.
Watson had his best season last year as a Warrior, averaging over 10 PPG, but with the Bulls, Watson isn't relied on as much.
All his numbers dropped significantly, and that could be due to his lack of playing time. He averaged 13.3 MPG this year as opposed to 27.5 MPG last year.
So C.J. can be happy that he has a much better shot at winning a championship with the Bulls, but he shouldn't be happy with his playing time.
Unless he's completely content as being a back-up, I imagine C.J. will try to find a home as a starter somewhere in the NBA before too long.
22. Patrick Mills (Portland Trailblazers)
This is another player that I feel has been underused, but at this point in his career, I wouldn't have played him more than veteran Andre Miller, either.
But in November and December, Mills was asked to play a significant role for the Blazers, and he didn't back down. He averaged fairly good numbers when his MPG were inflated, and that gives me hope for his future.
Since then, Mills' playing time has been up and down, but as he showed in the season finale (23 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals), he can still be counted on when necessary.
Mills was unreal during his days at St. Mary's, and I think he's destined to be a starter somewhere down the road.
21. Shaun Livingston
Coming straight out of high school, Livingston's best season was in 06-07 when he averaged 9.3 PPG and 5.1 APG for the Clippers.
Needless to say, he hasn't lived up to the hype that surrounded his entrance into the league.
I have always been a fan of Livingston, though, and I think that he's still a valuable player—he's still only 25. He was a good back-up to D.J. Augustin this year in Charlotte, even though his stats weren't overwhelming: 6.6 PPG, 2.2 APG.
I feel like Livingston could be a solid starter in the league if given the opportunity. He's a good scorer and distributor, and let's not forget he is 6'7". He's a tough matchup for any point guard.
20. A.J. Price (Indiana Pacers)
I technically could have put both Price and T.J. Ford in this post, as they both split time at the back-up position, but I feel like Price has the more promising career.
Price averaged over 8 PPG in 16 MPG this postseason, and has looked like a more than solid back-up in his first two years in the league.
Ford, who is currently making $8.5 million, will be a free agent this off-season. If the Pacers are smart—and I'm sure they are—they will likely waive Ford so they can re-sign Price next season, who is only making $884 thousand.
Price could opt out of his contract next season and test the free-agency waters, though. He may get a few bites.
19. Jonny Flynn (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Coming off of major hip surgery, Flynn was delegated to being a back-up to Luke Ridnour after starting every game of his rookie campaign.
Flynn showed a lot of promise during his rookie season, averaging 13.5 PPG and 4.4 APG, but he just didn't look the same after returning from surgery.
In 53 games this season, Flynn averaged 5.3 PPG and 3.4 PPG. He looked like a different player. As a smaller point guard, Flynn really relies on his speed and quickness, and the hip surgery may have taken most of that away.
That's a hard injury to come back from, though. It's possible that the rest he'll receive this off-season will help him immensely. Then again, it's possible that it won't.
Flynn is going to be a gamble for the rest of his career, I'm afraid.
18. Mario Chalmers (Miami Heat)
Like Flynn, Chalmers had a promising rookie campaign. Unfortunately, it has been his best season during his stint in the league.
Chalmers started all 82 games for Miami during his rookie season. He saw his numbers take a hit when the Heat became a "point guard by committee" in the 2009-2010 season with Chalmers, Arroyo, and Rafer Alston.
His numbers took a slight hit again this year. After playing back-up to Arroyo for the first half of the season, he got a chance to take over the starting role once Arroyo was shipped off to Boston. Unfortunately for Chalmers, the acquisition of Mike Bibby put him back on the bench.
It hasn't been a stellar career for Chalmers so far. I think he's under-performed even when given the chance to start and play quality minutes. He is a better player than he's shown.
Maybe it's not his fault, though. He should have been starting over the lifeless corpse known as Mike Bibby.
17. Greivis Vasquez (Memphis Grizzlies)
Being a Thunder fan, I guess I wasn't supposed to like Vasquez too much.
But man, when he hit that off-balance 3-pointer the other night to tie the game—which was in the 2nd overtime—I couldn't help but silently cheer.
I have always liked Vasquez, and even though his rookie numbers aren't impressive at all, I think he's destined to be a starter in this League. He plays with so much emotion and energy, it's hard not to root for him.
He's a smart player, too. His awesome career at Maryland definitely wasn't a fluke, and it's only time before Vasquez gets his chance to shine in the NBA.
16. Jarrett Jack (New Orleans Hornets)
Jack is a quality player who isn't a stranger to a team's starting five.
Jack has started in Portland, Indiana, and Toronto—at his best averaging 13.1 PPG and 4.1 APG—but he is currently the back-up to Chris Paul, who I still think is the best pure point guard in the league.
Jack is signed on through the 2012-2013 season in New Orleans, but there have been rumors of using Jack as trade bait. Personally, I wouldn't do that.
There's a good chance of Paul leaving after next season, and Jack becoming the starter wouldn't be that terrible. Especially if they can get a superstar in a different position to fill the void that Paul leaves.
15. Eric Bledsoe (LA Clippers)
Bledsoe had an up and down rookie season. At times—especially when delegated as a starter—Bledsoe looked really, really good. Other times, he looked lost, confused and really, really bad.
I guess it was a typical rookie season. I tend to believe that Bledsoe's good performances were more indicative of what is to come in his future.
He has gone from being a back-up to Baron Davis to being a back-up to Mo Williams, but if he keeps working on his game through the off-season, there's no way he shouldn't be able to challenge Williams for minutes, if not the starting role.
If not this year, then there's no doubt in my mind that Bledsoe will be starting somewhere in the next few.
14. Jeff Teague (Atlanta Hawks)
Kirk Hinrich's postseason injury couldn't have come at a worse time. For him, that is.
Even though the Hawks lost their series against the Bulls, ending their chances at reaching the conference finals, Jeff Teague's play shouldn't be dismissed. He may have played himself into a starting role. Whether that's for the Hawks or another team is still a question.
Against arguably the best defense in the NBA, the minimally used Teague proved himself to be useful, scoring over 20 points in three of the six games. At times, he carried Atlanta single-handedly.
Before this series, Teague would have been in the 20s of this list. This series was a turning point in his career.
13. Lou Williams (Philadelphia 76ers)
I have been a Lou Williams fan for a few years now, mainly because he provided the boost I needed for my fantasy basketball team last year.
This year was different, though. Jrue Holiday was better, and everybody could see it, including Williams. This made Williams the back-up, and consequently, made him a more offensive-minded player than he was in the past.
He still put up good numbers, but I feel like his need to "get his while he was in" hurt him. His field goal percentage dropped from 47% to 40%.
I also don't think Williams is satisfied with just being a back-up. I'm sure he's going to try to be a starter in the league again before all is said and done. He's only been in the league for five years, so I'm sure he'll make that happen.
12. Gilbert Arenas (Orlando Magic)
Before being traded to the Magic, Arenas was averaging 17.3 PPG and 5.6 APG for the Wizards. Once he started playing for the Magic, though, everything started slipping.
He wasn't the same, explosive Gilbert Arenas that everyone was used to seeing. Maybe it was the Magic's style of offense that didn't suit him, but whatever the case, you could tell that he didn't have the same quick step he always had.
Arenas has been injury prone, and all of his injuries may be catching up to him. Maybe with some rest and rehab during the offseason, Arenas can get back to normal.
I hope so, too. I love watching the old Arenas play. He's still a good back-up to Jameer Nelson in his current state, but there's no way the "old" Arenas would be playing second-fiddle to a player like Nelson.
11. Baron Davis (Cleveland Cavaliers)
At age 32, I may be the only person left on the planet that thinks Davis has something left in the tank.
But can I blame them? Not at all. Let's face it, Davis has always been a "play to the crowd" type player. He's always had overwhelming talent, but he's at his best when the game is on the line and the crowd is into it. He doesn't want to play for a bad team, and he doesn't want to play around bad teammates.
This is why Davis' numbers were pretty good this year. He finally got to play with talent: ROY Blake Griffin, a matured Eric Gordon, a blossoming DeAndre Jordan. He was in point guard heaven.
And then he got traded to the Cavs. Hopefully he's only there for a short time, because I can foresee Davis not caring about anything as long as he's there—as evidenced by the end of this season when he "sat out." I'm sure Byron Scott was just aware of Davis's lack of motivation.
Davis may not have a choice, though. He may be delegated back to a starting role in Cleveland. That was the plan when he showed up, anyway.
Ramon Sessions, the current starter, is a better suited back-up, as shown by his starter vs. back-up statistics.
10. Goran Dragic (Houston Rockets)
After being traded to the Houston Rockets, Dragic's chances of becoming a starting point guard in the league became more unlikely, at least in the near future.
Kyle Lowry, Houston's current starter, had a surprisingly amazing year thanks to the early injury to Aaron Brooks.
With Nash's name always up in trade rumors, Dragic would have had a better shot taking over the reigns of the Suns, rather than the Rockets.
That isn't to say that Dragic won't have a chance to battle Lowry for a starting position, though. Dragic has been molded into the exact same player as Nash, only more athletic. He will be a starting point guard in the league soon, just maybe not in Houston.
9. Jordan Farmar (New Jersey Nets)
Jordan Farmar is what you want in a back-up point guard. He can pass, he can score and he's a team player.
Farmar turned in his best year this year, averaging 9.6 PPG and 5.0 APG. He only started 18 of the 73 games he played in this year, so those are really impressive stats for a back-up point guard.
Upon Deron Williams' arrival, Farmar stepped up his game. He totaled seven or more assists in 12 of the final 19 games.
The signing of Williams more or less diminished any possibilities of Farmar taking over the starting spot in New Jersey, but a team needing a point guard should definitely look his way.
Farmar has all the tools to be a starting point guard in the league, and I'm sure this former McDonald's All-American has higher hopes than being a back-up.
8. Toney Douglas (New York Knicks)
Douglas has definitely proved that he is ready to be the point guard in New York.
With Chauncey Billups out because of injury, Douglas turned in his best outings of the season. In only his second year in the NBA, Douglas looked ready to lead a team.
The aging Chauncey Billups is the only problem standing in Douglas' way. At age 34, Billups may be close to retirement, especially after the injuries he suffered late in the season.
While I know "Mr. Big Shot" is a tremendous player, I think Douglas needs to be implemented in the starting lineup this upcoming year. He has all the upside you'd want in a point guard, and he could definitely be a big part of the Knicks' future.
7. Aaron Brooks (Phoenix Suns)
Only one year removed from his best season (19.6 PPG, 5.3 APG), Brooks' numbers instantly dropped after an injury plagued season: 10.7 PPG, 3.9 APG.
With Lowry playing out of his mind, Houston decided to part ways with Brooks, sending him off to Phoenix.
Brooks didn't look the same as the player we all saw a year ago, and that was likely due to the injuries. If he gets back to the level he was playing at before, he becomes an immediate replacement for Steve Nash.
I know a lot of Suns fans hated this deal. Losing Dragic was like losing the second coming of Nash, but believe me, Brooks is a good player, and he may be a better replacement for Nash in the long run.
6. Eric Maynor (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Eric Maynor is the perfect compliment to Russell Westbrook.
While Westbrook is more of a hybrid point-guard who relies on his athleticism to get into the lane and create, Maynor is more of a classic-style point-guard who relies on his dribbling and on-court I.Q. to find open teammates and create.
The beauty of this, of course, is having two different looks for your team's offense. When Westbrook is in, the Thunder play more up-tempo. When Maynor is in, the Thunder's half-court offense gets increasingly better.
Maynor isn't a stat guy (4.2 PPG and 2.9 APG, playing between 10-15 MPG), but his ability to run an offense can't be overlooked. Also, he proved in the Memphis series that he could be counted on offensively if needed.
The only knock on Maynor is his defense, but he has been getting increasingly better all season.
He may be the perfect back-up for the Thunder now, but many teams could use a guy like Maynor, and he could be getting some serious calls when his contract is up.
5. Jerryd Bayless (Toronto Raptors)
In his two years in the league, Bayless has proven himself to be a legitimate back-up.
But being a back-up shouldn't be enough for a lottery pick, and Bayless proved himself worthy of starter status with his play at the end of the season.
With Jose Calderon out, Bayless started racking up quality performances. In his last eight games, Bayless averaged 22.5 PPG, 5.6 APG and 3 RPG.
His inflated scoring totals could have been due to the frequent absence of Andrea Bargnani, Toronto's leading scorer.
Regardless, Bayless has proven himself capable of a starting position, and should challenge the injury-prone Calderon this off-season.
4. Jose Juan Barea (Dallas Mavericks)
By now, I'm sure everyone has seen and remembers Andrew Bynum's flagrant foul on Barea in Game 4 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals.
We all know it was cowardly, but we all chalked it up to be an act of anger due to the Lakers being swept. Maybe we aren't giving Barea enough credit in this situation. Maybe it was an intentional shot on Barea because he had been carving up the Lakers defense throughout the series.
In that series, Barea averaged 11.5 PPG and 5.5 APG, including a 22 point, eight assist effort in Game 1.
I haven't always been a huge fan of Barea. I always thought he was a liability on both ends of the court. He has proven me wrong, though.
Not only has he polished his offensive game, but on defense he is more or less a version of Scrappy Doo. He is a great energy guy, and a great back-up point guard to have. He may be the most valuable back-up point guard to a team.
He would be higher on my list, but because this list is for back-ups with the potential to be a starter in the future, I feel like the three guys that are ahead of him hold a bit of an edge.
3. George Hill (San Antonio Spurs)
I have never been a fan of the San Antonio Spurs, but I have to hand it to their organization.
They are always contenders and they always find guys in the draft who are under the radar, but can always contribute. They're the New England Patriots of the NBA.
Hill may be their Tom Brady. Okay, that might be a stretch. Hill did get drafted in the first round, granted, it was the 26th pick, but it was still the first round.
Nevertheless, Hill has all the components to be a starting point guard in the league for a long time. He actually started 43 games for the Spurs a year ago, but this year he was limited to five starts. His numbers from both years, though, remained basically the same.
This is a sign that Hill is improving. If he can average the same numbers (11.6 PPG, 2.6 APG, 2.5 RPG) from the bench as he did in the starting line-up, then that means he's destined to put up bigger and better numbers once he starts getting more minutes.
Although I still believe Tony Parker has more than a few good years left—he's only 28—Hill should be ready to challenge somebody for a starting role.
2. Rodney Stuckey (Detroit Pistons)
This may be a cheap move on my part, because Stuckey did start 54 of the 70 games he played in this season.
However, at the end of the season, due to issues with Pistons' head coach John Kuester, Stuckey was a back-up, and at times, he didn't play at all.
It's too bad, because Stuckey is a very talented player. Even with all the on and off-court problems, Stuckey had his best year, averaging 15.5 PPG, 5.2 APG and 3.1 RPG.
Stuckey needs to get out of Detroit, though, if he ever wants to be a factor again. There are too many issues with the Pistons.
Hopefully somebody does pick up Stuckey, and hopefully his problems will stay in Detroit, because he really is destined to be a great starting point guard.
1. Raymond Felton (Denver Nuggets)
Felton was putting up all-star numbers as the starter for the Knicks (17.1 PPG, 9.0 APG, 3.6 RPG, 1.8 SPG). This was through 54 games of the season.
Upon arrival in Denver, Felton saw his numbers drop as well as his minutes, as George Karl delegated him to the bench to be Ty Lawson's back-up.
Although Lawson and Felton played simultaneously quite a bit, it's clear that the favorite for point guard of the future in Denver is Lawson.
This puts Felton in a difficult situation. He was having his best year as a pro in New York, only to be moved to a back-up role.
A team other than Denver will surely pick Felton's contract up and designate him as their starter.
Until then, Felton is the NBA's best back-up.