Top Ten Point Guards in the NBA

by Paul Knepper

The point guard is a general on the floor, responsible for setting the tempo of the game, running the offense and creating shots for himself and his teammates. NBA rules prohibiting handchecking by defenders has placed a premium on point guards who can break down the defense by driving into the paint. This has led to a influx of blazing ballhandlers who comprise the most impressive crop of playmakers at the position since the early 90’s, when Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Kevin Johnson, Tim Hardaway, Mark Price, John Stockton and Terry Porter were running the show.

Here’s my list of the top ten point guards in the NBA. Let me know what you think.

10) Stephen Curry

Ultimately, the Warriors will trade either Curry or Monta Ellis, but for now Steph’s running the point. He’s a shooter first, though his decision making is sharp for somebody who’s still learning the position. After Nash, he’s the best shooting point guard in the league, connecting on 43% of attempts from behind the arc and over 90% from the line. His achilles heel is defense, where teams feast on him with the pick and roll.

9) Raymond Felton

Felton has taken his game to a new level during his first season in the Big Apple, averaging career highs of 17.5 points and 8.9 assists per game. He’s developed strong chemistry with Amar’e on the pick and roll and has hit several big shots down the stretch of tight games. However, his biggest contribution to the Knicks is his fierce competitiveness, which has breathed life into the once moribund franchise.

8)  Chauncey Billups

At 35 Billups is on the downside of his career, posting his lowest point and assist numbers since the 2001-2002 season. Still, there’s no point guard I’d rather have with the ball in the closing seconds of a tie game than Mr. Big Shot.  The former Piston runs the Nuggets offense with controlled efficiency, rarely turning the ball over. He has a great feel for who to feed it to and when to look for his own shot.

7) Tony Parker

There’s no greater indication of the depth at the point guard position than Parker’s ranking on this list. The 2007 NBA Finals MVP has guided a resurgent Spurs team to the best record in the league. His quickness makes him a matchup nightmare for opposing teams and he’s significantly improved his outside shot over the years in order to keep defenders honest.

6) Steve Nash

Nash, who turns 37 in a couple of weeks has lost a step or two and is a liability on defense. But if you think he’s no longer an elite point guard just take a look at the Suns roster and you’ll realize it’s remarkable that he has them hovering around .500. He’s beating guys 15 years his junior off the dribble and is second in the league in assists. I’ll never understand why he’s not mentioned as one of the all-time great shooters.

5) Rajon Rondo

Let’s get one thing straight, it’s the “Big Four” in Boston. On a team with three future Hall of Famers, Rondo is arguably the most valuable player. He’s become the maestro of the Celtics offense, serving up a league-leading 12.9 assists per game and is a disruptive force on the defensive end, wreaking havoc with his long arms and quick hands. If only he had a jump shot.

4) Russell Westbrook

Kevin Durant has found his Robin. Westbrook has emerged as a bona fide star in his third season, averaging 22.5 points, 8.4 assists, 5 rebounds and 2 steals a game. He’s not a traditional point guard, but he uses his spectacular athleticism to make plays. Well worth the price of admission, he’ll blow your mind at least once every game. In order to take his game to the next level he needs to work on his three point range and shot selection. 

3) Derrick Rose

Rose may be number one on this list in a couple years. Nobody is quicker with the ball and he throws down like a mini Blake Griffin. He’s also improved his three point shooting from 27% last season to 38% this year. D-Rose has the Bulls in contention for the number one seed in the Eastern Conference despite injuries to Boozer and Noah and is a leading MVP candidate at the midway point.

2) Deron Williams

D-Will is the most underrated player in the game. He’s one of the top ten ballers in the world and has no weaknesses on the court. He’s the perfect fit for Jerry Sloan’s motion offense, with the speed to turn the corner on the pick and roll and size (6’3) and upper body strength to finish around the rim. If his man slides under the screen he consistently knocks down the outside jump shot.

1) Chris Paul

CP3 is masterful at controlling the tempo. He keeps defenses on their heels by abruptly shifting gears and never turns the ball over. The Hornets star became the first player to lead the league in both assists and steals in back-to-back seasons in ’07-’08, ’08-’09 and is first in steals again this season. After missing much of last season with a knee injury he’s back in top form and has New Orleans riding a 10 game winning streak.

Honorable Mentions:

Baron Davis – Could be top five on this list, if only he gave a damn.

Brandon Jennings – Injury has prevented him from taking the next step after a stellar rookie season.

Devin Harris – Exceptionally quick on both ends of the floor, he just needs some quality players around him.

Jason Kidd – Still racking up the assists on one of the best teams in the league, but is too slow to guard anybody.

Jameer Nelson – He seems to have taken a step backwards after 2007-2008 all-star campaign and now he’s losing minutes to Arenas.

John Wall – He needs a little experience to make the list and a jump shot to climb it.

Media Deprivation Mode

by Paul Knepper

It hurts. Oh man does it hurt. I try to block it out by delving into a book or one of life’s many mundane daily activities, but every few minutes it pops up again.

I’m talking about the Jets loss to the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday.  Sometimes it’s the image of a certain play which creeps into my head, like Sanchez’s fumble and the ensuing touchdown late in the first half or L.T. getting stuffed at the one yard line on fourth down. Other times I’m overwhelmed by an existential thought, like there are only so many times in my life that the Jets will get that close to the Super Bowl again.

It’s not the thought itself that hurts. It’s what follows. Like Alex in A Clockwork Orange when exposed to violent images, a sick feeling comes over me. It’s difficult to describe, but every die hard fan knows what I mean. My stomach feels queasy and my knees get weak. My heart aches and the features on my face involuntarily scrunch together, like an addict jonesing for his next hit. I desperately want that feeling to disappear. I desperately want to forget.

But the reminders are everywhere. People talk about it around the water cooler at work. Some of my “friends” fan the flames with sarcastic comments. Other friends and family members attempt to be supportive by offering up a cliche like “It was a great season” or “They’ll be back next year” when all they’re really doing is feeding the sickness.

However, the greatest irritation is caused by the ubiquitous sports media. The Jets loss to the Steelers is the lead story in every local newspaper, national sports television and radio show and sports website. In order to truly avoid the sickness I must go into complete media deprivation mode. For a sports junkie like myself that’s easier said than done.

I typically start my day by watching Sportscenter and checking ESPN.com for any developments in the sports world since I went to sleep the night before. During the subway ride to work and several other times throughout the day I check Twitter to see what my favorite sports reporters and athletes are writing about. While walking from the subway to the office I pass several bodegas with the headlines of the New York Post, Daily News and New York Times prominently displayed in the window. Then I check ESPN.com and SI.com at least every half hour to see if there’s any breaking news. The first thing I do when I get home is watch PTI, usually followed by Sportscenter or another sports news program later in the evening.

By Wednesday it will appear as if the threats have died down, but I know better. A second wave of media attacks will be launched. Sports Illustrated hits the newsstands, its cover almost certain to include a shot from the Jets game. Inside the NFL and other weekly sports shows will bombard the airwaves. If I’m not careful I can fall victim to a near vomit inducing segment of Plays of the Week on Sportscenter a full week after the tragic loss.

Media deprivation mode requires significant changes to my daily routine. I stare at the ground as I walk down the street, overdose on CNN  and crappy reality shows and start tweaking from a lack of tweeting. Before long I’m completely out of sorts, leaving me vulnerable to unwanted intrusions by virulent thoughts about Schottenheimer’s play calling and why the refs called a personal foul on Eric Smith, but not on James Harrison when he dove into Sanchez after Sanchez slid to the ground.

And like that the sickness is back. My eyes peeled wide open, vivid images of missed tackles and dropped passes thrust before them. And it hurts. Oh man does it hurt.

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