As the NBA moves away from the high-scoring, fast-paced action of the 1980s and '90s and into an era of defense and halfcourt offense, solid point guard play is becoming that much more important and appreciated.
In 2005, Steve Nash, with the run n' gun Phoenix Suns, became the first true point guard to win an MVP award since Magic Johnson in 1990, and Chauncey Billups and Tony Parker have both won Finals MVP awards in the past five years. An infusion of youth at the position, led by Deron Williams and Chris Paul, have made point guards one of the deepest classes in the league.
Before I begin ranking my top 10, I'd like to offer my apologies to TJ Ford, Andre Miller, Mike Bibby, and Rajon Rondo. In my opinion, Bibby's best days are behind him, and Rondo's are yet to come.
I realize Rondo won a championship ring last year with the Celtics and has shown the ability to dominate games, but he is not a big enough factor in their success or a good enough all-around player to make this list yet. Also, as a clarification note, I'd like to say that I look at Allen Iverson as a shooting guard, not a point guard. Other than that, here it is: the top 10 point guards in the NBA.
10. Devin Harris (NJN)
Maybe I'm biased as a Nets fan, but this guy clearly belongs here and might only rise on this list. This year, Harris is scoring 22.5 points per game, averaging 6.3 assists, and is reaching the free throw line an astounding 11.3 times a game.
His biggest weakness is his jump shot (he's shooting 45 percent from the field), but Harris is so fast with and without the ball that he can score with only layups in traffic and free throws. Harris is the forgotten guy in the discussion of the best young point guards in the league, and might be the best scorer out of the group.
9. Derrick Rose (CHI)
I am completely sold on this guy. He has a chance to become one of the best players in the NBA, never-mind point guards. Rose is remarkably explosive with the ball, getting into the paint almost effortlessly. His jump shot is a concern, but he's shown an ability to score from mid-range as well as at the basket.
Rose has posted 18.4 PPG, dishing out 5.8 dimes, and shooting 85 percent on free throws. Poohdini (no really, that's his nickname) is just scratching at the surface, and was well the worth the Bulls' No. 1 pick in the draft.
8. Jason Kidd (DAL)
This is a more of a lifetime achievement recognition than anything else, as Kidd is not playing like a top ten point guard this year. His shooting is still a huge question mark, and as his legs have slowed down his defense and play on the fast-break has suffered.
All of that being said, Kidd is still one of the best rebounding guards in the league and a constant triple double threat. It will be very interesting to see if he can pick up his play and lead Dallas to the playoffs this year, or if he really is on his last legs.
7. Jose Calderon (TOR)
Probably the most unheralded player on this list, Calderon is one of the most efficient players in the NBA. The Spaniard is a career 50% shooter, and is 40-40 from the free throw line for an unbeatable 100 percent.
In addition, Calderon has an assist to turnover ratio of 4.73:1, easily the best in the league. Although he's not a big scorer, averaging only 13.2 PPG, he makes the Raptors better every-time he steps on the court with his ability to hit open jump shots and find open teammates.
6. Baron Davis (LAC)
Davis has had his struggles this year both on the court and off it with coach Mike Dunleavy, but is one of the most athletically gifted guards in the league. Baron is scoring 17.1 PPG and dishing out 8.1 assists, and his ability to overpower smaller guards (he is 6-3, 215 pounds) might be unmatched.
Davis needs to start shooting fewer threes, as he's only hitting 29 percent of them, but his ability to score, play physical defense, and his track record place him at No. 6 on this list.
5. Chauncey Billups (DEN)
Billups is another very under-appreciated point guard in the league, despite leading the Pistons to a championship in 2004. He's been showing just how valuable he is since his trade to Denver, who are 9-3 since his acquisition. Chauncey is physical, a great shooter, and the consummate professional. Billups was exactly what Denver needed, and they're a much better team with him.
4. Deron Williams (UTH)
I know that a lot of people want to bring up the Williams/Paul debate, but I'm not totally sold on Deron yet. Obviously this season is not a good barometer, as he has been hurt and not playing at his top level, but he has yet to show that he even is in the same class as Paul or Nash.
He is a very good passer, a career 47 percent shooter, and is great at using his strength to dominate on both sides of the ball. He has a tendency to commit too many turnovers, however, and has yet to show he is a true star. A very, very good player, but not one of the top three point guards yet in the NBA.
3. Tony Parker (SAS)
Probably the quickest player in the NBA, the 2007 Finals MVP has been silencing critics for years. His jump shot is worlds better than it was at the beginning of his career, and his three rings are proof that he can lead his team to success.
He has always been more of a scoring guard than a distributor, as evidenced by his 55 point outburst earlier this year, but Parker has still averaged over 5.0 assists every year since 2002. Parker is an explosive player, and how can being Mr. Eva Longoria not give him a little extra credibility on this list. He's not a superstar, but Parker is probably the most under appreciated point guard in the NBA.
2. Steve Nash (PHO)
There's a good reason that Nash is a two-time NBA MVP, and it's that he's one of the most dynamic offensive players in the league.
Nash was a good player in Dallas, but he has become a star in the Suns' high octane offense, where his ability to shoot the basketball and his create off the dribble has come through. The Canadian is probably the best pure passer on the planet, and continues to dribble circles around the league despite being 34 years old.
The main reason that I ranked him behind Paul is he is a serious liability on defense, where he is not physical or aggressive enough to match up with many of the other players on this list. Speaking of which...
1. Chris Paul (NOH)
Chris Paul, also known as CP3, might just be the most complete player in the NBA. At 23, he is a perfect fit in the New Orleans offense, where he penetrates the defense with ease before either finishing at the rim, lobbing to Tyson Chandler, or kicking it out to one his three point specialists.
Paul has almost no weaknesses on the basketball court: he can dribble, guard the ball, play the passing lanes, shoot from the outside, finish at the rim, and always finds the open man. Not many players in the NBA could go for 20.3 PPG, 11.6 APG, and average 2.8 steals, but CP3 seems to do it with ease.
He has already established himself as the best point guard in the league, outplaying Nash in almost all of their head-to-head match-ups, and, as scary as it is, he's only going to get better.
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