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Thursday, August 8, 2013
Roundtable: NBA's point guards

ESPN.com

Chris Paul
Chris Paul is still the gold standard at the point guard position.

We've already taken a look at the NBA's noteworthy shooting guards, small forwards and power forwards. Up next, we tackle the loaded point guard position.


1. Who's the best point guard in the NBA?


Henry Abbott, ESPN.com: Chris Paul. Not only is he the most productive point guard on the court, but he also comes with enough leader's magnetism to lure a good coach into agreeing to break his contract with the Celtics. Powerful stuff.

Jeremy Gordon, Brooklyn's Finest: Chris Paul. The standards by which we define the "best" point guard are fairly fluid -- all of the top ones have singular qualities in their favor, such as Derrick Rose's penchant for attacking or Tony Parker's masterly control of the Spurs' system. But Paul controls the game's pace and sees the floor like no other, and can even score.

Andrew Han, Clipper Blog: Chris Paul. He is still the standard by which all other point guards are measured. Case in point: The only players to average at least 16.5 points, 9.5 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game for a season: Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Tim Hardaway and Chris Paul (including last season).

Curtis Harris, Hardwood Paroxysm: Chris Paul. His reign may come to an end soon, but he has been the default answer to this question for half a decade and deservedly so. No one in the league dictates an offense like Paul. The floor general assails opponents with pinpoint passes and unflappable dribbling, and has always been a terrific rebounder for his size.

Brett Koremenos, HoopSpeak: Chris Paul. Paul led all point guards in PER while also finishing second in Estimated Wins Added despite playing 12 games fewer than the leader in that category, Russell Westbrook. The Clippers' franchise star is equally devastating as a playmaker and a scorer, but often focuses too much on the former to the detriment of his team. Still, no other point guard in the NBA is capable of controlling an offense in the way that he can.


2. Who's the most underrated point guard in the NBA?


Abbott: With a nod to the incredible Tony Parker, somehow it's probably still Kyrie Irving. He has been as entertaining as any player in the league for two years, but on a losing team in a medium market with no love from national TV. The Cavs will be better this season, though, and the show is about to begin.

Gordon: Jose Calderon. He had the highest assist percentage of any starting point guard last season, yet he only rated as a throw-in for the Rudy Gay trade. He isn't quite Chris Paul or Deron Williams, no, but he should clearly be able to help out the Mavericks; that his shooting has inched up year after year is a bonus, too.

Han: Russell Westbrook. Because he shares the court with likely the second-best player in the league in Kevin Durant, the focus tends to gravitate toward Westbrook's flaws more than his abilities. Not that an injury is ever a good thing, but perhaps the silver lining to Westbrook being sidelined last playoffs was the ability to see the Thunder were just another good team rather than a title contender without their All-Star point guard.

Harris: Russell Westbrook. He has been on the NBA's All-Second Team for three straight seasons, but I think Russ is still underrated. He plays a dynamic style that creates havoc for opponents and great opportunities for his team. Playing beside Kevin Durant, however, overshadows so much of the great work he does night in and night out.

Koremenos: Kemba Walker. Point guards with a lower PER than Walker last year: Mike Conley, Ty Lawson, Rajon Rondo, Jrue Holiday and Jeff Teague. Lost amid the Bobcats' terribleness is the fact that Walker has emerged as legitimate backcourt scorer. If (or maybe when) Walker gets some more talent around him, it could elevate his game to the point where we have no choice but to notice.


3. Who's the most overrated point guard in the NBA?


Abbott: One lens through which to see the decline of the Detroit Pistons: They broke up a championship squad, slowly, over years, to better organize the team around ... Rodney Stuckey. It was a big bet, and through no fault of Stuckey's, it failed. And sad but true: One key to returning to glory is relegating Stuckey to a smaller role.

Gordon: I'd prefer to punt on this, as I think most point guards are properly rated now that we're no longer pretending Tyreke Evans can properly run a team. I suppose we might say it's Damian Lillard, whose PER was just a tick above league average and clearly benefited from a glut of minutes on a bad team.

Han: Derrick Rose, and this is through no fault of his own. Rose will have missed NBA-level basketball for almost 18 months when he plays his next official game, but the perception is that he will instantly catapult Chicago back to the upper echelon of the East. How Rose adapts after injury is the chief question, never mind regaining MVP form.

Harris: Brandon Jennings. Maybe a change of scenery can reverse his prospects, but Jennings has thus far been overrated. He's a bad jump shooter and a mediocre finisher at the rim. The sheer volume of poor decisions he makes as a point guard has always been detrimental to his team.

Koremenos: Jrue Holiday. Despite appearing in an All-Star Game and being the centerpiece of a draft-day trade, the 23-year-old guard hasn't exactly produced like a big-time player. Holiday's true shooting percentage of 49.7 is a ghastly number that makes the much-maligned Brandon Jennings look like Steve Nash. Though he's still young and improving, Holiday has a ways to go before he proves his All-Star reputation wasn't a fluke.


4. Who's the most promising point guard in the NBA?


Abbott: Russell Westbrook? Kyrie Irving? Mike Conley? Stephen Curry? Damian Lillard? Eric Bledsoe? John Wall? I am delighted, as an NBA fan, at how impossible this question is to answer. It'll be thrilling to watch. Force me to pick one, and I'll say scroll down to the next question.

Gordon: Kyrie Irving. Blessed with the touch and vision of all elite point guards, he was a legitimate All-Star in his second season. As Cleveland continues to center its rebuilding efforts around him, he should only get better. Hopefully his commercials will, too!

Han: Stephen Curry. Excellent court vision and transcendent shooting ability, what's not to like? But the idea of "most promising" revolves around potential, and it remains unclear for at least a few more seasons whether Curry can kick the injury bug that has been hampering him or if it ultimately limits his trajectory.

Harris: John Wall. He's had a rocky career thus far, but Wall showed glimpses of being a truly transcendent player for the Wizards last season. He's got the size, the lengthy arms, and, most important, the will to be a terrifying defender. If Wall continues improving his jumper, I expect a legit breakout campaign from him.

Koremenos: Kyrie Irving. It's hard to find a skill that Cleveland's new franchise icon doesn't possess. Irving can shoot it from distance, finish at the rim and find open teammates. To top it all off, he owns perhaps the best handle in the league. The only thing that could possibly stop Irving from reaching superstardom is injuries, as he has missed 38 games over the past two seasons.


5. Who will be the best point guard in the NBA in five years?


Abbott: I'd have to say Kyrie Irving, only because I still don't really see Westbrook as a real point guard. Irving trails only Paul, Parker and Westbrook in PER now, and he was able to buy his first legal beer in the past few months. (X factor: 2014 draft point guards Dante Exum, Marcus Smart, Andrew Harrison & Co. will be in the league by then, too.)

Gordon: If Derrick Rose is truly recovered from his leg injury, it should be him -- he's a former MVP (however wonky you think that vote was) and was clearly ready to grab the top spot before getting hurt. Plus, he is still just 24 and should be entering his prime over the next few years.

Han: Kyrie Irving. Irving has his own share of injury concerns, but nothing recurring that would give one pause yet. With elite ballhandling skills and elite shooting, and already one of the most efficient crunch-time scorers, Irving's star is rising ever faster. If his defense improves as well, he could be the best point guard before the five-year deadline.

Harris: Russell Westbrook. I think Westbrook's skills have just about reached their apex. Now he's adding on-court wits and guile to the repertoire. When his intellectual court awareness matches his physical gifts, he'll be the league's best point guard. However, if he's still playing alongside Durant in five years, I doubt he'll be perceived as such.

Koremenos: Kyrie Irving. In five years, I don't think the debate will be whether the 21-year-old will be one of the best point guards in the NBA, but whether he will be one of the league's best players. If injuries don't continue to nag him, I fully expect Irving to be involved in the MVP discussion on an annual basis in the not-so-distant future.