For over 60 years, the NBA was controlled by big men. Throughout the 1940’s, center George Mikan was dominating the league, winning five NBA Championships. The 1960’s ushered in the era of centers Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain.
Russell won eleven NBA Championships in a thirteen year span (including eight in a row). Chamberlain was a two-time NBA Champion and a four-time NBA Most Valuable Player, re-writing the entire record book during his career. Bill Walton, Wes Unseld and Willis Reed were all centers that took their teams to NBA Championships in the 1970’s.
The league’s all-time leading scorer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar may be the best big man out of all them. He won six NBA Championships, a record six MVP’s and appeared in nineteen All-Star Games (another NBA record).
Throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s the league was full of Hall of Fame centers (David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal and Alonzo Mourning) before ushering in the era of Tim Duncan. ‘The Big Fundamental’ owns five NBA Championships himself.
Ever since Tim Duncan came out of the NBA Draft in 1997, there hasn’t been a dominating big man like the players I named above. There have been prospects such as Greg Oden and Andrew Bynum who had the potential to become something great but their careers never materialized.
Dwight Howard is the closest thing we have to a dominant center but so far his career has always left us wanting more. Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans has a shot to put his name on the list with the rest of these great players but that is only speculation at this point.
The NBA of the 2010’s is controlled by the point guard position. I don’t think there has been a time in league history where the NBA is stacked at the position like it is now. I decided to sit down and write a ranking of who the top PG’s in the league are today. This is all my own opinion so I would like to hear any feedback from anyone who disagrees. I know no one ever sees eye to eye on these kinds of lists.
Just Missed The Cut: Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs
22 GP, 15.6 PPG, 5.1 APG, 1.6 RPG, 0.6 SPG, 2.6 TOPG, 50% FG, 37% 3P
When I compiled the list I figured Tony Parker would rank somewhere in the middle of the pack but as I got to looking closer I had to leave him out. He has the Championship pedigree with four NBA rings and a Finals MVP. He is also one of the best slashing guards when healthy.
However, Parker’s contributions leave a little to be desired. He isn’t putting up a 20/8 stat line like he was two years ago. It may be the Spurs system, but there are so many dynamic guards and I think he’s passing that torch.
Just Missed The Cut: Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
25 GP, 17.2 PPG, 5.0 APG, 3.0 RPG, 0.6 SPG, 3.2 TOPG, 40% FG, 26% 3P
It seems like a lifetime ago that Derrick Rose was 2010-11 MVP. After basically missing two seasons (he played 10 game in 2013-14) with injuries to both knees, he has become too undependable for me to rank in my top ten right now. He has missed nine games so far this year with different ailments and I want to see him play the majority of a season before I decide where he ranks.
At the moment, Rose is shooting only 26% from three which also knocks him down my list.
Just Missed The Cut: Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets
34 GP, 16.3 PPG, 10.2 APG, 3.3 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 3.0 TOPG, 43% FG, 33% 3P
It’s hard leaving out the second leading assist man in the league from my top ten. Under regular circumstances that would seem ludicrous but I have my reasons. He is one of the fastest players in the NBA and great at racking up assists but the Nuggets (15-20) aren’t very good. When I factor that in with the fact that he isn’t that great of a shooter, he just missed.
- Mike Conley Jr., Memphis Grizzlies
34 GP, 18.1 PPG, 6.1 APG, 3.3 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 2.1 TOPG, 47% FG, 44% 3P
Mike Conley is the kind of point guard who leads by example, not by talking trash. He progresses yearly and has become a go-to scoring option. His 44% three-point percentage ranks eighth in the league, the highest out of point guards. He isn’t a flashy passer but he is a tough defensive player and fits in nicely with the Grizzlies system. He is the kind of player I would want to go to war with. Efficient, tough and humble.
- Jeff Teague, Atlanta Hawks
31 GP, 17.4 PPG, 7.1 APG, 2.8 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 2.8 TOPG, 48% FG, 35% 3P
Jeff Teague is the unquestioned leader of the surprising Atlanta Hawks (26-8). The Hawks sit in first place in the Eastern Conference and a huge part of their success has been thanks to him. He is a hard-nosed player who comes through in the big moments. He has an all around game and is a good defensive player. He isn’t the greatest long distance shooter but he still manages to shoot nearly 50% from the field thanks to his ability to finish at the rim. He is great at drawing and-ones as well.
- Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
34 GP, 20.6 PPG, 7.6 APG, 4.7 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 2.3 TOPG, 45% FG, 35% 3P
Kyle Lowry and Jeff Teague are very similar to me. It was hard to determine who I wanted to rank higher on my list. After thinking about it, I’ll take Lowry first any day. The man is a fighter. Earlier in the season I wrote that he reminds of an ankle-biting dog. You walk in the house and he nips at you. You kick the dog the away from you and it just barks louder and comes right back at you. Those dogs seem to never quit. That’s how Kyle Lowry plays.
- Rajon Rondo, Dallas Mavericks
31 GP, 9.5 PPG, 10.0 APG, 7.0 RPG, 1.7 SPG, 3.2 TOPG, 41% FG, 32% 3P
Rajon Rondo isn’t a scorer, he never has been. So if you rank your point guards based solely off their points per game, then Rondo probably isn’t your favorite.
I like Rondo because he is a throwback to the days of the traditional point guard. He is a nightly triple-double threat and leads all points guards in rebounding at 7.0 rebounds per game. He is as long as a summer night which gives him a great advantage on defense. I used to think he had the heart of a lion but a few days ago I had to question his effort in Boston the past couple of years.
“I haven’t played defense in a couple of years,” Rondo said. “I’ve been able to hide a lot with Avery Bradley on the ball. He’s helped out, the young guy. But [in Dallas] they expect me to play defense and, in the West, if you don’t play defense you’ll get embarrassed every night at the point guard position.”
Now that he’s been traded to the Dallas Mavericks, I will be interested to see if he steps it up like he did when Boston was a contender. Rondo was always a clutch player whenever the Playoffs rolled around. He has ten triple-doubles in the NBA Playoffs since 2008, the most in the league.
- Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
32 GP, 20.4 PPG, 5.2 APG, 3.1 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 2.0 TOPG, 45% FG, 35% 3P
Kyrie Irving is an enigma, wrapped in a mystery, wrapped in a question. I almost don’t know what to think of him as a player. He has all the skill in the world and is entertaining to watch. The fans love him and he was the 2013 All-Star Game MVP. I just don’t if he is a winner. He has consistently under-achieved throughout his NBA career. He has great scoring ability but he relies on it too much. If he would look for his teammates a little more than I think he would find some more success. He could easily move up this list in the next couple of years but at this point I believe he is overrated.
- Damian Lillard, Portland Trailblazers
35 GP, 22.2 PPG, 6.4 APG, 5.0 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 2.6 TOPG, 46% FG, 36% 3P
If you ask the average fan who is the better point guard between Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving, most would give the advantage to Irving. Those fans are wrong. Dame Dash has all the skills to lead this list in the future. He is a cold-blooded assassin with range that extends to the suburbs. They have a similar game but Lillard is a winner. Since his NBA debut less than three years ago, he has fourteen game winning or tying shots.
That’s the best in the league over that time span. He is better at putting his guys in a position to score and plays with a fire in the pit of his stomach. I don’t know if Irving will ever be able to lead a team to a Championship. I know Lillard can. He plays with a chip on his shoulder and he is hungry to win. There’s not many players in NBA history who have the desire that he does and that’s why he will leave his mark in this league.
- Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
35 GP, 17.6 PPG, 9.5 APG, 4.7 RPG, 2.0 SPG, 2.1 TOPG, 48% FG, 40% 3P
For most of the past decade, Chris Paul has been at the head of the class when it comes to NBA point guards. In his ninth season, Paul is ranked fourth in the league in assists and third in steals. He is a great shooter, one of the only point guards in the league shooting 40% from beyond the arc.
A lot of people will argue that Paul should be ranked number one. The one knock I have on him is the fact that he has never made it past the second round of the NBA Playoffs. He has had a few opportunities and plays with a talented team in Los Angeles but he can never seem to take that next step.
At 29 years old, he is in his prime and if he is ever going to make a run for a title it needs to be now. There’s not too many flaws you can point out in Paul’s game which reflects on the fact that this is the deepest position in the NBA.
- Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
21 GP, 27.0 PPG, 7.0 APG, 5.6 RPG, 2.2 SPG, 3.7 TOPG, 44% FG, 27% 3P
Westbrook has made the leap from being Kevin Durant’s sidekick to being his peer. He is an athletic freak who is starting to put it all together. Outside of shooting three-pointers, there’s nothing on a basketball court that Russell Westbrook can’t do. He hasn’t played enough games to qualify for the scoring title but if he were considered, he would be tied with James Harden for the lead.
He has played in 21 of his team’s 35 games and should qualify within the month. He has taken Derrick Rose’s spot as the most explosive guard in the league and should be an MVP candidate by the end of the season.
People used to knock him for taking more shots than Durant but now the Oklahoma fans are wanting him to shoot more. I have always been skeptical about Westbrook myself but his play has won me over this season.
- John Wall, Washington Wizards
34 GP, 17.2 PPG, 10.4 APG, 4.4 RPG, 2.1 SPG, 3.7 TOPG, 46% FG, 29% 3P
When I think of the perfect point guard, John Wall is what I envision. He is the fastest player in the NBA. Blink your eye and he is gone. He is a one man fast break and the best passer in the league (first in assists per game). He is able to put his teammates in a position to score time after time. He is an athletic marvel who can rise up and finish at the rim with power. He has outstanding handles and can break you down like a cardboard box.
He demands double teams, leading to easy buckets for his shooters. He isn’t a great shooter but his mid-range game is improving yearly. His defense is some of the best you’ll find at his position (he leads the league in steals per game) and if he picks your pocket, you better count it as two.
He should be the starting point guard in the All-Star Game and the fans seem to be recognizing that (he is projected to start the game). He isn’t the dynamic scorer that Russell Westbrook is but he makes just as many plays happen with his basketball intelligence.
- Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
32 GP, 23.0 PPG, 7.8 APG, 5.2 RPG, 2.2 SPG, 3.2 TOPG, 49% FG, 39% 3P
Stephen Curry isn’t your prototypical point guard. He has a killer scoring instinct and he’s a bad man. He is the best shooter in the entire NBA and an MVP candidate. It was hard to decide between Russell Westbrook, John Wall and Steph Curry. In the end I asked myself, ‘Who would I rather have on my team?’ The answer is Curry. He can fill it up from anywhere on the floor.
If the NBA instituted a four-point line, he would average 35 points per game. You are never out of a game with him on the floor. He is the stereotypical ‘heat check’ NBA player. When he gets going, there’s no stopping him. He has a great all-around game and can play good defense.
When you factor in all of his skills with his unbelievable shooting touch, it puts him over the top. For right now, Stephen Curry is tops on my list but with the depth at this position he could be knocked off anyday.