While the position of point guard is considered one of the hardest to learn for players just entering the NBA, there is a coterie of youngsters who have started to dominate the league irrespective of their age. Rather than wait their turn, they’re pushing the Chris Paul‘s and Tony Parker‘s of the league to match their enthusiasm and skill.
There are a lot of young point guards out there who make a great case for being the best at their position. Many are looking to break out as stars or are already at the top of the league rankings for point men. Some have boasted high levels of production despite their youth. One example is John Wall, who believes he’s the best point guard in the NBA. Derrick Rose took it a step further when he said he’s the best player in the league right now.
With all these young point guards trying to become the best in the league, we decided to rank them. Without a further ado, here are the top 10 point guards 25 years old or younger.
*** *** ***
Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix Suns (Age: 23)
Bledsoe was a highly-coveted point guard during the free agency period, as several NBA teams looked to make a deal for him. He did pretty well coming off the bench behind Chris Paul, averaging 8.5 points and 3.1 assists per game for the Los Angeles Clippers on 45 percent shooting. Now with the Suns, Bledsoe will get a lot more playing time with Goran Dragic in the backcourt. Look for him to flourish and have a break-out season in Phoenix if he can improve his outside shooting.
Tyreke Evans, New Orleans Pelicans (Age: 23)
Now ‘Reke is obviously a question mark. Evans hasn’t played point guard since his rookie year, mostly playing shooting guard and small forward since his ROY campaign. Evans will also either start as a swingman, or come off the bench in New Orleans. However, if you look back at Evans’ career statistics, his best season was in his rookie year when he started at point guard for the Sacramento Kings, and produced 20 points, six assists and five rebounds per game. It’s going to be a question of what the Pelicans do with Evans, but I guess it doesn’t do any harm to try him out PG again to see if he can achieve the levels of production he displayed in that tantalizing rookie season.
Isaiah Thomas, Sacramento Kings (Age: 24)
Thomas was essentially the guy who replaced Evans as the starting point guard in Sacramento. Zeke was selected as the very last player in the 2011 draft by the Kings, and he’s been pretty impressive since then. The 5-9, 185 pound point has averaged a little under 13 points and four assists for his career. Last season, he averaged over 14 points and 4 assists per game. Thomas does show a lot of promise, but he’ll be seeing a reduced role next season with the addition of Greivis Vasquez during the sign-and-trade for Evans. Nonetheless, Thomas is a great fit coming off the bench as Sacramento’s backup point guard.
10. Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves (Age: 22)
Ricky Rubio has showed a ton of promise in his past two seasons with the T-Wolves, but the only problem with the Spaniard has been his health. Rubio only played 41 games in his rookie year and just 57 last season. Another big issue has been his shooting; he’s connected on just 36 percent for his career. The upside is that he’s still very young and can improve, and if his 8 assists per game continues to increase along with his flashy passing skills, you could see him higher up on this list next year.
9. Jeremy Lin, Houston Rockets (Age: 24)
Last season, all the hype of Linsanity was gone. With Lin no longer carrying Mike D’Antoni‘s New York Knicks, he faced the harsh reality for himself while trying to become an elite point guard in the NBA. Lin did average around 13 points and six assists per game in Houston, playing with James Harden in the backcourt. It’s not great by any means, but with Houston having more weapons â€” especially Dwight Howard â€” for the 2013-14 season, expect Lin to improve.
8. Brandon Jennings, Detroit Pistons (Age: 23)
Jennings does have a lot of promise, but the main problem for the young stud out of Compton has been has shot selection. Jennings is easily one of the worst shooters in the league, shooting only 39.4 percent for his career. His career-high is only 42 percent. Jennings did average close to 18 points a game last season, but it’s never worth it when it takes about 16 shots a game just to reach that average. Now with a young, talented group in Detroit, there should be no excuse for Jennings to be a poor shooter or a ball hog. Jennings should be able to shoot a lot more efficiently next season if he picks his spots to shoot and focuses on setting up Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond.
7. Kemba Walker, Charlotte Bobcats (Age: 23)
Kemba Walker has been one of the only bright spots so far for Michael Jordan’s Bobcats, but with more weapons in place the UConn grad should be able to lead this team to more victories sooner or later. Walker has hit a completely different scenario than his college life, where he won a National Championship in his last season. Now he needs to bring a laughable franchise into the playoffs. Walker’s abilities have shown he can do that, averaging around 18 points and 6 assists a game in his sophomore NBA season. With a young team (besides recent addition Al Jefferson) full of potential, expect Walker to flourish even more as Charlotte grows with him. The name change to Hornets might help, too.
6. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers (Age: 23)
5. Jrue Holiday, New Orleans Pelicans (Age: 23)
Damian Lillard was very solid during his first year in the NBA, bursting into the league with 19 points and 6.5 assists per game for a team that had been looking for a top guard for years. Lillard also took home Rookie of the Year honors. The only knock might be his 43 percent shooting, but he was one of Portland’s only main scorers â€” along with LaMarcus Aldridge. Plus, with it only being his first season, he will likely improve. The only reason I have Jrue Holiday over Lillard is the experience factor. Holiday took off last season with nearly 18 points and 8 assists per game with a lowly 76ers team reeling from Andrew Bynum‘s year-long absence. With more weapons in New Orleans, Holiday should be able to add to his first all-star season and possibly help the Pelicans contend for a final playoff seed out West. Between Lillard and Holiday, it’s a toss-up depending on who you prefer more. But if I were choosing right now, I’d probably go with Holiday.
4. John Wall, Washington Wizards (Age: 22)
3. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers (Age: 21)
This is another tough decision. Much like ranking the final two spots on this list, it’s a pick ’em. Kyrie Irving has displayed a ton of highlights in the past two seasons with the Cavs, averaging over 20 points and nearly 6 assists per game. But Irving made a leap in his sophomore season in the league, averaging 22.5 points and 5.9 assists per game, while turning himself into a star. John Wall has averaged 16.9 points and 8 assists a game through his three seasons in the league. He’s had his share of highlights too as he’s shown enough promise to have inked a max extension with Washington this off-season.
The major knock on both of these former No. 1 picks is their injury history. Irving only played 51 games in his rookie year and 59 last season. Wall only played 49 games last season, but he’s been able to keep himself more consistently healthy when compared to the brittle Irving. Right now, both play for teams that have upgraded their rosters with an eye towards making the playoffs next season. While it’s still a toss-up, I’d pick Irving despite Wall being a better facilitator. Kyrie has a more well-rounded offensive game and can light it up from outside, which is necessary to be successful at the NBA level. The only way Wall leapfrogs Irving is if Kyrie gets injured again next season and misses substantial time, or if Wall continues to improve his outside shot.
2. Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls (Age: 24)
1. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder (Age: 24)
If you really look at it, both of these guys are just way too much alike to say one is better than the other. Westbrook and Rose are both primarily shoot-first point guards, but are still able to deliver the dimes when needed. For their careers, Rose has averaged 21 points and 6.8 assists per game while Westbrook has averaged 19.9 points and 6.8 assists per game. In Rose’s 2011 MVP season, he averaged 25 points and 7.7 assists a game. Westbrook was only a sliver under those averages last season at 23.2 points and 7.4 assists per game.
Each player has flaws, but last season showed a lot. Westbrook’s absence after the first game of the 2013 playoffs cost the Thunder, who eventually lost to the Memphis Grizzlies in the second round. With no Westbrook, there’s no championship for Kevin Durant and OKC. Yes, the same can be said for a Chicago Bulls team missing Rose last season, but you have to admit that they are more stacked than OKC minus Westbrook. They mananged to beat a decent Nets team last season to advance to the second round of the playoffs â€” even beating the Heat in a game â€” off their depth alone. Westbrook is above Rose because of the uncertainty as Rose comes back from an ACL tear that kept him out of the entire 2012-13 season. But both players are coming off the biggest injuries (for Westbrook the only injury) of their careers.
What do you think?
Follow Josh on Twitter at @JoshDhani.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.