Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Power Ranking the Best Point Guards in the NBA


      Earlier in the summer, there was a raised debate about who is the best point guard in the National Basketball Association. I read over various networks and sites that bought attention to the subject as well as comments that basketball fans around the country had made. Some people say Chris Paul, some say Rajon Rondo, some even say Jeremy Lin. Here's my list of the top 10 point guards in the NBA. There will be several acronyms used in this list, including PPG (points per game), APG (assists per game), RPG (rebounds per game), MPG (minutes per game) and SPG (steals per game). Make sure to leave a comment if you have any disagreements or your own custom list!

10. Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies

2011-12 stats: 12.7 PPG, 6.5 APG, 2.5 RPG, 2.2 SPG

Overview: Conley is a solid floor general and technician. He does what he has to do and doesn't make too many mistakes. He is a big key on the Grizzlies, who are looking to make a statement in the Western Conference this season. He's also underrated on defense, as his steals per game average has risen every year. Last season, Conley had played 35 MPG and it escalated to 39 per game in the postseason. With the additions of Jerryd Bayless and rookie Tony Wroten, Conley will play less minutes but should have more rest and energy to perform well when the Grizzlies need him to. Expect another good season from Conley in 2012-13.

9. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers

2011-12 stats: 18.5 PPG, 5.7 APG, 3.4 RPG, 1.1 SPG

Overview: Last season, Kyrie Irving shined and was the obvious choice for the Rookie of the Year award. On an injury-riddled Cavaliers team, Irving found a way to thrive. Many people questioned whether or not Irving could translate his game sufficiently enough to the NBA because of his little in-game experience during his freshman year at Duke University. Irving, however, proved his critics wrong and played well, even though he suffered from injuries. With the additions of Dion Waiters, C.J. Miles and Tyler Zeller to go along with a healthy Anderson Varejao and a growing Tristan Thompson in the paint, expect Irving to grow in his sophomore season -- despite having hand surgery this summer -- and make a run for a spot on the Eastern Conference All Star team.

8. Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets

2011-12 stats: 16.4 PPG, 6.6 APG, 3.7 RPG, 1.3 SPG

Overview: Ty Lawson is a solid, young point guard. He's taken some major steps forward into becoming the starting point guard of the Denver Nuggets, but can he take the next step to become an All Star? Due to the presences of Chris Paul, Steve Nash, Russell Westbrook and fan favorite Jeremy Lin in the Western Conference, I don't think Lawson will garner enough votes to be an All Star. He might turn out to be like Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith, who was stymied an opportunity in the All Star game last year despite having a sensational first-half of the season. With the additions of All Star Andre Iguodala and French rookie Evan Fournier on the wings for the Nuggets, expect Lawson to be an even better distributor and lead Denver to a top 4 seed in the Western Conference for the playoffs.

7. Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs

2011-12 stats: 18.3 PPG, 7.7 APG, 2.9 RPG, 1.0 SPG

Overview: Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan are like fine wine, because they seem to get better with age. Parker, the 2007 NBA Finals MVP, helped lead the Spurs to the top seed last season in the Western Conference and was considered by many a dark horse to win the MVP award. I expect Parker to fully take the leadership reigns from Duncan and lead San Antonio to another high seed for the NBA playoffs. At 30 years old, Parker is hitting the end of his prime, but I still believe he will be a solid, key contributor for the Spurs for several years to come.

6. Steve Nash, Los Angeles Lakers

2011-12 stats: 12.5 PPG, 10.7 APG, 3.0 RPG, 0.6 SPG

Overview: In his last season in Phoenix, Nash almost led the Suns to a playoff berth. Nash is easily one of the best facilitators in the league, despite being 37 years old. His defense is very mediocre, but with Dwight Howard behind him now, he won't have to worry as much. However, his offense is what makes Nash a top point guard in the NBA. He's still one of the league's best pure shooters on the free-throw line and behind the three-point line. Teaming up with Kobe Bryant, Howard and Pau Gasol on the Lakers gives Nash the best chance he's ever had to win an NBA championship. I expect Nash's scoring output to slightly decrease, but he could average the most assists per game in the NBA with the amount of weapons he now has at his disposal.

5. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

2011-12 stats: 23.6 PPG, 5.5 APG, 4.6 RPG, 1.7 SPG

Overview: There's no doubt that Westbrook is an athletic freak of nature. He will be the key when the Thunder play the Lakers because he can easily beat Steve Nash off the dribble. However, Westbrook is a streaky player and this is why he ranks at #5. His scoring output has increased every season, but last year he averaged nearly three assists per game less than he averaged in the 2010-11 season. Though his field goal percentage has increased, he's also taking more shots. Westbrook is an intriguing, special talent, but he must realize that he is not the best player on his team and that he has to become the better distributor that he was in 2010-11 again for his team to win the NBA Finals. It's not all his fault that the Thunder lost to the Heat, the entire team could have certainly performed better, but Westbrook cannot play at lightning-quick speed the entire game, so he must slow down the pace at times and become the creator that he's proven before he can be.

4. Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls

2011-12 stats: 21.8 PPG, 7.9 APG, 3.4 RPG, 0.9 SPG

Overview: Last season was an injury-plagued year for the 2011 Most Valuable Player. Rose performed similar to his MVP campaign at the start of last season, but once he suffered his first injury, it went downhill for the stud point guard. Rose played in only 39 games in the lockout-shortened season. In the playoffs, his knee took a turn for the worst when he tore his ACL against the Philadelphia 76ers. It was clear that when Rose returned from his first injury that he was not the same player. Rose's game runs on his incredible athleticism, so it will be interesting to see if he returns with that same kind of athleticism later this upcoming season. I have no idea what kind of production to expect from Rose this season -- I don't believe anyone does -- but I do believe that he will come back with an intense vengeance to prove he is still a capable superstar who can lead his team to the promised land. Rose can be the top point guard in the NBA, but until he proves he can thrive after an injury, he will stay at #4 on my list.

3. Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics

2011-12 stats: 11.9 PPG, 11.7 APG, 4.8 RPG, 1.8 SPG

Overview: This was an incredibly tough choice to place Rondo at #3, but I think I have a good enough argument for him to be placed here. In the past, Rondo has said he believes he is the best point guard in the league. However, I do not. One reason is because he's an atrocious shooter. According to Hoopdata, which breaks down the court area into five ranges of 0-2 feet, 3-9 feet, 10-15 feet, 16-22 feet and 23+ feet, Rondo shoots about 10 percentage points lower than the league average in all areas except the 16-22 feet range, where he is nearly one point better than the league average. I'm not trying to disrespect Rondo by any means, these are just statistical facts. I do believe, though, that Rondo is the best distributor in the NBA, which makes up for his shooting stuggles. He is also stellar on defense, as he's been named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team in 2010 and 2011. Rondo is arguably the most dangerous force on the Celtics and will be a great contributor for Boston this season in their pursuit for another championship.

2. Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets

2011-12 stats: 21.0 PPG, 8.7 APG, 3.3 RPG, 1.2 SPG

Overview: I was unsure to put Deron Williams this high, but I'm giving Williams the benefit of the doubt because he played on a depleted, not-so-talented New Jersey Nets squad. Even if the Nets were fully healthy, it'd be hard to argue that they were better than the Jazz during Williams' tenure there. Say what you want about Williams -- like how he's turnover prone or that he shot 40 percent from the field last season -- he's what ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith calls a "baller." Williams is the perfect blend of size and speed. He thrives in transition, but he also has the size to post up against smaller guards. Williams also has some of the finest dribble moves in the Association. He's gotten better defensively under Nets coach Avery Johnson and I expect Williams to have an impressive season while leading the Nets to a playoff berth during the franchise's first season in Brooklyn. He now has the talent (on paper, that is) to complement him and I believe he will prove any doubters wrong.

1. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers

2011-12 stats: 19.8 PPG, 9.1 APG, 3.6 APG, 2.5 SPG

Overview: Paul is the quintessential point guard and there's absolutely no other way to define him. He's a legitimate threat to average 20 points and 10 assists every season and is a perennial member of the Western Conference All Star team. When Paul played for the New Orleans Hornets, he did indeed average 20 PPG and 10 APG in two separate seasons. He's spectacular on defense, as he's averaged over two steals per game in six of seven NBA seasons. He's also been a crucial member of Team USA for the past two Olympic Games and helped the United States win gold medals at Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012. Paul is almost as decorated as any point guard in the history of the NBA, except he's never won a championship. Paul is the best player in the Hornets' franchise history as well as arguably the best point guard of this generation. If he wins a championship during his career, it will certainly cement his status as a Hall of Famer. That's how great Chris Paul is.

No comments:

Post a Comment