NBA Top 10 Point Guards
Categories of Grade
|Stats||Points, Rebounds, Assists, Blocks, Steals, FG %, Three-Point %, and etc.|
|Advanced Stats||Real Plus-Minus, Efficiency Stats, Usage, Ratios, and etc.|
|Eye Test||We all watch ball. You can tell who has skills and who doesn’t. Who makes highlights and who gets abused. This is classic what you see with your own two eyes.|
|Situational Help||What situation is your team in, what does your team ask from you, heavy usage or low usage, and teammates effect.|
|Overall Impact||Culmination of all things considered. How does each player impact a game and his team. How do their skills and stats translate to winning basketball games.|
In order to properly grade each player in the confounds of their positions there are multiple factors that need to be taken into consideration. It is not simply statistics or advanced statistics (saber-metrics) or how good someones highlights look. It is not just about how much they seem to help their good team or how much they don’t help their bad team. No one category will sway a “great player” out of the top ten and no one category will seemingly vault an “average” player into the top ten. Instead, it is a holistic approach.
i.e. Through watching Jae Crowder, I believe he is a very solid defender and a decent three point shooter. I don’t stop there but go on to check his accumulative stats, his percentages, and advanced metrics. I used the different stats to cross-reference beliefs and ideas about players. In the case of Jae Crowder, my eyes were not mistaken, in fact the metrics even furthermore proved my beliefs.
Relativity is also key. i.e Klay Thompson is often considered a great defender. My eye test tells me the same thing. What do the metric say? Well, Klay Thompson’s defensive metrics were much lower then I expected. In fact, his defensive real plus-minus is worse then teammate Stephen Curry’s. HOW!? You might ask. Well, that is where relativity comes in. The Shooting Guard position tends to be better at offense than defense for starters. But also in the confines of the Golden State Warriors, Klay Thompson almost exclusively takes the harder matchup between he and Curry.
This hurts his metrics but improves his impact on the game and his team. These are examples of how I tried to balance the factors for these rankings. So no, Klay doesn’t get dropped much if at all because of that singular metric, and Jae Crowder doesn’t absoultely skyrocket because of the ratings that help him. Instead, all factors considered, players who show trends between stats, advanced metrics, the eye test, overall impact, and situations find themselves climbing up the rankings or falling down.
Another key point regarding these rankings is timing. I tried not to take into account legacy or repuatation, though some repuatations are warranted. This comes down to two things, what have you done for me lately and what can you do for me in 2017-18 for an 82 game season.
Dwyane Wade comes to mind as a player with a great legacy and great repuatation. He is a sure-fire Hall of Famer. But when we talk about 82 games and the factors explained above, he is not a top 10 Shooting Guard and spoiler alert, not even honorable mention. This DOES NOT mean he can’t play meaningful minutes, make big plays down the stretch, or score 30 on a given night. It means on both ends of the floor, for an entire season he is not one of the top 10 or 15 Shooting Guards in the league.
On the flipside, Devin Booker is highly regarded across the NBA as an up and coming superstar. The man is 20 years old and already a top shooter in the entire NBA. But, if he doesn’t check out across the most important categories against his peers, he may not be included in the top 10. More importantly, if we were drafting a team for the future, Booker’s rank would easily skyrocket due to the great promise he shows and his very young age.
But, what matters in these rankings are, again, what have you done for me lately and what can you do for me right now. This is all very important to remember situationally as well. Don’t be fooled, i.e. Dwyane Wade’s flaws may be hidden by being surrounded by a championship caliber team while Booker’s strengths may be accentuated by playing on a bad team, and vice versa.
Top Three Rookies
Lonzo Ball, Dennis Smith, and Markelle Fultz
I think the player who has the best chance of cracking this list firs is Lonzo Ball. I expect him to be a big plus offensive player and he already shows flashes of being a good team defender. One on one defense, Lonzo leaves a lot to be desired. But, like Steph Curry, if you play to your team D and get into the passing lanes, you will be effective.
Dennis Smith, Markelle Fultz, and DeAaron Fox also possess all the tools to be top 10. I fully expect 3 of 4 of these guys to work out and be true franchise PG’s. As much as I hate to say it, the biggest bust potential may be Fultz with his newly broken jumper. I think he is just injured and will be fine, but there is real reason for concern.
Isaiah Thomas, Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, Jeff Teague, Ricky Rubio
Isaiah Thomas was outrageously good on offense last year and horribly bad on defense. He is also injured right now. He gets left off by a slight margin but damn can this man get buckets. IT can easily bump George Hill if he comes back healthy but for now he is on the outskirts.
Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe are both talented individuals. They do a lot on the court for their teams but are just a tier below all these guys. The numbers show it, the metrics show it, and the eye test shows it. No knock, they are talented but I think obviously a tier below.
Jeff Teague is super low-key. His stats aren’t going to blow you away. His metrics prove that he is slightly above average. He can make an amazing play on one possession, then you can forget he is there for a whole quarter. Nice player and model of quality point guard play. Just not top-10 worthy. There is a reason Atlanta was ok with moving on.
Ricky Rubio is a strange NBA player. Can’t shoot, but will sneakily score. He is a top notch defender, ranking 6th amongst starters. He can drop dimes with the best of them. Ricky passes the eye-test (except when he shoots) but expect his shot to improve slightly this year, where he will at least take more. Very nice point guard but just a tier below, I think he can make any team he is on better.
George Hill – 16.9 PPG, 4.2 APG, 3.4 RPG, 1.0 STPG, 48 FG%, 40 3FG%
Hill had an extremely solid year with the Jazz last season. Now on the Kings, they are expecting him to perform and mentor the young DeAaron Fox. But, he is more than a mentor. Last season, Hill ranked 6th in total Real Plus-Minus thanks to his super consistent offensive and defensive performance (11th on O and 5th on D).
He just made this list but honestly belongs with the honorable mentions. But someone had to be 10. Combining his 17 points per game with 48% from the field and 40% from three makes for quality scoring numbers. He plays into a system on offense, which can make any coach happy. In fact, that is typically a key role in allowing key scorers and role players to get their job done. The Jazz were a different team when they had Hill, who battled injuries. But, when he is on the court, his extremely quality D, calming presence on offense, and ability to knock down shoot makes Hill a widely respected Point Guard. A guy who’s numbers in the box score will never show what he does for a team.
Kemba Walker – 23.2 PPG, 5.5 APG, 3.9 RPG, 1.1 STPG, 44 FG%, 40 3FG%
Don’t you wish Kemba played in a better market? No offense to Charlotte, they may be a solid East team this year. They have Michael Jordan as an owner. But, Kemba was made for bright lights and big shots. This guy passes the eye test. He has the handle, he has the step back, Kemba shoots 40% from three and often takes tough shots. But, looking into his regular stats, its a little off putting to see an “All-Star” point guard averaging just 5 assists. Especially with a guy with such usage. But Nic Batum is a guy who gets a lot of assists for them and realistically Kemba is asked to score.
This team needs him to be a lot of things including a good defender and a willing facilitator. But they don’t need those two things as much as they need him to simply get buckets. Unlike, Dame (who has CJ McCollum) and Kyrie (who had LeBron and Kevin Love), Kemba Walker is expected to absolutely carry this team offensively. This almost boosted him higher in the rankings.
But, incorporating metrics, he is a -1.25 on D and a +3.93 on O. This puts him exactly at 8th in PG Real Plus-Minus rankings. Which is quite comparable to Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, and John Wall.
His big step to jump up these rankings is to get more out of his teammates. He doesn’t have a ton of help but with the usage he gets and the keys to the kingdom he owns, he needs to take that step as a facilitator to get any higher on this list.
Kyrie Irving – 25.2 PPG, 5.8 APG, 3.2 RPG, 1.2 STPG, 47 FG%, 40 3FG%
Kyrie Irving has accomplished many great things. He has what only one other person on this list has, a ring! But, as I think he would agree, he has much left to accomplish. Number one being be the best player on a playoff and contending team.
But, why is Kyrie ranked number eighth on this list? Well, he doesn’t quite check off all the boxes the way you think he should. Regular stats, check! Eye test, absolutely check! The man is ultra talented and still very young. Overall impact and situational help, meh. The Cavs were not a good team without LeBron James last season. In fact, even just when LeBron was off the floor (let alone sitting out) the Cavs weren’t the same team. Shouldn’t Kyrie be able to pick up that slack?
Just gonna leave this here … Cavs with Kyrie Irving ON, LeBron James OFF last season: -120 in 635 minutes.
— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) July 21, 2017
The last category I am bringing up may shed light on why he wasn’t able to elevate the Cavaliers to success without the King. Kyrie Irving ranks, brace yourself, 64th amongst Point Guards in Defensive Real Plus-Minus. That is in the company of Derrick Rose (66th), Dennis Schroder (69th), and Isaiah Thomas (74th).
Offensively, he is spectacular but hasn’t been able to elevate his teammates the way a John Wall, Mike Conley, or Chris Paul have. He has an opportunity to really change that in Boston.
This may be a cop-out, but I’m telling you this is really close. A, Damian Lillard has been the best player on a playoff team multiple times while Kyrie has never been that guy. B, and this is the real cop-out, they are both considered bad on defense but Dame has been more consistently bought in than Kyrie Irving. It shows in defensive statistics (Kyrie is -2.30 on D. Dame is -1.49 on D.). Lastly, Kyrie loses one tiny peg by playing next to the greatest player of our generation, LeBron James.
Is that fair? Probably not, but Kyrie has the greatest opportunity on his hands to leap up to number 3 on this list by joining the Boston Celtics. It is his team, now he needs to show he can make his teammates better and lead a team into the playoffs.
Damian Lillard – 27.0 PPG, 5.9 APG, 4.9 RPG, .9 STPG, 44 FG%, 37 3FG%
Lilliard and Kyrie are damn close in my Point Guard rankings. It was truly a tough call. But when I break down all my categories, my slight edge fell to Damian Lillard. For starters, I broke down the defensive stats in Mike Conley’s description below and Kyrie’s above. But Damian, who also isn’t very good on defense, is still rated a full point better then Kyrie.
Second, they feel like very similar players offensively. When Kyrie may win with the fancy finishes near the rim, Dame wins by getting to the line nearly 3 more times a game. This allows Dame to score more points per game (27.0) on the same amount of shots. But basically, when it comes to scoring, they are a wash. Both 25+ scorers per game, Kyrie has slightly better percentages and Dame gets to the line more. Kyrie has flashy finishes, Dame throws down dunks. They can probably match step-back threes with anyone outside of Steph Curry in the league.
Super slight edge to Dame for having proved he can carry a team to the playoffs, and win series in the playoffs.
Kyle Lowry – 22.4 PPG, 7.0 APG, 4.8 RPG, 1.5 STPG, 46 FG%, 41 3FG%
I’m not gonna ask you to watch this entire video, but watch like a minute. Nothing he does looks super impressive. But he does everything, and gets in done consistently.
Lowry does absolutely everything you ask for in a Point Guard. He is coming off of his best season as a pro. I had him ranked at 8 for the longest time planning these rankings, but I couldn’t allow any biases to leave him there. Out of this group of Point Guards, Lowry only ranks below only Chris Paul on defense and Curry, Westbrook, and Paul on offense, according to Real-Plus Minus.
He averaged 22 points, 7 assists, shot 46% from the field and 41% from three. He took almost 8 threes a game. Out of the top 10 players ranked by Attempted Threes per game, Kyle Lowry ranked second in 3 FG% behind only Klay Thompson and a hair above Steph Curry.
As far as eye test is concerned, he passes easily. He, like Mike Conley, lacks the flash of a Kyrie, Dame, or even Kemba Walker but he accomplishes his goals at a more consistent clip. Nevertheless, he also completely outshines them on the defensive end.
Lastly, if you think DeMar DeRozan (see shooting guard rankings) is the leader of the Raptors, guess again. Kyle Lowry drives that train. Also, as easy as it is to make fun of them for losing in the playoffs, they know how to win in the regular season. That is largely due to Kyle Lowry’s grit, consistency, ability to score, and assist while making his teammates better.
Mike Conely – 20.5 PPG, 6.3 APG, 3.5 RPG, 1.3 STPG, 46 FG%, 41 3FG%
Below is Conley talking about Kanye calling him in the middle of the night.
I am well aware that this placement for Mike Conley will drive people a little nuts. Yes, he is ahead of Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard. But, I’m fully ready to back it up. Believe it or not, but Conley ranks ahead of Kyrie and Dame in Offensive & Defensive Real Plus-Minus. Conley is +4.67 on O and just -0.20 on D. For context, Kyrie is +4.35 O and -2.30 on D. Dame is +4.63 on O and -1.49 on D.
That puts Conley at a +4.27 and Dame and Kyrie at a +3.14 and +2.05, respectively.
I know what your thinking, Pete, EYE TEST! Kyrie and Damian are sick. Deep contested threes and electric finishes near the rim. Yes, yes I know. But I told you I am doing this holistically. First, over 1 point or 2 points in Real Plus-Minus is a large difference, not an anomaly. Mike Conley isn’t flashy, but flashy does not equal the eye test. The eye test encompasses the ability to make good basketball plays and do it consistently. Mike Conley has been a leader on a playoff team for 5 plus years. He shoots 46% from the field and 41% from beyond the arc. He also averages 6 assists.
I’m sorry, say what you want about what Kyrie can do under the rim and from way beyond the arc. I’m taking, over the course of 82 and as the leader of my team, a guy who gets near as many buckets as the next guy and stops way more buckets from opposing teams. Also, like I said, over the course of 82, I’ll take calm, cool, collected Mike Conley who is low-key as they come but gets the job done night in and night out. That being said, Kyrie and Dame’s teams will be better. But when the Grizzlies win more games then you expect, you know where to find me.
Chris Paul – 18 PPG, 9.2 APG, 5.0 RPG, 2.0 STPG, 48 FG%, 41 3FG%
This is a hard one for me. I have been a hater of Chris Paul in the past for assist hunting, trying to do too much, and straight up driving his teammates crazy. But I would be out of my mind not to accept what he can do on a basketball court. First off, defensively, it is not even close. Chris Paul ranked 1st amongst Point Guards in Defensive Real Plus-Minus by a wide margin. His 2.76 rating is more than a point ahead of number 2, Patrick Beverly, at +1.37.
That, plus his obvious offensive skill running a team and creating open opportunities for those around him, I have to put him at 4. He scores, passes, defends, and I’m sure Mike D’Antoni will have him taking more threes which is very good! He shot 41% from three. Increase the amount of threes he takes and it could lead to simple uptick in scoring. But CP3, can you make it to a damn Western Conference Finals, one time!?
John Wall – 23.1 PPG, 10.7 APG, 4.2 RPG, 2.0 STPG, 45 FG%, 33 3FG%
Wall and CP3 are likely two of the “truest” PG’s in the league. They check all the boxes. Make teammates better with passing, score consistently & score big when necessary, and play defense. Lastly, a Point Guard has to be a calming presence for his team and John Wall is definitely Washington’s safety blanket. Wall had 50 double doubles last year, good for 7th in the league.
When talking about Defensive Real Plus-Minus, Wall scored surprisingly low. Like Westbrook (and Harden), his work load on offense was so big, his defensive numbers struggled. Eye test saves him here, as we all know John Wall can be a lock down one-on-one defender when he needs to be. Wall didn’t become the number three PG overnight, each year he has taken more and more responsibility for his team. When looking at overall impact John Wall has on games, he is here with the best. He puts more pressure on defenses in transition then anyone outside Russell Westbrook. A truly unique and impressive skill. He has now proven he can be the best player on a top team in his conference.
Russell Westbrook – 31.6 PPG, 10.4 APG, 10.7 RPG, 1.6 STPG, 43 FG%, 34 3FG%
Mr. Triple Double started last year hot and didn’t cool off at all until the playoffs. This man is spectacular. His accumulative stats are obviously fantastic and his advanced stats look solid too. Defensively, he leaves a lot to be desired but that is due to his unreal work load on Offense. The only way he can pass Curry is if he becomes way more efficient as a scorer and starts to truly elevate his teammates. Sure, tell me Steph has better teammates, you’re right, but Steph inspires ball movement, taking open shots, and making the right play. Russ inspires amazing performances… by himself and hopefully his teammates help him get assists. Super excited to see Russ (hopefully) evolve with some more talent on his team. I’ll still take Steph.
Stephen Curry – 25.3 PPG, 6.6 APG, 4.5 RPG, 1.8 STPG, 47 FG%, 41 3FG%
Steph Curry affects the game in a countless amount of ways. His mere ability to shoot from beyond 30 feet positively impacts his own game, as well as his teammates. He is the ultimate spacer, a willing & impressive passer, unbelievable ball handler, and a better finisher then given credit. Offensively, he is amazing and that is that. Defensively, he can struggle in certain matchups one on one. But, he is very good in team Defense and getting into passing lanes, he actually rated higher than Klay Thompson in Defensive Real Plus-Minus. (But that is because Klay always guards toughest assignment). Steph is easily the #1 PG I don’t think there is much to debate.