The NBA’s Top Point Guards, 10-6
“Man, are you some kind of masochist or just fu*king dumb?”
My friend’s impertinent question came as a response to the revelation that I’d be breaking out my “NBA’s Top Players” feature for a third season, a decision that does indeed imply self-loathing and/or mild retardation. For those of you who missed the previous editions, I took it on myself to rank the NBA’s best ballers one through ten in order to invite some friendly debate concerning the league’s most valuable assets at each spot.
What I actually invited was the journalistic equivalent of a hearty kick in the dick from the many angry fans who felt that I’d done their favourite players wrong with my rankings. You see, there’s no way I can keep everyone happy here; in fact, I’d go so far as to say that it’s just about impossible to devise a list that even fifty percent of the readership could peruse without subsequently making unpleasant suggestions about my credentials, intelligence and mother’s profession.
So, to answer my bawdy buddy, I may just be some special sort of stupid to retread this ground, but I felt it was time to give it a third go regardless. Before I get into things, though, I should explain how I came to finalise the lists I’ll be releasing over the course of the next couple of days. Statistics, teamwork and past performance were obviously all major criteria of consideration, but essentially I decided upon the final rankings by repeatedly referring to one question: If you had a single season, starting tomorrow, to win a championship, which player would you take as the centrepiece of your franchise?
Although I’ve ignored current playing status in compiling these rankings, I have considered the players’ historical durability. So, for example, although I didn’t count Gilbert Arenas’ current injury against him since he’s generally a fairly hardy guy, the presently active Marcus Camby did lose points due to his tendency to sit out fifteen-plus games a season.
One change I have made since the last set of rankings is in the player groupings. Whereas previously the candidates were judged as guards, forwards and centres, the new categories are “Point Guards”, “Swingmen” and “Big Men”, which should allow me to avoid having to respond to the criticism that I’m comparing apples to oranges.
Let’s get right into it.
The NBA’s Top Ten Point Guards, Part I
10. Jamaal Tinsley
I wish I didn’t have to start my list this way, but, unfortunately, I just can’t justify leaving Tins out of this discussion. Sure, he may be erratic, disruptive and a bad look for his franchise right now, but the bottom line is that the man is playing like one of the finest points on the planet this season. You may have missed it in the midst of the media madness, but Tinsley is averaging 8.7 assists per night this year, currently good for fifth in the league. Although considered one of the tougher match-ups in the NBA by those charged with guarding him, Tinsley’s shot seems to have sold him out of late, with his 13.8 ppg coming on .387 shooting from the field. He’s also limited to the tenth spot by his career-worst 3.55 turnovers a night, a statistic which negates the intangibles the New York product brings to the court.
9. Chauncey Billups
Although Mr. Big Shot will look a little low in the list to many of you, Billups is a beneficiary of the Pistons’ system, and consequently can’t be considered as valuable to anyone else as he is to Detroit. Still, what he can offer regardless of his situation is the supreme confidence that has earned him a reputation as one of the finest late-game performers around. If you’ve yet to see evidence of his clutch control, just ask the Celtics what they know about Chauncey. His savvy head-fake at the end of the recent BOS-DET conflict bought him a ticket to the stripe with less than a tenth of a tick on the clock, sending the Gang Green to one of their three defeats thus far this year. It’s that quick thinking, along with a proclivity to on-court trickery, a dead-eye shot and a cerebral approach to defence that have earned him the eighth spot in my rankings.
8. Tony Parker
Though considered a more traditional point guard in the early years of his career, the inimitable Tony Pizzle has stepped his game up on the scoring front recently, averaging twenty-plus for the first time in response to Tim Duncan’s declining offensive productivity. Though not an exceptional defender or distance shooter, Parker’s unparalleled quickness and sideshow feats of contortion on the way to the hole make him one of the peskiest marks in the league, allowing him to open up gaps in the defence that few other points would be able to identify, let alone exploit. What’s more, with a second-rate rappers’ worth of bling in his jewellery box already, Tony knows the pressures of the big game as well as any active player besides teammate Robert Horry.
7. Deron Williams
Despite a sluggish start to the ‘07-’08 campaign by his Jazz, the former RoY runner-up is still maintaining his reputation as one of the baddest little men in the association. Actually, “little” might not be the best way to describe Deron; with 205 pounds spread across his stocky 6’3’’ frame, the third-year pro is equally at home slashing as he is bullying fellow floor generals on the block. D-Dub’s physique isn’t the only thing more typical of the trees: His .506 field-goal clip this year ties him for sixth among guards who have found the nylon at least a hundred times, one spot ahead of notorious sharpshooter Steve Nash. While he presently trails Nashty in his assist average (Williams is good for 8.7 an outing), you can expect him to close the gap somewhat as Utah finds its rhythm and he’s able to collect dimes by tossing the ball to someone other than Carlos Boozer.
6. Jason Kidd
While Mr. Triple Trouble himself remains one of the most relentlessly effective pure points in the business, it’s hard to imagine him as the headliner of a championship squad. What’s more, with the thirty-four-year-old’s scoring average decreasing in each of the past five seasons, it’s clear that Father Time is catching up to the guy they don’t call “The Kidd” any more. While he’s still putting two digits in the assist column and making a nuisance of himself on the defensive end most nights, however, he can be forgiven for being a little long of tooth and shaky of jumper. He certainly has enough gas left in the tank to comfortably make the rankings for another few seasons, but for the first time in a decade Ason finds himself outside the top five, though by the merest of margins. (For the record, I switched him to the fifth spot and back twice before finalising my rankings, and I’m still tempted to move him up once more.)
Let me know what you think of the rankings so far by emailing me (CYE.HoopsVibe@gmail.com), finding me on the message board at HoopsVibe.com/forum or leaving a comment in the box at the bottom of the page. I’ll be back with the 5-1 countdown tomorrow, so keep your browser pointed at HoopsVibe.com.