6. Kyrie Irving – Cleveland Cavaliers
NBA Champion Kyrie Irving did not have all that great of a regular season. However, he was sensational during the NBA playoffs. For now, Kyrie Irving lands at the sixth spot in the rankings, but a high-quality early stretch during the 2016-17 season should push him well into the top five. In fact, Kyrie Irving could be able to surpass Damian Lillard and John Wall for the fourth spot behind Chris Paul if he manages to perform like he did in the playoffs during the early part of the regular season. Kyrie Irving averaged 25.2 points, 4.7 assists, 3 rebounds, 1.7 steals, and 0.6 blocks during the playoffs. The efficiency was terrific for Kyrie Irving during the playoffs, he shot 47.5 percent from the field, 44 percent on 3-point field goals, 48.9 percent on 2-point field goals, and 87.5 percent on free throws. Kyrie Irving even ramped up his defense during the playoffs too, he posted a 0.1 defensive box plus-minus. It really won’t take much for Kyrie Irving to move up in the rankings; this is likely a very temporary placement.
7. Kyle Lowry – Toronto Raptors
Kyle Lowry was a superior player to Kyrie Irving during the regular season, but that did not translate in the playoffs. Kyle Lowry averaged 21.2 points, 6.4 assists, 4.7 rebounds, 2.1 steals, and 0.4 blocks last season. In fact, Kyle Lowry was among elite company last season, Kyle Lowry, Russell Westbrook, and Stephen Curry were the only players in the NBA to average at least 21 points, 6 assists, and 2 steals. Adding the defensive side of the ball (0.6 defensive box plus-minus) puts Kyle Lowry comfortably ahead of other point guards on this list. It would be much easier to make a case for Kyle Lowry to be in the top five if he wasn’t so inefficient during the playoffs. The point guards that ranked ahead of Kyle Lowry on this list will most likely remain ahead of him throughout the upcoming season. It does not appear that Kyle Lowry is in much danger of dropping in these rankings, though.
8. Isaiah Thomas – Boston Celtics
There really aren’t a whole lot of point guards in this range that thrive on the defensive side of the ball and that efficiently score the ball. Isaiah Thomas averaged 22.2 points, 6.2 assists, 3 rebounds, 1.1 steals, and 0.1 blocks during the 2015-16 season. Isaiah Thomas was not an efficient scorer (42.8 percent field goal percentage) or even a decent defender (-2.0 defensive box plus-minus). It would not be all that surprising to see other point guards surpass Isaiah Thomas to get into the top ten next season. Isaiah Thomas had a decent post-season, sure, he scored 24.2 points per game, but he shot 39.5 percent from the field and failed to play even average defense. Providing more versatility to the game would help Isaiah Thomas move up, such as, grabbing more rebounds and playing better defense. But for now, Isaiah Thomas certainly has earned this spot in the rankings.
9. Kemba Walker – Charlotte Hornets
Kemba Walker is another point guard that had a solid regular season but lowered their game during the playoffs. Kemba Walker averaged 20.9 points, 5.2 assists, 4.4 rebounds, 1.6 steals, and 0.5 blocks during the 2015-16 season. It is important to note the versatility that Kemba Walker brings to the point guard position, he was 1-of-6 point guards in the NBA (Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Kyle Lowry, Damian Lillard, Eric Bledsoe, and Kemba Walker) to average at least 20 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds last season. Kemba Walker was the epitome of an average defender (0.0 defensive box plus-minus) during the regular season. However, Kemba Walker saw his scoring efficiency and defensive execution drop in the playoffs. There certainly is potential for Kemba Walker to surpass Isaiah Thomas if he can score at a more efficient rate. Also, Kemba Walker could pass Kyle Lowry if he can play better defense. But for now, Kemba Walker finds himself in sort of an odd limbo position in these rankings.
10. Eric Bledsoe – Phoenix Suns
Eric Bledsoe was unable to play much of the season due to injury, but he was sure special during those 31 games. Eric Bledsoe averaged 20.4 points, 6.1 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, and 0.6 blocks last season. What could really separate Eric Bledsoe from the point guards ahead of him in these rankings is his defensive ability, scoring efficiency, and all-around versatility. Eric Bledsoe was 1-of-4 point guards (Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Eric Bledsoe, and Kyle Lowry) to average at least 20 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals last season. Eric Bledsoe was an above average defender as he registered a 0.1 defensive box plus-minus. Eric Bledsoe has had significantly better defensive seasons in the past, so look for him to bounce back in this area. Eric Bledsoe shot 45.3 percent from the field, 37.2 percent from the perimeter, and 80.2 percent from the free throw line. If Eric Bledsoe can stay healthy, there is a legitimate possibility that he could pass Kemba Walker, Isaiah Thomas, and Kyle Lowry in these rankings next season.
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