Just like shooting guard, I won’t include an injured player. Derrick Rose looked good in last Friday’s scrimmage, and it’s rumored that he’ll be one of the final 12 on Team USA, but since there’s so many good point guards, I’ll omit him from the list since he’s missed so many games the last two seasons. I take in account both sides of the ball, not just the ability to put the ball in the hoop, obviously. I’ve written at length about Tony Parker, and how he’ll be remembered for his regular season play. He’ll go down as one of the two best postseason point guards ever, but he doesn’t have the regular season numbers of the other Hall of Fame point guards. He’s near the top of my list, though.
Here’s my best stab at ranking one of the deepest positions in basketball:
10. Ty Lawson – Denver Nuggets
17.6/3.5/8.8 1.6 (SPG)
Denver will bounce back this season. They have crazy good depth. The Nuggets are 11 deep. Either Lawson or Danilo Gallinari is their best player. The Nuggets finished third in the West two years ago, but lots has changed since then, including a coaching change and Andre Iguodala leaving for Golden State. Gallo missed last season, and that obviously hurt the Nuggets. Only four Nuggets played more than 70 games last year. Lawson had a great season in 62 games played, and you’ll see an even better Lawson when he has healthy guys around him this upcoming year.
9. Kyrie Irving – Cleveland Cavaliers
20.8/3.6/6.1 43 FG%
There’s so many good point guards that Irving is No. 9 on this list. Irving will be on Team USA, at least all signs point to that. Irving could even be on the team over Damian Lillard, but Lillard is a better player right now. Irving won All-Star game MVP this year, but what does that really mean? You’ve probably seen the graphic comparing Irving and Isaiah Thomas (the former King, current Sun), and it’s scary how similar their numbers are, and it’s not like Irving is a lock-down defender that separates Irving from other score-first point guards. Irving finished with a -5.3 per 100 possessions when he was on the floor last year. Obviously Cleveland had a bad year, but Irving has yet to figure out how to make his teammates better. Irving has been considered a knock-down 3-point shooter, but his percentage from 39.5 his first two seasons to 35.8 last season. His field goal percentage took a drop, also. Irving will be the third best player on the Cavs this upcoming season (assuming Love gets traded by the end of the month). After failing to lead his team anywhere near the playoffs the first three years in his career, how can we tell how good Irving is? I mean the most amount of wins his team had was 33.
8. Mike Conley – Memphis Grizzlies
Conley’s steal numbers took a dip, but that’s never that reliable of a stat. Rubio has good steal numbers, but Conley is a much better on-ball defender. Rubio will just take more chances. Memphis nearly beat Oklahoma City last postseason, and Conley’s a main reason why. Conley had 4.7 defensive win shares during the 2012-2013 season, but his DWS dropped to 2.7 last season. His offensive win shares, however, increased, and he finished 19th in the NBA with 5.5 OWS. Five players had higher than 110 offensive rating, more than five offensive win shares and 20 PER while having a usage percentage under 25 (Chris Paul, Goran Dragic, Kyle Lowry, Andre Drummond and Mike Conley). The lefty doesn’t get enough credit for being a top point guard.
7. Kyle Lowry – Toronto Raptors
17.9/4.7/7.4 38 3FG%
Lowry finished last season 8th overall in win shares (only trailing Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul). That’s pretty impressive company. Lowry remains underrated. He didn’t make the All-Star game (freaking Joe Johnson made it over him), and didn’t make an All-NBA team. Lowry is a tough, physical point guard. He’s great on both ends of the ball. He’s not a flashy player. He doesn’t have any over-the-charts skill. Maybe that’s why he isn’t considered one of the best point guards, but Lowry proved just how good he is last season.
6. Damian Lillard – Portland Trail Blazers
20.7/3.5/5.6 39.4 3FG%
Lillard made the second most threes in the final five minutes of regular season games when his team was ahead or trailing by five or fewer points. His series clinching triple against Houston might be the most memorable shot of 2013-2014. Lillard hit clutch shot after clutch shot. Portland’s +5.5 per 100 possessions when Lillard’s on the court. Lillard finished fourth among all point guards in offensive win shares (Paul, Curry, Lowry).
5. John Wall – Washington Wizards
Wall isn’t an analytic player. He finished tied for 17th in defensive win shares, but he’s not a great shooter, and needs 16.3 shots a game to score 19 a game. Wall passes the eye test, though. You know he’s a great basketball player simply by watching him play. He has phenomenal athletic ability, and he and Bradley Beal haven’t even scratched the surface on their potential together.
4. Stephen Curry – Golden State Warriors
Curry shot 42.4 percent from 3 last year. He could be the best 3-point shooter ever. Golden State was a +9.2 per 100 possessions when Curry was on the court. Curry finished 5th in offensive win shares last year, trailing Durant, James, Love and Harden.
3. Tony Parker – San Antonio Spurs
You judge the Spurs differently than the rest of the NBA. You look at Parker’s numbers, and it’s really nothing special. Eighteen other guards averaged at least 15/2/5 a game last year. Parker shot nearly 50 percent from the field during the 68 games he played. I wrote about Parker here. Parker could care a less about his stats, I’m sure he’s fine hanging out with his four rings.
2. Russell Westbrook – Oklahoma City Thunder
Westbrook only played 46 games last season, but he was fantastic. OKC posted a +7.9 per 100 possessions when he was on the court. Westbrook had a really solid defensive rating at 102, but his game, similar to John Wall, isn’t analytic friendly, but you know he can play. This play Westbrook made last playoffs was totally ballsy, but totally brilliant. It probably best describes Westbrook as a player. He takes risks because he only wants to win, and he doesn’t care how big of gamble it might seem from an outsider, but he’ll take it every time.
1. Chris Paul – Los Angeles Clippers
Paul led the league in assists and steals per game. He’s the best point guard, and it’s not really close. He posted the highest offensive rating of qualified players (only Brook Lopez posted a higher one). The Clippers had a +11.1 per 100 possessions while Paul played.