Projected Point Guard Rankings: 2013/14

Chris Paul.  Projected Ranking: Frist.  Current Ranking: First.

Chris Paul will likely have another MVP caliber season.

Chris Paul will likely have another MVP caliber season.

There seems little doubt as to who the best point guard in the league is.  Chris Paul has managed to lead the Clippers to their two best regular season winning percentages in the history of the franchise in his only two seasons with the team.  His play-making is exceeded by few is any in the league.  Only one player got more assists than Paul last season (Greivis Vaquez), only one player got more steals (Mike Conley), only one player averaged more assists (Rajon Rondo), only one point guard had a higher FT% (Stephen Curry) and nobody averaged more steals per game.  Coupled with that, Paul wasn’t even in the top twenty in the league for total turnovers despite being second in assists per game.  At .481 his FG% is more than respectable, and his shooting from beyond the arc is enough of a threat that defenders have to play him honest.  The only thing Paul doesn’t excel at is rebounding, but since point guards aren’t generally looked upon to contribute much in that category, this doesn’t seem like a knock on Paul.  Sure, Rubio will likely be the best rebounder among the league’s point guards, just as Jason Kidd was in years past, but Paul has a complete game. 

Stephen Curry. Projected Ranking: Second.  Current Ranking: Third.

Most will rank Curry behind Westbrook, and that is fair, but for me, Curry's combination of shooting and play making make him an ideal point guard.

Most will rank Curry behind Westbrook, and that is fair, but for me, Curry’s combination of shooting and play making make him an ideal point guard.

After a strong season that saw Curry set an NBA record for most three-point shots made, Curry went on to carry the Golden State Warriors into the second round and give the San Antonio Spurs a run for their money.  Outside of Kevin Durant, there is perhaps no better shooter in the league than Curry right now, and certainly no better shooter at the point guard position (with the lone exception being perhaps Jose Calderon).  Curry’s assist numbers are among the best point guards in the league (though he ranked 14th in assists per game, he was within a single assist of being 5th in the league).  Curry will likely never be the kind of play maker that Paul is, but he is a good play maker and his assist-to-turnover ratio has improved over his first four seasons.  His personal fouls have been reduced while his steals have remained close to steady.  As important as his stats are both his health and his leadership skills.  When the Warriors lone All-Star went down with an injury during the first round of the playoffs, Curry stepped up, increasing both his scoring average and his assists average while not seeing much of a rise in his turnovers.  Such playoff performances are not unilaterally common among the league’s point guards and so this aspect of Curry’s game sets him apart from some of the league’s other point guards.  Curry will have to make himself a stronger presence on defence if he wants to be in the conversation with Paul. 

Russell Westbrook.  Projected Ranking: Third.  Current Ranking: Second.

Russell Westbrook: The NBA's resident hipster and best rebounding point guard.  I have him ranked as the third best point point guard, but there is a case for him to be ranked as the best.

Russell Westbrook: The NBA’s resident hipster and best rebounding point guard. I have him ranked as the third best point point guard, but there is a case for him to be ranked as the best.

With similar styles, Westbrook has often been compared with Derrick Rose, but in playing alongside Kevin Durant, perhaps the second best player in the league behind LeBron James, it seems that Westbrook has a hard time getting the kind of credit that Rose has gotten.  If this past season’s playoffs have taught the casual basketball fan anything, however, it is that Westbrook is as important to the success of the Thunder as Kevin Durant is.  Without Westbrook, who was out due to injury, the Thunder reeled against the Memphis Grizzlies and barely beat the Houston Rockets.  Westbrook’s numbers last season weren’t too far off from Rose’s numbers during his MVP campaign, but the biggest difference are in Westbrook’s rebounding numbers and defensive stats.  Westbrook is clearly the better rebounder of the two (and likely the best rebounder at his position), and defensively, at least in terms of statistics, Westbrook is also the better player with Westbrook pulling in almost two stelas a game whilst Rose gets less than one.  Westbrook even managed to increase his assists last season whilst decreasing his turnovers, a rare accomplishment for any point guard.  Though the departure of Kevin Martin leaves Westbrook with one less option on the perimeter, Westbrook should continue to improve as he enters his sixth NBA season. 

Tony Parker.  Project Ranking: Fourth.  Current Ranking: Fourth.

The new Texas Tornado, Tony Parker, can put anybody on spin cycle and get a bucket.

The new Texas Tornado, Tony Parker, can put anybody on spin cycle and get a bucket.

Tony Parker has what was perhaps his best NBA season to date in his 12th NBA season.  He had one of his best passing season, one of his best scoring seasons, and posted his highest ever FT% and second highest FG and 3pt percentages.  As a result, the San Antonio Spurs returned to the NBA finals for the first time since 2007.  Parker was the second oldest player in the top ten for assists this past season (Jameer Nelson was the oldest), but Parker seems to be showing no signs of slowing.  With other players on the Spurs roster aging (Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan), it seems fair to expect that Parker’s role will increase.  Spurs coach Greg Popovich, though, has always managed his player’s minutes well and seldom allows any player to average as much as 36 minutes per game (Duncan is the only player on Popovich’s current roster who ever averaged more than 34.4 minutes per game under Popovich and he hasn’t done that since 2006 and hasn’t averaged over 36 minutes per game since 2004).  Aside from his shooting and play making, there is perhaps no point guard in the league who can get around a defender on his way to the hoop better than Parker, and when Parker puts the defender on spin cycle with his signature twister move (a move that makes Parker the best Texas Tornado since Kerry Von Erich), one can expect either a bucket or a trip to the free-throw line. Regardless of his age, there simply exists no point guard in the league that can neutralize Parker and few that can even hope to minimize his impact on the game.   

Derrick Rose.  Projected Ranking: Fifth.  Current Ranking: Unranked due to injury.

Fans of the game are likely hoping that Rose returns to form after his knee injury.

Fans of the game are likely hoping that Rose returns to form after his knee injury.

Of all the players drafted since 1999, only one player outside of LeBron James has managed to earn an MVP award: Derrick Rose.  It was perhaps not his statistics that earned him the award, but his importance to his team.  That team won 45 games last season without Rose.  This year they expect to perform at a much higher level with Rose returning to the line-up for the first time since April 28, 2012 when he went down with a severe knee injury that saw him miss the entirety of the following season.  When playing though, Rose is not only a versatile scorer, but a strong play maker.  His percentages had dropped a little bit in the 2011/12 season, but should Rose be able to return to a 100% health, and should his FG% return to that of his MVP season, there may not be a more dynamic point guard in the league.  This, of course, depends heavily on his health.  Many point guards have ‘lost a step’ after the kind of injury that Rose had.  Penny Hardaway, who could have gone down as one of the best all-around players in the history of the game, suffered a similar injury and saw a brilliant career cut short.  Rose, though, has taken his time in coming back and will hopefully return to full form.  If he does, he will still have to improve his defence is he wishes to be ranked among the likes of Chris Paul, and also improve his shooting if he hopes to compete with the like of Curry.  Given his skill set, though, Rose should be the best point guard in the eastern conference at least, unless Deron Williams remember how to hand out dimes like he did in Utah.

Deron Williams.  Projected Ranking: Sixth.  Current Ranking: Fifth.

Once ranked by some as the best point guard in the league, Williams could regain that ranking by maximizing his time with future HOFers Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.

Once ranked by some as the best point guard in the league, Williams could regain that ranking by maximizing his time with future HOFers Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.

Deron Williams had been in a shoot slump since his arrival in New Jersey.  That is until the All-Star break this past season (or maybe it was the departure of Avery Johnson).  Something seemed click around that time.  His percentages all came up and were higher than they’d been since he left Utah.  His assists, however, have not returned to the numbers he was posting in Utah.  Next season Williams will have no excuses.  Not only will he have a healthy Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson to work with, but he’ll have the championship experience of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry to help, and, in turn, far more options on offense.  Williams seems intent on making the best of this, so it is fair to expect him to post the kind of play-making numbers he did whilst in Utah.  Williams can be the second best point guard in the league (he and Chris Paul are the only active NBA points guards who have average more than 20 points and 10 assists in the same season), but with other point guard improving, it will be hard just to maintain his standing.  If Rose’s injury has slowed him down, Williams may be the best point guard in the east, but if healthy, Williams will have to somehow return to the style of play that made him so successful in Utah and earned him a birth in the conference finals if he wishes to be the best point guard in the east.

Kyrie Irving.  Projected Ranking: Seventh.  Current Ranking: Sixth.

Irving's scoring average will likely continue to increase his scoring average again this year, but injuries may reduce his impact.

Irving’s scoring average will likely continue to increase again this year, but injuries may reduce his impact.

It’s hard to evaluate Irving as a point guard.  Offensively he seems more like a Kobe Bryant or LeBron James type player who is simply just much shorter.  His assist-to-turnover ratio is not where a point guard should want it to be, though it is not as embarrassing as some.  His percentages are all where they should be or at little higher, and he manages to get a steal or two a game as well.  He is athletic and dynamic and in time (perhaps as soon as this season) may be among the league leaders in scoring if Mike Brown allows him to play the type of game he wants to play.  But there are issues.  His assists are a little low for an elite point guard, and as mentioned, his turnover rate needs to be reduced.  There are also health issues.  Since coming out of high school, Irving has not played an entire season.  His only season in college was cut short by injury.  His rookie season saw him miss 15 games due to injury and last season he missed 23 games.  The return of Mike Brown as the Cavs coach does not bode well for Irving either.  Brown, though a solid defensive coach, has never coached a strong offensive set and has never mentored a point guard with Irving’s potential.  I do not expect Brown to get the most out of Irving, but rather, as he did with LeBron James, simply run a lot of isolation plays.  Still, I believe that Irving has enough drive and talent to remain among the league’s best point guard, though I do not expect him to be making as huge an impact as players like Chris Paul or Stephen Curry.

Rajon Rondo.  Projected Ranking: Eighth.  Current Ranking: Seventh.

Rondo may be the best play maker in the league, but his shooting prevents him from being a high ranking.

Rondo may be the best play maker in the league, but his shooting prevents him from being a high ranking.

Success does seem to play into how a player is evaluated.  Rondo has benefitted from the success of his team and as his team has succeeded, people have recognized Rondo’s talent and forgiven his deficiencies.  This season, though, will likely see the Boston Celtics finish with their worst record since 2007 (potentially since 1999 if they fail to win 24 games).  What Rondo does, regardless of how impressive, will likely not leave the kind of impression that it would if Rondo was playing on a contender.  Still, Rondo remains perhaps the best play-maker in the league. He lead the league in assists per game last season, just as he did the year before, and now that the other two ball handlers (Pierce and Terry) have been shipped out to Brooklyn, Rondo will not only see an increase in minutes, but an increase in time with the ball in hand.  This may increase the number of assists, but the fact that he no longer has options like Ray Allen, Pierce, Garnett and Terry, may also mean that he will be handing out more ‘empty assists’ (that is assists that lead to missed field goals).  Defensively, there is perhaps not point guard who is a better defender than Rondo, though there is a case to be made for Paul and a couple other point guards.  If Rondo ranks so high in play making and defence, why is he only projected as the eighth best point guard?  His shooting is still not where it needs to be.  Among the elite point guards in the league, Rondo has the lowest FT%, and though his FG% is respectable (.484 last season and .481 on his career), that is the result of excellent shot selection and not excellent shooting.  Defenders know to give Rondo space at the three-point line (which makes it easier to defend him on the drive), and when there is a pick-and-roll the defenders goes around the pick because leaving Rondo with an open jumper doesn’t hurt the team as Rondo seldom takes the shot.  This can make certain plays less efficient, but Rondo’s talents, coupled with his awareness of his limitations, make him a great value on the court.  It is fair to expect a trade involving Rondo despite Boston’s insistence that they are not interested in moving him. 

Jrue Holiday.  Projected Ranking: Ninth.  Current Ranking: Eighth.

Jrue Holiday, modelling the new jerseys from the New Orleans Pelicans.

Jrue Holiday, modelling the new jerseys from the New Orleans Pelicans.

Holiday made his first All-Star appearance this past season and seemed to be the only bright spot for the 76ers in what turned out to be a very disappointing season.  At only 22 years of age, and already among the league leaders in assists, it seems like the sky is the limit for Holiday.  The draft saw Holiday abruptly traded to the New Orleans Pelicans, but this may be a good move for Holiday.  With a three-point shooter like Ryan Anderson on the roster, and scorers Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon, as well as the burgeoning Anthony Davis coupled with Robin Lopez, Holiday will likely have more options than he has ever had as a point guard in Philadelphia.  Gordon and Evans, though, are used to handling the ball some and so this may take the ball out of Holiday’s hands more than he’s used to.  It will be unlikely that Holiday earns another All-Star appearance this season, considering his move to the western conference (not even Stephen Curry made the All-Star team last year), but his level of play should continue to improve, most especially considering the improved situation.

John Wall.  Projected Ranking: Tenth.  Current Ranking: Unranked.

John Wall needs to improve his shooting if he hopes to be among the best point guard in the league.

John Wall needs to improve his shooting if he hopes to be among the best point guard in the league.

I have not been a big fan of John Wall in the past.  His first two seasons left much to be desired.  But upon his return from injury this season he seemed to have addressed my primary concern regarding his game and that was his FG%.  Now a respectable .441, I give Wall the last place in this list based on the assumption that he will continue to improve this percentage next season (even this is too low for a point guard whose percentage should not be adversely impacted by his 3pt shooting since Wall can’t shoot them and therefore doesn’t take very many).  His assist numbers are what give me encouragement.  He has improved his per36 average each season while also reducing his turnovers this past season (a career low 3.5 per36.  Defensively, I’m not sure where he is as I have not watched as many games as I would like to have, but he seems to hold his own when looking at the statistics.  What is perhaps most interesting about Wall is his ability to draw fouls (which likely make his FG% look a little better than it actually is).  Of the point guards on this list, only Russell Westbrook draws more fouls, which puts Wall in pretty rare company.  Having a point guard that can go into the paint and draw a foul is invaluable when you are playing against a team with a thin front court.  Taking a team’s best rebounder out due to foul trouble can give you a distinct advantage.  So long as Wall continues to improve his game, he will be an elite point guard, but he absolutely needs to improve his shooting in order to do that.  His play making is well on its way, as his ability to draw fouls, but being able to hit open shots is the difference between a good point guard and a great point guard.   

Honourable Mention 

Ricky Rubio could be a very special player if he improves his shooting.

Ricky Rubio could be a very special player if he improves his shooting.

Ricky Rubio:  Rubio has shooting woes, but among the point guards not in the top ten, there is perhaps no point guard that has a better combination of play making and defence.  Rubio is also the best rebounder at his position in the league not named Westbrook.  With the addition of Kevin Martin, and a healthy Kevin Love, Rubio should have his best season yet and may well make me look like a fool for not giving him a projected ranking in the top five, let alone the top ten. 

Nobody racked up more assists than Vasquez this past season.

Nobody racked up more assists than Vasquez this past season.

Greivis Vasquez:  Vasquez was one of the best playmakers this past season, and other than Westbrook, is perhaps the best rebounder at his position (though Rubio had a higher per36 average) so it was hard for me to leave him off this list.  Like Rubio, I expect Vasquez to make me look like a fool for not giving him a spot in my top ten, but his trade to Sacramento leaves me in doubt as to his what his role and minutes will be.  The coaching staff and ownership for that team seem to given DeMarcus Cousins too much pull and this may impact team chemistry, which will in turn hurt Vasquez’s production.    I wouldn’t be terribly surprised to see Vasquez traded before the end of the season as I don’t believe the Kings’ front office is invested in him.

ROY winner hopes to earn a place among the league's elite point guards this season, but the Trailblazers may be taking a step back as Lillard takes a step forward.

ROY winner hopes to earn a place among the league’s elite point guards this season, but the Trailblazers may be taking a step back as Lillard takes a step forward.

Damian Lillard:  No young point guard has more potential than Damian Lillard.  He burst onto the scene with a spectacular debut game and continued to impress.  He can score, he can pass, but to prove himself among the league’s elite he still needs to reduce his turnovers and fouls whilst improving his percentages.  The Trailblazers will be a team in transition.  They have lost J. J. Hickson which will hurt their already thin front court, and LaMarcus Aldridge trade rumours have been swirling despite efforts quash them.  The Trailblazers have not made any significant changes and with other lottery teams like the T-Wolves and Pelicans improving, it will be hard for the Trailblazers to keep competitive. 

tylawsonTy Lawson:  Lawson may have a better case for a top-ten projected ranking than Wall, but it was just too close to call.  With the departure of Andre Iguodala, I expect that Lawson’s role in Denver will increase and his production along with it.  Statistically I think it will be fair to say that Lawson will be among the best point guards in the west, but the position is so deep right now, it is hard to differentiate between players like Wall and Lawson, though Lawson is clearly the better shooter and has a slightly better assist-to-turnover ratio. 

Mike Conley is a grossly underrated player whose defense is the best in the league at his position.

Mike Conley is a grossly underrated player whose defense is the best in the league at his position.

Mike Conley:  Conley was not only a strong play maker last season, but a great defender as well.  The Grizzlies’ front office though seems to have no interest in improving upon last season.  They have let their coach go and have made no significant moves in the offseason.  With other teams improving their roster, it seems unlikely to expect more than a first-round exit from the Grizzlies, especially considering the fact that they likely wouldn’t have even gotten out of the first round or the second round this past season had both the teams the Grizzlies faced not lost All-Star player to injuries (the Clippers lost Blake Griffin and the Thunder lost Russell Westbrook).  Conley will likely be underappreciated as he plays on a team who a solid regular season record, great defense and ultimately a first-round exit. 

Calderon has put his championship aspirations on hold for another two years in favour of a richer contract.

Calderon has put his championship aspirations on hold for another two years in favour of a richer contract.

Jose Calderon:  There is not better shooter at the point guard position than Calderon (Curry is the only guy in the conversation), and there are few who are more efficient when it comes to making plays (Calderon’s assist-to-turnover ratio has been among the league’s most impressive for years), but he is a liability on defence and his signing with the Dallas Mavericks has assured Calderon of another season of irrelevance playing on a lottery team.  I have long been a fan of Calderon and have been hoping to see him play on a contender, but it looks like that will not be happening any time soon.  If any recent free-agent signee is a candidate for a trade mid-season, I would say it would be Calderon.  Once the Mavs realize they are losing, it will be in their best interest to move all assets, and Calderon is certainly one of them.

Guys to Look Out For:

Michael-Carter-WilliamsMichael Carter-Williams:  The 76ers put a lot of faith in this year’s draft class, picking up both Nerlens Noel and Carter-Williams.  After shipping out point guard Jrue Holiday, it seems the 76ers have enough confidence in Carter-Williams to make him their starting point guard.  He will be the tallest point guard in the league (tied with Vasquez) and if his numbers in college are any indication, he may be competing with Westbrook for the title of best rebounding point guard.  He also averaged over 2 steals per game as a sophomore and his assist-to-turnover ratio was better than 2-1.  Biggest concern is his shooting percentages though.

treyburkeTrey Burke:  Many were surprised that the Detroit Pistons passed on the point guard, but it didn’t take long for the T-Wovles to pick up the point guard, nor did it take long for them to trade him (to Rubio’s relief I’m sure).  The Jazz will be starting Burke next season and with Jerry Sloan taking on the role of advisor with the team, it is fair to expect that Burke will be groomed much as Deron Williams was.  Burke is likely the best point guard in the draft and certainly the best shooter among the point guards in this year’s draft.  Burke will have a great shot at winning the Rookie of the Year award given that the Jazz, likely a lottery team next year, will invest a lot of time in developing the young point guard, this will allow him to pad his averages in the process (and that seems to be all voters care about when it comes to the ROY). 

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