Point guard is the most important position in basketball; this player is essentially the coach on the court, or the NBA-version of the quarterback. Just like the quarterback, middle-to-good quality point guards can score a fat contract if they can put together a strong season or two. Outside of the “Who is the top player?” debate (which LeBron snatched from Kobe these past two years), there is no NBA-related argument, right now, quite like naming the top point guards.
With a recent infusion of premier talent through the draft in the past few years, getting a unanimous top five, or even top three is hard to do. So it’s my turn to tackle this subject. To put together this list I relied on a mathematical equation that combines… just kidding. I relied on the players’ recent history (especially the last two years), and focused on the present more then the past (example: Steve Nash circa 2005 is clearly not the same as Steve Nash 2014, and the list reflects that). Also, there are a number of different prototypes with point guards. There’s the traditional game-manager type, the scoring point guard, and a variety of players that fit somewhere in between. I value scoring and passing on an equal playing field, but I don’t consider small guards (like Monta Ellis) as point guards. To me, they are shooting guards stuck in a point guard’s body. So, you wont see them on this list.
Let’s take a look at the 20 best point guards in the NBA right now.
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20. STEVE NASH
Blasphemy that Nash is this low? Well, he should consider himself lucky. I very nearly went with Raymond Felton and Jameer Nelson ahead of him. In the end, Nash doesn’t put up the numbers that he used to and is basically a walking toll booth on defense. But he’s still an incredible shooter (barely missing out on 50/40/90 again last year) who can run any offense in the league. He shouldn’t be criticized for only averaging 12.7 points and 6.7 assists last season, with a PER of 16.00, because, really, what did you expect? He was the fourth option behind Kobe, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard. A drop in production was expected.
Nash’s prime is long gone, but he’s still a solid point guard who can make shots and play selflessly. You can do a lot worse than that.
19. GORAN DRAGIC
Dragic became one of the most underrated players in the NBA during last season’s second half. Playing for Phoenix, a complete mess right now, the 6-3 point guard was one of the organization’s lone bright spots. The 27-year-old received his first real extended time as a starter last season. It showed early in the year as Dragic struggled in almost every way possible through December and January. But after that? In each of the final three months, he averaged at least 8.5 dimes a night, and upped his scoring average all the way up to 17.4 during April.
Finally, Dragic gets extra points with us because he’s nastier than you think. A fiery competitor, his old feud with Sasha Vujacic isn’t the only bullet in his chamber. Eric Bledsoe may change things a bit with Phoenix’s gameplan, but Dragic is tough enough to earn his 35 minutes a game.
18. RICKY RUBIO
The 22-year-old Spaniard has been in the limelight since going pro in the Euroleague at the age of 16. Boasting career averages of 10.7 ppg and 7.7 apg, he’s shown he has the ability to become a star. He has a lot of positives. He’s arguably one of the top three passers in the NBA, capable of creating spectacular plays out of nowhere. He’s an above-average defender and rebounder for his position (posting career averages of 2.3 steals and 4.1 rebounds) and can get to the bucket.
The negatives? He flat-out cannot shoot the ball from anywhere outside the paint (36 percent from the floor, 32 percent from three). Pro-Rubio supporters can point to J-Kidd as an example of a young point guard who went from terrible to league-average shooters as they grew, and really that’s all Rubio needs to succeed. If he can force defenders to play him tight, he’ll be able to do more than simply orchestrate an offense, and take more command for himself. Only time will tell whether or not he improves to stardom or becomes nothing more than an important role player.
17. JEFF TEAGUE
Teague came into his own last year, improving his production to new highs (14.6 ppg, 7.2 apg) as he stepped into a larger role for the Atlanta Hawks. They must think he is an important part of their rebuilding process, as they decided to match a four-year, $32 million offer sheet from the Bucks. He is also one of only 10 players to increase their scoring output in three-straight seasons.
A quick guard who looks to attack the basket rather than sit out on the perimeter, Teague has improved an area of his game each offseason (midrange jumper, then last year adding a floater to his arsenal). Teague should have an even bigger role this year for the suddenly rebuilding/reloading Hawks, now running a “Spurs East” (both coach and GM are former Spurs employees) which bodes well for Teague seeing as how Tony Parker has improved over the course of his career.