The point guard ranking game has always been tough, so let’s put them in tiers instead.
Since this is the time of the year where rankings are in vogue, I figure i’d do my own rankings. However, unlike the traditional rankings that go 1 thru wherever, I decided to put my guys in tiers based on their games. In today’s rankings we have Point Guards, arguably the deepest position in the league. Surprisingly, for such a deep position, it was really hard to establish any real hierarchy once you got the limited elite guys. But then again, this probably explains why every fan base who doesn’t have a widely accepted elite point guard thinks that his guy is being underrated. But anyway, there’s four tiers, two of them are an extension of one, and though all players are not super similar in the way they play, they all have a somewhat familar effect on the game. So without further ado, let’s do this thing!
Back to Back MVP, Back to Back finals apperances, the best shooter ever, and still in the middle of his prime. Curry’s career arc from shooter with killer ankles to the coldest player in the game is nothing short of amazing. The craziest thing is we might even get a better version of him with Kevin Durant taking his talents to the Bay.
I don’t care. We need to stop pretenting Lebron James isn’t a point guard because he is, and he’s probably the best one in the league. Yes, Lebron James’ jumpshot disappeared last season, but he’s been the king of the east for the past 7 years and counting, and team’s still have no answer for him. For 12 years we’ve watched Lebron James grow from the St. Mary’s phenom to the villian, and now one of the most accomplished players of his era. A player at his size averaging 27.2ppg, 6.9apg, 7.2rpg is the closet a kid in my era may ever get to seeing Magic Johnson or Oscar Robertson. But seriously, who does stuff like this?!
Chris Paul is probably one of the only and best “pure” point guards that we have in the league. He’s never thrown less than seven assists per game, and has never averaged less than 15 points per game. He can shoot from distance, defend, and rund one of the best offenses in the league. My favorite comparision for Chris Paul is to an Apple upgrade. Whenever we upgrade our phone there’s a general excitement to seeing something new, we know for the most part it’ll make our phone better, but it’s the under the hood updates that really make you appreciate the new operating system as a whole. The Chris Paul experience is something similar. Creating a hockey assist when before the player who gets the assist even sees the play, switching on to Kevin Durant in a playoff setting, getting that rebound at just the right time, and my personal favorite, welcoming Emmanuel Mudiay to the NBA. Chris Paul not only has an elite understanding of the game of basketball, but he loves the game and cares about the direction. Going into a contract year at 31 years old, this may be one of his best seasons before his prime years offically allude him. Appreciate while you can.
He’s not efficient, his finishing ability doesn’t mirror his athletcism, and defense isn’t
always ever his first priority, but Westbrook is still one of the best of the best. Without Kevin Durant, Westbrook will be handed the only set of keys to the offense, and will be given the ultimate green light. What does that mean for the Thunder? that depends. Westbrook has a chance to take the next step in his game by controlling his fearless, unabrashed, and sometimes downright crazy game, and balancing that with a more poised approach that keep the rest of his teammates involved. In terms of statistics, Westbrook’s team has been better on both offense and defense when he’s on the court. However, he played a majority of his minutes with Serge Ibaka, Steven Adams, Kevin Durant, and either Andre Roberson or Dion Waiters on the floor with him. Without 3 of these guys, his risk taking ways will be magnified more than they’ve ever been in his career. With that being said, Westbrook still has the talent to take over games with his relentless attacking of the rim, and the ability to attract multiple defenders on a consistent basis. Westbrook is a triple-double threat who will be the best athlete on the court a majority of the time he’s playing. But his ability to adapt how he gets his shots will not just determine his success, but how he’s recognized as a point guard.
Last in the elite group, but certaintly not the least is John Wall. Despite a dissapointing season for the Wizards, John Wall quietly had one of his best seasons. He shot the three at 35.1% on 4.3 attempts, and he had career highs in points, steals, assists, and rebounds. Similar to Westbrook, Wall has an aggressive style of offense predicated by his ability to get to the lane. However, unlike Westbrook his game is based more on finnesse as opposed to brute, and he balances his ball-dominant offensive game with sound defense. The next step for Wall will be his off-ball development. With his good size (6’4), and his elite athletic ability, Wall coud be a lethal off-ball scorer as a cutter, and situational post-up scorer. Last season was a good step by raising his off the catch 3pt shooting to 37.9%, if he can find his chemistry with Bradley Beal, Wall may be able to leapfrog a couple of guys on this list.
The guy everyone called underrated can no longer carry the torch after his 5 year, 153 million dollar deal. Conley has the been the main orchestrator of the “grit and grind era”, and his all around game will be key in helping the Grizzles evolve to a modren approach. Conley isn’t spectacular at one particular thing, but he has no real weaknessses in his game. He defends, his career three point percentage is at 37.3%, he finishes at the rim at an okay rate, and his team is consistently better when he’s on the floor. His value will be put to test in Memphis this year where they’ll ask him to take charge of a brand new in a high-paced offense that could see his stats make a nice jump.
The Philly native has the type of career arc that makes you keep hope in prospects for way longer than you should. Seen as mostly a backup guard off the bench, Lowry went from team to team without finding a role or environment that fit him. Fast forward to now, and he’s wildly considered the best player on a top 3 team in the east. His hard-ball defense, and improved poise as a ball-handler make him one of the hardest players to defend in the pick and roll. Go under and he’ll show you that 38.8% three point range, fight through, and he can comfortably put you on his back while he probes. Last season, version of “Skinny Lowry” led to Lowry raising his production and durability as he led the Raptors into a deep playoff run. In the middle of his prime and in a contract year, Lowry will be looking to improve on the Raptors shaky run to the ECF.
Hill may move into Mike Conley’s place on the “Criminally underrated” role. Hill is the chamelon that every coach loves. When Paul George went down, he turned into the number one option and had career highs in points, assists, and effective field goal percentage. He’s comfortable being the 2nd or the 4th option, and above all else he remains to have a positive impact on both the defensive and offensive side of the ball. His versatility on both ends draws praise from nerd basketball twitter, but his modest production and old location kept him out of the eyes of the casual fan. Utah isn’t exactly a big market either, but he’ll now be part of a team that may be one of Golden State’s biggest threats, and he’ll be a big reason why.
Dragic has been a bit of a forgotten man after his messy exit of the Suns. Since becoming the point guard of the Miami Heat, Dragic has been in a constant ego struggle with Dwayne Wade over ball-handling duties. Wade’s lack of shooting, non- 2016 playoffs included, have led to him being most effective with the ball in his hands, this left Dragic in the same position he fought to get out of in Phoniex, standing on the wing waiting to take a shot. However, when Dragic was the lead guard in charge, not only was he better, but the Heat were a completley different team. More guys were involved, the pace was fluent, and the Heat looked like one of the top teams in the East. With Wade out of the picture, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dragic get back to his 2013 form, where he averaged 20.3ppg, 5.9apg, and shot a blistering 40.8% from three.
Electric scorers who don’t defend (Tier 1)
Irving is the best of the best when it comes to putting the ball in the basket. After putting up a lacklaster regular season littered with injuries and mediocore play, Irving took his game to a new level this postseason. With his elite ability to get wherever he wants with the basketball in his hands, Irving has all the tools you want from an offensive standpoint. Defense will always be a struggle, but it’s mostly due to a lack of emphasis than ability. At only 24, Irving still has a ways to go in terms of potential, but defense has to become a priority. His team was still worse when he was on the court, despite his elite ability to carry an offense. If he can ever get that other side of the court together, he would no doubt enter my elite tier.
“Steph-lite” is the best and most unfair way to describe Lillard. He has limitless range, the handle to get himself free of any look he wants, and the ability to get to the lane at will. Besides for epic duels with Steph Curry, Lillard’s offensive prowress took a team destined to be in the Ben Simmons sweepstakes to a playoff squad. However, none of that eliteness carries over to the defensive end where Lillard gets is a constant liability. Despite being a bit undersized, Lillard doesn’t show the willingness to fully commit to defensive end of the court. On a team that had no real expectations, that wasn’t an issue, but his lack of competiveness on that end will rear it’s ugly head in the postseason.
Debating where Thomas ranks amongst the NBA’s elite is a difficult proposition. The former 60th pick has taken his game to a new level since joining the Boston Celtics. Last season Isaiah Thomas became an all-star for the first time, taking a Celtics team that was one of the worst shooting teams in the league, and hauling them to 48 wins. Thomas’ relentless ability to get the rim and free throw line compliment his shooting ability in a way that makes him perfect for modern offenses. With the addition of Al Horford to his team he’ll have the chance to work with one of the best pick and pop bigs in the league, which will create even more efficient opportunities for him as scorer. Thomas is a consistent off-ball shooter, but has been an averge pull-up player. The ability to play more off-ball with Avery Bradley’s newfound ball-handling ability, and Horford’s point forward skills, Thomas will have the ability to take more higher percentage shots that he couldn’t get his first two years in Boston. Some will continue to point to his size and defensive numbers to suggest that he shouldn’t be considered one of the elite; but realistically most of the best guards in the league are weak on that end.
I’ll be the first to admit that Walker was not someone I considered one of the best point guards in the league until I really dug in on him. Walker’s a bit smaller than the average point guard which gets him in trouble defensivley, but his creating ability still kept him in the back of our minds. When the Hornets added Batum, Walker’s game transformed to a new level. Having Batum’s ability to create not only allowed Walker to play off-ball, but it opened lanes that weren’t previous their. Walker got better at finished at the rim, hitting threes, and quickly became a 20ppg scorer. Offensivley, Walker has begun playing at an all-star rate. His ability to finish isn’t quite at the level of Isaiah Thomas, but he’s by no means that far away from being on that first tier.
The news of Jackson’s knee concerns come at a rough time for the Pistons. The team has been an up and coming surprise, primarily on the back of Jackson. The Pistons consistently ran Jackson out of the pick and roll, and he led the NBA in points out of the play. For the first time in his career, Jackson actually shot at about league average from the three point line (35.5%), and looked a lot more confident taking it. Defense has alwasy been a struggle for him, Jackson doesn’t do great fighting over screens, and has a hard time keeping up with shifty guards. With news that Jackson’s knee tendinitis has been a problem for years, it makes you wonder how much of a factor that played to his overall defensive play.
Potential star that’s always injured
Bledsoe came to the Suns with the nickname of “Mini-Lebron”, which says a lot for a guy who was primarily coming off the bench. Depite being undersized, Bledsoe is a pitbull defensivley, never having a negative DBPM in his six seasons in the league. Offensivley, Bledsoe took a leap next year, hitting 37% of three point attempts, and has always been a threat to get to the rim with his elite athleticism. Plays like this made Bledsoe a household name:
In his last full season, Bledsoe finished at the rim at blistering 64.4%, an impressive mark for such a small point guard.
However, Bledsoe can’t seem to stay healthy. In his 6 seasons in the league, he didn’t play more than 45 games in 3 of them. Bledsoe has consistently dealing with knee problems that has put his upside in jepoady of being reached. Phoniex is filled with young guards and tons of future potential, another shortened year from Bledsoe may put him on the block.