Welcome to Building The Perfect NBA Player Part V: Playmaking. This is the fifth installment of a 10-part series in which we’ll be building an NBA player from scratch, using 10 different categories to create our player. If you want to keep an eye out for the other parts, check out the “Building” homepage.
What Makes A Good Playmaker?
The first thing that comes to mind when we discuss playmaking is passing. While there are some excellent passing centers (Marc Gasol, Joakim Noah, etc.) , we’re going to focus more on players that have a combination of being able to rack up assists and make plays on their own. No disrespect to centers, but you won’t find any on this list.
Playmakers need to have great vision and need to make great decisions. That means knowing when to defer to teammates and when to put the team on their shoulders. When our team is down one point with three seconds on the clock, we want our player to know when it’s time to shoot a jumper, time to take it to the basket or time to pass to an open man.
Let’s take a look at five of the best playmakers in the NBA.
Bryant has been one of the best playmakers in the NBA for the better part of 17 NBA seasons, without question. However, his passing abilities (or desire) has been questioned for years. He silenced many of those critics in the 2012-13 season, when he posted his second-highest assist total (469) and tied for his highest assists per game (6.0).
Bryant put together one of his finest stretches as a professional during a 33-game stretch that started in January and finished in April. Bryant averaged 24.1 points, 6.4 rebounds and 7.8 assists during that time. He made plays for himself, he made others better and his team fared better. The Los Angeles Lakers went 22-11 during that time.
James represents the closest thing to a complete player in today’s NBA. He’s able to get to the basket at will, he can facilitate as well as anyone not named Magic Johnson and he’s a game-changer on both offense and defense. James puts up stats that don’t seem possible. Bryant’s personal best 6.0 assists per game would be a down year for James. Only in his rookie year did James fall below that number (5.9, still excellent).
Making others better is something that James has drawn both praise and criticism for. When James puts up monster point totals and the team loses, he’s not getting others involved. When James gets teammates involved and the team loses, he’s being too passive. It just shows how high the expectations have gotten for this superstar.
Rondo’s game raises a very interesting question. Does getting teammates involved and producing high assist totals say more about the player or the system? Similar to Steve Nash during his Phoenix days, Rondo handles the ball every time down the court and keeps his dribble while he patiently waits for an open man.
It goes without saying that Rondo has excellent court vision and makes plays. But, does he make the rest of his team better? His injury during the 2012-13 season answered that question. Look at how much the Phoenix Suns dropped off without Nash, then look at the fact that the Celtics didn’t have that severe drop.
Our second point guard on this list is an annual MVP candidate that has helped a few careers with his passing ability. He made Tyson Chandler a name in New Orleans. He’s improved Blake Griffin‘s game and provided him with some terrific highlight moments.
Many people take Paul for granted and don’t realize just how good he is. Paul is No. 1 in the NBA among active players in assists per game (9.8), assist percentage (46.3) and offensive rating (122.2). Simply put, Paul makes those around him much better and can take a team and put them on his shoulders.
With Parker, we have to be careful when we compare him to others statistically. Over the span of his career, the system he’s played in has hurt his raw numbers. Because of that, he hasn’t gotten nearly enough credit for how good he really is. Let’s not forget he’s a three-time NBA champion and leads one of the best offenses in the NBA (top-five in either offensive rating or points per game in each of last three seasons).
He is having the best season of his career, averaging 20.3 points and 7.6 assists while shooting 52.2 percent from the field, 35.3 percent from 3 and 84.5 percent from the free-throw line. His shot at the end of Game 1 of the NBA Finals was as clutch of a play as we’ve seen in a long time. He kept his dribble alive, fell down and was still able to get a shot off against one of the best defenders in the NBA.
Building The Perfect NBA Player Part V: Playmaking Winner Is…