The “best” point guard in the NBA is a hot topic. There is a lot of debate because perhaps there hasn’t been a clear front-runner for best in the NBA, or everyone has a different definition for what “best” means. At the SG, it’s clearly Kobe Bryant. Best SF is LeBron James. PF is debatable. C is most likely Dwight Howard. But at the point guard spot? There are some great players vying.
We’ll take a look at a number of factors that go into making a great point guard: shooting, passing/playmaking, defense, durability and leadership. Before I go any further, I have to point out that steals are the most overrated defensive statistic. I’ve watched too many players labeled as “good defenders” (because of their steals) attempt a risky steal, fail, and then leave their man open for an easy bucket. A great defender will get steals, don’t get me wrong. They will also play solid man on man defense and make the team better defensively.
Passing/playmaking will look at assists, turnovers, and a few subjective fields. It’s not as cut and dry because you could look at Baron Davis’ 8 assists per game and nearly a 3:1 assist/turnover ratio and believe that he’s a great point guard. You would then be hit in the face by all the members of the Clippers for thinking that because sometimes stats are overrated.
In shooting, in addition to other factors, we’ll look at True Shooting Percentage (TS%) which takes into consideration how well you shoot from short and long range. It’s compounded by your Free Throw % and accuracy from beyond the 3 point line with attempts factored in. The league average is about 54%.
Leadership is admittedly more subjective but it’s impact isn’t less important. Case in point: Chauncey Billups compared to Allen Iverson. Under the reins of Iverson, Denver couldn’t squeeze out of the 1st round and the team did not mature. Making the trade for Billups instantly promoted the Nuggets to contenders in the Western Conference because of the leadership that Billups brought.
Durability is obviously a huge factor because you can’t say that Grant Hill was one of the best NBA players ever just because he had a few great seasons and was incredibly talented. He’s had more injury-plagued seasons than healthy ones which is a shame, but it also brings down his overall stock.
During the 2010 NBA Playoffs, we’ve watched Rondo tear up the Heat and Cavaliers. He seemed to be hit with a couple of minor injuries that brought him down from “superhuman” status while playing the Magic but no one can doubt he has special talent after watching him play.
As a shooter, Rondo struggles…mightily. His TS% is 54% (which is average) but it’s deceiving. He converts at well above the league average right around the rim and out to about 15 foot shots. Why does that make him a bad shooter? It doesn’t actually, he’s deadly when he’s close to the rim. However, if he’s facing a long 2 pointer or a 3, you can put down a lawn chair and grab a drink while he shoots because he’s not a threat from there.
For many guards, fouling them while driving to the rim or on short shots is painful because of their high FT% (aka, Billups & Nash shoot over 90% from the line). However, fouling Rondo doesn’t seem like the worst idea in the world since he converts a horrid 61% of his free throws.
As a passer & playmaker, Rondo has special talent. He averaged nearly 10 assists this year with a respectable 3.23:1 assist/turnover ratio. He’s so quick and athletic that he can penetrate the lane, draw defenders to him, and see the open man for easy layups/dunks. That’s a dream come true for most teams.
Rondo led the NBA in steals (2.3/game) this year. His effort in steals occasion has lead to easy points for the offense but Rondo has also brought great defensive intensity all around the floor. His quickness means he won’t frequently get beat off the dribble but his weakness is his size. Rondo measures 6’1 and maybe 170 pounds. PGs like Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook, and even Jason Kidd or Andre Miller can overpower Rondo and take it to him.
Rondo has played in at least 77 games in all of his 4 seasons and given his athleticism, he appears to be able to withstand minor injuries and be a durable player.
There have been rumors of locker room issues in regards to Rondo during the past 2 post-seasons which can hardly make for a good leader. The Celtics are lucky to already have players serving as good leaders but you have to wonder if Rondo were on a different team would his baggage be a detriment to the team.
He is the most ridiculous man in the world. He also wins the award for the most beatings taken in the playoffs without missing significant game time. Did I mention he’s 36 years old? Nash set an NBA record this year for the most assists (892) in a season for a 36 year old. He’s only gotten better with age…but it’ll be interesting to see when time starts taking it’s toll. Sadly, it will be much sooner, rather than later.
As a shooter, there is no better. In fact, John Hollinger of ESPN.com outlined the greatest shooters of all time in the NBA and Steve Nash was atop that list. Nash has posted a record 4 seasons (and nearly 2 more seasons missing by only hundredths of a percentage) of 50/40/90. Over 50% from the field, 40% from 3P, and 90% from the free throw line. He shoots well from short and long, can convert from pick and roll, or as a spot-up shooter. His size and athleticism do not give him many chances to beat opponents off the dribble but he makes up for it in basketball IQ.
As a passer/playmaker he is incredibly proficient. Because of his playmaking abilities he frequently creates open shots for his teammates. He has regularly averaged over 11 assist/game and his assist/turnover ratio is nearly always around 3:1. His skill at running pick and roll has always been deadly at creating offense for himself and his team. His turnover rate is high though, and it’s one area that has worsened with time.
Steve Nash’s biggest weakness is on defense. He has always been labeled a defensive liability and it’s well-deserved. His size (6’3, 178 lbs) has him skinny and unable to defend bigger stronger guards. His offensive quickness has not translated on the defensive end and generally loses steps to quicker, smaller guards. Against bigger guards, they simply can post up on him and get easy inside shots. Nash has only averaged better than 1 steal/game twice in a 13 year career and one year went 60 games without blocking a shot. Ok, I made up that last stat but in the ’07-08 season he only blocked 5 shots…total.
The early years of Steve Nash’s career were laden with injury but he has become more durable as he’s gotten older…which is rare. Over the past 10 years he generally misses only about 5 games a year.
He has received 2 MVP awards combined with good team play, a veteran mentality with a deceptively young style of play makes him a great leader. His teammates look up to him. If he were better defensively, I’d be clamoring for him to be lauded as the Best Point Guard Ever.
Up until the 2009-2010 season, the world had declared Chris Paul to be the best point guard in the league..and perhaps for good reason. In 2009 Chris Paul finished 2nd in voting for MVP and nearly lead the league in PER. Some remained skeptical as there are a lot of uncertainties when it comes to CP3.
It’s hard to look at the 2009-2010 season as a sample because Paul suffered several injuries for nearly the entire season and saw his statistics drop in virtually all categories as a result. However, this was not his first season dealing with injuries and it seems like we might see a trend from Chris Paul in this regard. He missed a chunk of his rookie season with injuries as well. Given his small stature and strength (6’0, 175 lbs) I have a hard time believing he can play a dozen years at his pace without facing a number of trying injuries.
Overall, Chris Paul’s offensive skills are superb. He’s quick and athletic which allows for stop-and-go dribbling and penetration into the paint. He’s proficient at the running teardrop floater in the lane. He has the ability to wear down his defender with his skills in handling the ball and from there can create plays for himself and his team.
New Orleans’ offense is based solely around Chris Paul. Nearly half of all points scored in any given Hornets’ game are either scored by or assisted by Chris Paul. It’s difficult to believe that an offensive such as this wouldn’t pad CP3’s stats. Before this year New Orleans could barely afford to keep CP3 off the court as no one seemed to be able to score without him on the court. This offensive padding seemed hard to prove w/ Chris Paul continually playing. This changed, however, in the 2009 draft when the Hornets drafted Darren Collison out of UCLA.
Collison is built almost exactly like Chris Paul and plays a very similar game. While he projects to be a solid point guard in the league it appears that his run this past season was also inflated by New Orleans’ offensive style. While Paul was out with injuries Collison averaged 22 points and 9 assists per game which would have lead all rookies in both categories had he started all season. Those numbers are markedly similar to Chris Paul’s so the question is are they a result of the style of offense or individual ability?
Chris Paul has developed into a good shooter over the past couple seasons…but was not always such a threat. His TS% has been close to 60% over the past few seasons and has improved his range considerably. For standing only 6 feet tall he finds his shot blocked at a remarkably low rate: only 3-4%. The league average is nearly 6%.
CP3 has been at the top of the assists leaderboard in the NBA for 3 seasons now. His floor vision and passing ability are among the best in the NBA. What’s more incredible is that his turnover rate is incredibly low for a point guard and his assist/turnover ratio generally hovers near 4:1. Chris Paul’s greatest skill is his ability to take care of the ball and deliver it to his teammates.
Chris Paul lead the league in steals for 2 seasons in a row which gave him All-Defense team honors. That being said, he’s not a great defender. He has quick hands and feet which nets him steals but he takes a lot of risks when attempting steals and sometimes it hurts his team as a result. I’d much rather see him play tight defense force a bad shot taken than watch him make a play for a steal and draw a foul or give up an easy play.
I think Chris Paul’s approach to defense is a lazy one: if he can get the steal then great! If not, he hopes that someone else can pick up his slack when his guy loses him. In addition, his size makes him unable to guard the bigger guards in the league which is why Deron Williams has always dominated the matchup between the two. Teams with a larger backcourt give the Hornets a lot of issues because the Hornets give up a lot of size and basketball is all about exploiting mis-matches. The Oklahoma City Thunder have 2 bigger guards as their starting backcourt (Russell Westbrook at 6’3 and Thabo Sefalosha at 6’7) and I can’t see the Hornets backcourt able to contain that size.
I’m not sure how Chris Paul’s defensive mentality affects his teammates but he does seem like a good leader. He definitely has the killer instinct you need to truly be a great NBA player. Nevertheless, his team has not been able to advance past the 2nd round of the playoffs and failed to make the playoffs this year.
Deron Williams plays in one of the most structured offenses in the NBA with the Utah Jazz. It’s a far reach from the let-Chris-Paul-run-around offense that New Orleans employs. However, it would be incredibly interesting to see Chris Paul and Deron Williams switch teams and see what kind of numbers they would each put up in the other’s system.
That being said, offensively, Deron Williams is dangerous in any situation. His ability to lose defenders with his crossover is extraordinary. Just ask Jason Terry. Deron Williams can run the pick and roll with the best of them and is quick and strong enough to blow by defenders and drive to the rim. Or if his defenders so dare he can pull up for a jumper and get it done that way as well. He doesn’t quite have the raw athleticism that Derrick Rose has but Rose can’t hold a candle to Williams’ jumpshot.
While Steve Nash and Chauncey Billups might be better shooters Deron Williams is better than average from almost any range and has a TS% of around 57-59%.
DWill has that killer instinct and elevates his game when needed. He is soft-spoken which may come across as not being aggressive but he is definitely the leader of the Jazz and the players all respect him.
On defense, DWill has always been underrated. He is quite capable of playing lockdown defense and with his size he can defend even some of the bigger guards in the league (Kobe Bryant, Brandon Roy). He has good hands and has always averaged better than 1 steal/game. His omission to an All-Defense team is almost as unbelievable as only being selected to 1 All Star team.
He size and strength have made him more durable than many point guards. DWill has suffered only 1 injury in 2008 that caused him to miss more than a couple games. During the 2009-2010 season he weathered a number of minor injuries throughout the season and still managed to maintain good stats.
As a playmaker, he has phenomenal floor vision. The Jazz’ offense is directed around finding easy layups and dunks for players cutting to the basket. Time and time again Williams finds those players with ease. His strength and speed enables him to get into the lane where he punishes the other team with strong finishes or dishing to a cutting teammate.
DWill generally averages 10-11 assists/game with an assist/turnover ratio of just over 3:1 which is very good. Notwithstanding, he doesn’t take care of the ball as well as Chris Paul. In this category, he has the most room for improvement. But he’s only 25 years old, his best years are yet to come. While the same can be said about Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo, they are still behind Deron Williams in a very close race.
Deron Williams is the most complete point guard in the NBA. Does that mean the same as “best”? Most definitely. When you look at total package and abilities, no point guard can do everything Deron Williams can as competently. Some PGs are better at one thing or another, but no one is as complete.
Basketball is a multi-faceted sport. The best offensive players don’t make the best overall players because offense and defense are required from all players. If you wanted offense only, you might go with Steve Nash or Chris Paul as your #1 choice but then you lose out on the defensive end. No other point guard in the NBA can do everything as well as Deron Williams can. For this reason, Deron Williams is the best point guard on the planet.