Ballhandling is one of the most essential attributes in basketball. Everything from the crossover to the Euro Step is valuable and used by a variety of different players in the NBA. Ballhandling is sort of like poetry in motion, from the way the ballhandlers dribble in-between their legs to the deceptive no-look passes to fake defense out. Regardless how you look at it, if you can handle the rock, you don’t need anyone to get you a shot… and if you don’t need anyone else to get you a shot, then that’s going to make you pretty good.
Here are my top 10 players with the best handles in the league today.
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10. BRANDON JENNINGS
Let’s take a stroll down memory lane…
Who remembers the 2006 SoCal All-Stars AAU team? Now do you remember what Brandon Jennings was doing to defenders on the summer circuit that summer? Destroying is the answer, and it goes without saying his ballhandling skills have gotten even better and more ankles have been taped up as a result. I mean, even Stephen Curry (who was very close to making this list himself) had to learn the hard way. Brandon Jennings puts his Compton flavor in his ballhandling skills — from his version of Tim Hardaway’s “UTEP 2-Step” between-the-legs crossover to the between-the-legs spin to get defenders off him. One thing’s for sure, is he is no amateur anymore.
One-on-one, Jennings is a flat-out nightmare, and with a plethora of moves, he is one person you don’t want to be caught against on the isolation play. Brandon Jennings can not only dominate you, but his teammates also benefit from his elite ballhandling skills with his 6.5 assist a game.
Now that Jennings is in the Motown, it is going to be exciting to see who is gonna catch his wave of crossovers. With Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith on the team, he has to give his flashy passes to one of them, right? Can you say alley-oop central?
9. JAMES HARDEN
James Harden is a man of many talents, wouldn’t you agree? Harden has an array of offensive threats he uses to neutralize defenders, from the iconic Euro-Step to his crazy crossover or even his knack for splitting defenses when driving to the hoop, no matter which angle you want to look at it from, James Harden is among the elite ballhandlers in the league. Despite being a two-guard, it is clear as day that his ballhandling skills are spectacular — and they have to be included here since he might be the NBA’s very best at driving to the rim and getting to the line (league-leading 10.2 attempts a game last season).
James Harden’s crazy ballhandling skills are on full display when he is driving to the basket for an easy bucket. Without warning, when Harden decides to use that Euro-Step, you are in trouble. This Euro-Step happens when he rocks from side to side in a smooth motion and leaves you dazed and confused. Ask Luol Deng about that one. The 24-year-old dynamic skills should be even more incredible now that he has Dwight Howard drawing attention away from him.
8. TYREKE EVANS
Size? Check… Killer crossover? Check… Can you stay in front of him?… Probably not.
Who says that playground ball is not beneficial to ballhandling? Tyreke Evans, Philly bred and currently looking to make an impact on the New Orleans Pelicans, is the definition of a blacktop player. Standing at 6-6, he towers over defending guards in the league. Honing his ballhandling skills back home in Philadelphia, and perfecting it once he got into the league, no one’s ankles are safe. Tyreke Evans could blow past you with his speed, or simply toy with you like the ball is on a string, I mean, just ask Tony Allen about what happened earlier this year. ‘Reke is a force and can split defenses with the best of them. Next time, you decide to guard Evans, make sure you have that mental checklist running through your head.
7. STEVE NASH
Top ballhandlers need essentials in their game to be mentioned with the elite. The first thing is they need to have a feel for the game. A top ballhandler must be able to use both hands, have great eye contact and know the right move to use at the exact moment. Whether it’s changing speeds to get past a defender, directing traffic while keeping the dribble or finding an open man, a point guard must possess these traits. How does that famous Jay-Z line go? “You know I got it.” Steve Nash has it.
Nash does everything a point guard can do but what sets him apart from other top ballhandlers are his impeccable passing skills. The Lakers point guard can find his teammates no matter where they are on the court. No matter the situation, he could be double-teamed with nowhere to go and he will still find his teammates.
6. TONY PARKER
Tony Parker has really taken point guards in the NBA to a different level. The things he does on the court solidifies it. Parker is able to sneakily get past defenders by getting low to the ground while containing his dribble. He can beat you right off the dribble or split defenses with his handles. When he penetrates into the lane and dishes it off to a teammate, it usually leaves defenders in his wake because the San Antonio guard’s speed is breathtaking. Parker is among the best and he’s been proving it for the last decade.
5. DERON WILLIAMS
All-Star player, Olympic gold medalist and a top five ballhandler in the league, wouldn’t you agree? Once he entered the league, nothing was the same and when he gets the ball in his hand, his skills are showcased. The way Deron Williams fakes out defenders with a head shake can leave defenders on the opposite side of the court, the evidence of a top 10 SportsCenter highlight the next morning. Deron Williams’ 7.7 assists per-game average is also a big deal; one of the biggest traits of a good ballhandler is being able to distribute to teammates.
Also, great ballhandling skills should translate into being an efficient scorer. Deron Williams can score in a number of ways — from posting up smaller defenders, off the dribble or flat-out driving to the basket. Averaging 18.9 points a night last season, it is clear his handle makes scoring very easy.
4. RAJON RONDO
Last year? 11.1 assists per game. Yes, you read right… 11.1! before his injury, Rondo led the NBA in assist by far. It wasn’t even close. It goes without warning, Rondo gets the ball in your hands. Besides mastering his fake cuff “behind-the-back pass,” there are many ways that he gets defenders off him to pass or go straight to the hoop.
The best ballhandlers in the league must be fearless, confident and must have a leadership quality that is far more in-depth than yelling plays out. Great ballhandlers, especially point guards, must be able to see the floor, find the open spaces to attack, find open teammates and never fold under pressure. Rajon Rondo does all of it. He’s is the epitome of an unselfish player and with the blink of an eye can leave your favorite defender in the dust.
3. JAMAL CRAWFORD
J-Crossover, “The Mechanic” or even “The Barbecue Pit” (Grant Hill… that’s just a terrible nickname, man), whatever you want to call Crawford, his handle is undeniable. His ballhandling skills developed these nicknames. His victims solidified them. The flashy spark off the bench for the Clippers has been nothing but a walking highlight. From Ray Allen to Wesley Matthews, defenders can’t seem to stay in front of him.
Jamal Crawford’s skills are sort of reminiscent of watching AND1 mixtape videos. The way he sets up his defenders with the dribble then blows past and brings it right back in the same motion leaves broken ankles and dropped jaws. Add the polished NBA game he developed over the years, and now you have a recipe for disaster. Well, at least for the defenders.
2. KYRIE IRVING
Ballhandling is the foundation of a player’s individual game, and in order to be an elite player you must first perfect this foundation. Ways to do this? Through practice, Kyrie Irving used a number of different ways to get better, like the unconventional “Plastic Bag Trick.” Even at 21, he’s already perhaps the league’s best showstopper. I bet you’re saying to yourself, “Okay he crossed up Brandon Knight not once but twice, but big deal?” Well think again.
Do yourself a favor and go type his name in YouTube and see his victims. Don’t worry. I’ll wait… thought so. Kyrie Irving may be young but his crossover is full grown. He’s a bad man with obvious ballhandling skills that could only be a result of his work ethic.
Growing up in New Jersey, the moves he practiced all the time were the “Allen Iverson” and the “Tim Hardaway” so it’s clear where he gets the imagination from. Kyrie Irving can come down the court one second and hit you with the “Shammgod” that would make even Shammgod himself proud, or he can simply rock you side to side with his dribble then when you least expect it, take you straight to the rack for an easy bucket. Kyrie is the new “Renaissance Man” for point guards in the league and is on his way to take the crown.
1. CHRIS PAUL
Throughout this list, we have talked about certain attributes that made these players the best ballhandlers in the league today. Everything from a killer crossover to seeing the floor. But Chris Paul is the closest to perfection when mentioning all these factors. He’s the model for a great ballhandler. No, scratch that. The model for a perfect ballhandler.
The way CP3 sees the floor and finds the open man with no hesitation is unbelievable. From his days as a Demon Deacon, it was clear as day that Chris Paul was going to go down as one of the greats. CP3 has confirmed he is the best point guard in the league for the past few seasons and is definitely on his way to an MVP-caliber season very soon. Overall, he’s the essence of great ballhandling, from his natural knack for his hesitation moves to his perfect pocket passes.
What do you think of this list?
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