For Part 1, click here.
Part 2 can be found here.
Tier Three – On The Come Up
In part 2, I broke down why these guys get the edge over Derrick Rose. It had nothing to do with Rose’s injury, but instead is the result of Rose being somewhat overrated and the explosions these players had last season. In Wall’s case he more or less blew Derrick Rose out of the water, but Irving only marginally edged Rose out. Rose is actually a better distributor than Irving, who is an average distributor at best — and assisting may never project as Irving’s strong suit. Irving, however, is the better scorer and has been amazingly efficient over for the first two years considering his position and his youth. He is a much better 3-point shooter than Rose and overall gets more points per weighted shot than Rose, as well. The only flaw in Irving’s game at this point is his defense. He is a sieve at that end of the court and looks like he is either lost or disengaged most defensively. However, like I mentioned in the Part 2 in regards to Damian Lillard, young point guards typically struggle defensively. Irving is likely to improve on that end, as well, under the coaching of the defensive-minded Mike Brown.
Wall actually blows Rose out the water at this point. Over the last 20 games of last season, Wall was one the best five point guards in basketball and projects to be competing with (spoilers!) Stephen Curry for that No. 4 spot next season. In case you did not catch Part 2, here are Wall’s numbers over the last 20 games of last seasons:
24.2 PPG, 46.6/37/78.1 splits, 8 APG, 40.2 AST%, 3.08 AST/TO, 1.6 SPG
With these numbers he only trails Russell Westbrook, Curry and arguably Tony Parker as a scorer and only trails Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo and Greivis Vasquez as a distributor. If Wall continues on this path he will be a force to be reckoned with next season and will be pulling the Wizards with him. As a scorer Wall has been very good without having a consistent jump shot. Over the course of the season there were flashes of at least decent corner 3 shooting from Wall and he actually developed a sweet shot to pull up from in the mid-range — he shot 49.06 percent from the right elbow and shot more than twice as many shots from that spot than any other mid-range spot. If Wall was able to continue his shooting development through the summer it will add tremendously to his offensive game. These improvements do not need to be superfluous, either. If he can become consistent from the corners and just as efficient as Rondo and Rose are from the mid-range — both reasonable improvements — that shooting combined with his Westbrook-like quickness and athleticism may make him the most dangerous offensive threat at the position. Wall is also an above-average defender for the position and if he can put his speed and size to their best use he may be able to join Mike Conley and Westbrook as the position’s best defenders.
Tier Two — The GOAT (from behind the arc)
Stephen Curry – 22.9 PPG, 45.1/45.3/90 splits, 6.9 APG, 29.8 AST%, 2.24 AST/TO, 1.6 SPG
Stephen Curry is the greatest shooter of all time. Initially, that sounds bold, over the top and reactionary, but a further analysis of Curry’s shooting back up that claim. Curry holds the record for 3-pointers in a season, is second on the all-time 3-point percentage list and is the No. 1 active player on that list. But more than that, 38.6 percent of Curry’s 3-point makes came off the dribble this season. That ranks as one of the highest marks in the league last season and it displays an aspect of Curry’s shooting that does not exist with the guys he is compared to — Reggie Miller, Ray Allen, Steve Kerr, and others. That unassisted 3-pointer, the 3-point shot off the dribble that was a rarity not long ago in the NBA, is a shot very few of the great NBA 3-point shooters have in their arsenal — you could argue Curry is the only great that has it. This shot that has been mastered by Curry, Irving and James Harden over the last couple of seasons is an even more effective floor spacer than the typical catch-and-shoot 3 ball. When Curry is spotting up on the weak side, he only takes one defender away from the paint. When Curry is in the pick-and-roll, though, his ability to shot the 3 off the dribble not only brings two defenders, but also leaves the screener’s defender hedging out so aggressively that the opposing defense is almost always compromised to dangerous levels.
This is part of the reason Curry is also a good ball distributor. He draws so much attention out of the pick-and-roll he can quite easily pick apart remaining defenders if he can turn the corner on the roll man’s defender. Curry is also a great passer on his own laurels. He has mastered the crosscourt one-hand whip pass out of the pick-and-roll. Having the power and accuracy to thread the needle on that long pass is killer against most pick-and-roll defense setups and only Chris Paul and LeBron James can make that pass as accurately and as consistently as Curry does.
Curry’s only flaw is the same as many other of the league’s younger top point guards. Curry is absolutely horrible defensively. He is a matador when it comes to sticking in front of his man and though he plays hard on the defensive end, he is too often in the wrong place at the wrong time within the Warriors’ scheme. Over the course of last season he improved at executing Mike Malone’s scheme on defense, but Curry typically looks like a guy that just cannot get a full grasp on NBA defense. He has always been a decent thief, but Curry will almost always be a negative on the defensive end of the court. But he is one of the best offensive threats the NBA has to offer and that along with his distribution abilities earn him the fourth spot.
Tier One – The Best
Tony Parker – 20.3 PPG, 52.2/35.3/84.5 splits, 7.6 APG, 39.6 AST%, 2.94 AST/TO .8 SPG
Chris Paul – 16.9 PPG, 48.1/32.8/88.5 splits, 9.7 APG, 44.3 AST%, 4.26 AST/TO, 2.4 SPG
Russell Westbrook – 23.2 PPG, 43.8/32.3/80 splits, 7.4 APG, 37.2 AST%, 2.22 AST/TO, 1.8 SPG
The Los Angeles Clippers earned a 112.1 offensive rating when Chris Paul was on the court. When Tony Parker was in, the Spurs had a 108.3 offensive rating and 97.6 defensive rating (10.7 differential). And when Russell Westbrook was on the court the Thunder earned a 111.8 offensive rating and a 99.6 defensive rating (12.3 differential; all ratings and differentials from NBA.com). All three guys took their team to an elite level offensively and Parker and Westbrook brought them there on both ends.
Westbrook did so by being the least traditional point guard out of the top point men the league has to offer. Despite his shoot-first ways, Westbrook still assists it at a fairly high rate — though his turnovers cannot be overlooked. Westbrook’s best value, though, is as the scoring force Oklahoma City will need this season as Westbrook and Kevin Durant‘s supporting cast continues to dwindle. Westbrook has worked hard to become a decent threat from the mid-range and while he still takes way more 3-pointers than his percentages should allow, his abilities from the mid-range, at the rim and his ability to get to the free-throw line make him one of the best scorers at the position. Even with all that, Westbrook’s most underrated value is probably as a defender. Russell is menacing on that end of the court and his ability to use his size and speed to exert his will on opposing point guards is top notch. Only Mike Conley is clearly a better defender than Westbrook at the position and Westbrook’s top defense and combined with his offensive abilities land him at the top of the list.
While Westbrook is enjoying the glory in his younger year, Parker has waited until his middle NBA years to full round out into the an absolute force at the position, while Paul has been sitting at the top for a while now. There is a laundry list of things that set Paul and Parker away from rest of the pack, but the most impressive may be there game from the mid-range and the paint. Offensively, Paul and Parker are actually below average from 3 (barely), but are one and two as far point guards go scoring inside the 3-point line. Both Paul and Parker are above league average from all but two spots inside the 3 line. Parker is average from the right baseline and the paint — where he still shoots 59.68 percent, which is very good for the position — while Paul struggles from the right elbow area and the right baseline. Neither forces the action when they do not have a good shot and as a result are very efficient scorers. Parker, however, is slightly more efficient as a scorer and actually exerts himself more offensively as well.
Paul catches up to Parker, though, as an assist man. Parker is no slouch distributing it — he has one of the best assist percentages in basketball — but Paul is only comparable to Rondo as a distributor at this point in his career. Paul is also one of the best assist men of all time. Paul is third all-time in assists per game and second all-time in assist percentage. He is also on pace to join the top five in total assists.
Defensively, both of these players are above average as well. Paul will take stretches of play off during the regular season in an effort to preserve his legs, but when called upon can be absolutely terrorizing on defense. He also is consistently one of the leagues best thefts. Parker does most of his work as a part of a larger system. San Antonio has continuously been one of the NBA’s best defenses during Parker’s time with the Spurs. He may not be the main piece to the puzzle, but what he brings to the table helps the Spurs much more than it hurts when he is healthy. As a result of their above average defense, these players top level of offensive production and great distribution ability keep them at the very top of the point guard mountain, despite the recent surplus at the position.