Most Elusive Player from Every NBA Team
The NBA these days is rapidly changing in style and in swagger at nearly every position. It used to be that players played the positions like they were always supposed to, using their various strengths to give them different advantages but still playing wherever they were to play in a very traditional way.
Nowadays, however, we have point guards attacking the rim with the athleticism of small forwards, power forwards with the speed and elusiveness to confuse the defense like a point guard and centers who can glide around the floor and dunk like shooting guards.
It has created quite a few interesting caveats and new intricacies in the game, mostly making it so you can be a great player by being a jack of all trades.
One skill that players are taking more and more seriously these days is the ability to elude the defender and stay away from him long enough to get the ball and get an open look. Everyone is doing it.
Thus, I've put together a quick rundown of the most elusive players in the league, picking one out from every team.
Atlanta Hawks: Jeff Teague
The lightning-quick backup point guard for the Hawks is coming on strong in Atlanta, and before long people are going to be wanting blood if he doesn't end up starting.
Jeff Teague has the ability to confound his defender with his dribble and then zoom past him with ease with a quick first step.
On top of that, he is excellent at moving without the ball, able to slip to the side of a defense relatively unnoticed, giving him an open look.
Boston Celtics: Rajon Rondo
Rajon Rondo is an interesting case when it comes to elusiveness.
It is well known that Rondo has no jumper, so his defender will give him a little room out around the three-point line, something I think he uses to his advantage quite well.
Where most point guards have that crucial first step to beat their men off the dribble, Rondo has sometimes two steps, giving him a distinct advantage.
Plus, when he gets past his man, he is the most unpredictable guy in the league. It is almost impossible to figure out if he is taking it the rest of the way to the hole himself or if he is going to dish it out to a shooter or a cutter.
Charlotte Bobcats: D.J. Augustin
While I'm not sure if D.J. Augustin will ever be a starting point guard in this league that is worth much of anything, I do think that with a little work he can be that J.J. Barea-type point guard who comes off the bench for a great team.
Augustin is a very quick player, and when he comes onto the floor he is almost never the main focal point for the defense, so he is able to skip around unnoticed when he wants to.
He is a nice change-of-pace player, and if the Bobcats' rebuilding effort works out, he could be a valuable piece.
Chicago Bulls: Derrick Rose
Derrick Rose is part of the new guard when it comes to point guards in the NBA.
Moving away from the finesse, quick-footed, slight of hand artist, point guards these days are strong, explosive and cunning. Add tricky to those qualities, and you have Derrick Rose.
Rose is able to get the ball and fake his defender out on which direction he is going before he even dribbles it, allowing him to knife into the lane and bury a quick floater.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Ramon Sessions
Ramon Sessions' ability to get away from his defender when he doesn't have the ball is one very impressive thing to watch in person.
It's like he is constantly playing a chess match with his defender, but he is thinking six moves ahead while his defender is thinking five.
When you watch him move around without the ball, you can see him concentrating on where he is about to go, but you don't know where he is about to go until he goes there, gets the ball and sinks a nice little floater.
Dallas Mavericks: J.J. Barea
While he is technically no longer under contract, I still consider J.J. Barea part of the Dallas Mavericks until he gets signed elsewhere.
The biggest asset Barea gave to the Mavericks this season was his ability to change the pace and his ability to get around his man.
When he has the ball, he is a decent dribbler, but his main asset is obviously his speed and quickness, which helps him get away from his man with or without the ball.
Denver Nuggets: Ty Lawson
Ty Lawson's elusiveness is built upon a power game, kind of like LeBron James' elusiveness. He is being elusive, but everyone in the arena notices when it's happening, if that makes sense at all.
When he gets the ball, or even when he doesn't, he is able to create space with his body and then carom around the floor with ease.
Detroit Pistons: Rodney Stuckey
While Rodney Stuckey doesn't seem like that elusive type of point guard that has been popular in the league for decades (he's more of a hybrid between elusive and the new athletic point guard), he is still the most elusive player on the Pistons pretty much by default.
Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon (Barlie Gordonueva for short) don't care enough to try to be elusive, if Rip Hamilton were still elusive he would have found a way to sneak out of Detroit and the rest of the team is either too big and slow or too old.
Golden State Warriors: Stephen Curry
The debate here between Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry ravaged my mind for more time than I would like to admit, but I spent a good chunk of my time watching YouTube videos of the two.
In the end I had to settle on Curry because his game is basically built around his ability to elude his opponents, while Ellis is merely able to do it.
Curry uses it as the focal point of his game; Ellis uses it as another asset of his game.
Houston Rockets: Jonny Flynn
While he has had some troubles in the past season, what with putting up one of the worst statistical seasons by a point guard to actually play a substantial amount of time since, well, ever, he is still an elusive guy.
Flynn is very low to the ground and has very long arms, giving him the ability to dribble as well as any guard in the league, and he is able to use misdirection coupled with his own movement of the ball to get away from his guy.
Indiana Pacers: Darren Collison
Darren Collison has that unique combination of strength and narrowness that makes him especially elusive.
He is a strong young player, but his strength is spread out over a rather skinny frame, making it easy for him to avoid contact from a defender and get into the lane or just away from his defender like nobody else on his team.
Los Angeles Clippers: Blake Griffin
If it is possible for a guy that is nearly seven feet tall and as strong as three oxen to be elusive, then Blake Griffin is just that.
Think about it: 90 percent of the time, why is Griffin is on the SportsCenter Top 10? Usually he has gotten away from a defender, streaked his way to the basket and either gotten a quick pass from whoever had the ball or called for an alley-oop and assaulted the rim.
There are very few players in the league that are as big as him and as quick as him at the same time, which causes a major disadvantage for opposing power forwards.
Los Angeles Lakers: Kobe Bryant
With the roster that the Lakers have set up right now, the only other guy that I really considered to be elusive is Steve Blake, and even he is just marginally elusive. Oh, plus they have Pau Gasol, who is quite elusive on defense (yep, that was a terrible joke about Gasol being soft, and for that I'm very sorry).
However, I didn't pick Kobe by default. He is still a legitimate elusive guy, doing it now with his cunning and experience instead of his quick first step and athleticism like he did back in his prime.
Memphis Grizzlies: O.J. Mayo
O.J. Mayo's ability to slip behind defenders by gliding away from the strong side of the floor to get an easy look at the basket was a great asset to the Grizzlies in the playoffs this year.
They were light on scoring with the absence of Rudy Gay, and everyone working together as a team to fill that gap was the reason they were all able to take down the Spurs in the first round and nearly the Thunder in the second.
Miami Heat: Dwyane Wade
I went back and forth between Wade and LeBron James about a dozen times, but in the end I had to settle on Wade.
Wade's elusiveness is much more well rounded than LeBron's, as he can use misdirection and cunning, along with strength, speed and explosiveness, to get where he wants to go without a defender being able to do anything, whereas LeBron's comes mostly from the strength, speed and elusiveness category.
Milwaukee Bucks: Brandon Jennings
He is skinny, short, quick, agile and can dribble like the best point guards in the game today. I would say he's elusive.
Jennings, when he is at his best, is one of the most elusive players in the league, which is why the Bucks could be a playoff team, pretty much solely dependent on how well Jennings plays this season.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Ricky Rubio
Ricky Rubio hasn't yet joined the Minnesota Timberwolves, but he is on the way once the lockout ends, and that is enough to make him their most elusive player for me, especially now that they traded Johnny Flynn.
Sure, we haven't seen Rubio play in an NBA game yet, but some of the highlights for him are very impressive. Plus Minnesota doesn't have many other elusive players, unless you count Kevin Love as an elusive rebounder.
New Jersey Nets: Deron Williams
When you get down to the Deron Williams-Chris Paul debate, I think what most people see in Williams to make them lean his way is his offensive game and the way he can elude his defender, even when it's obvious that he's getting the ball.
When Williams is elusive, you can see it happen, which seems to be illogical, but really it's just a testament to how good he is at getting away from his man and getting to the spot on the floor that he wants to shoot from.
New Orleans Hornets: Chris Paul
For the record for all of you holdovers from the last slide, I've always and still am in the Chris Paul camp of the Williams-Paul debate until further notice (defense is key, kiddies).
Paul is shorter than Williams, so it is easier for him to go unnoticed, but that rarely happens these days now that he is a superstar, so his elusiveness comes from trickery with the ball and his ability to make his body do what he wants it to do.
New York Knicks: Landry Fields
Landry Fields is so elusive that nobody even noticed him when he was in the 2010 draft until the Knicks took him in the second round.
Fields isn't elusive in the way that point guards are, but rather in the sense that he is very good at getting rid of his defender when he is off the ball, setting up his offense for a nice swing of passes around the perimeter or just a spot-up shot from the outside.
Off the dribble he can be elusive when in the flow of the offense, and he is quickly improving in isolation situations.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Russell Westbrook
Another of the new uber-athlete point guards, Russell Westbrook has the ability to be both elusive like LeBron James, exploding his way around the floor to get away from defenders, or like smaller fellows who can use speed and trickery to get away.
He may be one of the most versatile players in the league in terms of elusiveness, and it's going to continue to make the Thunder a force to be reckoned with in the league.
Orlando Magic: Jameer Nelson
I feel like at this point I should make a joke about Hedo Turkoglu being elusive only when he isn't on the Magic, because in a different uniform he is virtually invisible, but I digress.
Elsewhere on the team, the one bright spot for the future of the Magic not named Dwight Howard (or Brandon Bass, I suppose) is Jameer Nelson, who is able to knife his way around the floor, squeezing through holes to get his defenders stuck and keep them away from him.
Philadelphia 76ers: Jrue Holiday
One of the biggest developments of the Philadelphia 76ers in the past year has been the play of Jrue Holiday, who is quickly turning into a very good young guard.
His ability to get away from his defender paired with Lou Williams' ability to lead a fast break and slash to the rim is starting to look like an interesting duo.
Phoenix Suns: Steve Nash
If there was any question about this one, then you guys might need some kind of examination.
Steve Nash is at the very least the best offensive point guard of this generation of players, and I would make an argument for the best point guard of all time if you just based it on offense, but this is neither the time nor the place for that.
Nash is able to do everything well on offense, and that's not an exaggeration; there is nothing he can't do. How else can you explain the fact that the Suns nearly made the playoffs last season?
Portland Trail Blazers: Raymond Felton
An interesting player in the past few years, Raymond Felton has obviously been a good point guard for the past few years but is now going to be playing for his fourth team since 2009.
His ability to shed defenders and get into the lane was incredibly evident in Mike D'Antoni's fast-paced offensive system, but it was still evident when he went to Denver, so it isn't just a product of the system.
Sacramento Kings: Tyreke Evans
Tyreke Evans may be a basketball black hole, but when he has the ball he can get away from his defender like nobody's business, and even when he doesn't have the ball (which is for about two minutes a game), he is able to do it.
Evans can knife around the floor like nobody's business with the strength to knock into bigger guys and the speed to zip around the smaller guys.
San Antonio Spurs: Manu Ginobili
This one was another no-brainer, wasn't it?
Have you ever seen another player like Manu Ginobili in the past 30 years in any kind of organized basketball?
He is seemingly nonathletic and looks like some average guy wandering around town, but he can split three defenders and shoot the ball while falling down with his left hand while his eyes are closed on a bum ankle while doing his taxes and making a sandwich, and it goes in just like he planned it that way.
Toronto Raptors: Jose Calderon
I completely understand the complaints that nearly every Raptors fan I have ever interacted with has about Jose Calderon. The dude plays less defense than Steve Nash and seemingly doesn't even realize that he's doing anything wrong.
However, Calderon can be a magician at times with the ball and can do things that very few players in the league can do in terms of getting away from his defender with a strange combination of fluid speed, strength and almost no athleticism.
Utah Jazz: Ronnie Price
A young up-and-comer, Ronnie Price ignores everything he lacks in height and makes up for it with intensity and utter disregard for his own well-being, making him very entertaining when he plays.
Standing at just over 6'0" on a good day, Price is easy to miss when he slips around defenders with his incredible agility and then is able to speed his way into the lane from a wing and attack the rim like he's 6'5" instead of a little fellow.
Washington Wizards: John Wall
The way that John Wall plays the game has become increasingly intriguing, especially now that he is playing with a core of such athletic players.
Wall has amazing athleticism, a trend that seems to be continuing in point guards these days, plus he is relatively strong with a long, lanky frame, making it easy for him to squeeze through holes, get around his man and split two defenders with ease.
The Washington Wizards are set to be one of the most exciting teams this season, whenever it is that this season is actually going to start.
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