By Chris Le
(Original post on 11/19/07)
Once regarded as floor-generals appointed with the task of setting-up teammates, the role of the point guard has evolved quite a bit over the years, from running an offense into being the offense in and of itself. The likes of Gilbert Arenas and Tony Parker won’t conjure images of John Stockton nor will their assist numbers blow you away, but their ability to put the ball in the hoop is just as dangerous as their passing skills. Whether you favor the tradition point guard or today’s new breed of scorers, there’s no stressing their importance to a team—just ask the Lakers.
Steve Nash – Ever since joining the Phoenix Suns in 2004, Nash has performed as well as the point position can be played. The level of his play has been so prolific that it has, in fact, led me—a long time Nash-hater—to sing his praises. There’s simply no denying his skills. His creativity with the ball is unparalleled, and there’s possibly no better shooter in the game. Steve Nash is, until further notice, the best point in the league. However, how many more years does he have in him?
- Jason Kidd – Speaking of father time, how long will the New Jersey Nets superstar fight off the signs of age? Judging from Kidd’s previous season (13.0 ppg, 9.2 apg, 8.2 rpg) and his dominant FIBA play this past summer, he’s got more than a few great years in him. On par with Nash passing-wise, his scoring ability leaves much to be desired, but that’s been a nonissue for years as he’s so damn good at everything else. Kidd remains a nightly triple-double threat, and you’d be hard pressed to find a better defensive point man.
- Gilbert Arenas – Unquestionably, the most fear-inspiring scoring point today. While averaging 28.4 a night in 2007, Arenas reinforced two notions: (1) That he can drop 50 on any given night, and (2) that he has a trigger-finger itchier than a prostitute’s crotch. Arenas threw up 20.9 attempts per game last season, third behind only Kobe Bryant (22.8) and Carmelo Anthony (22.4), while shooting .418 from the field (that’s good enough for 106th in the league). Bad shot selection or not, however, defend him loosely at your peril.
- Tony Parker – I was tempted to leap-frog the San Antonio point guard over Arenas, but after a few moments of thought, I came to the conclusion that Parker has Tim Duncan on his side to open up lanes, and Arenas doesn’t. But don’t credit all (just most) of the Spurs’ success to Timmy; Parker stepped up his game big time in the postseason with 20.8 ppg and 5.8 apg, rightfully earning him the Finals MVP. If his jump shot continues to improve as it did in 2007, he will truly be unstoppable.
- Baron Davis – In the postseason, the Golden State Warriors showed the world exactly what kind of chaos they are capable of, and Baron Davis led the way with 25.3 ppg, 6.5 apg, 4.5 rpg. Thanks to Don Nelson’s system and Davis running the helm, expect more of the high-octane insanity we all witnessed last year. Oh yeah, and expect more of this.
- Chauncey Billups – It was only a couple seasons ago that Billups was thought of as one of the top three point guards in the league, alongside Nash and Kidd. The more I think about his situation, however, the more I think it’s the Pistons’ system and their collection of talent—and not Billups’ play—that has achieved so much success for Detroit. But then again, you can credit Billups for playing so well within the system, and he’s still clutch in crunch time, difficult to defend one-on-one and a strong defensive deterrent.
- Allen Iverson – It’s hard to imagine that Iverson, who averaged 26.3 ppg (most of which alongside ‘Melo, a 30 point threat himself) and 7.2 apg, to be ranked this low. But it’s just that the combination of AI and Carmelo, which was so highly anticipated and hyped, sort of fell on its face. Rightfully or not, I was expecting fireworks, something along the lines of what the Golden State Warriors became. Give him the benefit of the doubt, though, and one more year to acclimate to his teammates. I still think he’s a huge scoring threat, possibly on par with Arenas, so I’m not counting him—or the Nuggets—out just yet.
- Deron Williams – The 2006-2007 season, particularly the playoffs, was Williams’ coming out party (19.2 ppg, 8.6 apg). He ran the offense with poise beyond his years and was extremely difficult to defend, even against the vaunted Spurs defense in last year’s Western Conference Finals. If he continues his exponential growth, I’ll have to make room at the top for next year’s list.
- Chris Paul – CP3 slightly improved on his incredible rookie season, one in which he made people reminisce of Isiah Thomas, but it wasn’t as significant of an advancement as some wanted. But that was partially due to injuries. Only time will tell if the young stud can find his way back onto the path that looked to be heading towards superstardom.
- Kirk Hinrich — Is it just me or is Kirk Hinrich slowly becoming underrated? Snicker at his less than stellar athleticism and far from spectacular numbers (16.6 ppg, 6.3 apg, 3.4 rpg), but his stats severely belie his true worth as a player. He’s one of the hardest-fighting players in the game and feisty as all hell, with a respectable shot and handles. Not to mention he’s a tenacious defender, evidenced by his 2nd Team All-Defense nomination.