Ranking The Top Five NBA Starting Point Guards
1. Russell Westbrook – Oklahoma City ThunderRussell Westbrook is coming off of an incredible 2015-16 season with averages of 23.5 points, 10.4 assists, 7.8 rebounds, two blocks, and 0.3 steals. With the departure of Kevin Durant, the table is set for Russell Westbrook to have one of the best statistical seasons in NBA history and possibly even the highest usage rate ever. During the 2014-15 season when Durant missed 55 games due to injury, Russell Westbrook led the NBA in usage rate (38.4 percent) and led the league in scoring with an average of 28.1 points. What sets Russell Westbrook apart is his defense, not many top 10 point guards were assets on this side of the ball. Russell Westbrook posted an impressive 2.4 defensive box plus-minus and had exceeded a defensive box plus-minus of two in consecutive seasons. Russell Westbrook joined Oscar Robertson as the only players to ever average at least 23 points, 10 assists, and seven rebounds in a season.
2. Stephen Curry – Golden State WarriorsStephen Curry was the first ever unanimous MVP last season so it may confuse many regarding his placement in these rankings. Stephen Curry averaged 30.1 points, 6.7 assists, 5.4 rebounds, 2.1 steals, and 0.2 blocks last season. No player has ever matched the efficiency that Stephen Curry had as a high-volume scorer. Stephen Curry became the first player in NBA history to exceed an average of 30 points while shooting at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent on 3-point field goals, and 90 percent on free throws. However, there is no way that Curry can match the statistical output that Russell Westbrook will have next season. Russell Westbrook will make more of an impact in more ways than Stephen Curry. A key differentiating factor is that Russell Westbrook posted a superior defensive box plus-minus of 2.4 as opposed to the 0.1 defensive box plus-minus that Stephen Curry had.
3. Chris Paul – Los Angeles ClippersChris Paul is the best facilitator and floor general in all of the NBA. However, Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry impact the game beyond a traditional point guard at such a high-level. Paul averaged 19.5 points, 10 assists, 4.2 rebounds, 2.1 steals, and 0.2 blocks last season. Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul were the only players to reach averages of 19 points, 10 assists, and two steals last season. Chris Paul had a defensive box plus-minus of 0.5, and that is magnificent for the point guard position. The obscene scoring and efficiency that Stephen Curry brings to the game and the insane versatility that Russell Westbrook provides are why Chris Paul lands at the third spot in these rankings. Chris Paul has an all-around game that has no holes, and that goes for both sides of the ball. The elite tier for the point guard position indeed consists of only Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, and Chris Paul, the rest of the field is a drop-off.
4. John Wall – Washington WizardsJohn Wall has not taken the next step towards becoming a member of the exclusive elite point guards club, but he is on the top of the second tier at this position. John Wall averaged 19.9 points, 10.2 assists, 4.9 rebounds, 1.9 steals, and 0.8 blocks last season. John Wall and Bradley Beal have been in headlines for chemistry issues. Improving as a leader and as an efficient scorer is how Wall can take the next step as a player. John Wall posted a 1.0 defensive box plus-minus and was one of three players to reach averages of 19 points and 10 assists, both of which speak volumes about his overall impact as a player. John Wall shot only 42.4 percent from the field last season, and he will need to get much closer to 45 percent to take the next step as a player. Making the playoffs would be a great step for Wall to enter the conversation for being among the elite point guards. John Wall may not surpass Chris Paul for third in the point guard rankings this season, but he could emerge in the first tier of point guards.
5. Damian Lillard – Portland Trail BlazersDamian Lillard is an interesting player to evaluate. Lillard is a dynamic offensive player that can flat out score the basketball. Damian Lillard averaged 25.1 points, 6.8 assists, 4.0 rebounds, 0.9 steals, and 0.4 blocks last season. Damian Lillard was among elite company last season, he was among LeBron James, James Harden, and Stephen Curry as the only players to average at least 25 points and six assists last season. The reasoning behind having players like Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving behind John Wall is the defensive side of the basketball. Damian Lillard posted a poor -2.0 defensive box plus-minus last season, so if he can even get that to an average level, which is very possible, he should be able to take the fourth spot. Damian Lillard is a terrific leader who continually has shown the ability to raise his game in the post-season and shows up for his team in crucial situations. That is why if Damian Lillard can improve as a defender, he should emerge as the fourth best point guard in the NBA behind only the very elite of the elite.
[Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images]
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