NBA Point Guard Power Rankings
There was a time, about 10 years ago, when NBA fans believed they were in a golden age of point guards in the league. Steve Nash was running things in Phoenix, Chris Paul and Deron Williams were just budding as stars, and Tony Parker was continuing his quiet come-up in San Antonio. Even Gilbert Arenas was still doing his Agent Zero thing! Times were good.
With more time, though, comes more experience, and, apparently, even more great point guards. The point guard crop of the mid-2000s might have been good, but today’s crop is great. For comparison, Luke Ridnour was 7th in the league in assists in 2005-06; this year it’s Jrue Holiday, a dynamic playmaker and defender who’s trying to help lead a young team to a playoff berth in the tough Western Conference. It’s even more telling that the assist leaders doesn’t sufficiently demonstrate the difference, since the league’s point guards have evolved as shooters and scorers to the point that they’ve advanced far beyond being the bag man for their teammates. Guys like Mike Conley and Damian Lillard’s foremost contributions to their teams don’t come in the assist column.
So, in the best attempt to capture the league’s current hierarchy of exciting floor generals, here’s a look at the FanRag’s power ranking of the NBA’s best point guards.
- Chris Paul – Now in his 10th year in the league, Paul’s most important statistic, to many fans, is his zero appearances in the conference finals. It’s a blemish on his claim as the league’s best point guard that he has not yet been able to lead him team past the second round, but it’s not a condemnation, especially when you consider Paul’s career. He’s spent most of it playing for second-tier teams in the very tough Western Conference, and for a couple years during his prime, he toiled in stasis on the league-owned Hornets. Consider, even, that David Stern hadn’t nixed the CP3-to-LA trade, and we would probably be talking about Paul in very different terms.
That’s all to say, don’t ignore the numbers for the noise. Paul has been incredibly consistent for 10 years, quite an accomplishment when you consider the way his former nemesis Deron Williams’ career has diminished since his time in Utah. He hasn’t averaged fewer than 9 assists per 36 minutes since his sophomore season, leading the league in assists three times, and he’s a career 47% shooter with 36% three-point shooting. What further sets him apart is his greatness at the other end: he’s lead the league in steals 6 times, and he remains a hound on the ball, even as he loses a step.
It might be a bit of a fatigued choice, but CP3 remains in his own class as a complete point guard.
- Steph Curry – Many people want to peg Curry as a scoring point guard, and while he’s certainly that, he’s a great distributor as well. We know that he’s a flashy passer, but his assist numbers per 36 minutes jumped from about 6.5 to 8.5 a couple years ago and have remained steady. He’s reached the point where he sees the action before it happens and actively makes his teammates better, which is basically the level you want any point guard to reach. His shooting is otherworldly for his position, as his TS% is big-man-esque at 63.5%, and he’s the only point guard in the league’s top-20 aside from Jeff Teague.
This season, Curry has taken on the responsibilities of defending the other team’s point guard, and although the results have been mixed, it’s an example of his willingness to continue his growth and take on more responsibilities to help his team.
- Russell Westbrook – Other than LeBron, Westbrook probably leads the league in haters, which is bound to happen when you play with the unapologetic reckless abandon that he does, and when your shots sometimes come at the expense of Kevin Durant’s.
But Westbrook is certainly one of the league’s best point guards, an explosive scorer who gets to the rim with reckless abandon and finds his way to the free-throw line even more than James Harden. His defense has been spotty, certainly as risky
- Mike Conley – Probably the most underrated point guard in the league, Conley’s numbers are as rock-solid as he is: 19.7 points per 36, 6.6 assists, 1.4 steals, all on 46%/43%/85% shooting splits. That’s pretty good, especially when you consider Conley operates one of the league’s most grounded offenses. The Grizzlies post up more than anyone else in the NBA and often run through Marc Gasol in the high post, which means Conley must fills a variety of roles in their offense, from ball-handling to spot-up shooting. He’s done it all admirably, and with his length, has grown into one of the league’s best defensive point guards as well.
If you don’t watch Conley, it’s hard to appreciate him, but he’s come a long way since his early days in the league on offense, where he’s developed a must better sense of how to change speeds and use his left-handedness to his advantage. He’s one of those ultra-crafty point guards who goes about his business in a ho-hum manner, but his game is so complete, he can’t be left out of any discussion of the league’s best.
- Damian Lillard – Somewhere, a Lillard fan is crying out at his ranking this low, but the reality is that although Lillard has asserted himself as one of the league’s best, there are simply still come players who are a bit better. That’s not a knock on him at all, however.
Lillard is perhaps the league’s best clutch player, as he leads the league in 4th-quarter scoring last year and has hit a number of memorable shots late in games. He’s developed into a lethal shooter, though still not Curry-level, and he’s become a better finisher as he’s added strength.
That’s helped him improve his defense too, which had long been the worst aspect of his game. That hasn’t necessarily changed, but he’s still a better defender, especially when it comes to operating in a team unit. He better understands where to run his man, how to rotate, etc., but still struggles at times on-ball, where he’s prone to run right into ball screens and get out-muscled by stronger guards. He’s still noticeably making the efforts to improve, and his service has been good enough this year to have Portland in the top-five of team defensive rating, so that’s a good start.
- Tony Parker – A three-time NBA finals champion and former Finals MVP, to find Parker at sixth on this list is fitting of how underrated he’s been for his entire career. Parker is super-good, however, and he’s even shored up his three-point shooting this year, which had long been an area he’d avoided.
Parker is a pest and one of the smartest point guards playing the game today. If he were a featured player on another team, the public would probably view him much differently, but he unquestionably remains one of the most impactful point guards who has a tremendous understand of not only his own role, but how to make his teammates’ roles easier.
- Kyle Lowry – Toronto fans go crazy for Lowry, and they’ve launched a super-obnoxious All-Star campaign for the bulldog guard, but he deserves a nod as he’s become one of the better two-way guards in the league. Lowry is quite strong and makes life difficult on opposing point guards, whether he’s beating them up in the post or harassing them on defense. He’s also grown into the leader of a young Toronto team, capable of setting up teammates or getting his own buckets. He’s not ultra-great in any one aspect of the game, but his all-around ability helps him fill in the nooks and crannies for the Raptors.
- Kyrie Irving – Irving’s defense still leaves much to be desired, and it sadly hasn’t improved even as the pressure has mounted this year in Cleveland. However, he’s picking his spots on offense better than ever, even with all the turmoil for this year’s Cavs, and the arrival of a point forward like LeBron has a lot to do with Irving’s much-criticized assist numbers. Irving certainly still has a way to go, but he’s one of the league’s most best scoring point guards.
- Goran Dragic – Dragic is set to make a lot of money this summer, as the lefty as asserted himself as one of the fearless players going to the basket who’s legitimately capable of scoring over anyone. His super-efficient numbers reflect that, but that doesn’t mean he can’t stroke the three-pointer as well. Like the rest of the Suns’ point guard rotation, he’s had to find his footing again during this season, but he’s remained an effective offensive table-setter, which is a testament to his ability to adapt as a point guard as well. He’s a solid defensive player, though he’s able to hide a bit behind the greatness of Eric Bledsoe, but he can defend two positions capably.
- Derrick Rose – Rounding out the top ten is surely another controversial choice, the former youngest MVP in NBA history. Rose has had a rough go in his return this year, but he’s had flashes of being his old self. He’s nowhere close to being back there totally, on either end of the floor, though he wasn’t a great defender to begin with. However, his confidence has demonstrably returned, and this pick is based on Rose’s past and future more than his shaky––but hopeful––present.
Apologies to Rajon Rondo, Jeff Teague, Eric Bledsoe, Ty Lawson, Kemba Walker, and Jrue Holiday.