The NBA as viewed by 4 Aussies, with the latest news, reviews and opinions
Point Guard is one of the most crowded positions in the NBA today, with plenty of floor generals capable of leading their team to a Championship. Picking just 10 was hard enough, but sorting them best to worst was a nightmare! With names such as Dragic, Lowry, Lawson and Rondo missing out, the Point Guard class in the NBA today is flourishing.
10. Mike Conley Jr. – Last season, Conley was the go-to-guy in the Memphis offense, a role in which he thrived. Defensively, it is well-known that he is elite, a reputation that comes from his brilliant on-ball prowess. In pick-and-roll situations he can get a bit lost but this should not take away from Conley being one of the best Point Guard defenders in the NBA. One of the best two-way guards in the league, it’s hard to comprehend him being so low, but the guys above him are quality. Conley just doesn’t quite have the potential like those players.
9. Eric Bledsoe – This may just be the year that Eric Bledsoe pieces all that potential together. Last season, when healthy, Bledsoe averaged 17.7pts, 5.5asts, 4.7rbs and 1.6stls, asserting himself as one of the best two-way Point Guards in the NBA. Offensively, he can use his explosive athleticism to get to the hoop, finish through traffic as well as pulling up from mid-range or the 3-line. He’s also one of the better off-ball defenders in the game, reading the game well and always giving his all. If Bledsoe stays healthy, he is another guy who can make this ranking look ridiculous. He still does need to work on his facilitating and on-ball defence, but it’s hard not to see Bledsoe thriving in Jeff Hornacek’s Point Guard heavy system.
8. Kyrie Irving – Wow, you know the NBA has some quality Point Guards when Kyrie is 8th! This guy has handles – in abundance. Offensively, with his smooth shot and his ability to put up large points, he should be one of the best scorers in the league. Yet he still struggles to get to the rim and can go missing for large stretches of a game. In 2014/15, I expect that to change. With LeBron now on the Cavs and some shooting help from the likes of Mike Miller and possibly Kevin Love, Irving should find more space on the court and more lanes getting to the rim. His facilitating should also improve with the best player in the world on his team. Defensively however, Kyrie is still undersized and struggles to defend the better Point Guards in the NBA. This deficiency is keeping him down in these rankings.
7. Derrick Rose – You may be surprised at the only MVP winner on this list being so low, but effectively two years out of the game is not easy to come back from. Rose proved this with his lackluster performance for Team USA at the FIBA World Cup, averaging just 4.8pts on 25.4% Field Goal Shooting, 3.1asts, and 2.0tovs in 17.1 minutes per game. Whilst these numbers certainly do not justify him being this high, Rose is capable of so much more. At his prime, he’s one of the best scorers, facilitators and athletes in the game, using his explosiveness to get to the rim. DRose has plenty to prove this season and whilst it is unreasonable to expect him to immediately return to his best, the Bulls would be hoping that the one-time best player in the league returns to his former self and his knees hold up. It is reasonable to expect DRose’s season to fall somewhere in the middle of his best and worst, which still puts him at number 7 on this list. He could make this ranking look ridiculous this season.
6. Damian Lillard – Damian Lillard has only spent two years in the NBA. Consider that for a moment. Last season he averaged 20.7 points per game whilst shooting at nearly 40% from beyond the arc. Lillard is obviously one of the best scoring Point Guards in the NBA, but it is in his facilitating that I expect him to make the leap in 2014-15. Lillard dished out just 5.6 assists per game last season, about one less than his rookie season. With the Blazers getting stronger each season, Lillard improving and hopefully a healthy LaMarcus Aldridge, that number should rise. In only his second year in the league, Lillard not only proved that he is a great player, but a great leader, consistently getting clutch buckets on the way to leading his Trail Blazers to the Western Conference Semis. Defensively Lillard still needs to improve, but he is already one of the games best offensive Point Guards and has plenty of untapped potential. This may be the year he puts it all together.
5. Tony Parker – Tony Parker has been one of the NBAs best floor generals for many years. He has slippery skills through traffic, brilliant basketball IQ and one of the better mid-range games in the game. Despite not being a great defender, Parker knows the Spurs system inside-out, allowing him to rarely be caught out of position. He’s a great leader of the Spurs and definitely benefits from the team-oriented system. In 2014-15, expect more of the same from the ultra consistent Spurs general.
4. John Wall – With the addition of a 3pt shot last season, John Wall suddenly rose to prominence in the race for best Point Guard. Always a brilliant finisher and a sublime athlete, Wall’s improved shooting stroke forced defences to no longer sag off on him. Whilst his shot still needs work, especially in mid-range, he should improve on his 19.3pts and 8.8 assists a game next season. Last season he did improve offensively, but defensively, Wall turned himself into one of the better Point Guard defenders in the NBA. With continued improvement on both ends, Wall may even find himself higher up this list. Especially if the Wizards do as well as most people are hoping. John Wall’s improvement coinciding with the Wizards improvement is no accident.
3. Stephen Curry – This is a guy who can really play. The best shooter from downtown in the league currently (and possibly in history by the end of his career) is a wizard at creating his own looks. 24 points and 8.5 assists per game is nothing to be sneezed at, with Curry marking himself down as the best scoring Point Guard in the NBA. The other end of the court is the thing keeping Curry out of the top spot and in these rankings, the top two. Whilst he should improve again on the less glamorous end, he still struggles defending some of the better guards. I see this season as another great one for Curry, he’ll once again compete for the scoring crown whilst leading a very well-oiled Golden State machine.
2. Russell Westbrook – Westbrook has all the attributes to be one of the best players in the NBA. A smooth shooting stroke, great handles, excellent athleticism and he’s a great defender. His statline throughout the regular season last year was brilliant. Nearly 22pts, 7asts and 6 rebounds a game shows how good this guy is in nearly every aspect of the game. Nearly. The main knock on Westbrook has been his decision making, having above 4 turnovers per game. Despite this, he still creates plenty of opportunities for a Thunder team without many options other than he and Durant. His playoffs this year was nothing short of remarkable, averaging 26.7pts, 8.1asts, 7.3rbs and 2.2stls per game. A statline that only Oscar Robertson has posted better figures in all 4 categories in the playoffs (per Basketball Reference). This looms to be a big year for the Thunder general, with Kevin Durant out, he will be the guy expected to lead the Thunder to the top of the Western Conference….for the first 8 weeks of the season at least.
1. Chris Paul – Whilst there are many competitors for CP3’s mantle as the top Point Guard in the NBA, he still wins out. Last season he posted above 19pts, 10asts, 4rbs and 2.5stls whilst only turning the ball over 2.5 times per game. Once another Point Guard can boast a statline like that, they may be contending for Paul’s top spot. The best Point Guard in the NBA at scoring at a high volume whilst keeping a high percentage, Paul rarely takes a bad shot, and if he isn’t putting it in the bucket himself, he’s giving it to his teammates. To add to this, Paul is also arguably the best defender of the Point in the NBA. Solid all round, the only time he gets beaten is against quicker opposing guards in isolation or transition. The other knock on CP3 is his inability to get past the Conference Semi-Finals, for him to truly stamp his mark on being one of the best PGs of all time, he needs to guide the Clippers to the Conference Finals. Another failed attempt this year may see him slide down this pecking order.
Yours in Basketball…