Ranking The League’s Starting Point Guards

With the NBA draft over, free agency winding down, and NBA training camps about a month away it’s that time of year again for fans to get excited about the next season. Whether you are a fan of a powerhouse franchise like the Warriors, Cavaliers, or Spurs , the fan of an up and coming young franchise like the Timberwolves, 76ers, and Bucks, or somewhere in between, you have players and teams with goals and expectations to get excited about. Our writers are as excited as any NBA fan for this season, so we have decided to take a slightly different approach to our pre-season articles this year.

All of of our writers ranked starting NBA players by position. With these individual rankings we created a composite ranking list based on the average rank of players from our writers. These lists will be released weekly for the positions of PG, SG, SF, PF, C and Head Coaches over the next five weeks. We will use these rankings and a statistical logorithm to create a power rankings of all 30 NBA franchises leading into the season. We believe that this process will create more accurate and less biased power rankings than otherwise possible.

This week in the article below we have released our starting Point Guard ranks. We hope you all enjoy!

– Jeremy Arnstein

THE RANKINGS

Washington Wizards Blog
Via Getty Images

THE TOP 10

1. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

The first unanimous MVP in NBA history.  The all-time leader in three pointers made in a season.  NBA champion, and the father of the NBA’s first family (shoutout Jalen Rose).  Steph Curry has taken the league by storm the last three years, and it has shown with how popular the Warriors have become, that he is the NBA’s golden child.  He was second in All-Star voting last year (behind Kobe Bryant’s stop on his farewell tour), but popularity alone doesn’t get you the number one spot on this list.  People can and will argue all day, whether a shoot first point guard who doesn’t lead his team in assists can be the best point guard in the league, but you can’t argue with his results over not one, but the last three years. Only he and Russell Westbrook have averaged at least 24 points, 6 assists, and 1.5 steals over the last three seasons as a point guard, and Steph’s averages last year blew those numbers away: 30.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 6.7 assists.  Steph shot 45% on three pointers, 56% on two pointers, and 90% from the free throw line.  Most importantly, Curry’s play leads directly to what matters most: Wins.  Additionally, teams had to completely change the way they play defense, making the game easier for his teammates.  He was directly responsible for at least 5 of the Warriors record breaking 73 wins, where they really had no business winning.  Steph is the best player in the league who starts at point guard. – Ryan

2. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers

Chris Paul has established himself as one of the most consistent point guards over the last three years as a Clipper. He has posted season averages of 10+ assists per game and 19+ points per game every year since 2013 and I don’t expect those averages to change much during his 2016-2017 campaign. What makes CP3 elite however is not his stats, which wouldn’t land him in the #2 spot as impressive as they are, but it’s his intangibles that separate him from most NBA point guards. Chris Paul brings leadership, a defensive presence, and an unmatched basketball IQ, all of which more than make up for his physical limitations which will become a concern in the latter part of his career. – Jeremy

3. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

Jeremy and I went a bit against the grain by ranking Westbrook behind Chris Paul.  Westbrook is probably the most athletic point guard of all time, and his numbers are simply ridiculous.  He combines Kobe’s thirst for blood with Iverson’s reckless abandon.  That said, I have no idea if the Thunder can be good without Durant.  Consider this—in 2013-14 Westbrook missed 36 games due to injury and the Thunder went 25-11 without him.  They won 59 games and Durant was named league MVP.  One year later, in 2014-15, Durant missed 55 games and the team went 27-28 without him.  They ended up 45-37 thanks to an 18-9 record with Durant, but missed the playoffs.  Chris Paul, on the other hand, wins 50 games every year with or without Blake Griffin.  Paul and Westbrook are both serial killers, but Paul’s every move is calculated (like Dexter) while Westbrook is all id. – Charlie        

4. John Wall, Washington Wizards

John Wall manages to fit all the “essential point guard duties” into a 6’ 4” athletic body.  In the last three years Wall has separated himself among the competition and has posted two straight seasons averaging at least 10 assists per game.  The fastest point guard in the league, has also learned how to better manage his speed, utilizing devastating hesitation moves, and leading fast breaks.  Wall has shown that his passing and leadership skills translate directly into success for his teammates, with Trevor Ariza (40%), Jared Dudley (42%), and Martell Webster (42%), all having career highs in three point shooting percentage while playing alongside him.  The knee surgery he had this offseason will hopefully cleanup some issues and pain he’s been dealing with the last three seasons, and help him lead the Wizards back to a top 5 position in the conference. – Ryan

This blog’s namesake is ranked above superior scorers because of his two-way play.  He combines the size and wingspan of a shooting guard with the fastest jets in the league.  He can gamble on double-teams and teleport back to shooters foolish enough to think they’re open.  As a 20-year-old he snagged nine steals in his first ever home game, and these days he takes pride in being the best shot blocking point guard in the world. When he steps up his intensity on defense the whole flow of the game changes.  Did I mention he’s led the Wizards in points scored every year he’s been a pro, is a passing genius, and lives to find open three point shooters? – Charlie

5. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers

Kyrie Irving had a slight down year statistically in the 2015-2016 season which can be accounted for by his return from a broken kneecap suffered during the 2015 NBA finals. This injury can also be sighted when wondering why his minutes went down from 36.7 minutes to 31.3 minutes per game. After he recovered from the injury however, Irving asserted himself as a top 5 NBA PG especially with his play in the 2016 NBA finals where he averaged 27.1 PPG and outplayed the first ever NBA consensus MVP Stephen Curry on both ends of the floor. – Jeremy

6. Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies

6’2″ Mike Conley went from being Greg Oden’s wingman to the most underrated player in the league to signing the largest contract in NBA history.  Never an All-Star, Conley might be the most well-rounded point guard this side of Chris Paul.  He drains threes, scores off the dribble, sets up his teammates, plays high-level defense, and has a shockingly low turnover rate.  He’s played in 50 playoff games, been to the Western Conference Finals, took part in an 8-1 upset, and took two games off the 2014-15 Warriors.  All that said we should not have ranked him above a pure alpha dog like Damian Lillard. – Charlie     

7. Damian Lillard, Portland Trailblazers

The following is a list of players to average 25 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, and 37% three point shooting in a season: Michael Jordan, Larry Bird (four times), LeBron James (twice), Steph Curry, James Harden, Damian Lillard.  This makes it even more absurd that Lillard didn’t make the All-Star team this season, while making the All-NBA 2nd Team.  Lillard also led the third youngest team in the league to the playoffs, handed the Warriors their largest loss of the regular season (32), and was a huge factor in the team rebounding from a 14-21 record on January 1st, finishing 44-38.  Lillard doesn’t rank higher because of his warts on defense, which ESPN’s Zach Lowe pointed out when leaving Lillard off his All-Star team, saying, “Lillard is Point Guard Harden.  He’s just not as physically imposing as Harden; when Lillard’s triple isn’t falling, he can’t compensate with pulverizing drives and heaps of free throws.” – Ryan

8. Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors

Kyle Lowry is coming off of his best statistical season averaging 21.2 PPG, 6.4 Assists and 4.7 rebounds. At the prime age of 30, there is no reason to think Lowry will slow down his stellar production this season. Players often take their game to the next level after having experience playing for Team USA in an Olympics, and the Raptors will certainly hope that their star PG can make a leap as well. He will need to in order for the Raptors to have a more successful season than last year, as their roster is more or less the same. – Jeremy

9. Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets

Kemba (and Jeremy) finally won me over last year by averaging 20.9 points per game for a 48-win Hornets team.  He upped his impact by turning into a three-point bomber (2.2 threes per game on 37.1% shooting), after starting his career inefficient from deep.  He’s been clutch his whole life (UConn anyone?) and continued to be in last year’s playoffs.  Up 3-2 against the Heat, with Nic Batum injured, Walker scored 37 points in game 6.  Unfortunately for Charlotte, it wasn’t quite enough as Wade and the Heat pulled the game out, but he turned a lot of heads that series. – Charlie

For those who follow Walker’s NBA career closely you know that he has improved his game every season by becoming an elite defender and a more efficient offensive player. This has earned him a spot as a top 10 PG in the NBA. For him to take the next step he will have to improve as a playmaker for others and show a greater ability to orchestrate an offense as a point guard rather than a scorer. – Jeremy

10. Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics

Possibly the best last pick in NBA history, Thomas FINALLY seems to have a home in the NBA.  After short, but seemingly successful stints in Sacramento and Phoenix, Thomas has led the Celtics to the playoffs the last two seasons.  It is still confusing why Marcus Smart started the first three games last season before getting hurt and paving the way for Thomas, but I’ll look past that.  IT4, as he’s done his entire life, has found a way to use his small stature to his benefit, squeezing through double teams, getting to the rim, forcing fouls and running off of screens for open shots.  Averages of 22 points, 6 assists, and 87% free throw shooting, combined with a masterful 42 point performance in the playoffs last year have done enough to offset obvious limitations of defense.  He may not be a perennial All-Star, but Thomas can be the second best player on a top team in the conference, something the Celtics expect to be this season. – Ryan

Washington Wizards Blog
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

THE MIDDLE 10

11. Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix Suns

Bledsoe’s break out season was interrupted by injury after just 31 games played. He did post elite numbers in those games however, averaging 20.4 pts, 6.1 assists, and 4.0 rebounds. As a consensus #11 ranked PG, Bledsoe is still considered not to have made the leap into the NBA’s elite at his position, even though his stats indicate he could be there. Bledsoe still has to prove that he can command the helm of a playoff team before he will be given the recognition that he probably deserves. Given that the Suns are in the middle of a rebuilding process, Bledsoe might still have to sit outside the top 10 for a few years to come. – Jeremy

12. Goran Dragic, Miami Heat

I’ll start here with Nate Duncan’s favorite stat: in ‘clutch’ time (last 5 minutes of a 5 point game) Dwyane Wade had a 41.7% usage rate and Dragic’s was 11.2%.  What the heck is that about?  With Wade in Chicago, the Dragon seems ripe for a bounce back year.  In the 1,037 minutes Dragic played without Wade last year (including playoffs) the Heat outscored opponents by 9.3 points per 100 possessions.  He also had a strong playoffs with some big moments.  For the sake of Heat fans he better bounce back, because if Chris Bosh doesn’t return he’s the first option. – Charlie

13. Jrue Holiday, New Orleans Pelicans

A former All-Star and career 14 points and 6 assists guy, Holiday has been perennially injured the last three seasons.  Since his last year in Philadelphia, when he was an All-Star and averaged 37 minutes per game, Holiday has averaged 46 games per season.  His per 36 minutes numbers this past season were higher than they’ve ever been, but that was mostly because of playing against the second unit and being the only actual NBA level player left on the roster later in the season after injuries to Ryan Anderson, Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, and other contributors.  His minutes per game have dropped to 28 per game, but it seems that Holiday is finally ready to return to the starting lineup after playing in 65 games last season and having no real issues with his troublesome leg. He can shoot, pass, and defend, and his all-around game fits perfectly for a young Pelicans team looking to return to the playoffs. – Ryan

14. Reggie Jackson, Detroit Pistons

Reggie Jackson had a lot to prove to Piston fans last year as he was given the unquestioned keys to the motor city’s franchise after the departure of Brandon Jennings. Jackson filled coaches and teams expectations admirably by posting career numbers of 18.8 points and 6.2 assists. Jackson will be a huge part of the Pistons development going forward as the team often seemed to play as well as Jackson played. His team’s success, or sometimes lack thereof, has as much to do with Jackson’s middle of the pack ranking as anything else considering his statistics are worthy of a higher spot.  – Jeremy

15. Rajon Rondo, Chicago Bulls

Last season Rondo led the league in assists per game for the third time in his career, but was again unable to land a long-term contract in free agency.  By the end of the year he seemed to be putting his assist totals before the success of the Kings.  He grabbed two steals a game, but showed no interest in playing team defense.  That said he is still a talent and a wildcard.  DeMarcus Cousins scored 1.09 points per possession with Rondo on the floor compared to 0.99 points per possession without Rondo.  Count me as a little more bullish on Chicago than most. – Charlie

16. Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves

I didn’t want to start on a bad note, but I just can’t ignore the fact that Ricky Rubio had the second worst field goal percentage among all qualifying point guards and shooting guards at 37%.  To the positive notes though, he averages 8 assists per game over his career, and under three turnovers.  In addition, he has one of the most impressive passing arsenals in the league, and he’s shown this ability for a long time, having been a professional basketball player since the age of 14. With the Wolves drafting point guard Kris Dunn with the 5th pick in the draft, it looks like Rubio won’t be leading the ship for much longer, but he’s got a great chance to do something this season he hasn’t done in his 5 seasons in the NBA: Make the playoffs. – Ryan

17. Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs

Parker is one of the hardest players to rank in the NBA because he puts up very pedestrian numbers with only 11.9 PPG and a respectable 5.3 assists on one of the most dominant teams in the NBA. I am comfortable with Parker being ranked at 17, although I know cases can be made for him being much higher or much lower. I see Parker as a player who has elite experience and skill but mediocre athleticism and durability at this point in career both of which hold him back. Factoring in the +/-’s I think it’s fair to put Parker in the middle of the pack at 17. – Jeremy

18. Jeff Teague, Indiana Pacers

What do Mo Williams, Jameer Nelson, and Jeff Teague have in common?  They all made one All-Star team in the East largely based off the success of their teams.  Teague still has time to make more, but I’m unconvinced.  He’s not an impact defender and he benefitted from the situation in Atlanta.  He was a hard player to rank, and it showed—Ryan put him at 14 while I had him way down at 22.  If he shoots 40% from three again I will admit we had him too low. – Charlie

19. Derrick Rose, New York Knicks

Confession time: My biggest pet peeve in the NBA is when someone says, “Oh the Bulls (or Knicks), will be a top team in the East this year if Derrick Rose is healthy.  Breaking news: Even if Derrick Rose plays all 82 games he will not be his former 2011 MVP self.  He’s essentially a new player, but not necessarily a terrible one.  He’s still clearly a starting caliber point guard, having averaged 16 points and 5 assists last year, but there is certainly a lot to grow upon.  The Knicks have no chance to be a super team, but reaching a top six seed will depend pretty highly on Rose to run the Triangle Offense.  If I’m a Knicks fan, all I can hope for is the Knicks to gel and advance to the playoffs, and Rose to not somehow halt the growth of Kristaps Porzingis.  Rose is only 28, so he still has plenty of time to adjust to his new role and improve upon his last season, which was relatively healthy, but ended with the Bulls missing out on the playoffs. – Ryan

20. George Hill, Utah Jazz

Hill had a bit of a down year in 2015-2016 with the Pacers as he played the most minutes of his career and yet his production went down from seasons past. He averaged only 12.1 points and 3.5 assists. Both of which are very low for a PG. George Hill’s strengths however, are his defensive capabilities and ability to command an offense neither of which will show up in the stat chart. Hill will bring both of these qualities to the Jazz this season, but seeing that his new franchise has a lot invested in the development of PG Dante Exum it’s hard to know exactly what Hill’s role will be for the Jazz as he might be asked to play off the ball at times. – Jeremy

D'Angelo Russell and Elfrid Payton - Washington Wizards Blog
John Raoux/Associated Press

THE BOTTOM 10

21. Deron Williams, Dallas Mavericks

D-Will helped Dallas make the playoffs despite both starting wings—Chandler Parson and Wes Matthews—battling injuries.  He ended the season second on the team in points per game and first in assists.  He earned a bad rep in Brooklyn, but he’s still a smart player and, as Wizards fans know, when he gets hot, watch out. – Charlie

22. D’Angelo Russell, Los Angeles Lakers

D’Angelo Russell was a victim of both modern technology and having his rookie year align with the Kobe farewell tour.  Lost amongst those various distractions, Russell actually had a pretty successful February and March, averaging 15 points and 15.9 respectively for those months, including 21 in a rout of the Warriors, and a career high 39 points with eight three pointers three games before that.  Throw in his 6’5” height, better than advertised three point shooting, and court vision, and you can expect to see Russell continue to move up this list during the season.  Don’t be worried about his 3.3 assists per game too now that the Mamba is retired.- Ryan

23. Jeremy Lin, Brooklyn Nets

Writers have called the 2015-2016 season a comeback year for Lin even though he statistically had the same production on the Hornets as he has had on every team he plays significant minutes for. Lin was a more efficient scorer this past year after shooting a career best from 3 and from the field, which is likely where his critics praise comes from. There is a big difference in the NBA, however, from being an efficient scorer off the bench when you can play off of elite talent like Walker and Batum and a starting PG which Lin will be on the Nets. Nets new head coach Kenny Atkinson, who coached Lin during Linsanity, vows for the guard’s talent and plans to put the ball in Lin’s hands as much as possible to run his offense. I am not saying Lin can’t be that guy for a team, but he is ranked at a lowly 23 because he has yet to show he can do it for an entire season. – Jeremy

24. Dennis Schroder, Atlanta Hawks

German Rondo (is that even a compliment anymore?) makes plays, but I’m dubious he can be a starting level point guard for 82 games.  He has great per 36 numbers, but needs to show he can control the tempo of a game.  Throw in the fact that Dwight Howard is nowhere near the passer Al Horford was and a lot of pressure is going to fall on the 22-year-old. – Charlie

25. Patrick Beverley, Houston Rockets

Widely regarded as one of the best defensive point guards in the NBA, Beverley ranks in the bottom fourth of the list for a few reasons, mostly having to do with the fact he essentially plays shooting guard, with the Rockets relying heavily on point guard duties from James Harden.  His 3.4 assists per game are the second to last in the league among starting point guards, but he fits well in the Houston system, hitting open threes at a great clip (40%), and attempting to make up for the defensive struggles of his backcourt running mate.  When he controls his defensive intensity it’s a sight to see.  When he doesn’t things can get ugly. – Ryan

26. Darren Collison, Sacramento Kings

Collison’s numbers were not terrible last year as he posted 14.0 PPG and 4.3 assists off the bench. He was also asked to play off the ball a lot as Rajon Rondo was the starting point guard. A more telling year of Collison’s point guard capabilities is if you look at the 2014-2015 season when he posted a nice 16 PPG but was the primary ball handler on one of the most dysfunctional teams in the NBA. Collison has some nice talent for sure, but the Kings had better hope he has somehow made huge strides defensively and in his decision making if they hope to compete in the West this year. – Jeremy

27. Emmanuel Mudiay, Denver Nuggets

Mudiay shot 36.4% from the field and had a PER of 9.9 in his rookie year.  Gross.  He is very athletic, which gives him upside, and his high turnover rate shows he’s not afraid to try and make plays.  To me he’s a walking question mark. – Charlie

28. Elfrid Payton, Orlando Magic

Fun Fact: Last summer, after Elfrid Payton’s rookie season, I saw the New Orleans product at local NOLA college/divey watering hole F&M’s.  He had a few girls around, a few dudes, and bought a few drinks, but no one really seemed to care too much that he was there.  That’s a perfect analogy for his two years as the Magic’s starting point guard.  Last year, I loved Victor Oladipo as the starting PG for a few games Payton missed, but the Magic seem content giving Payton at least one more year running the ship.  Part of the reason former coach Scott Skiles resigned was because he didn’t believe in Payton as the starting point guard moving forward.  At least Payton’s a pass first point guard and the Magic actually have a solid amount of players who are good on offense with the ball.  But then again he’s a career 57% free throw shooter. Sorry NOLA locals. – Ryan

29. Michael Carter Williams, Milwaukee Bucks

Carter-Williams recent “decline” in the eyes of many NBA fans and critics is a bit unfair since everyone knows his at times elite box scores from his 76ers years were more from the team’s lack of other options than Carter-Williams’ own talent. It was no surprise to me to see him struggle a bit acclimating to a very talented and deep Bucks roster. For him to have a successful year as the Bucks starting PG he will have to find some middle ground with head coach Jason Kidd and find ways to be more productive offensively. Carter-Williams’ lack of shooting ability really hurts him. He will either have to improve on that or find different ways to score for defenses to respect him. His size and playmaking ability should still earn him a starting spot on the Bucks whether he improves from last year or not. – Jeremy

30. Jerryd Bayless, Philadelphia 76ers

Sam Hinkie put a lot of basketball theories to the test, including the idea that one should always draft the best player available.  The Sixers had 6 lottery picks in the last four drafts and picked five big-men (Simmons, Okafor, Embiid, Saric, Noel) and one guard (Michael Carter-Williams) who they traded.  This explains why they are going into next year with Jerryd Bayless as the projected starter. More a combo guard than pure point, Bayless is at least a real NBA player (which is progress). I’m definitely a little too excited for the Sixers going forward. – Charlie      

Each Writer’s Individual Rankings

Top Point Guards in the NBA

Stay tuned for the Shooting Guard rankings next week

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