Thursday, January 3, 2008

Who Is The NBA's Best Point Guard?

1. Gilbert Arenas - Washington Wizards

Age: 23 Height: 6'3'' Weight: 191 School: Arizona Years: 5

Gilbert is the perfect point guard. He won’t just give you prototypical point guard stats; he’ll dominate them. Filling the stat sheet with points, threes and steals is the norm for the lightning quick All-Star, and he just keeps getting better and better. It seems as though there is no ceiling for this guy, as he improves his game in nearly every aspect every year. A deadly sharpshooter from the outside, Arenas can also use his quickness to drive to the hoop or nail down a mid-range jumper. Putting the ball in the basket isn’t his only saving grace, though. He’s improved his court-vision during the last few seasons and will dish out around six assists per game. The best part of his game, however, has to be his free throw shooting. Much like Dwyane Wade, Arenas is adept at drawing fouls on his way to the basket. Not many can match his 82 percent from the line in 10 free throw attempts per game.

2. Chris Paul - New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets

Age: 21 Height: 6'0'' Weight: 175 School: Wake Forest Years: 1

After an impressive rookie campaign, it is clear that Chris Paul is the future of the point guard position. With seemingly limitless potential, the kid averaged 16.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, 7.8 assists, 2.2 steals and 0.6 threes in his rookie season. Simply put, this kid is good…real good. Not only does he contribute in nearly every category but he also shoots a high percentage from the line (85 percent). He also showed the ability to get to the charity stripe often with six free throw attempts per game. Paul’s stats are favorably comparable to a young Jason Kidd, only with more offensive firepower. His three-point shooting was the only disappointment in 2005-06, but he’s a technically sound shooter and should improve in that area this year.

3. Allen Iverson - Philadelphia 76ers

Age: 31 Height: 6'0'' Weight: 165 School: Georgetown Years: 10

Trade or no trade, Allen Iverson will score, steal, dish and knock down free throw after free throw no matter where he plays. As of press time, the trade rumors have died down, and he’s one of those players that will have similar value regardless of what uniform he’s wearing. In his second year at the point, Iverson continued to prove that he’s not just a gunner. His 7.4 assists per game ranked eighth in the NBA, and his improved shot-selection led to a much-improved 44.7 shooting percentage from the floor. Always a top-notch thief, Iverson uses his quickness, anticipation and tough on-ball defensive pressure to create around two steals per game. Don’t forget about his brilliant free throw shooting, either. During the last two seasons, Iverson has shot higher than 80 percent from the line while attempting nearly 11 shots from the stripe per game. His three-point shooting isn’t spectacular, but he’s kept it respectable by averaging more than a three per game for eight straight seasons.

Bottom Line: If there is anything to worry about, it’s that Iverson’s intense style of play can lead to a variety of injuries, but he is one of the biggest warriors in the game and will play through pain if he’s physically able to so.

4. Steve Nash - Phoenix Suns

Age: 32 Height: 6'3'' Weight: 195 School: Santa Clara Years: 10

Not since John Stockton have we seen a player dominate the assist category the way Steve Nash has during the last two seasons. A nice contrast to the new wave of high-scoring point guards, Nash is an old-school player with a pass-first mentality. Aside from his crisp passing abilities, Nash’s greatest strength lies in his ability to get down the court quickly and lead the fast break. Even if Amare Stoudemire isn’t 100 percent to start the season, we can realistically expect Nash to lead the league in assists for a third straight season. With Joe Johnson in Atlanta and Amare on the shelf, Nash took on more point scoring responsibilities last season and responded with a career-high 18.8 points per game. Impressively, he did this without sacrificing the other aspects of his game. His 10.5 assists per game were down from 11.5 in 2004-05 but still led the league by a large margin. He also picked up the slack on the boards, putting up a career-high 4.2 rebounds per game. If there’s anything to complain about, it’s his lack of steals from the point guard spot. The Canadian has never averaged more than a steal a game and doesn’t figure to do so at this point in his career. No need to worry, though, Nash more than makes up for his lack of steals by shooting more than 50 percent from the floor and 90 percent from the line.

Bottom Line: Nagging injuries are frustrating and we can a expect a modest regression in points, threes and boards if Amare returns to form, but Nash will still be a dominant.

5. Jason Kidd - New Jersey Nets

Age: 33 Height: 6'4'' Weight: 210 School: California Years: 12

A few years ago, Jason Kidd was a sure fire first round draft pick in fantasy drafts. Last year, injury concerns dropped his stock to the point where he was found hanging around in the second or even third rounds. When healthy, Kidd is one of the top point guards (if not the best) in the NBA. Those who nabbed him in the third round last season were rewarded with 13.3 points, 7-plus rebounds, 8-plus assists, nearly two steals and 1.7 threes per game. You will have to endure the dismal field goal percentage, but he’ll make you happy as he flirts with triple-doubles on a nightly basis. He’s not shy about involving his teammates and with proven scorers like Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson and even Nenad Krstic on his side, he’ll come close to challenging Steve Nash for the league lead in assists this season.

Bottom Line: Don’t be fooled, even at 33 years of age, Kidd still has a few good years left in the tank.

6. Chauncey Billups - Detroit Pistons

Age: 29 Height: 6'3'' Weight: 202 School: Colorado Years: 9

After three solid seasons as Larry Brown’s protégé, Chauncey Billups took his game to the next level in new head coach Flip Saunders’ up-tempo offense. Billups posted career highs in points (18.5), assists (8.6), threes (2.3) and free throw attempts (6.4) with Saunders at the helm. The points and threes were to be expected, but nobody could foresee the increase of nearly three assists per game. With the assist totals climbing, Billups has gone from solid fantasy starter to fantasy stud in just one season. Other than Big Ben Wallace leaving town, the Pistons are virtually the same tea, and since Wallace didn’t offer much on the offensive end, Billups should be expected to shoulder the same offensive load in 2006-07. We’d love to see more steals, but the domination in threes and his near 90 percent shooting from the line will make up for his lack of thefts.

7. Mike Bibby - Sacramento Kings

Age: 28 Height: 6'2" Weight: 190 School: Arizona Years: 8

While not as flashy as some of his counterparts, Mike Bibby is as solid as they come among point guards. In 2005-06, Bibby became the go-to-guy on the offensive end for the Kings and responded with career highs in points (21.1) and three pointers (2.3). The points and threes were nice, but Bibby’s assist totals dropped from 6.8 to 5.4 and his thefts dropped from 1.6 per game to 1.0. The numbers didn’t change much once Ron Artest joined the squad, but his steals improved in the second half, perhaps because Ron-Ron’s tough defense forced more errant passes. Though he won’t dominate any particular category, he’ll contribute favorably in points, assists, threes, steals and the percentages.

Bottom Line: Underrated for years, Bibby has now propelled himself into stardom with his newfound ability to put the ball in the basket.

8. Jason Terry - Dallas Mavericks

Age: 28 Height: 6'2'' Weight: 180 School: Arizona Years: 7

After a dismal first season in Big D, Jason Terry turned his game up a notch and helped lead the Mavericks to the NBA Finals in 2005-06. Back in 2004-05, Terry found himself in Don Nelson’s doghouse, averaging just 30 minutes per game. When Avery Johnson took over, his playing time increased and his stats followed suit. With Nellie out of the picture, Terry averaged 35 minutes per game and responded with 17.1 points, 3.8 assists, 1.3 steals and 2.1 three pointers per game in 2006-07. Although most of his stats came back to his career norms, Terry’s assists completely dropped off the table. It’s a trend that should continue into next season, as Terry acts as more of a shooting guard than a point guard in Avery Johnson’s offensive game-plan. In fact, Terry actually led the team in assists with just 3.8 per game, and the Mavs averaged just 18.0 assists per game on the season. As a matter of reference, the New York Knicks averaged a league-worst 17.9 assists per game. With point guard Devin Harris coming into his own, Terry might find himself playing the two more often than not this season. With this in mind, Terry’s point scoring and threes should remain high but don’t expect his assists to improve anytime soon.

Bottom Line: Assists or not, Terry is still a valuable commodity. He’ll contribute heavily in points, threes and steals while keeping his percentages and turnovers respectable.

9. Kirk Hinrich - Chicago Bulls

Age: 25 Height: 6'3" Weight: 190 School: Kansas Years: 3

A rising star in the NBA, Kirk Hinrich has everything you are looking for in a point guard. Solid point totals (15.9) to go along with 6.3 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.6 threes and 81.5 percent from the free throw line. Though he is young and has the ability to improve his numbers, Hinrich actually took a step backwards last season. Sure, he shot better from the floor (41.8 percent), but his steals and threes took a hit while his points and assists remained the same. For that, we can blame the Bulls deep bench, which allows Scott Skiles to limit his starters to less than 40 minutes per game. In fact, Hinrich led the Bulls in minutes with an average of 36.5 minutes per game. He’s the point guard version of Pau Gasol, circa 2004-05. Great talent, great player but never sees more than 40 minutes per game. With that in mind, it’s hard to get too excited about Hinrich’s upside. Despite this, there is reason for optimism. The Bulls are a young team on the rise, and Hinrich is their ringleader. He’ll have plenty of finishers to dish to, including Luol Deng, Ben Gordon and the freakish Tyrus Thomas, which should lead to an increase in his assist totals in 2006-07.

Bottom Line: As he gains experience in his fourth professional season, we can expect Hinrich to improve on his numbers across the board.

10. Stephon Marbury - New York Knicks

Age: 29 Height: 6'2'' Weight: 200 School: Georgia Tech Years: 10

Categorizing Marbury’s 2005-06 season as a down year would be an understatement. A year-long feud with head coach Larry Brown didn’t help his cause as Marbury’s minutes and production dropped off the table. While 16.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 0.6 threes per game isn’t terrible, it’s well below his career averages of 20.2 points, 8.1 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.2 threes per game. Nobody knows how Isaiah Thomas will fare as the head coach of the Knicks, but one thing is for sure, he’s going to give Marbury plenty of freedom on the court.

11. Tony Parker - San Antonio Spurs

Age: 24 Height: 6'2'' Weight: 180 School: France Years: 5

Parker stepped up his play in his fifth full season, setting career highs in points (18.9) and field goal percentage (.548). He isn’t the best assist man (5.8) and won’t hit any threes (0.1), but his 54.8 percent on 14.2 shots per game blows away the competition. His high percentage from the floor is largely due to his reluctance to shoot the three ball. Parker knows his limits and doesn’t attempt many three point shots, thus keeping his field goal percentage high. Like many of his teammates, Parker is a good defender and is adept at stepping in the passing lanes to create at least a steal a game. Parker is still young so he has plenty of upside, but he’ll have to improve on his free throw percentage (.707) and three pointers to move into elite status.

Bottom Line: With the Spurs lineup virtually unchanged, Tony Parker should continue to be a solid performer. He’ll contribute in points, assists, field goal percentage and steals.

12. Andre Miller - Denver Nuggets

Age: 30 Height: 6'2'' Weight: 200 School: Utah Years: 7

After a few years marred in mediocrity, Andre Miller returned to prominence in Denver under the direction of head coach George Karl. Miller’s outstanding play had fantasy owners flashing back to 2001-02 when he was one of the league’s premier assist men. The emergence of Carmelo Anthony as the go-to-guy certainly helped as Miller upped his assists from 6.9 to 8.2 per game. Much in the mold of Tony Parker, Miller’s field goal percentage remains high due to the lack of range on his jump-shot. Knowing his limitations, he attempted only 0.3 three pointers per game last year, a trend that should keep his field goal percentage in the .460-.470 range. Always a top notch thief, Miller has put up more than a steal per game in each of his six NBA seasons. He’s also an above average rebounder for a guard as he has averaged more than 4 boards per game in each of his last six seasons.

Bottom Line: Due to his mediocre performances since leaving Cleveland after the 2001-02 season, Miller is still a bit underrated, but he shouldn't be.

13. Baron Davis - Golden State Warriors

Age: 27 Height: 6'3'' Weight: 223 School: UCLA Years: 7

Baron Davisis truly one of the most exciting and entertaining players in the NBA, that is, when he’s on the court. There was a time when Davis was considered an iron-man of sorts as he hadn’t missed a single game in his first three seasons in the league. Unfortunately, he is now known as one of the most injury prone players after missing considerable time during the last four years. Despite his injury history, Davis is big-time when he’s on the court, averaging 17.9 points, 8.9 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.9 threes per game last season. These are the types of numbers Davis can put up if he’s fully recovered from the various injuries that have kept him out of action. Aside from the injuries, Davis still has some risk attached to him. He’ll kill you in field goal and free throw percentage and turns the ball over at an extremely high rate. Still, if you can stomach the percentages and the turnovers, he’ll be a dominant force in points, assists, steals and threes.

Bottom Line: Davis is the ultimate high-risk, high-reward pick. If you are feeling lucky, take a chance. He just might stay healthy this year.

14. Raymond Felton - Charlotte Bobcats

Age: 22 Height: 6'1'' Weight: 198 School: North Carolina Years: 1

Though he spent much of his rookie season sitting behind the oft-injured Brevin Knight, Raymond Felton flashed signs of brilliance in his first season as a pro. Had Knight not been around, Felton may have actually challenged Chris Paul for Rookie of the Year honors. Don’t laugh; just take a look at Felton’s stats after the All-Star break: 16.7 points, 7.6 assists, 1.4 steals and 2.0 threes per game. Chris Paul-esque indeed. The Bobcats seem ready and willing to hand the keys to the offense over to Felton this year. Although Knight still resides in Charlotte, he’ll play second fiddle to Felton in 2006-07.

Bottom Line: Guaranteed to be on many a sleeper list, Felton has the potential to be a top-10 point guard and should live up to the hype.

15. Speedy Claxton - Atlanta Hawks

Age: 28 Height: 5'7'' Weight: 170 School: Hofstra Years: 5

Though he started just three games for the Hornets, Speedy Claxton proved to be a valuable fantasy backup by posting 12.3 points, 4.8 assists and 1.5 steals in 28.5 minutes per game. Signing an off-season deal with the Atlanta Hawks, Claxton immediately becomes a super sleeper due to an expected increase in minutes. The Hawks desperately needed a true point guard to lead their incredibly young and talented squad and got just what they were looking for in Speedy.

Now an unquestioned starter, Claxton should see around 35 minutes per game and will be a big time contributor in assists and steals. Living up to his name, he’s as quick as anyone in the league and will always be among the league leaders in steals if given the minutes. As a starter for Golden State back in 2004-05, Claxton averaged 13.1 points, 6.2 assists and 1.9 steals per game. In Atlanta, we should expect more or less the same, though he could certainly up those assist numbers with Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, Josh Smith, Josh Childress and Salim Stoudamire around to finish off his passes.

Bottom Line: Everyone will have Claxton on their sleeper lists, making him not much of a sleeper at all. Still, he’s talented enough to live up to the hype, especially in assists and steals.

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