December 26, 2014

Ranking The NBA's Best Point Guards Heading Into 2015

#30, Stephen Curry, PG, Warriors

We're just a little over a fourth through the 2014-2015 NBA season, and heading into the new year. The point guard play in the NBA this season is better than it's ever been, and is arguably the strongest position in the NBA. The criteria for these rankings isn't complex. Which point guards in the NBA are playing the best, putting up the best numbers, are the most efficient, and are the most important to their team's success right now. If a player is listed lower than you think he should be, it could be because his defensive play isn't up to par right now, which is also very, very important.

*Stats as of 12/25/14

(PER = Player Efficiency Rating / ORTG = Offensive Rating / DRTG = Defensive Rating)

Tier 4: The "Starting Caliber" Point Guards

These point guards are far from elite, but are good, solid point guards who are nice short term options for a team hoping to contend. However, by the end of the year, one or a few of them could move into the next tier with improved play.

20. Darren Collison, Sacramento Kings

17.5 PER / 110.2 ORTG / 108.0 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
34.8 MPG: 15.8 PPG, 6.0 APG, 3.4 RPG, 1.7 SPG, 2.4 TO (44% FG, 33% 3P, 76% FT)
PER 36: 16.3 PPG, 6.2 APG, 3.5 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 2.5 TO

Analysis: Collison is enjoying a good first couple of months so far. As the season goes on, he's a player who could jump into the next tier if he continues to improve and progress. You could do much, much worse in terms of a starter at the point guard position.

19. Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets

17.9 PER / 106.3 ORTG / 106.4 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
35.2 MPG: 16.9 PPG, 5.7 APG, 4.0 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 1.5 TO (40% FG, 33% 3P, 79% FT)
PER 36: 17.2 PPG, 5.8 APG, 4.1 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 1.5 TO

Analysis: Walker isn't a pure point guard. The reason he's so low on this list is because he's a very inefficient volume scorer, and hasn't really shown much improvement this season. However, Walker is a good ball handler, has a killer cross over, and has a knack for being clutch and hitting big shots when the game is on the line.

18. Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets

16.8 PER / 108.3 ORTG / 107.6 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
34.5 MPG: 15.6 PPG, 6.8 APG, 3.1 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 2.6 TO (40% FG, 38% 3P, 88% FT)
PER 36: 16.3 PPG, 7.1 APG, 3.2 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 2.7 TO

Analysis: It was only a few years ago when analysts were declaring that Deron Williams was the league's best point guard. Fast forward to 2014, and it's clear that Williams isn't the same player he was then (injuries certainly have played a role in his "decline"), but D-Will can still hold his own among the league's best. Though he's no longer an elite point guard, he's still a very good starter.

17. Jrue Holiday, New Orleans Pelicans

17.9 PER / 109.2 ORTG / 110.9 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
34.1 MPG: 15.4 PPG, 7.2 APG, 3.3 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 2.2 TO (44% FG, 34% 3P, 88% FT)
PER 36: 16.2 PPG, 7.6 APG, 3.5 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 2.3 TO

Analysis: Consistency is still an issue for Holiday, but he's another candidate to move up in the rankings as the season progresses. Despite shooting just 34% from deep this season, Holiday is one of the best perimeter shooting point guards in the league, and is a pretty good play maker. I haven't seen him take that big step forward this year, which is why he's not as high on this list as he could be.

16. Isaiah Thomas, Phoenix Suns

20.5 PER / 116.8 ORTG / 109.0 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
24.5 MPG: 15.2 PPG, 3.9 APG, 2.3 RPG, 0.7 SPG, 1.7 TO (42% FG, 38% 3P, 86% FT)
PER 36: 22.3 PPG, 5.7 APG, 3.4 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 2.5 TO

Analysis: Coming off the bench for the Suns after having a career year as a starter in Sacramento, Isaiah Thomas is doing well in his new role. What he lacks in size, he makes up for with heart and toughness. He's an incredible scorer at the point guard position, averaging over 22 points a game per 36 minutes.

Tier 3: The "Rising All-Star" Point Guards

These point guards don't get the credit they deserve. They're playing at arguably the highest levels of their (young) careers, and could be in the all-star discussion in the near future. These players are "next in line".

15. Brandon Knight, Milwaukee Bucks

18.4 PER / 106.9 ORTG / 106.6 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
32.4 MPG: 18.1 PPG, 5.3 APG, 4.6 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 3.4 TO (44% FG, 40% 3P, 90% FT)
PER 36: 20.1 PPG, 5.9 APG, 5.1 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 3.8 TO

Analysis: Some analysts will tell you than Brandon Knight deserves to be an all-star this year. His numbers speak for themselves, and he really looks like he belongs in the conversation with some of the other all-star point guards in the NBA. I still view Knight as more of a combo guard than a pure point guard, but he's been so efficient this year and good enough as a distributor that he deserves to be mentioned among the next tier of floor generals.

14. Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets

17.2 PER / 108.8 ORTG / 109.8 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
37.4 MPG: 15.8 PPG, 10.4 APG, 3.0 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 3.1 TO (41% FG, 32% 3P, 73% FT)
PER 36: 15.2 PPG, 10.0 APG, 2.9 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 3.0 TO

Analysis: Arguably the quickest point guard in the league, Ty Lawson remains one of the most underrated point guards in the game today. He's got a good handle, is an underrated attacker, and has become one of the best passers in the league, averaging a career high in assists. He's never been known to lock anyone down on defense, but, he's tough and competes. He's having a down year scoring, but could move up this list as the season progresses.

13. Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix Suns

17.7 PER / 106.2 ORTG / 105.0 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
32.9 MPG: 15.8 PPG, 5.8 APG, 5.3 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 3.3 TO (43% FG, 30% 3P, 85% FT)
PER 36: 17.3 PPG, 6.3 APG, 5.8 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 3.6 TO

Analysis: "Mini-Lebron" has made the most of his opportunity in Phoenix, proving that he is a very good NBA point guard. He's a solid all around player. Versatile scorer, solid passer, excellent rebounder, and an underrated defender. He's a threat for a triple double on any given night. I want to see him improve his shooting percentages and assist numbers this season before I put him in the next tier of point guards.

12. Rajon Rondo, Dallas Mavericks

14.6 PER / 95.2 ORTG / 103.5 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
31.9 MPG: 8.6 PPG, 10.6 APG, 7.3 RPG, 1.7 SPG, 3.5 TO (40% FG, 27% 3P, 33% FT)
PER 36: 9.7 PPG, 12.2 APG, 8.5 RPG, 1.9 SPG, 3.9 TO

Analysis: Rondo never developed a consistent jump shot, and he'll likely never be the big-time scorer that some of the point guards ahead of him are. But, there's a reason the Dallas Mavericks traded for Rondo. He's arguably the best facilitator in the league, currently leading the NBA in assists, and makes his teammates better. He's averaging more rebounds per game than most big men, is a threat to rack up a triple-double every night, and can lock down the best point guards the game has to offer. He's a piece to a potential championship puzzle.

11. Jeff Teague, Atlanta Hawks

20.7 PER / 112.7 ORTG / 104.3 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
31.0 MPG: 16.5 PPG, 7.0 APG, 2.5 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 2.9 TO (47% FG, 37% 3P, 88% FT)
PER 36: 19.1 PPG, 8.1 APG, 2.9 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 3.3 TO

Analysis: Another one of those "underrated" point guards, Jeff Teague is quietly putting together a career year. He's shooting the ball very well this year, averaging 8 assists a game per 36 minutes, and doesn't get enough credit for what he can do on the defensive end. He could be an all-star if he continues to play this well.

10. Mike Conley Jr., Memphis Grizzlies

20.3 PER / 114.3 ORTG / 106.5 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
33.2 MPG: 17.9 PPG, 6.1 APG, 3.0 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 2.1 TO (46% FG, 40% 3P, 86% FT)
PER 36: 19.4 PPG, 6.6 APG, 3.3 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 2.3 TO

Analysis: When you think of the word underrated, Mike Conley Jr. is probably the first NBA player that comes to mind. He's quietly put together some very impressive seasons over the last couple of years, and this season is no different. Even if he never makes the leap into the "elite" or "all-star" categories, he's got pretty much everything you want in a point guard. Though I don't list him as a second tier point guard, he should be an all-star this season.

Tier 2: The "All-Star" Point Guards

These point guards are usually mentioned in the "elite" discussion. I view these players as guys who are bona fide all-stars at the position, and with just a little more work (whether it be on the offensive or defensive end), they could join the ranks of the elite.

9. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers

19.8 PER / 118.6 ORTG / 109.7 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
37.9 MPG: 20.2 PPG, 5.3 APG, 3.0 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 1.9 TO (47% FG, 37% 3P, 84% FT)
PER 36: 19.1 PPG, 5.0 APG, 2.8 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 1.8 TO

Analysis: Kyrie Irving is having a really good year statistically when you consider that he's playing with two of the best offensive players in the NBA. Irving is an above average play maker, though his assist numbers don't show it. He's probably got the best handle of any player in the league, and excels at attacking the basket and creating his own shots. Defensively, he still has work to do if he wants to be considered an elite point guard, but, he's on the right track.

8. Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls

18.8 PER / 105.0 ORTG / 107.6 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
27.8 MPG: 18.1 PPG, 5.0 APG, 3.1 RPG, 0.6 SPG, 3.3 TO (45% FG, 28% 3P, 80% FT)
PER 36: 23.4 PPG, 6.5 APG, 3.9 RPG, 0.7 SPG, 4.2 TO

Analysis: Derrick Rose is officially back! He's finally getting into a rhythm, and will be in the top point guard discussion for the forseeable future as long as he can stay healthy. At first glance, his numbers are a little pedestrian (for his standards), but, you have to consider that his minutes have been limited by coach Thibodeau--who's done a great job managing them. Per-36 minutes, Rose is averaging 23, 7, and 4. His mid-range jumper has improved, and he is still so hard to stop when attacking the basket.

7. Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs

16.9 PER / 109.0 ORTG / 107.6 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
31.0 MPG: 16.2 PPG, 5.2 APG, 1.7 RPG, 0.7 SPG, 2.6 TO (52% FG, 62% 3P, 80% FT)
PER 36: 18.8 PPG, 6.1 APG, 1.9 RPG, 0.8 SPG, 3.0 TO

Analysis: You can't have a discussion about NBA point guards without mentioning Tony Parker. Even at 32 years old, he's still a fun point guard to watch. He's never really posted gaudy statistics, but Parker can facilitate better than given credit for and create his own shots as well as anyone. He's almost unguardable. Efficiency is so important as a point guard, and Parker has mastered that, and it's been on display in 2014.

6. Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors

23.9 PER / 120.9 ORTG / 106.8 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
34.2 MPG: 20.0 PPG, 7.7 APG, 4.7 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 2.2 TO (45% FG, 34% 3P, 82% FT)
PER 36: 21.1 PPG, 8.1 APG, 4.9 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 2.3 TO

Analysis: There's some MVP chatter surrounding Kyle Lowry this year, but at the very least, he should be an all star. With DeMar DeRozan out, he's taken his game to the next level, averaging 20 points a game, and distributing the ball very well. He's been more efficient this year, and is one of the few point guards who can truly take over a game on both ends of the floor. I'll be the first to admit that I could be underselling Lowry.

5. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

23.1 PER / 119.2 ORTG / 102.6 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
35.9 MPG: 21.9 PPG, 6.2 APG, 5.0 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 2.6 TO (46% FG, 40% 3P, 88% FT)
PER 36: 22.0 PPG, 6.3 APG, 5.0 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 2.6 TO

Analysis: Lillard is becoming one of the best all around point guards in the league, and has really stepped it up on the defensive end. On the offensive end, he can score in a variety of ways. Like Russell Westbrook, Lillard has "Mamba blood" in his vains, continuously elevating his game in the clutch, completely taking over as a scorer. He might be my favorite point guard to watch in the 4th quarter and overtime. I do want to see his assist numbers improve, and I'm excited to see how he continues to develop his game.

4. John Wall, Washington Wizards

21.0 PER / 106.7 ORTG / 100.8 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
36.1 MPG: 17.9 PPG, 10.4 APG, 4.7 RPG, 2.1 SPG, 3.8 TO (46% FG, 33% 3P, 76% FT)
PER 36: 17.9 PPG, 10.4 APG, 4.7 RPG, 2.1 SPG, 3.8 TO

Analysis: Good luck stopping him in transition. But, seriously, John Wall is really what the ideal NBA team is looking for at point guard. He's a pass first guy, and looks good setting his teammates up. He's averaging a career high in assists with over 10 a game, but has also improved his jump shooting, and can take over games offensively if he needs too. He also happens to be one of the best two way players in the entire league. And did I mention he's a lock down defender? I do want to see him continue to improve his offensive game, but, I'm willing to bet that Wall will be in the elite category sooner rather than later. For some people, he's already in the discussion.

Tier 1: The "Elite" Point Guards

The best of the best. Only a select few point guards are truly elite right now. They are excellent play makers when it comes to setting up teammates and finding the open man. They are some of the best scorers, not just at the point guard position, but in the entire league, and can take over games on both ends of the floor with a scoring explosion, or by playing lock down defense.

3. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

32.3 PER / 116.0 ORTG / 101.9 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
31.9 MPG: 28.6 PPG, 7.4 APG, 5.8 RPG, 2.2 SPG, 3.8 TO (47% FG, 28% 3P, 82% FT)
PER 36: 32.3 PPG, 8.3 APG, 6.5 RPG, 2.5 SPG, 4.3 TO

Analysis: Russell Westbrook ranks as my number 3 point guard in the NBA right now ONLY because the players ranked ahead of him are better pure point guards. However, that doesn't mean that I believe those players are better overall players. That being said, Westbrook has been an absolute monster this year. Leading the league in PER and points per game (if he qualified), and performing even better on defense this season. When he goes into attack mode, you can't stop him. His shot selection and efficiency have improved, but those are two things that I want to see improve even more as the season goes on before I rank him as my number one point guard.

2. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

26.0 PER / 117.7 ORTG / 99.2 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
33.6 MPG: 23.1 PPG, 7.7 APG, 5.2 RPG, 2.1 SPG, 3.4 TO (49% FG, 38% 3P, 92% FT)
PER 36: 24.7 PPG, 8.2 APG, 5.6 RPG, 2.2 SPG, 3.6 TO

Analysis: Stephen Curry is actually shooting a career low 38% from three, but, that doesn't diminish his MVP caliber season so far. He's become one of the best play makers in the NBA this year. He's made excellent strides on defense, while remaining a very efficient, versatile scorer. He's very close to dethroning the number one point guard on my list right now.

1. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers

25.3 PER / 125.4 ORTG / 104.9 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
34.9 MPG: 18.3 PPG, 9.5 APG, 4.6 RPG, 2.1 SPG, 2.1 TO (49% FG, 40% 3P, 88% FT)
PER 36: 18.8 PPG, 9.8 APG, 4.8 RPG, 2.1 SPG, 2.2 TO

Analysis: Heading into 2015, Chris Paul is still the top dog when it comes to point guards. You can count on him night in and night out to get it done on both ends of the floor. He's always near the top of the league in steals per game, and assists per game. And although he's always been a pass first point guard, he's shown that he can take over games as a scorer, and this year is no different. He remains the quintessential floor general in the game today.