The era of the point guard is here in today’s NBA, and the crop of players at this position have never been more talented. These are my predictions for the top 15 guys at the 1 heading into the 17-18 season.
*James Harden will be ranked in the shooting guard rankings due to the Rockets recent acquisition of Chris Paul.*
Just missed the cut:
15. Jrue Holiday – New Orleans Pelicans
Holiday recently signed a huge new contract with New Orleans to continue to be the leader of their backcourt. His time in the Big Easy hasn’t exactly been ideal, though he’s shown he’s still an above average guard in the league. His efficient playmaking ability coupled with solid scoring ability, including the capability to knock down a 3 from time to time (35.6%) and quickness off the dribble to slash, make him an offensive threat every night. Don’t expect All-Star numbers from Holiday, but if healthy he could finally come into his own for the Pelicans.
16-17 Stats: PPG: 15.4 RPG: 3.0 APG: 7.3 SPG: 1.5
17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 17.2 RPG: 3.6 APG: 7.8 SPG: 1.4
14. Markelle Fultz – Philadelphia 76ers
It’s rare that a rookie would make a list like this, but Fultz is the real deal. The former Washington star could come out putting up near All-Star numbers and majorly increase the Sixers win total from last year. If Fultz keeps his shot selection in check and trusts his teammates, expect a rookie of the year award to him and rookie point guard numbers that we haven’t seen since Lillard.
16-17 Stats: PPG: N/A RPG: N/A APG: N/A SPG: N/A
17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 17.9 RPG: 4.6 APG: 5.8 SPG: 1.4
13. Goran Dragic – Miami Heat
Dragic is the second piece of a star tandem in Miami with Hassan Whiteside. The team has assembled one of the best supporting casts in the league and should compete for an Eastern Conference playoff spot this season. Dragic hits threes at a pretty good rate for the Heat and is one of the best guards in the East driving to the rim. We’ll probably see a similar year from him this season.
16-17 Stats: PPG: 20.3 RPG: 3.8 APG: 5.8 SPG: 1.2
17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 19.6 RPG: 4.1 APG: 6.3 SPG: 1.2
12. Dennis Schroeder – Atlanta Hawks
Schroeder comes into this year expected to have a breakout season. With Dwight Howard and Paul Millsap leaving the Hawks, Schroeder now becomes the team’s number one option and on his way to his prime, we should see his shooting percentages rise. It’s possible the young German posts career highs across the board in 17-18.
16-17 Stats: PPG: 17.9 RPG: 3.1 APG: 6.3 SPG: 0.9
17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 20.6 RPG: 4.2 APG: 6.7 SPG: 1.2
11. Mike Conley – Memphis Grizzlies
Conley is coming off his best season as a pro, posting a career high PPG average. In my opinion he was one of the biggest MIP snubs last year. He and Marc Gasol will be carrying more of a load this season given the recent departure of Vince Carter and Zach Randolph to the Sacramento Kings. If the former Ohio State star is able to keep his percentages up, we could see Conley eclipse 20 points a game for the second straight season.
16-17 Stats: PPG: 20.5 RPG: 3.5 APG: 6.3 SPG: 1.3
17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 21.4 RPG: 4.1 APG: 6.2 SPG: 1.7
10. Eric Bledsoe – Phoenix Suns
Bledsoe is now one of the older guys in the Phoenix starting lineup. He comes into this season paired with Devin Booker in the backcourt, which could end up being one of the best guard duos in the league this year. Bledsoe has been involved in trade rumors regarding Kyrie Irving, though I’d expect him to be in a Suns uniform this coming season none the less. If the Kentucky product is able to avoid injury unlike the past, expect another near All-Star caliber season from him.
16-17 Stats: PPG: 21.1 RPG: 4.8 APG: 6.3 SPG: 1.4
17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 20.6 RPG: 5.3 APG: 6.7 SPG: 1.9
9. Isaiah Thomas – Boston Celtics
Thomas has shown his offensive ability to be some of the best in the league and made himself a near MVP candidate last season. The 29-year old would be higher on this list if it weren’t for his two undeniable flaws, size and defense. He was ranked as one of the worst backcourt defenders last season and at just 5’9″ you can imagine how he has trouble keeping other guards under tabs. Thomas claims he had a “growth spurt” this summer, so we’ll see if this is true and if his defense improves, though he’s likely not a max player at this time.
16-17 Stats: PPG: 28.9 RPG: 2.7 APG: 5.9 SPG: 0.9
17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 26.7 RPG: 3.3 APG: 6.5 SPG: 1.1
8. Kyle Lowry – Toronto Raptors
Lowry recently signed a 3-year deal to stay in Toronto. The Raptors will again have most likely the best backcourt in the East with Lowry and Derozan, and have another shot at the conference finals this season. The former Villanova Wildcat is now on the wrong side of 30 and we could see his numbers drop just a tad over the next couple years, though he should still be putting up All-Star numbers. Where we’ve really seen Lowry struggle is in the playoffs, where he seems to always go ice cold. It’ll be important he finds his game come next postseason or the Raptors potential will continue to sit at a conference finals ceiling.
16-17 Stats: PPG: 22.4 RPG: 4.8 APG: 7.0 SPG: 1.5
17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 21.7 RPG: 4.6 APG: 7.3 SPG: 1.9
7. Kemba Walker – Charlotte Hornets
Kemba and the Hornets are coming off a disappointing year, missing the playoffs and not living up to preseason expectations. Their offseason additions of Malik Monk and Dwight Howard should help the team’s lone star, Walker, as we head into this season. The guard carries one of the largest loads of his teams offense in the league and has made himself into an All-Star with his unguardable ball-handling, solid outside jumper, and sweet slashing ability. Expect another 20+PPG season from Kemba and a playoff appearance for his Hornets.
16-17 Stats: PPG: 23.2 RPG: 3.9 APG: 5.5 SPG: 1.1
17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 22.9 RPG: 4.2 APG: 5.7 SPG: 1.4
6. Kyrie Irving – Cleveland Cavaliers
We’re all obviously hearing of all the rumors surrounding Irving, though as of now he is still a Cleveland Cavalier. Assuming he stays in the The Land, expect a similar season from him, though it’s not hard to see he looks to be out the door. Kyrie may just have the best handles in league history, though this will be debated for years, and has improved his jumpshot as his career has gone on. If Irving is still in Cleveland Cleveland come next June, it’s likely the Cavs are back in the Finals and Irving would’ve been coming off another 20+PPG season. We’ll see how this nightmare situation in Cleveland pans out.
16-17 Stats: PPG: 25.2 RPG: 3.2 APG: 5.8 SPG: 1.2
17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 23.9 RPG: 3.8 APG: 5.7 SPG: 1.1
5. Chris Paul – Houston Rockets
Paul was involved in the first blockbuster move of the summer this offseason when he was granted a trade to the Houston Rockets. The new backcourt duo of James Harden and Chris Paul will be deadly in the West. With two elite ball-handlers and players now in the lineup, Houston could get back to the conference finals this year for a meeting with the Golden State Warriors. We’ll have to see how the two gel together, being that they were both considered point guards last year, and given his new team I’d say Paul’s numbers drop just a bit, though his importance doesn’t change.
16-17 Stats: PPG: 18.1 RPG: 5.0 APG: 9.2 SPG: 2.0
17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 17.9 RPG: 4.8 APG: 10.3 SPG: 2.2
4. Damian Lillard – Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are coming off last season as the reigning top scoring backcourt in the league. The Blazers were previously in talks with the Knicks to acquire Carmelo Anthony to add to their star guard duo, though it seems these communications have stalled. Dame in my opinion is one of the most underrated players in the league and has done well leading Portland since the LaMarcus Aldridge departure. If he is again able to stay injury-free, look for big numbers from the Weber State product.
16-17 Stats: PPG: 27.0 RPG: 4.9 APG: 5.9 SPG: 0.9
17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 27.6 RPG: 5.1 APG: 6.2 SPG: 1.3
3. John Wall – Washington Wizards
Wall comes off a disappointing final game in last season’s playoffs, when his Wizards lost to the Boston Celtics in 7. Had the Wiz taken that decisive game, it would’ve been Wall’s first conference finals appearance, which he’s still now looking for. Washington re-signed young F Otto Porter this offseason, keeping help for Wall and Beal to lead the team. The one real flaw left in Wall’s game is his shooting from the outside. In my opinion, it’s the attribute that separated Chris Paul from him earlier in his career. If I were Scott Brooks I’d want to see at least a 37% mark from Wall next year from deep. Even with this continued problem, the former Kentucky star has repeatedly shown his unbelievable playmaking ability and defense, slotting him in at #3 in my point guard rankings.
16-17 Stats: PPG: 23.1 RPG: 4.2 APG: 10.7 SPG: 2.0
17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 23.4 RPG: 4.6 APG: 10.2 SPG: 2.3
2. Russell Westbrook – Oklahoma City Thunder
Westbrook could easily be number one on this list for many reasons. My analysis really just came down to which player, between Russ and Steph, would I pick for a team I was looking to win a title with, and I’d take the latter. However, that’s no disrespect to Westbrook. He could possibly be the best rebounding and athletically explosive guard in league history. A year after losing KD to the Bay, the former UCLA guard has a new superstar alongside him in OKC. With the Paul George trade, the Thunder get a guy to take some of the weight off Russ’ shoulders and create a new star duo in the league. Having to watch out for these two slashing to the rim and playing off each other will be a nightmare for NBA defenses. We’ll most likely see some dips in Westbrook’s numbers, but I predict more team success for Oklahoma City this season.
16-17 Stats: PPG: 31.6 RPG: 10.7 APG: 10.4 SPG: 1.6
17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 28.7 RPG: 8.3 APG: 10.9 SPG: 1.8
1. Stephen Curry – Golden State Warriors
Curry comes in at #1 in the point guard rankings. There will be guys who put up bigger numbers and throw down more thunderous dunks but much of what Steph does doesn’t show up in the box score. The two-time MVP is one of the best screen-setting guards in the league and it’s not hard to realize the amount of space he opens up for Kevin Durant in the middle of the floor, drawing defenders attention out to the perimeter. His shooting percentages also illustrate his efficient offensive game. In my opinion, the biggest difference between Curry and Westbrook is their effect on their teams. Westbrook was there to do it all last season for the Thunder, not really allowing his teammates to have the ball in their hands or showcase their game. Curry has a much more positive effect on his team, mainly due to his ability to play off the ball. The way he commands attention on the court is easy to see even when he’s just running around in circles in the halfcourt, using his shooting prowess to make the game easier for others. It’s because of all these reasons that when trying to build a CHAMPIONSHIP team, Steph is the better bet.
16-17 Stats: PPG: 25.3 RPG: 4.5 APG: 6.6 SPG: 1.8
17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 26.1 RPG: 5.2 APG: 6.9 SPG: 2.1