Let's be honest...all of the "when healthy" garbage when we assess players (point guards as of late on Bedge) is totally conjecture. The truth of the matter is, one of the biggest components of a player's value is his ability to be on the floor. I'm sure Greg Oden "when healthy" would be one of the top centers in the league...but...he's not making anyone's top 10 lists. What I would like to do is rate the top point guards in the league for who they are right now – how valuable they are to their team, as we speak...if we're discrediting Lillard for being a rookie and not taking into consideration the fact that he's got a TON of growth ahead of him - we're also going to discredit the Rose, Irving, and Wall group for being extremely injury prone and never seeing the floor.
Let's have a look at a simple metric I'm making up right now called GA% (Games Available Percentage). It measures the number of games a player is available to play per the number of games his services are required. (We will only be considering the regular season in this analysis). Going 1 (82 games), 2 (148 games), and 3 (230 games) years back, what was the GA% for each of the consensus "top" point guards in the league. I strongly believe that this should be taken into consideration when we assess who the "top" point guards in the league are. Lastly, countdowns are WAY more fun...so...I'll be counting down...Without further adieu:
15. Nash – not there in statistical averages to be considered (super weird typing that one…but…it’s true)
14. Lin – not there in statistical averages to be considered
13. Lawson – not there in statistical averages to be considered
12. Rondo: (1) 46.3%, (2) 61.4%, (3) 69.1%
Rajon Rondo is SO overrated. It’s a new hot button for me. I’m going to get mad now every time someone talks about how good he is. (I’m deciding this as I type.) This guy has never played a full season of 82 games, has averaged 11 points per game over his career, and has simply ridden the coat tails of Garnett, Pierce, and Allen to the “conversation” of best point guard in the league as he’s racked up gimme assists. There aren’t a lot of point guards out there that won’t average at least 8.3 assists per game (his average over his 7 year career) playing along side those 3 potential Hall of Famers. Rondo is not in this conversation….except he is because someone else put him here. I’m removing him.
11. Rubio: (1) 69.5%, (2) 66.2%, (3) N/A
- When Rubio is on the floor, he distributes well. Exceptionally well, when you consider who he’s “distributing” to. That said, he rarely sees the floor. His talent and potential are huge – however his value to his team is a huge question mark. Will he ever play a full season? I have to admit – his potential had a factor in my comparison between him and Rondo. I think they have just about equal value in every other sense – but Rubio still has a chance to become something special, whereas this is the year we get to see the real Rondo...
10. Wall: (1) 59.7%, (2) 77.7%, (3) 80%
- A current member of the “What If Trio” of theoretically all-world level point guards (Irving, Rose, and Wall). “If this kid stayed healthy, he’d quite possibly be in the conversation for the best point guard in the league” is what I hear quite often. However, if you look at his stat line in the one season he played every game (the shortened 66 game lockout season) and even his other 2 injury riddled partial seasons, he doesn’t come out ahead of Steph, Lillard, Paul, Parker, or any of the other top point guards on this list. Wall is actually pretty far down the list statistically (although, his assists are towards the top, and one could argue that’s the most important role of a PG). After the research I’ve done for this post, I’d put him quite far down the list even if he were consistently healthy if I were to also compare his overall game to that of the other point guards.
9. Rose: (1) 0%, (2) 26.3%, (3) 52.1%
- Not fair because he missed a whole season and a half? Not so much. He’s kind of the reason I’m doing this. He’s only played slightly more than half of the games the Bulls needed him for over the last 3 years. That’s terrible. Also, it’s very possible that Rose has already seen his best years…half a decade ago. His current value is one of the biggest question marks in the league as we approach next season. Don’t get me wrong, he was very good when he first entered the league – so good that his reputation has benefited from it for quite some time. I just think everyone is in for quite the surprise when he comes back this year. My prediction? Phase one: “he’s just working out the kinks and getting back into the swing of things”. Phase two: “it’s just a mild re-injury – they have to fix something that just wasn’t done right the first time – he’ll be back again next year”. Phase three: “Grant Hill drinks Sprite”.
8. Irving: (1) 71.9%, (2) 74.3%, (3) N/A
- He passes the eye test when he’s on the floor…but that’s not very often and his team still stinks when he’s out there. I’m not sold on Irving yet. I know he’s got skills and potential – but he still needs to do something with them. If this was a potential valuation – Irving could quite possibly be at the top. However, this is a current-value valuation – and as it stands, he has yet to prove himself as worth much. For a comparison, Lillard has played about 20 less games than Irving with averages within approx. 1 point of Irving’s in the 3 primary PG stat categories (points, assists, and rebounds). Although Irving has a higher PER and higher shooting percentages (3’s and 2’s), Lillard has proven a more consistent court time steward thus far and therefore gets the nod.
7. Lillard: (1) 100%, (2) N/A, (3) N/A
- It’s simply not fair to hold the other point guards accountable to GA% over the last 3 years and only have 1 year of data for Lillard. This is especially unfair when considering he missed time in college due to injury. That said, if we simply look at the last year (this is one of the primary reasons I also included the 1 year GA%), you’ll see that he was one of only 2 players that played every game during the regular season. Statistically, Lillard compares perfectly to all of the other mid-upper tier point guards in my analysis and therefore warrants a spot here. The only reason he is below Curry is because they played a comparable number of games this year (the only data we have on Lillard). Also, statistically, Curry out performed Lillard in every single category – percentages of all 3 shot types (free throws, 2’s, and 3’s), steals, assists, points, rebounds, and PER. Lillard did nothing better than Curry. So even though it runs slightly contrary to this GA% analysis – I feel like the lack of data on Lillard for years 2 and 3 allows Curry the nod.
6. Curry (1) 95.1%, (2) 70.2%, (3) 77.3%
- Curry has almost arrived. At 25 years old with 4 years in the league and often injured, he’s pretty close to his potential in my opinion. The best parallel I can think of for Steph’s likely career arc is Brandon Roy or perhaps Grant Hill, if he’s lucky. He’s got this previous year and perhaps a couple more going forward before this health starts to catch up with him and becomes more of a factor. That said – if it weren’t for his constant injury issues, remember we’re talking current value here, Steph would be a little closer to the top. 1 more year like last year and he slides in above Parker in my opinion. Next to Holiday, Curry is primed for the biggest jump, I think.
5. Holiday: (1) 95.1%, (2) 96.6%, (3) 97.8%
- I don’t know what to say for my assessment of Holiday. He plays his position well. He epitomizes consistency – from his stats to his floor time, he’s just always producing. I don’t know that he’s quite at the All-World level of his “peers”, but he’s sure there when you need him. I think that he’s got the potential to improve quite a bit, too – once he’s surrounded by quality scorers and role players. Heck, he averaged 17.7p, 8.0a, and 4.2r this last season – all of them career bests. With the boon he should get after this move to NO, it could be as soon as this season that we’re putting him in the conversation of best in the league.
4. Williams: (1) 95%, (2) 89.8%, (3) 86%
- Although he’s slightly more reliable as of late, he’s still not as talented or as reliable over the last 3 years as Paul, Parker, or Westbrook. He’s quite a bit more reliable, however, than just about all of the other top point guards in our analysis. For what he ever so slightly lacks in skill, he makes up for in his consistency.
3. Parker: (1) 80.4%, (2) 85.1%, (3) 88.6%
- I think his age is starting to show as he’s regularly missing games here and there for little things. He’s still one of the best, most reliable point guards in the league as evidenced by his GA%.
2. CP3: (1) 85.3%, (2) 87.8%, (3) 91.3%
- He’s had his issues with bumps and bruises, but has held together relatively well over the last few years. No one can argue with the guy’s stat line, leadership ability, character, and “eye-ball-test-passing” skills. If not for his ongoing relationship with the injury bug, I’d label him the best in the league. However, as it stands, Westbrook’s consistency puts him just above CP3.
1. Westbrook: (1) 100%, (2) 100%, (3) 100%.
- Aside from the playoff injury this last season, Westbrook has been by far the most reliable point guard in the league over the last 3 years. It’s amazing how well a team can perform when their floor general is actually on the floor every game. Add that GA% consistency to his unreal offensive and defensive skill set, and Westbrook has a really good case for most valuable point guard in the league.
In summary, I would say that the top tier point guard crop can be broken into 3 tiers:
Tier 1: Exceptionally good in skill and exceptionally consistent in GA%:
- Westbrook, Paul, Parker, Williams, Holiday (in that order)
Tier 2: Exceptionally good in skill and either terrible, improving, or unproven in GA%
- Curry, Lillard, Irving, Rose, Wall (in that order)
Tier 3: Over rated when considering individual statistical production, inconsistent with GA%, and shouldn’t be in the conversation in the first place.
- Rubio, Rondo, Lawson, Nash, Lin (in that order)