How deep? Take a look at some of the players not featured in our top 10 rankings at the position.
You won’t find Derrick Rose, the league’s youngest MVP four years ago. Over the past three seasons, Rose has missed 185 of a possible 246 games. Asking Rose to return to his MVP form is out of the question. Asking Rose to return to his All-Star form appears bleak, too.
How about a former $100 million floor general and two-time USA gold medalist? Nope, you won’t find Deron Williams on this list, either. Williams was paid to get out of Brooklyn after his ankle injuries got the best of him during his tenure with the Nets.
Surely a former four-time All-Star, two-time assists leader and NBA champion made the cut, right? Guess again. Rajon Rondo isn’t on this list, either. Rondo enters the season with a big chip on his shoulder after being thrown off the team by the Dallas Mavericks during the playoffs. Now in Sacramento, this appears to be Rondo’s final chance to prove he is still a starter.
Point guard is the foundation of any team in today’s game, which emphasizes pace, floor spacing and pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop sets.
Therefore, we at SheridanHoops expect a lot out of this position.
Is the featured point guard playing at an All-Star level? Is his game trending upward or downward? Can he get a bucket if needed? Can he thread the needle with a pinpoint pass? Is he a lockdown defender? Does he turn the ball over too much? Is he the guy you’d want running the show for your team in the playoffs? Does he make his teammates better?
Most important, if you wanted to win the title this season, which point guard would you take tomorrow?
With that in mind, we assembled a list of the top 10 point guards heading into this season.
1. Stephen Curry, 6-3, 185 pounds, 6 years, Warriors: The reigning league MVP is in his prime at 27. You won’t find a more lethal shooter off the dribble or coming off a screen than Curry, who last season broke his own NBA record for most 3-pointers in a single season (286). He also led the league in total steals (163), free-throw percentage (.914), win shares per 48 minutes (.288), value over replacement player (7.9) and offensive box plus/minus (9.6). Golden State heads into the regular season as a strong contender to win back-to-back titles with Curry at the helm.
2. Russell Westbrook, 6-3, 200, 7 years, Thunder: Westbrook is arguably a top-five player in the league and took his game to a new level without Kevin Durant by his side last season. Without Durant, the Thunder rode Westbrook, who led the league in usage percentage (38.4). The All-Star Game MVP led the league in points per game (28.1) and set career highs in assists (8.6), rebounds (7.3) and steals (2.1). Despite missing 15 games, Westbrook was also second in free throws made (546), free throws attempted (654) and PER (29.1). If the Thunder want to be title contenders, Westbrook and Durant must find a comfortable equilibrium as the co-alpha dogs.
3. Chris Paul, 6-0, 175, 10 years, Clippers: At 30, Paul remains the league’s premier distributor. He led the league in assists per game (10.2) and assist percentage (47.4). Last season, Paul set career highs shooting from 10-16 feet (.519) and 16-24 feet (.487). Beyond the arc, Paul was a very efficient 3-point shooter (.398). The door on Paul’s prime remains open for another few seasons, but there’s a sense of urgency within the Clippers organization to capitalize and win a title now. Paul has been an All-Star eight consecutive seasons, and there’s no reason to think he can’t play at that level again.
4. Kyrie Irving, 6-3, 193, 4 years, Cavaliers: At 23, Irving is coming off left knee surgery with no timetable for his return. Known for his dribbling skills, Irving has arguably the best crossover in the league. Last season, he shot a career-best from 16-24 feet (.482) and beyond the arc (.415) while making the All-NBA Third Team. On any given night, Irving is a lock for 20 or more points and five assists per game. Besides LeBron James, Irving is the only other playmaker for the Cavaliers. Cleveland is eagerly anticipating his comeback in an attempt to return to the NBA Finals.
5. Damian Lillard, 6-3, 195, 3 years, Trail Blazers: Lillard officially became the face of the franchise after he signed a five-year extension and LaMarcus Aldridge left for the San Antonio Spurs in free agency. At 25, Lillard is a back-to-back All-Star and his PER has increased in three consecutive seasons, including a career-high 20.7 last season. Lillard isn’t shy about shooting from the arc. Last season, he was second in the league in attempts (572) and took 42 percent of his total shots from downtown. He is developing into an iron man, having not missed a game in his first three seasons. He also is a proven playoff performer by knocking the Houston Rockets out of the first round in 2014 with a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
6. John Wall, 6-4, 195, 5 years, Wizards: Wall was one of two players (along with Paul) to average 10 assists per game last season. At 25, the back-to-back All-Star has formed an exciting backcourt with Bradley Beal in Washington that pushes the pace in transition. Wall is at his best in the open floor on the fast break, using his lightning-quick speed to his advantage. The next step for Wall is to become a consistent 3-point shooter, which would open up the lane for him to penetrate more easily. Last season, Wall shot 30 percent from the arc. With the loss of Paul Pierce, Wall will be asked to assume a larger leadership role this season.
7. Mike Conley, 6-1, 175, 8 years, Grizzlies: At 28, Conley is in the prime of his career in a contract season, which suggests a monster year is ahead. Conley gets into the lane often, taking 28 percent of his attempts at the rim. He also runs a lot of pick-and-roll plays and lets it fly from downtown 31 percent of the time. As a result, you will rarely see Conley take mid-range jumpers; he prefers to take the ball a dribble deeper and use a floater, which the lefthander has perfected with both hands. For Memphis to truly contend for the title, Conley must have a career year. Looking ahead, the Grizzlies hope to retain him alongside Marc Gasol as veteran cornerstones.
8. Kyle Lowry, 6-0, 205, 9 years, Raptors: Lowry underwent one of the biggest transformations of any player this offseason by losing about 20 pounds. The All-Star no longer looks like the “bulldog” Raptors GM Masai Ujiri previously called him. In his first three preseason games, Lowry shot 68 percent (28-of-41) and dropped 40 points in just 28 minutes on Minnesota. He is coming off his first All-Star berth, but has yet to record a playoff series win as a starter. With a more slender Lowry and the addition of DeMarre Carroll this offseason, the Raptors are hopeful they can advance past the first round.
9. Goran Dragic, 6-3, 190, 7 years, Heat: Dragic signed a five-year, $85 million deal to remain with Miami after being acquired from Phoenix at the trading deadline. In 26 games for the Heat, Dragic got to the rim often and attempted 43 percent of his shots near the rim. As a result of his aggressive nature, Dragic has shot over 50 percent in back-to-back seasons – a rarity for point guards. He was the 2014 Most Improved Player and a Third Team All-NBA choice that season. However, he still hasn’t been to an All-Star Game and has been to the playoffs just once. With options alongside him in Miami, Dragic must find a balance as a scorer and facilitator, which could be an X-factor in determining how far Miami goes this season.
10. Tony Parker, 6-2, 185, 14 years, Spurs: At 33, Parker looked like he lost a step last season. The six-time All-Star and former Finals MVP had his lowest averages in minutes (28.7), points (14.4), assists (4.9) and rebounds (1.9) since his 2001-02 rookie campaign. On a positive note, Parker shot a career-best 43 percent from downtown. Coach Gregg Popovich is notorious for giving his veteran stars rest during the season to keep them fresh for the playoffs. Don’t be surprised to see a lot of Patty Mills and Ray McCallum during the season to keep Parker fresh as he chases his fifth ring.