Ranking NBA's Top 15 Point Guards This Season

Andy Bailey and Dan FavaleFeatured Columnist IJune 1, 2020

Ranking NBA's Top 15 Point Guards This Season

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    Pop some champagne for the NBA's top point guards this season. The gang's all here.

    Player rankings suddenly feel not-so-yucky anymore. Twenty-two teams are slated to resume play in Disney World at the end of July, and the remaining eight may square off in their own Chicago bubble. With months separating us from the last actual dose of basketball, it makes sense to take stock of the Association's hierarchy to this point.

    Speaking of which, you can find the other installments of this series below:

    Players need to have logged at least 500 minutes thus far to be eligible for inclusion. Availability isn't the end-all, be-all for this chain of command, but in a reflective exercise, it has to matter. Nonexistent to lower reps rule out John Wall and Stephen Curry. Make no mistake, they are top 15 point guards in a vacuum, just not this season.

    Position pecking orders remain wackier than ever as the NBA gravitates toward non-traditional lineups. Some players still operate in exact terms. Others work in more unfixed capacities. Placing the latter under a specific umbrella is often more open for interpretation rather than an entirely objective process.

    Possession data from Cleaning the Glass and Basketball Reference will be used to remove much of the guesswork. Invariably, though, fuzzier instances will demand judgment calls. These verdicts will be rendered after considering defensive matchup data, lineup deployment and consensus perception. (I.E. Luka Doncic is a point guard while LeBron James is a small forward.)

    All the usual criteria apply otherwise. Point guards are being evaluated based on how they've performed in 2019-20 alone, and nothing more. The benefit of the doubt will be given to smaller samples when they're smack-you-in-the-face fantastic, but players with extended absences under their belts will still forfeit ground when up against tight margins and prospective tiebreakers.

    Let's rank.


    *Editor’s Note: It's NBA Top 100 Week here at Bleacher Report. Check back each day as Andy Bailey and Dan Favale rank the top 15 performers at each position from the 2019-20 season, culminating in their top 100 player rankings on Saturday, July 11.

15-11: Dinwiddie, Russell, VanVleet, Bledsoe, Fox

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    15. Spencer Dinwiddie, Brooklyn Nets

    Spencer Dinwiddie's field-goal percentage, three-point percentage and free-throw percentage have seen fairly significant declines this season. Who knew that D'Angelo Russell was such a safety net?

    Still, the Brooklyn Nets muster just 102.5 points per 100 possessions when Dinwiddie is off the floor. For context's sake, the Golden State Warriors' league-worst offense scores 104.9 points per 100 possessions.

    When Dinwiddie is in the game, that number has jumped to 111.8, giving him an offensive rating swing that ranks in the 97th percentile.

    Despite the inefficiency on his own shots, Dinwiddie's presence on the floor makes things easier for everyone else. He has commanded plenty of defensive attention as the No. 1 option for all but the 20 games Kyrie Irving played and is a willing passer when that attention overwhelms. His career-high 6.8 assists lead the team.

                 

    14. D'Angelo Russell, Minnesota Timberwolves

    Stephen Curry and James Harden are the only players in NBA history with seasons in which they've matched or exceeded D'Angelo Russell's 2019-20 averages for assists (7.0) and threes (3.9) per 75 possessions.

    His ability to drag defenders well outside the three-point line opens things up for teammates with both the Warriors and Minnesota Timberwolves. But it still feels like we've yet to see the fully realized Russell.

    Perhaps the pick-and-roll (or, more likely, pick-and-pop) game with he and Karl-Anthony Towns will do the trick. Sure, that same duo is a likely target for opponents on the other end of the floor, but it'll be a nightmare to cover.

    Russell has a sub-50 effective field-goal percentage on shots off the dribble this season, but defenses aren't able to load up on him when Towns is the one setting ball screens. And if the guard has his matchup on an island, he'll do plenty of damage.

             

    13. Fred VanVleet, Toronto Raptors

    Fred VanVleet became a full-time starter this season, and he hasn't disappointed. Beyond the career-high 17.6 points he'saveraging, he shot 38.8 percent from three on 7.0 attempts per game. His 6.6 assists per contest have made him one of the game's top secondary creators as part of the Toronto Raptors' two-point-guard attack.

    But what really sets VanVleet apart from the point guards detailed above is his defense. Despite a listed height of just 6'0", he manages to make life difficult for opposing 1s by seemingly setting up shop right under their dribble. It's almost like the undersized boxer is working way inside the range of his taller opponent.

    When he's on the floor, Toronto allows 105.9 points per 100 possessions, a mark that ranks in the 87th percentile. His in-your-face defense on opposing creators is a big reason why.

              

    12. Eric Bledsoe, Milwaukee Bucks

    Speaking of defense, Eric Bledsoe is one of the league's best among point guards. After making first-team All-Defense in 2019, there is no slippage from him in 2019-20.

    On the season, the Milwaukee Bucks allow an era-defying 95.3 points per 100 possessions when Bledsoe shares the floor with Giannis Antetokounmpo. Their overall defense, which ranks first in the league by a wide margin, allows 102.3 points per 100 possessions.

    Like VanVleet, Bledsoe is undersized (6'1") but unafraid to play in close quarters. With his lateral quickness, he can play a more aggressive brand of defense than most.

    And his offense isn't too shabby, either. In fact, after a few years alongside the MVP-caliber Giannis, Bledsoe might be a bit underrated on that end. This season, he's averaging 25.4 points and 7.4 assists per 75 possessions with a 58.3 true shooting percentage when Giannis is off the floor.

              

    11. De'Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings

    One of the key differences between Bledsoe and De'Aaron Fox is that the former has the luxury of playing over two-thirds of his total minutes alongside an MVP. His burden is significantly lighter than Fox's, a third-year guard tasked with engineering the offense of a team without an All-Star.

    Even with the heavy load and an early-season injury that cost him 17 straight games, though, Fox has maintained his career's upward trajectory. He's averaging 20.4 points and 6.8 assists in just 31.7 minutes per game, and he's scored at an above-average rate in isolation and as a pick-and-roll ball-handler.

    As (or if) Sacramento fills out the roster around Fox with more reliable offensive players, and defenses can afford less focus on the point guard, Fox's ability to attack one-on-one will yield even better overall numbers.

10. Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies

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    Treating Ja Morant as a top-10 point guard and top-30ish player overall is not a rush to coronation. He's earned it.

    Rookies seldom ferry his workload while sustaining above-average efficiency. Walter Davis, Tim Duncan, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal and David Robinson are the only other first-year players who have matched his usage (26.0) and true shooting percentage (56.8).

    Morant's game is essentially a marriage of flash and flourish. His off-the-dribble escapism bends defenses and renders traditional bigs forced to switch or rotate on to him a special kind of helpless. Every dunk attempt is an event—even the missed ones. And though his takeoffs may, on some level, be for the 'gram, they change the way teams must guard him inside the free-throw line.

    Tremendous downhill touch only complicates the pickle in which Morant puts defenses. He complements his explosion with split-second finesse. Could-be rim assaults are also potential scoop shots. He's hitting 51.3 percent of his floaters.

    That Morant partners this touch with on-a-whim vision is unfair. He's more of an equal opportunity scorer and facilitator than a points-first engine. His improvisation on the move belies his experience. He might possibly lead the league in assists thrown after leaving his feet.

    Knowing that Morant has room to improve is scary. Fewer of his passes will go haywire as he gains more reps, and his occasional off-the-dribble three could turn into a moderate- or high-volume staple.

    Left alone, though, Morant already holds his own against the NBA's best offensive players, and his first season is almost beyond comparison to others. Oscar Robertson and Trae Young are the only other rookies to clear 20 points and eight assists per 36 minutes.

9. Kemba Walker, Boston Celtics

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    Sharing the offensive workload with fellow star teammates and a quality supporting cast looks good on Kemba Walker. It would look even better if left knee problems didn't cost him a chunk of the season.

    Sticking him this low could come off as an insult. It isn't. It is more so a nod to the league's depth of star power—especially at point guard. Eight floor generals are in front of him, and with the exception of the top two or three, Walker has an argument to be ahead of everyone else. Welcome to the world of splitting hairs.

    On the surface, Walker is not a material upgrade over Kyrie Irving for the Boston Celtics. He is scoring at a lower and less efficient clip, and their average touch time is about the same. Walker is actually controlling the ball for longer per possession than 2018-19 Irving.

    The bigger, more important difference lies in Walker's usage. He is a better complement than Irving to the rest of Boston's roster, a comfier fit who has paved the way for Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward to do more.

    Fewer of Walker's buckets are coming off assists (36 percent) compared to his predecessor (37.3 percent), but he works in isolation much less. Both may be similar in how long they hold onto the ball, but Walker burns through fewer touches overall. And it is Walker who gives more consistent damns on defense.

    Mind you, ceding touches to his supporting cast and status to Tatum has not dulled Walker's star quality. He is the Celtics' best pick-and-roll initiator, leading the team in crunch-time usage rate and draining 36.4 percent of his pull-up three-pointers, which he launches more often than everyone in the league except for Luka Doncic, James Harden, Damian Lillard and Trae Young.

    Tatum's ascent has rendered him Boston's most valuable player, but Walker still has claim to the team's offensive crown. The Celtics are scoring a team-high 7.6 points more per 100 possessions with him on the court, during which time their perimeter-shooting efficiency skyrockets.

    This steadying star power is nothing new. Spending his entire career in Charlotte may have limited his national exposure, but Walker has been this same bracing force for some time. Five-year regularized-adjusted plus-minus ranks him as the sixth-most valuable offensive player since 2015, according to NBA Shot Charts. His role may have shifted in Boston, but he's still clearly among the NBA's very best.

8. Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks

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    Trae Young's detractors needn't reach deep into the bag to find their rebuke: If he's this good, if he's already a top-25 player, why aren't the Atlanta Hawks better? It's a fair question. And Young's defense alone might provide the answer.

    Catch-all metrics portray him as a certifiable nonfactor at the less glamorous end. He is dead-last in ESPN's defensive real plus-minus and NBA Shot Charts' luck-adjusted defensive regularized adjusted plus-minus. And he ranks third-to-last, ahead of just Bradley Beal and Darius Garland, in NBA Math's defensive points saved.

    Non-defenders can be tricky cornerstones. They complicate attempts to build contenders. The breadth of Young's offense does not excuse his transgressions at the other end. But it comes pretty damn close.

    Young's ultra-deep pull-up threes warp entire defenses. Planning for someone who's willing to fire away just inside the timeline is a migraine-and-a-half. Young exacerbates the defense's dilemma by actually making those shots. He's converting 35.8 percent of his looks from 29 feet and out.

    A lack of size (6'1") has not hindered his capacity to make plays inside the arc. He has perfected the arc and timing of his floaters and ranks in the 92nd percentile of finishing around the rim. His 9.3 assists per game are not the byproduct of how much time he spends on the ball but an accurate reflection of his vision. He beams one-handed dimes on the move before it's even clear he's picked up his dribble, confuses defenders by telegraphing one pass but throwing another and threads the needle against double-teams he's not supposed to see over.

    Atlanta's offense is not elite with Young on the floor (54th percentile), but it's subject to a monster drop-off when he sits—an 11.8-point-per-100-possessions plunge that ranks as the third-largest in the league among every player who has cleared 500 minutes.

    Put a more established supporting cast around Young and the wins and losses should take care of themselves. He's averaging 29.6 points and 9.3 assists with a 59.5 true shooting percentage as the all-everything of an offense light on polished talent. Adding another ball-handler alone would go a long way, granting him an actual chance to work as a spot-up and motion shooter.

    In the meantime, he cannot be too harshly penalized for the constraints under which he plays. He has outperformed the degree of difficulty attached to his role. So few players have ever balanced his volume with this efficiency—10 in league history, to be more exact: Adrian Dantley (four times); James Harden (four times); Michael Jordan (three times); Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (two times); Kevin Durant (two times); Larry Bird, Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Karl Malone and Bob McAdoo.

7. Russell Westbrook, Houston Rockets

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    Slotting Russell Westbrook any higher would demand selective memory.

    Indeed, he turned a corner once the Houston Rockets steered into microball. He's averaging 31.0 points and 5.8 assists with a 57.5 true shooting percentage since Clint Capela left the rotation. Close to 56 percent of his field-goal attempts are coming inside five feet during this time, compared to 46.3 percent beforehand, where he's shooting 63.4 percent, up from 58.8 percent.

    It would not be a stretch to say this is the best version of Westbrook ever. The Oklahoma City Thunder never afforded him so much room to maneuver, not even during the Kevin Durant years.

    His downhill attacks are a different kind of terrifying—and almost impossible to stop—when he's not forced to navigate cramped spaces. He's even upped his accuracy from downtown, to 35.5 percent, while curbing his volume.

    Still, the first part of the season happened. Westbrook was on course for the fourth-worst true shooting percentage of his career prior to Jan. 1 while firing up far too many threes, during which time the Rockets failed to keep their head above water whenever he played without James Harden. Opponents outscored them by 4.3 points per 100 possessions, with a sub-105 offensive rating, through his solo stints.

    Westbrook deserves credit for flipping the script, even before Capela's injury and eventual departure. Since Jan. 1, Houston is pumping in 113.9 points per 100 possessions and posting a plus-3.7 net rating when he runs the show without Harden. But those returns have done yet another 180 since Jan. 29, when Capela last played for the Rockets.

    This level of inconsistency is unsettling. The Rockets are significantly worse off, both now and later, if they cannot count on Westbrook to successfully spearhead units without Harden. His most recent performance is proof he still has the impact of a top-25 player, but his top-15 case is no longer airtight. His average rank across six catch-all-metrics, in fact, suggests he should be lower—closer to No. 40 overall than No. 20.

6. Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors

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    Cue the annual "Kyle Lowry is too damn high!" pitchfork-carriers.

    Every time someone tries their hand at sorting the NBA's best, his name invariably appears in front of a few others who seem to deserve more due. How is he ahead of Russell Westbrook? Or Kemba Walker? It makes no sense.

    In actuality, it makes perfect sense. Lowry's value might even be underrated. He doesn't carry the largest load relative to other point guards or stars at large, but that's part of his charm. He routinely shape-shifts based on the Toronto Raptors' depth chart and lineups.

    Last year, this meant deferring shots and possessions to Kawhi Leonard and the rise of Pascal Siakam. In seasons past, it meant giving DeMar DeRozan the leeway to expand his playmaking portfolio. And this year—well, this year is some of Lowry's best work yet. He has juggled taking on more of the scoring burden without inhibiting Siakam's continued ascent.

    Few point guards afford teams so much wiggle room. Having the ability to splash in off-the-bounce threes, break down defenses, drill standstill jumpers and cover larger backcourt assignments while playing beside another smaller guard is different from actually doing it.

    Lowry doesn't dabble so much as he balances. He is an offensive chameleon. Look no further than his shot distribution. Almost 27 percent of his field-goal attempts come as spot-up threes. Nearly 31 percent, meanwhile, come as pull-up treys. He can both dictate and accommodate the terms of how Toronto plays.

    His case is only bolstered by the energy he expends on defense. He frustrates opponents in search of offensive fouls and has the stubborn strength to tussle with assignments much larger than himself (6'0").

    There is likewise a Damian Lillard-esque air about the way he sets the tone, the author of both culture and identity. The Raptors defend and carry themselves like Kyle Lowry clones. He might not be Toronto's best player—though he was during the DeRozan years—but he is certainly its most important.

    The numbers support as much. He doesn't lead the Raptors in scoring. Or have their highest net rating swing. But his average rank across six catch-all metrics pegs him as the league's 21st most valuable player (and sixth-best point guard), putting him just ahead of Siakam (No. 26).

5. Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets

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    The benefit of the doubt has assured Kyrie Irving a relatively high finish. And yes, he deserves it.

    Right shoulder and right knee issues have limited him to just 20 games. His season was deemed over before the NBA suspended play after undergoing surgery to address the former injury. This awfully small sample size cannot be discounted when assessing his value.

    Plenty of people will argue that Irving should be lower, if not left out altogether. Neither would be a totally unfair claim were we discussing the bigger picture. Murky availability has been a career-long problem, and it is fair to wonder how much worse off his teams actually are without him.

    Though the Brooklyn Nets have played shorthanded all season, they're still 22-22 when he sits, compared to 8-12 when he's in the lineup. And it doesn't help that the Boston Celtics have not just tread water but improved following his departure over the summer.

    Now still isn't the time to relitigate Irving's cornerstone value. Brooklyn is the first team for which he has chosen to play, and sweeping conclusions cannot be drawn until he's integrated into a healthier roster. Between injuries to him, Kevin Durant and Caris LeVert, in addition to the exit of head coach Kenny Atkinson, the Nets have not exactly been a portrait of stability.

    To what extent this falls on Irving isn't readily known. Atkinson's departure coupled with the usual dose of quixotic comments are, at bottom, instruments for debate. But drama and skepticism and health can only nuke Irving's stock if he fails to outstrip the collective concern on the court. That's almost never been his problem.

    This season is no exception. Through his 20 appearances, Irving averaged 27.4 points and 6.4 assists on the second-highest true shooting percentage of his career. He still isn't the guy you trust to reach the rim or get to the foul line in volume, but his off-the-dribble shot-making continues to bend the brain. He has buried 38.6 percent of his pull-up threes and rates in the 91st percentile of scoring efficiency as the pick-and-roll ball-handler.

    Small samples are conducive to noise, but for what it's worth, Irving has also proved to be a more consistent finisher around the basket in Brooklyn. His 65 percent clip at the hoop is a career high.

    Less debatable is the overall impact he has on the Nets offense. They score 6.4 points per 100 possessions more when he's on the floor, a swing that places in the 92nd percentile and is right in line with his on-off splits through five of the past six seasons. Brooklyn nearly gives everything back on defense when Irving plays, but his offensive credentials squarely put him among the NBA's most valuable players, even amid abbreviated availability.

4. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers

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    Ben Simmons' finite offensive range is problematic in that nearly 90 percent of his attempts come inside eight feet. He doesn't even have break-in-case-of-emergency touch beyond there. And yet, his limitations are far from crippling.

    Simmons has the speed and size (6'10") to thrive amid his own shortcomings. He's still in the 93rd percentile of finishing around the rim, and defenses remain inclined to collapse around him when he's going downhill.

    It is within this chaos that Simmons' passing IQ shines. He is a drive-and-kick whiz and has the floor awareness to hit trailing shooters and sling dimes to the corners. No one has assisted on more three-pointers than him, according to PBP Stats.

    None of this is license to entirely ignore the elephant in the room. Simmons' jumper-less repertoire is an issue, and there seems to exist a clear disconnect between him and head coach Brett Brown, who so obviously wants his 23-year-old superstar to branch out.

    The operative word here is "superstar." Simmons is flirting with the pinnacle of his profession while skirting one of its most sought-after skills. That speaks to everything else he does, particularly on defense. He can lock down lifelines for entire games.

    Nobody in the league qualifies as a more versatile defender. Simmons has spent at least 17 percent of his time guarding every position on the floor, save for center, according to Nylon Calculus' Krishna Narsu. And among every player who has logged at least 1,000 minutes, only Terrance Ferguson and Royce O'Neale have racked up more reps against No. 1 options.

    Reconciling Simmons' offensive sins is admittedly tougher this side of his five-year max extension. Superstar pay grades come with increased scrutiny and less patience. That the Philadelphia 76ers offense is slightly more efficient with him off the floor this season cannot be written off. But it can be contextualized.

    Philly took an already unevenly built roster last summer and leaned into the awkwardness. Simmons' drawbacks aren't new. The Sixers knew who he was when they maxed him out and surrounded him with too little shooting and neither enough ball-handling nor spacing to explore what he can do away from the action. That he's come so far despite his team working against him in so many ways is a testament to his value.

3. Chris Paul, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Every so often, a superstar's decline is not just exaggerated but invented. It is talked about as a matter of fact when, in reality, it has yet to begin.

    Such was the plight of Chris Paul entering this season. The Houston Rockets treated him as the less valuable player in their trade for Russell Westbrook, and the Oklahoma City Thunder tried to reroute him upon arrival. Some recurring reservation was precautionary. Paul is an undersized point guard (6'0") who just turned 35 and is owed $85.6 million over the next two years. Time is a friend to neither his ability nor price point.

    Viewed against those concerns, Paul's situation was still overblown. Even when presented with the disclaimer that the Thunder might keep the core intact past the trade deadline, they did not begin the year as a consensus playoff contender. That aloofness is atypical of a team built around a fringe top-10 player.

    Just so we're clear: Paul absolutely remains a fringe top-10 player. His 17.7 points and 6.8 assists per game don't leap off the page, but they come on tough-to-fathom efficiency. He is posting the second-highest true shooting percentage of his career and has been Kevin Durant automatic from mid-range, where he's connecting on 53 percent of his looks, another personal best.

    Paul continues to take great pleasure in cooking bigs off the dribble when they switch on to him, and he is still a defensive bulldog. Even more impressive is the extent to which the Thunder thrive by leaning on him. Their offensive rating improves by 13.7 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, the second-largest such swing among anyone who has logged at least 250 minutes. (Of note: Danilo Gallinari, his teammate, is first.)

    This dependence carries over to crunch time, where Paul leads Oklahoma City in usage rate by a country mile. He's slashing 53.5/36.0/93.8 in the clutch, which is just silly. Among every player with similar usage who has made at least five crunch-time appearances, only Joel Embiid owns a higher true shooting percentage, which is even sillier—and the core reason why the Thunder are 29-13 in clutch contests.

2. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

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    Damian Lillard's superstar stock is aided by the anecdotal perhaps more so than any of his peers.

    This isn't to imply he doesn't have the statistical credentials. He absolutely does. His 28.9 points and 7.8 assists per game are career highs, and they come on a personal-best true shooting percentage (61.9). Larry Bird, James Harden and Michael Jordan are the only other players to hit those benchmarks for an entire season.

    Really think about it, and this is sort of absurd. Superstars in their prime reach new peaks, but the means by which Lillard has gotten there is different. He has improved incrementally almost each and every season, adding new wrinkles to his game at a stage of his career when many are settled in their ways and focused on maintenance rather than expansion.

    Getting swept by the New Orleans Pelicans in the first round of the 2018 playoffs motivated him to improve his decision-making versus double-teams. This year, without a big who can flip up shots and toss passes out of short rolls, he has diversified his own pick-and-roll package. And his finishing around the rim, while still below league average, is more bankable than it has been in most other years.

    All this time later, Lillard remains the NBA's closest approximation to the best version of Stephen Curry. No one is better on super-deep threes at the moment. He leads the Association in attempts from 29-plus feet, where he's shooting a bonkers 41.1 percent. And where others offer a reasonable facsimile, Lillard noticeably separates himself with an actual defensive motor and, most importantly, a certain plug-and-playness.

    Someone like Trae Young doesn't yet have the luxury of a secondary playmaker who invites him to relinquish control, but you could see other megastars, such as Luka Doncic or James Harden, suffering unintended consequences if tasked with deferring too often. Lillard's style, similar to Curry's, is inoculated against that wart.

    And yeah, in the grand scheme of things, his intangibles matter. He's among the players who make you believe the clutch gene exists, even when his shots aren't falling. More than that, he is the master at cultivating and preserving culture.

    For most teams, bringing in both Carmelo Anthony and Hassan Whiteside would've been a notional heat check. For the Portland Trail Blazers, it was business as usual, thanks in largest part to their top-10 superstar and emotional bellwether.

1. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

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    Can someone knocking down under 32 percent of their threes really be one of the NBA's most valuable shooters? It turns out yes.

    Luka Doncic's game is not the least bit inefficient. It is just a different brand of efficiency. His 31.8 percent clip from deep comes on absurd volume—9.8 attempts per 36 minutes—and incomprehensible difficulty. Only James Harden and Damian Lillard take a larger share of their triples after using seven or more dribbles, and he's fourth in points scored off unassisted treys, according to PBP Stats.

    Both the volume and difficulty on Doncic's threes act in service of everyone else. The mere threat of his step-backs and parking-lot range invites defensive attention commanded by, maybe, seven other players. The Dallas Mavericks' league-best offense improves by 4.4 points per 100 possessions when he's on the floor (83rd percentile), not by chance but by the openings his long-distance volume creates and the ridiculous on-the-move passes he flings.

    Awarding Doncic top-five-player status is not an overreaction to his sophomore climb. He has amplified his game to the distress of opposing defenses. His step-back gather is more nonchalant than that of Harden, and he's gotten better at leveraging it into opportunities inside the arc. He's more effective at keeping defenders on his back hip, and he mixes changes in direction with shifts in pace to keep helpers on tilt. (It'd be nice to him mix in more of this variety during crunch-time situations.)

    This variance in attack has coincided with souped-up finishing. Doncic is shooting 73 percent at the rim (94th percentile) and 57.4 percent on all-two pointers. His flip shots are deadly when he's going downhill, and he's pieced together a strong situational post game.

    That he has both honed and expanded his offensive bag while shouldering even more responsibility is patently ridiculous. Dramatic upticks in volume tend to come at the price of efficiency. Doncic's true shooting percentage has actually jumped roughly four points from his rookie season even though his usage rate has spiked by 6.5.

    Combine all that with almost unparalleled vision—he's already one of the league's seven best passers—and he has an ironclad case as one of the NBA's top-five players. And he hasn't even technically entered his prime.

                     

    Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of NBA.com, Basketball Reference or Cleaning the Glass.

    Andy Bailey and Dan Favale cover the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow them on Twitter, @AndrewDBailey and @danfavale, and listen to their podcast, Hardwood Knocks.