With Steve Nash's career winding down and Derrick Rose's injury problems, the race to become the top point guard in the NBA is wide open. Those considered among the best in this position must not only be great passers, but also have the ability to score and defend. Many teams now choose to build around their point guard, as there is plenty of elite talent at the position.
Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers is recognized as one of the top players in the entire league, despite only being 6 feet tall. While other point guards were blessed with greater physical gifts, Paul is one of the smartest players in the league with an extremely high basketball IQ. This allows him to see the entire court and find open teammates with no-look passes. He also has great ball handling, an above average jump shot, and has greatly improved his defensive play over the past few seasons.
Perhaps the most athletic point guard in the league is the Washington Wizards' 2010 first overall pick, John Wall. At 6-foot-4, Wall has good size for the position and he uses this to his advantage over his smaller peers. He is also highly explosive with great passing and the ability to drive to the lane and finish. His main problem is his jump shot, which is a frequent struggle. While he will continue to work on this weakness, it could be the difference between Wall being a very good player and a generational talent.
The most experienced player on this list is Tony Parker. While he does not play an exciting brand of basketball and does not put up the same numbers as other elite point guards, he has the ability to control the pace of an entire game. The San Antonio Spurs play fundamentally sound basketball and do not make many mistakes. Most of this style runs through Parker, which is what makes him so effective and the team so successful. Much like a real estate coach makes his pupils into better agents, Parker turns everyone on the floor into a better player.
The best shooting point guard in the NBA is Stephen Curry. In 2013, Curry set the record for the most three-pointers in a season and led the Golden State Warriors to a surprising playoff berth. Once in the playoffs, Curry also led the Warriors to a first round upset of the Denver Nuggets. Curry does struggle on defense and does not have the explosiveness to drive past defenders, but his shooting more than makes up for his shortcomings. Curry is also a very good passer with excellent vision of the court.
Westbrook is a unique case because he plays with Kevin Durant, who is perhaps the league's most dominant scorer. Basically, Westbrook's role on the team is that of a secondary shooter, rather than a traditional point guard. Oklahoma City's offense does not run through Westbrook, as he is more of a secondary piece. As a result, Westbrook has much lower assist totals than other elite point guards, since Durant creates his own offense so frequently. At the same time, Westbrook is always among the top scoring point guards in the league, since he is frequently left open when Durant is double-teamed.
Scott Huntington is a writer, reporter, blogger, and long-time sports fan. Follow Scott at @SMHuntington or check out his blog, blogspike.com