The NBA has been, and always will be, rife with talent. What won’t probably always be is how there are many, many talented point guards in the league today. At this juncture, the point guard position is in a golden age, and curating this list was the most challenging of the five positions — there were at least five other guys who could’ve made the cut, and they’re listed as honorable mentions down below.
As the summer begins to wind down, we’ll be looking at who the ten best point guards will be next season. Enjoy!
11. 10. Reggie Jackson, Detroit – 2015/16 Stats: 18.8p-6.2a-3.2r
Once James Harden left, Reggie Jackson replaced him as the Thunder’s sixth man and spent roughly 3.5 years with the team before being traded to Detroit 50 games into the 2014-15 campaign. In his new starting gig in the Motor City, he developed even more since he was the Pistons’ main playmaker. His 18.8 points and 6.2 assists per game set career-highs, and he was remarkably durable; part of that is attributed to Stan Van Gundy not running him into the ground, and Jackson averaged just under 31 minutes per game.
Regardless, the time he spent on the court paid dividends for Detroit, as he and Andre Drummond emerged as a legitimate inside/outside duo and pick-and-roll threat. Furthermore, his perimeter shot is making excellent progress, and Jackson closed out last season at a 35 percent clip from three.
Don’t be shocked to see Jackson average upwards of 20p-8a as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Tobias Harris improve and force defenses to pay more attention to them — that goes more for KCP since Harris has proven himself as a legit option on offense.
10. 9. Kemba Walker, Charlotte – 2015/16 Stats: 20.9p-5.2a-4.4r
Walker has been one of those guards who seemed to be on the cusp of his potential for the last few seasons. All of that changed in 2015-16 when Walker broke through and posted his first 20-PPG season (20.9) since coming into the league. He led the Hornets to a remarkable season that saw them return to the playoffs after falling apart in 2014-15.
His scoring volume definitely helped, but his efficiency is what took them — and him — over the hump. Walker shot 42.7 percent overall last year and 37 percent from three; it was the first season since 2012-13 that his FG% was above 40, and his stroke from distance jumped up almost a whole seven points from two seasons ago.
What helped Kemba’s case more than anything was his development defensively. Since Steve Clifford came aboard, Charlotte has been noticeably better on that end of the floor, and the players have improved individually. While 1.6 steals per game is a solid number, a better indication is his defensive rating per 100 possessions, which registered at 105.
9. 8. Kyle Lowry, Toronto – 2015/16 Stats: 21.2p-6.4a-4.7r
It’s arguable that Kyle Lowry is as key to the Raptors’ success as DeMar DeRozan — actually, it’s a fact. DeRozan is a scoring machine, but Lowry does just as much to give DeMar the chances he gets. With DeRozan being a slasher, outside shooting is a must to make him more efficient, and Lowry made just under three threes per contest at a 38.8 percent clip last year.
Now that the floor is spread, Lowry can get into the paint as well and do whatever he desires. He’s a reliable finisher around the basket, 60.2 percent inside three feet, and can see the floor and find open teammates, evidenced by his more than six dimes per night average.
Defensively, Lowry’s a tone-setter. He’s a bulldog who can play phenomenal one-on-one defense and is proficient in the passing lanes. The chances he takes, more often than not, end up with him getting a steal, and he finished the year in a four-way tie for first with 2.1 steals per game (Stephen Curry, Ricky Rubio, Chris Paul).
8. 7. John Wall, Washington – 2015/16 Stats: 19.9p-10.2a-4.9r
There’s no doubt that the Wizards severely underperformed this past year, but Wall’s extraordinary season won’t go unnoticed. Without Bradley Beal for a portion of the season, Optimus Dime did everything in his power to keep Washington relevant. He dropped a lot of dimes, got a ton of buckets, and terrorized opposing PGs on defense during his best season as a pro.
This was all done with an improving outside jump shot, something that puts him in a great position for a better year in 2017. With his hyper-athleticism, Wall can out-athlete any point guard who isn’t Russell Westbrook, but defenders would give him an enormous cushion to shoot, essentially taking away his first step.
Wall made a career-best 115 threes at a 35 percent clip which definitely played a part in his explosive season. When a player is putting up numbers like he did last year, you can overlook the fact that he committed 300-plus turnovers, simply because — historically — high volume point guards are turnover prone. (Check this link to see all PGs who averaged 10+ APG & 3.5+ TOV/G)
7. 6. Isaiah Thomas, Boston – 2015/16 Stats: 22.2p-6.2a-3.0r
I love Isaiah Thomas’ game, sincerely. His numbers don’t look stellar on paper until you realize that he’s almost a foot shorter than the average NBA player. With his sub-six-foot frame, Thomas utilizes a ton of acrobatic finishes around the rim to rack up his points, and Boston does a superb job working him off the ball as well.
Thomas is primed for a big year now that he’s the face of the franchise in Boston. He’s an excellent playmaker, and his ability to create for himself adds to his value to the organization because they don’t have another player like him; Al Horford is an All-Star caliber player like Thomas, but they compliment each other, opposed to hindering. Out of the pick-and-roll, those two can shred defenses because both can shoot and score inside.
However, since I believe in objectivity, I’ll admit that he’s a liability on defense at times because of his height, but he’s not the worst, and the good outweighs the bad.
6. 5. Damian Lillard, Portland – 2015/16 Stats: 25.1p-6.8a-4.0r
Dame Dolla is the player who shows up every day, competes at a superstar level, and still gets overlooked. His numbers were much improved from the prior seasons, but Lillard was unjustly snubbed from the All-Star team. On offense, there’s hardly anything Lillard can’t do. His carves up defenders with a tight handle and has excellent size and athleticism.
Furthermore, his outside shot is deadly, and he’s one of the league’s most dynamic scoring guards. He does an outstanding job creating for his teammates as well, and he averaged almost seven assists with a team that, on paper, didn’t look very talented — aside from C.J. McCollum who had an explosive year himself.
He’s a fan favorite in the Northwest and is the best player to don a Trail Blazers uniform since Brandon Roy. At just 26-years-old, Dame is about to enter his prime, and could certainly catapult a few spots if he puts together a season that shatters expectations.
5. 4. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers – 2015/16 Stats: 19.1p-10.0a-4.2r
CP3 has been so consistent for so long, and 2015-16 was no exception. For the third straight year, he put together a season that saw him average 19p-10a while maintaining supreme shooting efficiency. Although some might consider Paul a compliment to Blake Griffin, the 31-year-old from Wake Forest still gets up a ton of shots, and 46.2 percent overall is nothing to scoff at; neither is 37 percent from three or 89.6 percent from the line.
When he isn’t facilitating the offense and throwing lobs to BG and DeAndre Jordan, Paul is still a pest on defense and was one of the four guys who averaged 2.1 steals per game. He’s a master pickpocket, and his diminishing athleticism and made him a savvier individual defender.
Something that’s also interesting about his game is that he’s the only true point guard playing in the NBA, and he’s able to adopt a score-first mindset whenever he wants.
4. 3. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland – 2015/16 Stats: 19.6p-4.7a-3.0r
After seeing how Uncle Drew dominated the latter portion of the Finals, I had no issues putting him in the top-3. He out MVP-ed the MVP, and showed us a cold-blooded killer who can do anything and everything on offense; he literally torched anyone who guarded him, even Klay Thompson, who’s a premier defender.
So, why is it that I put him behind Curry even though he was outplayed? It’s simple: Kyrie’s durability. In three of his five seasons he’s played less than 60 games, and even though it was a remarkable stretch in the Finals, it remains to be seen if he can sustain it for prolonged periods of time.
Regardless, Kyrie Irving’s ability to get to the basket off the dribble is unparalleled, and his finishing ability is outrageous; when his outside shot is working, he’s pretty much unguardable. Defensively, however, he has some issues, during the regular season at least.
3. 2. Stephen Curry, Golden State – 2015/16 Stats: 30.1p-6.7a-5.4r
As weird as it is, Kevin Durant is the person who influenced the top two guys. Now that Durant’s in Golden State, Curry, most likely, is going to see fewer shots, thus limiting how inflated his statistics will look. He’ll but just as efficient with his shooting, but his scoring average will likely drop to the 25 range.
Contrarily, his assist numbers could rise as his scoring dips because he’ll have Durant sitting on the three-point line when he drives, or out of the pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop. Moreover, there’s someone else to go at the end of the shot clock who exceptional at getting their own shot. If it were just him, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, Curry would’ve been number one because his numbers would’ve looked the same, if not better.
It’ll still be super-entertaining to watch him play, and he’ll be just as dynamic, but the volume won’t be there now that they have another top-five player to feed.
2. 1. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City: 2015/16 Stats: 23.5p-10.4-7.8r
Remember the Russ we saw when KD had his foot injury? Well, expect that and more in 2016-17. I can’t wait to see the numbers that Westbrook puts up this coming year, and how he’ll be floating with triple-double averages all season long. Moreover, he’ll be competing just as hard on the defensive end, something that you have to admire from someone who has such a huge offensive load to bear.
Oklahoma City, however, will struggle, and if they make the playoffs, even as a lower seed, there shouldn’t be anyone who deserves MVP more than Russ. With KD gone, Westbrook will have complete control over everything, and will cut up defenses just like he always does.
All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference
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