NBA Power Rankings: Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose and the 10 Best Point Guards
Derrick Rose is the leading scorer among point guards. Rajon Rondo is serving dishes like a waiter in a five star restaurant. Deron Williams and Chris Paul are both debated as the best point guard in the game today. Two-time MVP Steve Nash is still playing. The triple-double machine known as Jason Kidd is still playing at a high level. Russell Westbrook is having a breakout season.
It can be argued that the wealth of talent at the point guard position has never been higher in the NBA than it is right now. How can you determine who is the best? Admittedly, there is a place for the subjective to come in, but there is also a place for the objective.
Without getting into a lot of detail, I did attempt to do that though. The following rankings are based on a formula below which takes into account a number of factors: scoring, rebounding, scoring efficiency and defense.
All stats were obtained from either 82games.com or basketball-reference.com. I normalized the defense scores to account for both individual defense and team defense by using Opponent PER and DRtg, and awarded based on how they perform to an average defensive player. The scores were then normalized to be even with the offensive rankings.
It should be understood in these rankings that all players are on teams, and as such, have a unique set of circumstances surrounding them. In essence, this means that this is as much a ranking of how players perform in that particular set of circumstances as it is how good they are.
People should be careful in making determinations about how a player would perform in a different set of circumstances. I reference the argument over Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. For years the argument was that Brady had the rings and Manning had the numbers. The counter arguments to each was that Brady had the defense and Manning had the receivers.
Then Manning got the defense and won a Super Bowl. Then Brady got the defense and put up arguably the best statistical performance of any quarterback in the history of the game in the Patriots' perfect regular season, and lost the Super Bowl.
Bear that in mind. What would Paul do with Chicago's offense, or whether Rondo would score more with different teams are matters of speculation, not fact. All we know is what we know. The following shows an objective ranking of that.
These are not opinions. I will include some opinions in the slides, but the actual order of the ranking is not an opinion. I accept that there will be those who will ignore the content and only look at the order of the rankings as they click through the slides to see where their favorite player is ranked, only to follow it with a "Player X should be higher."
Understand I didn't make the laws of math work the way they do. Arguments shouldn't be addressed as whether someone should be higher. The math is the math, and I can't change that.
I can post the formula below, and if the formula has a hole, you're welcome to offer an opinion on it. I'm open to adjusting it. In fact this is a modification of a formula I previously used in this article. The modifications are based on the recommendations of some readers.
The 25.55 is for normalizing the defense and offense scores.
The 1.05 is based on league averages for efficiency.
The 107-DRtg is based on the average DRtg of the top 25 point guards.
The 16.7 Drtg is also based on the average of the top 25 point guards.
The average offensive score and the average defensive scores among the top 25 are both 25.55.
There are a few notable absences. I'll list some below and why they aren't on the list, and where they ranked statistically.
11. Raymond Felton just missed the list. There are those who will be bothered by his absence, but the math is the math. This was one of the areas where the inclusion of defense impacted the rankings. His lower Defensive Rating is the main thing that lowered his numbers. Offensively, he was seventh overall. Defensively he was 20th.
There are those who will claim that that's a product of his system. To a degree though it's also why his offensive numbers are higher. Part of what I wanted to do was even out the different types of systems so that players on defensively prioritized teams aren't biased against. Having said that if I were to make this a purely subjective list, he would be on it.
13. John Wall is another player who was affected by the defense. He would have been eighth if I hadn't included that. His defense score ranked 19th.
22. Stephon Curry was impacted the most by the defensive being included. He had the lowest score of every point guard who averaged more than 5 assists per game other than Jose Calderon.
10: Mike Conley
Offensive Score: 23.5 (14)*
Defensive Score 25.53 (12)
Total Score 49.0
*The numbers in the parenthesis indicate the rank among the 26 point guards who average at least five assists.
With surprising subtractions come surprising additions. Mike Conley is not widely regarded as one of the top ten point guards in the NBA. Some were surprised by his contract extension this fall. However, his inclusion here may indicate that he might be worth the 40 million dollar extension.
While he's not at the top of the list either offensively, his placement in the top 15 in both indicate a capable and dependable overall player. He's only in his fourth year, and there is still a lot of room for growth for the 23-year-old player.
9: Russell Westbrook
Offense: 30.46 (6)
Defense: 18.72 (23)
Russell Westbrook's placement at ninth is another surprise. What hurt Westbrook the most is his Opponent PER, the lowest of all the 26 point guards, at a lofty 20.4. This, and the other end of that spectrum are the only two bizarre findings. For the most part it seems reliable, but for Westbrook and Steve Nash (who is believe it or not at the top of the list) the number seems for lack of a better word "whacked."
I hope that people read this before commenting. I personally think that Westbrook is better than his ranking here. Yet for a few reasons, I didn't adjust it.
First, I wanted to remain objective, and objective is objective. I didn't want to change reality.
Second, it's possible that part of the explanation is that Westbrook is overrated defensively. With Nash, it gets balanced out by his very high defensive rating. That can happen when opponents set screens to go at a weak defensive player.
If other teams set up a pick to get a mismatch with Nash, but the person scoring on him isn't the opposing PG, then it could give him an artificially low Opponent PER. The higher defensive rating reflects that.
With Westbrook, though, his defensive rating is also relatively high at 108.
Defense is a tough thing to measure and as a result people often just go by reputation, but reputation isn't always accurate. What we do know is that opposing point guards do well against Westbrook.
Is it his fault? It's hard to measure that objectively.
8: Jameer Nelson
Offense: 22.1 (18)
Defense: 30.9 (6)
Jameer Nelson may be one of the league's most underrated players. In fact, he's so underrated that even when people talk about the underrated players, he doesn't make those lists.
He averages 14 points and seven assists. He's among the better defending point guards in the NBA as well. He may not be the best at anything, but he does everything well. A lot of the offensive burden isn't on him, but he does what's asked at a high level.
Honestly, it's good to see him here.
7: Jason Kidd
Offense: 24.6 (11)
Defense: 34.5 (3)
Jason Kidd has been one of the best all around point guards in the game throughout his career, and arguably is one of the top five pure point guards in the history of the NBA.
Currently, Kidd is second all time in the history of the NBA in assists. He's fourth all time in steals. No guard in the history of the game has more rebounds than him.
I'm not a Mavericks fan, but I wouldn't begrudge him and fellow future Hall of Famer a ring if they were to finally get one together this season.
6: Tony Parker
Offense: 26.7 (9)
Defense: 33.1 (4)
I think for whatever reason, when the whole "rings" discussion comes up people forget that Parker has three and a Finals MVP to boot.
I think that people leave him out of the discussion for best point guard because he's not the best fantasy point guard. He's the perfect point man for the Spurs, serving as an amazing compliment to Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan. He's also one of the best, and most consistent defensive point guards in the NBA.
5: Steve Nash
Offense: 32.5 (4)
Defense: 27.7 (9)
As mentioned previously, his Opponent PER seems misleading, which might skew him up a bit.
If I were to do this subjectively, I'd make two changes: First, I would put Felton at 10 instead of Conley, and second, I would swap the positions of Westbrook and Nash.
Still, objective is objective.
The two-time MVP is still running an offense so effectively, in spite of down tick in the talent level around him, particularly in the middle, and the fact that he's only playing 32 minutes a game.
I also appreciate that he's voiced his desire to stay with the team and help to mentor some of the younger talent. Nash seems to me to be a genuinely good guy, and that's the type of player you want sticking around.
4: Deron Williams
Offense: 33.5 (3)
Defense; 27.7 (8)
Deron Williams and Chris Paul will be forever linked together, as they were taken back to back in the draft, and are frequently regarded as the top two best pure point guards in the NBA today who are also a scoring threat.
They also both play top notch defense.
In the draft Williams was taken third and Paul fourth. In this list Williams is fourth. Wanna take a guess at who is third?
This year may be the year that Williams has eclipsed Paul though in the "conventional wisdom" area of who is the best point guard. The way he's been able to bring in Al Jefferson without a skip has impressed me. D-Will is certainly in the conversation of not only the top five point guards, but top five in the MVP rankings.
3: Chris Paul
Offense: 35.1 (3)
Defense: 32.7 (5)
How good would CP3 be if he hadn't had that injury last year? He still seems to be a bit shy of where he was before he went down, though he's getting back to full speed.
I think Paul suffers from a common disease to hit small market teams known as "Teammate Deficit Disorder."
Rumors are that he might get dealt to anyone and everyone and then some. If he had another great player to play with, the future would be much brighter for the young superstar. It will be interesting to see how his future pans out.
2: Derrick Rose
Offense: 31.2 (5)
Defense: 37.7 (2)
When it comes to raw production, D-Rose produces more than any point guard in the NBA. However, as some readers pointed out, previously I didn't account for missed field goals. Putting those in the equation drops him down to fifth.
It's the addition of defense that has some surprising results, though. Many have pointed to his huge bump in three-point field goal percentage, a good 12 percent climb. However, his defensive improvement is even more remarkable. It's what won him the starting job on the national team.
Give credit to coach Tom Thibodeau, but also give some to him. He put in a lot of hard work on it this summer and it's evidently paying off. It's visible in both his Opponent PER of 12.9 (third best among the 26) and his 103 DRtg (4th best).
He's been doing a better job of getting in front of the opponent, challenging shots and, particularly since New York, fighting through screens. His DRtg over the last 15 games is 96.7, which would be the best of any PG in the league.
He's not only one of the best defending point guards in the NBA right now, he's on his way to becoming the best. With Thibs' almost manic coaching of that end of the court, he can only get better.
I would also point out that while Rose might not be the top of the list, I believe he is the top candidate among all point guards as MVP. No team relies on their point guard more for their offense than the Bulls do Rose.
1: Rajon Rond
Offense: 36.8 (1)
Defense: 43.8 (1)
Look at his rank both offensively and defensively and that pretty much says enough. Rajon Rondo is running his offense better than any point guard in the NBA. It doesn't hurt his team is a Porsche. Whether Paul or Williams or Rose could drive this car as well as Rondo does, or if he would be getting the same results playing for the Hornets, are matters of sheer speculation.
What we do know is that Rondo and the Celtics are a perfect match. They fit each other so well, both offensively and defensively. All their positions are pure, meaning they have a pure center in Shaquille O'Neal, a pure power forward in Kevin Garnett, a pure small forward in Paul Pierce and a pure shooting guard in Ray Allen.
They might not be at the peak of their games, but the fact is that they are still incredibly capable players that you can't double team, because double teaming means leaving someone open. Is it any wonder that the Celtics are far and away the best shooting team in the league with a field goal percentage of .503?
The best possible point guard for this type of team is a guy with great court vision and an eagerness to distribute. Rondo fits the bill, and that's why he's serving up an NBA best 14 dishes per game.
Defensively, it is also true. The team has the best DRtg in the NBA, which allows Rondo to come out and challenge opponents at the perimeter. Trusting the help defense behind him, which also yields the third lowest field goal percentage, he's been able to snatch a second best 2.4 steals per game.
The Celtics are an amazing high end car. Not everyone is cut to drive one. Rondo is driving this one as well as it can be driven.