With the NBA set to tip-off, here is my list of top ten point guards.
10. Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors- For a few weeks in the offseason it looked like Lowry would end up in South Beach, instead he decided to sign a four-year, $48 million deal to stay north of the border and become the heart and soul of the Raptors.
He alongside Demar Derozan led the Raptors to a division title over the heavily favored Brooklyn Nets and despite a first round loss to the Nets, displayed a toughness that will only deepen after suffering defeat.
Lowry averaged 17.9 points, 7.4 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game in the 2014 season. In his first playoff appearance since 2009 he averaged 21.1 points, 4.7 assists and 4.7 rebounds.
9. Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets- Lawson put together a solid showing under first-year head coach Brian Shaw. He averaged 17.6 points and 8.8 assists per game despite Denver being decimated by injury and playing in the ultra competitive Western Conference.
Lawson battled injuries himself and missed 20 games. In year 2 with Shaw along with the return of Danilo Gallinari, J.J. Hickson, Javale McGee, Nate Robinson and Wilson Chandler, Lawson can be the best player on a potential playoff team.
8. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers– Lillard made the best shot of the postseason when Portland ended the Houston Rockets’ season in Game 6 of the first round. After a sensational rookie year, Lillard elevated to elite status this past season.
And even though he and LaMarcus Aldridge outdueled Dwight Howard and James Harden in his first postseason appearance, he’s still missing something. Defense. Lillard averaged 20.7 points, 5.6 assists in his second season but was an awful defender.
He averaged less than 1 steal per game in 2014, 33rd among all point guards.
7. John Wall, Washington Wizards- Wall was cut by Team USA during the summer, but that doesn’t take away from him having the best performance by any Eastern Conference point guard in 2014.
Wall was the leader of the Wizards who almost defeated the Indiana Pacers in the second round of the playoffs. He averaged 19.3 points and 8.8 assists doing everything he could to propel Washington back to the postseason for the first time since the Gilbert Arenas era.
He ranked fourth among all point guards in steals per game and had the second-most blocks. Outside of orchestrating one of the worse playoff closeout games in league history, Wall played exceptionally well.
6. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers- Irving dominated at the FIBA world championships. His team also upgraded at every position with the addition LeBron James and Kevin Love. A new look roster, coaching staff and new aspirations will force Irving to be a floor general and allow leadership pressure to no longer be a burden for the young guard.
He averaged 20.8 points and 6.1 assists per game in 2014. This year he will have more room to operate in one-on-one situations. In addition, reports have surfaced that James will likely get more rest this season giving Irving the chance to be in the driver’s seat often.
The FIBA World Cup MVP is arguably the most-talented point guard in the league. With no playoff experience and higher expectations, he’ll have a shot to maximize his potential this season, even if the Cavs struggle earlier on in the year.
5. Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls- The DRose we all once knew is surely gone forever. Rose has played in 10 games in the last two seasons and outside of a few speedy lay-ups and a couple of explosive dunks during the FIBA World Championships nothing about him looks the same.
He’s the only player on this list to win a league MVP but he also attacks the rim with such ferocity that it’s hard to fathom after battling so many injuries that he can be the same player. He’s the 2010’s version of Allen Iverson and Chicago made moves to improve its roster this offseason.
Last year, Rose shot 35 percent from the field and 34 percent from three. This will be his last year to be considered at the top of the league but he’s a question mark when it comes to being healthy for all 82 games.
4. Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs-If this were a list made simply on who you would pick in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, Parker would be Number 1 without question. Parker is by far on the best team in the league, with the best coach, with the best player in the league since Michael Jordan.
He is an NBA Finals MVP and when he faces other elite point guards often comes out victorious.
So why isn’t he number 1? Because men lie, women lie, numbers don’t. Parker averaged just 16.7 points and 5.7 assists per game while shooting 49.9 percent from the field. With his craftiness and ability to finish among the giants Parker is by far the most underrated point guard in the league.
To be on the Spurs is a gift and a curse. If Parker played on Golden State would he have won a fourth title? What about Oklahoma City? Could he have won with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan?
I guess you know where I’m getting at.
3. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers- The only player on this list to average a double-double. He should undoubtedly be the best point guard right? Paul played in just 62 games this past season. In his absence the Clippers were still tough to beat.
In an 18-game stretch without the All-Star in the middle of the season, Los Angeles went 12-6. The Clippers will go as far as Blake Griffin leads them. Through nine years in the league, Paul has yet to win an MVP or make it to at least a Conference Finals.
Paul is often compared to legend Isaiah Thomas, but through nine years Thomas was a two-time champion. In Steve Nash’s ninth season he was an MVP and led the Phoenix Suns to the Western Conference Finals. John Stockton and the Utah Jazz lost to Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference Finals in his eighth season.
Through nine years, Jason Kidd had been to back-to-back NBA Finals. A point guard’s role is to be the floor general and a leader. Paul despite the amount of appreciation and hype he has received in the media and by his peers has not cracked up to what he’s supposed to be.
And despite his sensational numbers as the Clippers point guard, he’s just not that good.
In his three years in Los Angeles, the Clippers have been among the league’s most talented teams and even with Doc Rivers at the helm still failed to make it to the NBA’s Final Four.
2. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors-He’s the best shooter in the world. If Andrew Bogut was healthy he would have made his first appearance in the Western Conference Finals. Even without being a stellar defender, Curry is unparalleled by any other point guard in the league.
He shot 47 percent from the field (second among point guards) and 42 percent(10th in the league) from beyond the arc last season. He is the leader of the splash brothers who can explode for 50 on any given night and can dish out 10 dimes.
In 2014, Curry averaged 24 points and 8.5 assists per game. A FIBA World Championship and a new offense similar to Tex Winter’s triangle should make him more dangerous.
Outside of the 2012 lockout season, his scoring has increased each year.
1. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder– The funny thing about Westbrook being at the top of the list is that he’s not a point guard but he’s the best player at this position. His erratic play and poor decision making have shown that he will never be a traditional playmaker, but he’s still unstoppable.
Rose and Irving maybe more talented, Paul a better passer, Parker a more decorated and polished champion, Curry a better shooter but none of them have Westbrook’s’ mentality. The NBA has done a complete 360 from the days of the “Jordan Rules”, or New York Knick-Miami Heat brawls, even the blistering Rasheed Wallace arguable fouls.
Yet somehow Westbrook plays with the tenacity of a player bred in the 1990s. He’s no doubt the Thunder’s motor, almost to detriment of the team. He battled through injuries during much of the regular season last year playing in just 46 games.
Westbrook is the only point guard in the league to score 44 points in an NBA Finals game and is the biggest mismatch for every opponent he plays. The Thunder gave the San Antonio Spurs more trouble than the Miami Heat, even with LeBron James shooting over 50 percent from beyond the arc.
Westbrook averaged 26.7 points,8.1 assists and 7.3 rebounds per game during this past postseason, with a weaker bench expect him to dominate after a full healthy summer.
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