Jul. 29, 2015
Top 5 NBA Point Guards
Click if you want to read my top 5 shooting guard rankings.
Click if you want to read my top 5 small forward rankings.
Click if you want to read my top 5 power forward rankings.
Point guards are more important in today's NBA than they have ever been. Pace-and-space offense and small ball are taking over, and teams are building around point guards rather than bigs nowadays (except the Sixers, they aren't building around anything). Point guard is the deepest position in the league, with even middle of the pack players being potential all-stars if they played ten years ago. I'm going to attempt to rank the top five players at each position, starting with point guard (obviously). This is not a "who would you draft" piece, age is not taken into consideration; the only thing I'm looking at is who are the best at this exact moment (3:35 p.m., July 25, 2015, for all you pedants out there). I know the suspense is killing you, so I won't make you wait any longer, let's get to it!
Number 5: Matthew Dellavedova, PG/Irritant/Australian person, Cleveland Cavaliers
I lied. I made you wait a little bit longer, because Delly is obviously not number 5 (he's number 4). For real now, the top five point guards in the NBA.
Number 5: Damian Lillard, PG, Portland Trailblazers
2014-2015 stats: 21.0 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 6.2 APG, 43.4 FG%, 34.3 3P%
Lillard won Rookie of the Year and hasn't stopped improving since. He's got good size (6'3"), good handles, and a smooth jump shot. His Portland teams have had pretty good talent, so you would expect Lillard's assist numbers to be better, especially when he has the ball in his hands so frequently. I attribute some of Lillard's low-ish assist numbers to playing with LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge is a great player, but he scores mostly from the mid-range and mostly in isolation. He likes to take his time before putting up a shot, so some of Lillard's would-be assists are taken away by Aldridge's patient mid-range game. He's a score-first point guard, but he's not super efficient. Lillard will be the focal point on next year's Blazer team, since everyone else left (it's just going to be Damian Lillard playing one-on-five every night), and I expect Lillard's scoring and assist numbers to go up, while his efficiency drops slightly.
Number 4: John Wall, PG/Professional 360 layup shooter (start the video below at 2:00 if you don't believe me), Washington Wizards
2014-2015 stats: 17.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 10.0 APG, 44.5 FG%, 30.0 3P%
Wall is one of the quickest players in the league, and he uses his blinding speed to incredible success in transition and in the half-court. He's perfected his change of pace dribble, allowing him to blow by most defenders by quickly kicking into high gear. He's slightly bigger than Lillard (6'4") and more athletic, but he's not a great shooter. Wall has improved his mid-range shooting each year, up to 41.9% in the 10 - 16 foot range this past season (Lillard, by comparison, shot 44.4% from that distance), but he's still not a threat from deep. Wall's greatest strength is his passing. He has incredible court vision, and he's learned to look-off defenders in order to create passing lanes to his intended targets. Most importantly, Wall makes ridiculous layups like it's his job (which is good, because it kind of is). A few players have taken to busting out the 360 layup in traffic as a way of avoiding their defenders (or as a more , in the case of Nick Young), but Wall is the only one that makes it look so easy. Wall is also a great defender; he is consistently one of the league leaders in steals, but he also uses his quickness and athleticism to stay in front of opposing point guards, poke the ball away, block shots, and generally make life miserable for the other team. Wall is a guy who could score 30 any given night, drop 15 dimes any given night, or possibly even do both.
Number 3: Russell Westbrook, PG/SG/Fifth ninja turtle, Oklahoma City Thunder
2014-2015 stats: 28.1 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 8.6 APG, 42.6 FG%, 29.9 3P%
Feel free to make your own joke about the picture above (I encourage it, in fact), but I'm going to stick to basketball (probably). If there's a more divisive player in the league than Russell Westbrook, then that would make Westbrook the second most divisive player in the league. Agreed? Ha, gotcha, we all just agreed about Westbrook on something, and that has never, ever, ever happened before; I imagine I'll be receiving some sort of trophy, plaque, or certificate any day now. Westbrook puts up eye-popping numbers on the regular, as the kids say, but when you watch Thunder games, you don't feel like he's make as big of a difference as his numbers would suggest. Westbrook had the ball a lot this season, and I mean A LOT. Durant missed the bulk of the year, which left Westbrook free to do Westbrook things as often as he wanted. This is what led to the gaudy per game numbers with pretty horrific percentages. Westbrook is the most athletic point guard in the league, and quite possibly in history. He throws down ferocious dunks like he's playing on a nine-foot rim, he gobbles up rebounds like a big man, and he explodes in the open court like a bullet (that last analogy didn't make all that much sense, but just go with it). Westbrook's ferocity is what separates him from most other players, but it's also what causes him to shoot such a low percentage. He's so aggressive that he often forces bad shots or dribbles himself right into turnovers, and he will just start jacking up jump shots when his team gets down, despite not being a good jump shooter. Westbrook's flaws are obvious: poor shooter, tendency to take bad shots, occasional ball hogging, but if you accept that Westbrook is going to do these things and you choose not to freak out every time he sprints into a charge on a 1-on-3 fast break, or shoots a contested three with 18 seconds on the shot clock, but instead focus on the positives, you can see why Westbrook is so good. Instead of lamenting the turnovers he makes when he's on those 1-on-3 breaks, you can marvel when he gets an "and-1" out of it. And instead of cursing everytime he pulls up for a three right after crossing half court, you can shoot your finger guns when he makes those shots and brings the crowd into a frenzy. Westbrook is an incredibly frustrating player, but there's no one else like him in the league.
Number 2: Chris Paul, PG/Cliff Paul/Not DeAndre Jordan's friend, apparently, Los Angeles Clippers
2014-2015 stats: 19.1 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 10.2 APG, 48.5 FG%, 39.8 3P%
Chris Paul is the best passer in the league, and it's not really that close now that Rondo has forgotten how to play basketball. He embraces the old John Stockton phrase better than anyone else in the league: Pass if you can, shoot if you have to. His main focus on the court is creating for his teammates. He's crafty with the ball, he has elite court vision, he has excellent timing, and he has two bigs who will dunk any pass he throws them. He's a pick-and-roll expert, and he just made DeAndre Jordan a whole bunch of money, despite the fact that they don't really get along. Paul is a demanding teammate, and he can get under the skin of other players, but no one in the league sets guys up as well as Paul. It says a lot that Jordan (eventually) chose to stay with the Clippers, despite the rocky relationship with CP3. Jordan knows that there is no better situation for him than in L.A., and that's because of Paul. Paul also has a knack for making big shots, and when he's at his best he's driving the ball and creating for teammates, but also shooting soft floaters when the defense is overplaying the pass. He can read and manipulate the defense like no one else. He can push the ball in transition or settle down and run the offense in the half-court. He can deliver pin point pocket passes (bonus points for alliteration) or perfectly timed lob passes out of the pick and roll. And he can REALLY annoy DeMarcus Cousins by for no reason. Just don't touch his head.
And the number one point guard in the league (in case you didn't see the giant picture at the beginning of this post)...
Stephen Curry, PG/SG/Baby-faced assassin/Chef Curry/Stephenator (I just made that one up...it's not very good), Golden State Warriors
2014-2015 stats: 23.8 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 7.7 APG, 48.7 FG%, 44.3 3P%
Curry is the reigning league MVP, and he just led his Warriors to the championship, so it's hard not to put him number one. He's the best shooter in the league, he's one of the best ball handlers in the league (it's either Curry or Kyrie Irving), he's a creative passer, and when he gets hot there's no better show in the league. He uses his fantastic ball handling ability to create space for threes like no one in history. He can shoot off-balance, with a hand in his face and you still think it's going in (which it probably is). He shot around 90% from the left corner during the playoffs, and yes that's just as crazy as it sounds, despite every team's scouting report starting with "If you let Curry shoot a three I'm going to punch you in the eye while wearing a Ring Pop". He's the master of the scoop layup, and he can loft it over even the best shot blockers with either hand. He's found a seemingly perfect balance of scoring and playmaking, and he has a good feel for when his team needs him to take over. He sometimes gets too fancy with his passes, which lead to unforced turnovers, but his passes are usually on-point, even when he's throwing off-hand, behind the back passes in traffic. He sees the court well, and if he finds even an inch of space he can get his shot off. He changes the game like no other player in the league. Teams have to have a specific defensive game plan for the Warriors, because opposing teams know that they can't let Curry shoot, even from a few feet behind the three point line. He bends and stretches opposing defenses single-handedly, and then attacks the cracks his presence creates. He's about as unstoppable an offensive force as there is in the league. If you give him any room he'll sink a three, if you play up on him he'll dribble you into the floor and then sink a three anyway, or drive to the hoop for a layup. If you decide to double team him he'll beat you with his passing, as he did in the last half of the Finals this year. And if he gets hot you might as well take a seat on the bench, because the game's over. And you'll have the best seat in the house.