Neither does Deron Williams. Or Kemba Walker. Or Kyle Lowry.
Point guard is the most demanding position in the NBA. And in ranking the top floor generals, we have demanding criteria.
Is your favorite point guard an All-Star? How long has he been at that level? Is his current career track pointing upward or downward? Where does he rank among scorers at the position? Assists? Does he defend? Is he a turnover machine? Has he directed his team into the postseason? What has he done in the playoffs?
And here are the two most important criteria:
A. Does he make his teammates better?
B. If you want to win the 2015 NBA championship, which point guard would you take right now?
This is why Rose isn’t in the top 10. You could pick him based on his All-Star berths and MVP award. But since winning that MVP in 2011, he has played in 49 of a possible 230 games due to a pair of debilitating knee injuries. To be a top player at your position, you have to actually play.
And if you have watched Rose in the FIBA World Cup, then you know there is nothing to suggest that he is ready to return to that MVP level. Much of the media collectively fawned over the fact that Rose is finally back on the court, conveniently overlooking that he was the third-best point guard on Team USA’s roster and struggling mightily against mostly middling competition.
Is Rose really your pick to help you lift the Larry O’Brien trophy 10 months from now?
Similar arguments can easily be made against Williams, who shot .466 from the field with two All-Star berths and four playoff series wins with the Jazz but has shot .427 with one All-Star berth and one playoff series win since joining the Nets. He already is 30 and battling chronic ankle issues. And he has quite a reputation as a coach-killer.
So, yeah, we found 10 guys better than him, too.
Walker and Lowry have the proper trajectory but haven’t yet compiled the track record to crash the top 10, which brings up an important point. Ranking players admittedly is a somewhat silly exercise because it is fluid. In February, Walker could be an All-Star and have the Hornets on pace for 50 wins, while Rajon Rondo may be shooting 38 percent, sulking and demanding a trade from the Celtics.
Here’s our top 10 point guards, as of right now.
10. John Wall, Washington: Proving our theory of fluidity, he wouldn’t have been on the list at this time a year ago, when his max contract was virtually unjustifiable. But he spent most of last season taking Wizards coach Randy Wittman’s highly public advice to heart – defend your position, get your teammates going, keep the ball moving, take smart shots. It resulted in his first All-Star berth and Washington’s first playoff berth in six years, with a series win to boot. If he can maintain his health, continue to improve as a shooter and get a full grasp of the importance of changing speeds, he could be in the top five in a year or two.
9. Mike Conley, Memphis: One of the most underrated players in the league. All he does is get better on the offensive end while remaining one of the top defenders at his position. When Marc Gasol went down last season, he kept the Grizzlies afloat by picking up the scoring slack to a career-high level. He has piloted two extended playoff runs in the last four years, more than holding his own against the guys at or near the top of this list. And he won the Joe Dumars Trophy, which means his fellow players respect him.
8. Goran Dragic, Phoenix: Among point guards, only Stephen Curry averaged more points and assists than the 20.3 and 5.9 put up by Dragic last season. Dragic also was the only point guard to shoot 50-40 from the field, which allowed him to move off the ball when Eric Bledsoe was healthy. His resume doesn’t include much in the way of playoffs, he still hasn’t been an All-Star and his assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.10 could be better. But he was the NBA’s Most Improved Player last season, and given his play at the World Cup, there’s no reason to believe that ascent will not continue.
7. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland: On positional skill alone, he would probably rank no lower than third. But that has been a blessing and a curse, because while he has mesmerized fans with his style, his substance is sorely lacking. Hidden behind two All-Star berths and a Team USA starting spot are some health issues, a dropping shooting percentage, assist numbers that don’t jibe with his creativity, inconsistent defense and zero playoff berths. And what teammates has he actually made into better players? You could previously argue that he hasn’t had much help. With the arrivals of LeBron James and Kevin Love, that is no longer an excuse.
6. Rajon Rondo, Boston: Prior to his ACL tear in January 2013, he was somewhere in the top five, with unmatched vision and passing skills and a spectacular nose for the ball, either as a defender or rebounder. Only LeBron James has more triple-doubles among active players. His elevated play in the postseason is almost unimpeachable and he is one of only two players on this list with a ring. But since the injury, he has not played back-to-back games while the targets for his pinpoint passes have undergone an overhaul. He has always been somewhat of a sourpuss, and that will be tested by what should be a whole bunch of losing this season.
5. Stephen Curry, Golden State: He is a better player than he is a point guard because of his otherworldly shooting. But his 8.5 assists per game – which made him the only player in the top 10 in scoring and assists – clearly show that he has a superb understanding of the position, at least on the offensive end. Defense is another story, and he has a long way to go there. My bigger quibble with him is his reluctance to go to the rim – Brandon Knight attempted more free throws per game – which makes Golden State easier to defend in crunch time.
4. Damian Lillard, Portland: In just two seasons, he has not missed a game while racking up a Rookie of the Year, an All-Star berth, a trip to the playoffs and a series win that he sealed with a buzzer-beater. He is becoming a dangerous 3-point shooter, which will only make him better at getting to the rim, where he is a terrific finisher. Lillard could value possessions better, and not making Team USA will slow his defensive development. But perhaps his best attribute is his unwavering demeanor, which is always on an even keel.
3. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City: Another guy who is a better player than he is a point guard. I occasionally wince at his shot selection and ballhandling decisions, but many of them are a product of the fact that no one in this league plays downhill more than Westbrook, one of the few true nightmare matchups in this league. His boundless athleticism and relentless motor make him one of the best rebounders and finishers in history at his position, and he is a very underrated defender. He was virtually indestructible until his knee woes last season, then answered any questions by averaging 26.7 points, 8.1 assists and 7.3 rebounds in the postseason. Just so you know, LeBron James’ playoff numbers were 27.4, 4.8 and 7.1.
2. Tony Parker, San Antonio: He dropped off a bit from his career-best 2012-13 season – mostly through a reduction in minutes – but nobody really noticed because he was hoisting the Larry for the fourth time in his career. Parker has more titles than the combined Finals appearances of everyone else on this list. He won a Finals MVP in 2007 and became the most indispensable player on the Spurs soon after. His paint points belong rank him with players a foot taller, mainly because he finishes around the rim as well as any small man. And it has been 10 years since he shot less than 48 percent from the field. There are many who believe he should be one spot higher on this list, and it’s hard to argue with them.
1. Chris Paul, LA Clippers: It would border on basketball blasphemy not to have Paul atop this list. He is an absolute wizard as a passer but can put those skills aside to crack open a 40 on a moment’s notice if that’s what his team needs. No one uses the shoulder better, whether it’s in transition or the pick-and-roll. Despite his dominance of the ball, he has never led the NBA in turnovers while leading in steals five times, which is remarkable when you consider how committed he is to on-ball defending. And until Kobe Bryant shows us that he still has the fire burning inside him, Paul is the most competitive player in the NBA. So it should bother him that in nine seasons, he has never been to a conference finals. It should bother him so much that it becomes a mission this season, regardless of how stacked the West is. Because if the Clippers aren’t in the conference finals in May, someone else should be in this spot.
Chris Bernucca is the managing editor of SheridanHoops.com. His column appears every Monday during the season. You can follow him on Twitter.