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NY Times: Who Is the N.B.A.’s Best Point Guard?

Posted by Justin Kubatko on December 2, 2010

Here is this week's offering for the New York Times:

Keeping Score: Who Is the N.B.A.’s Best Point Guard?

I think the answer is obvious, but Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy, among others, disagree:

With so many good guards, the NBA could be in somewhat of a golden age for the position. ABC/ESPN analysts Jeff Van Gundy, brother of Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, and Mark Jackson debated the merits of the position Wednesday night and concluded that the NBA’s deepest position is now at the point.

And the top fives for Jackson (1. Deron Williams; 2. Chris Paul; 3. Derrick Rose; 4. Rajon Rondo; 5. Russell Westbrook) and Van Gundy (1. Deron Williams; 2. Chris Paul; 3. Rajon Rondo; 4. Steve Nash; 5. Derrick Rose/Russell Westbrook/Chauncey Billups/Tony Parker) featured a lot of the same names.

As usual, my column will also appear in Friday's print edition.

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31 Responses to “NY Times: Who Is the N.B.A.’s Best Point Guard?”

  1. Colby Says:

    What do you mean "the answer is obvious but Mark Jackson and Van Gundy disagree"
    Deron Williams IS THE OBVIOUS ANSWER.
    Easily the best PG in the game. By Far

  2. DSMok1 Says:

    CP3 is miles in front, and has been for years now.

    This year, Westbrook has been #2.

    However, when you consider past years and do a true talent estimate, it would go like this:
    1) CP3 (+ 10.57)
    2) Derron Williams (+ 4.99)
    3) Rajon Rondo (+ 4.68)
    4) Russel Westbrook (+ 4.04)
    5) Steve Nash (+ 2.82)
    6) Tony Parker (+ 2.66)
    7) Derrick Rose (+ 2.48)

    So right now there is a clear #1 and a clear second tier, and then quite a few close together (Evans, Kidd, Jennings, and Harris are all in the +2 range as well).

    Numbers are Advanced SPM estimates.

  3. celticfan Says:

    RONDO I cant believe this is even a question...

  4. celticfan Says:

    Rondo #1 point guard cant believe this is a question?

  5. Bob M. Says:

    Rondo the best point guard? better than paul and westbrook? If you put Rondo in Oklahoma City, they would not be a top tier team. The Thunder BEAT the Celtics without Durant in the lineup and Westbrook is #2 in PER rating for the entire NBA..behind CP 3 who is early season front runner for MVP IMO.

    Paul 1, Westbrook 2, D-Williams 3.

  6. Anon Says:

    You should have a blog for your basketball work, DSMok1. Always providing some great info with SPM (which I think is a terrific complement to win shares).

    How do you come up with the true talent estimate?

  7. Anon Says:

    "Deron Williams IS THE OBVIOUS ANSWER.
    Easily the best PG in the game. By Far"

    No way. Carlos Arroyo is the best pg in the game. By far.

  8. Anon x 2 Says:

    CP3 is easily the best PG in the league, but he struggles mightily verses Deron.

  9. Chris Says:

    Derrick Rose isnt right now but will be.. sm in the league cant guard him... hes the fastest mo st explosive and cant be guarded.. Hands down hes better than Rondo..

  10. Anon Says:

    "CP3 is easily the best PG in the league, but he struggles mightily verses Deron."

    Hey, best in the league and best against a particular player isn't one and the same.

    Paul would probably be holding the MVPs LeBron collected the past couple of seasons if LeBron played football for the Browns instead. Before taking his talents to South Beach to the Dolphins, of course.

  11. joe Says:

    Yeah Anon, DSMok1 should have a blog. He always adds good commentary.

  12. Sean Says:

    I like Chris Paul. I wouldn't fight anybody over it, though.

  13. AYC Says:

    I disagree with Justin's dismissal of Rose and Westbrook based on their youth. The question at hand is "who is the best PG in the league right now?" I think they both deserve serious consideration based on their play so far this year. And Paul and Williams havn't been around that much longer (both entered the league in 06).

    Paul is underwhelming to the naked eye, because he is smaller, and he doesn't play above the rim like Williams, Rose, Westbrook and Rondo. Advanced stats love Paul for the same reason that they loved Stockton. But I'd rather have Williams, who has missed fewer games and has the more impressive postseason resume, on top of the size advantage.

  14. Anon Says:

    "Advanced stats love Paul for the same reason that they loved Stockton."

    And what would those reasons be? The man is arguably the game's best point guard in history not named Magic Johnson.

  15. Neil Paine Says:

    The fact that advanced stats love Paul and Stockton should be a point in Paul/Stockton's favor, not some kind of knock on advanced stats. Those guys are/were amazing.

  16. AYC Says:

    Anon, isn't it a little early to call him the 2nd best PG of all-time, when he's only played 363 career games? And only 17 playoff games?

    Neil, the reasons I gave for preferring DWill relate to his size and durability, not a rejection of advanced stats. I also place alot of importance on postseason production, and DWill has the more impressive playoff career.

  17. Anon Says:

    "Anon, isn't it a little early to call him the 2nd best PG of all-time, when he's only played 363 career games? And only 17 playoff games?"

    I was referring to Stockton. Sorry.

    Yes, Paul isn't as big or as physical as Williams. But he's better at setting people up, finishes well in the paint, can shoot the ball, and adds plenty of defensive value to his team. He's like a black Steve Nash (although not as good a pure shooter) that can actually play on the defensive end. That MVP in 2008 was supposed to be his award (and please Lakers fans on this board, this is NOT a knock on Kobe - but Paul was amazing that season) and he has been more recently overshadowed by LeBron's performance and having some injuries. But he's the core of an NO team that has been up and down supporting cast wise.

  18. Neil Paine Says:

    Aren't size and durability just means to an end, namely production?

    Besides, Chris Paul actually has superior career rate stats in the playoffs -- more PPG, more APG, more RPG, higher FG%, higher PER, higher WS/48, higher AST%, lower TOV%, higher STL%, higher REB%... Just about the only postseason rate stats in which Williams is superior to Chris Paul are true shooting % and eFG%. Beyond that, Paul dominates every category, conventional or advanced.

  19. AYC Says:

    Come on Neil, Paul has played 17 playoff games. He has had one great playoff run of 12 games, and one bad one that ended in the first round; that's it, that's the list. DWill has 4 straight postseasons of good to great production over 44 games, with a truly great postseason last year. That's another thing to consider; Paul seems to have reached his ceiling, while DWill is still getting better.

    In total, Paul has played in 70 fewer games than Williams. You can't be productive if you're not on the floor.

  20. Anon Says:

    That's another thing to consider; Paul seems to have reached his ceiling, while DWill is still getting better.

    You can't make that statement when Paul's TEAMS as a whole have been not as good as William's teams - hard to play in many playoff games when your team have missed the playoffs three seasons in your career.

    I know, your next point will be along the lines of "Isn't that Paul's fault?" But he's played terrific even in those seasons NO played the lottery. Simply put, that supporting cast hasn't been consistent like Deron's.

  21. Anon x 2 Says:

    Anon - I wasn't saying anything bad about CP3, really. I think he's the best PG and no one else comes close when he's healthy. I think he might end up being one of the 3 best PGs of all time.

    He just struggles against big, strong PGs. Good for him they're are so few of them, but one happens to be the guy in his rear-view mirror. I'd still take Cp3 over him for my team.

  22. AYC Says:

    Anon, I never said Paul wasn't great. I just don't think he's "clearly" better than everybody else at the position, especially not DWill, who is a legit MVP candidate this year

  23. Neil Paine Says:

    Sure, Paul may have reached his ceiling. That ceiling being one of the all-time greatest players in NBA history:

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/play-index/tiny.cgi?id=J1ZG4

    Williams is terrific, as are Rondo, Westbrook, Kidd, and all of the other names that get bandied about in this discussion. But Paul is light years ahead of all of them... It's not even a fair fight.

  24. taheati Says:

    Neil, the reasons I gave for preferring DWill relate to his size and durability ...

    "Size" is right. Williams should be sturdier with a higher BMI, 3 more inches and 35 more lbs (Williams BMI 26.3, 6-3, 210 v. Paul BMI 23.7, 6-0, 175).

    3 and 35 aren't incidental. In football terms, 3 and 35 could be the difference between a linebacker and a cornerback.

    Yet Paul outrebounds Williams by almost 2 boards per game (1.5/g, 1.4/36m) at a TRB% rate of 7.5% to 5.3%.

    Plus, I'd imagine style + system also factor in durability. Both are aggressive, both get a lot of iso's. But Williams, unlike Paul, doesn't need or use much air to get his shots off going to the rack. Guys who fly (like Paul, cf. Wade) are predictably more injury prone. I also suspect Williams cuts more often (offball) and/or slips more screens in Sloan's offense, resulting in less full frontal contact when Williams attacks.

  25. huevonkiller Says:

    Another interesting debate with Anon and AYC, but I side with Chris Paul on this one.

    I think if he just played in a faster paced offense, it would be even more obvious to the public.

    If he stays healthy I don't think this will be much of a debate. He's not Greg Oden I think he'll be fine.

  26. Anon Says:

    "Anon, I never said Paul wasn't great. I just don't think he's "clearly" better than everybody else at the position, especially not DWill, who is a legit MVP candidate this year"

    You are free to believe whatever you want. Not a problem with me

  27. AYC Says:

    #24, did I say Williams was a better rebounder than Paul?

    One thing nobody has mentioned is the rule changes over the last few years getting rid of the hand-check. As the fastest, most skilled players on the court, PG's have benefited the most. I wonder how any of these PG's would have performed in the 90's....

  28. dsong Says:

    Chris Paul looks like Isiah Thomas in his heyday. Lightning-quick and a fabulous passer.

    With that said, elite point guards don't necessarily lead to championships. The list of point guards who were the best player on championship squads is not that long:

    Chauncey Billups
    Isiah Thomas
    Magic Johnson
    Jerry West
    Walt Frazier

    I think that's it.

  29. Fritz Says:

    Dsong - West wasn't a pure point guard and Billups arguably wasn't the best player on his team. It was

    Also, Paul wins by conventional stats AND advanced stats. The only metric he doesn't win by is the success of his team and he can only do so much. I'm sure he'd trade teammates with Deron in about 0.8 seconds if he had the chance.

  30. TITO Says:

    Tony Parker is an underated player I believe he is second to Deron Williams, Parker is playing much better than Chris Paul and he is a clutch player who is averageing 19 points 7 assists 2 steals per game, the guy can play and the reason the Spurs are doing awesome Parker is capable of scoring 30 points a game if werent for Ginobli and Duncan basically he is just an Important role Player.

  31. huevonkiller Says:

    No TITO, he's not. Don't come to basketball-reference if you're just going to ignore the mountain of evidence against you.

    Justin wrote an intelligent article, address his points.