10. Chris Paul
The State Farm leading assist man has been known mostly through popular opinion as the Best Point Guard in the league. He has the attitude of a scrap yard dog, the heart of veteran, and arguably the best handle in the league. Although he has not had the most success in terms of post-season wins, he lays it on the floor every night and that is what you want from your starting point guard. Chris has proven that he can do anything on the court; pass effectively, score in volume, rebound, and make tough stops. So the question continues to be, where is the championship? Can he elevate the game of his teammates (Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan) in order to reach the NBA apex? The Clippers are still one player away from being Western conference elite but until then, Chris Paul will need to carry this Doc River led club.
9. James Harden
“The Beard” stands atop all shooting guards in power rankings. The sweet left handed, seasoned ball handler has blossomed in Houston as a perennial scorer. He may not be a tenacious defender, but he can certainly light it up. Even as a 6th man off the bench for Oklahoma City, behind the likes of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, we saw--only in his 3rd year in the league average 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 3.7 assists. Now, 3 years later he is averaging career highs in points (27.2), rebounds (6.1), and assists (7) playing alongside an all new supporting cast in Dwight Howard and the newly acquired Josh Smith. Although it is extremely difficult to come out of the west without a perennial all-star at Point Guard, if anyone can bring the Rockets back to top it is James Harden.
8. Kevin Love
I predicted that Lebron James would successfully lure Kevin Love to Cleveland; whether it be by GM, Free Agency, or just plain Lebron’s will. Now that Uncle Drew’s teammate is finally in the wine red and old gold, we will truly get a glimpse of his “all-star” talent on an all-star heavy ball team. In Minnesota, Love had the luxury of every offensive set ran through him and Ricky Rubio. He was able to pad his stats by rebounding his misses, touching the rock every position, and passing out of double teams to open shooters. Now he will see less double teams, and tougher defensive match-ups. As a result, his numbers have fallen greatly averaging the lowest number of points and rebounds since his sophomore year in the league.
7. Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo has been plagued with the “non-winner” label throughout his career. Although the Baltimore native has won on all levels of his career, since his arrival in the Mecca he has been unable to produce consistent success. You can blame it on the lack of surrounding talent, you can blame it on the lack of continuity at the Head coaching position, or you can blame it on Melo’s game. There is no secret that Carmelo Anthony is an excellent one on one player. But with average defense, and few intangibles, Anthony does not have a high player efficiency rating. Now that Phil Jackson is behind the cards, we will have to see if Melo can become an eventual champion but it will take some sculpting from Phil Jackson in order to do. Nonetheless, with the decline of Kobe Bryant, he is arguably the most dangerous offensive player east of Oklahoma.
6. Paul George
Pre-injury; Paul George was competing head to head with LeBron James and giving him all he could handle. Paul George was the key building block in a 2012 Indiana Pacers team that was poised to take down the Miami Heat. The tall, long, extremely athletic forward had just hit his peak last year steadily improving his scoring output by over 14 points from his rookie season. George’s ceiling may be second to only Kevin Durant. Although the leg injury is a setback to Paul’s elevation to stardom, the fortunate angle is that he is only in his fourth NBA season and if he can manage to remain injury free he will continue to have future success and remain a marquee free agent when that time comes.
15. Kawhi Leonard
The 2014 NBA finals MVP has emerged as the most fundamentally sound player since Tim Duncan was drafted. The lengthy 6'9" forward from San Diego State has proven that he can hang with the games top performers. Not only is he given the tall task to stop stars such as Lebron James and Kevin Durant, but recently Coach Greg Popovic has burdened Leonard with a more prominent role offensively. Kawhi has a smooth game, with just enough handles to beat his defender and the athleticism to finish above the rim with force. He has little to say on the court and let's his game do all the talking for him. Under the tutelage of Parker, Ginobili, and Duncan look for Kawhi Leonard to become a top 5 player in years to come. Don't forget the youngster is only 22 years old.
14. Lance Stephenson
Lance was rewarded with for his playoff tenacity with a fresh contract from MJ himself. Although he's had a slow start, there is no question that he is a top shooting guard in the league. The Coney Island product has a New York City handle to go along with an physical drive game. Defensively he is one of the top one on one on ball defenders. Lance struggles in offensive consistency and although he has had somewhat of a green light in Charlotte he has not managed to become a 20ppg guy yet in his young career. Let's not forget he is only 23 and left Cincinnati after his freshmen year. He is not even close to the apex of his career do I expect him to be a top 10 player on the years to come.
13. Tony Parker
3 time NBA champions deserve to be treated like one, and that is why Tony stands as the 2nd rated "pure point guard" in my power rankings. Possibly one of the best but most underrated guards in the league, Parker gives both veteran and rookie guards problems in the pick and roll. He has the most deadliest mid range jumper, and has nearly perfected the floater. Playing alongside Duncan, has only buffered his stat line when it comes to assist, and playing within the same system for his entire career has enabled him to perform in a comfort zone quite like no other player. In addition, he has dealt with his fair share of adversity off the court while still remaining one of the top players in the league. Rings speak for itself he's a baller.
12. Tim Duncan
If you have ever needed a model for consistency look no further than Tim Duncan. Through 18 NBA seasons he has managed to average 20 and 11, and after multiple championships he remains the most important piece in a Spurs dynasty. No Big man, I repeat, no big man has the fundamental arsenal that Tim Duncan brings to the table. Whether its passing from the post, playing with his back to the basket, running the pick and roll, Duncan may be hands down the most fundamentally sound player in NBA history. Anywhere within 15 feet it is off the glass, and if fouled he is a career 70% free throw shooter. Hats off to Tim Duncan, the timeless center, who even in his 19th NBA season has the opportunity to repeat. Without a doubt, Tim Duncan will be a first ballot Hall of Famer.
11. Stephen Curry
Part 2 of the splash brothers, Stephen Curry is the main attraction in Santa Barbara. Arguably already one of the greatest shooters of all time, Curry has worked extremely hard on his handle and becoming efficient in shooting of the dribble. More importantly is the fact that his turnovers are at a career low while his assist to turnover ratio has increased. Coach Kerr has evolved Stephen into a pass first PG with the fluorescent light (if one such exists) and he is not only the leader of this young ball club but a primary reason why the Warriors have gotten off to their best start in franchise history.
Prior to Christmas there are a number of teams that are a key player away from becoming legitimate threats in both the Western and Eastern conferencesb
Teams: New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers
Tim Hardaway Jr.
Kobe can end his career with Phil Jackson, while chasing a chip in the weaker Eastern conference. The bulk of the scoring load is lifted off of Carmelo, and Linsanity returns to NY where he became an overnight celebrity. Lin will not be relied upon for his scoring output and instead will come off the bench and provide a spark. Meanwhile NY Knicks can shave some salary off the books with JR Smith and Amare’ (who the Lakers will be thrilled about last year of his contract). At least they receive Tim Hardaway Jr. who along with "Swaggy P" will be the future of the Lakers' shooting guard position Post-Black Mamba.
Teams: Brooklyn Nets and New Orleans Pelicans
Austin Rivers has never fit into the lineup for Monty Williams in New Orleans, and Eric Gordon has not managed to stay healthy for very long. Joe Johnson comes to a New Orleans Pelicans team that is on the brink of making serious noise in the Western conference. Although Tyreke Evans has been playing well, he can continue to come off the bench as a 6th man a la Jamal Crawford, and Joe Johnson can take over secondary scoring responsibilities behind Anthony Davis. Bringing Austin Rivers and Eric Gordon to Brooklyn alongside Deron Williams will provide some younger talent that Billy King can continue to build around.
Teams: Cleveland Cavaliers and Denver Nuggets
The Cleveland Cavaliers have had some recent success but one piece of the puzzle has not quite seem to fit and that is Dion Waiters. Dion has been shifted from starter to bench player, but when he is on the court with Kyrie Irving the offense is not as fluid. He is a good scorer, who can create his own shot fairly easily but is taking minutes away from Mike Miller who would be better suited to play alongside Irving and LeBron. He would fit well on a Nuggets team which lacks both defensive tenacity and a go to scorer outside of Ty Lawson. JaVale McGee has not worked out in Denver, and with Timofey Mozgov, Kenneth Faried, and JJ Hickson the front court may be a bit too crowded. The Cavaliers could use a rim protector—badly. If Lebron can rub off on JaVale the same way he has on Tristan Thompson, then LBJ can finally have that defensive center he has been dreaming about playing alongside.
Teams: Boston Celtics and Houston Rockets
Kevin McHale has been trying to get Rajon Rondo in a Rockets uniform since the end of the original “Big 3”. He is the missing link that is preventing the Rockets from elevating to the next level. Rondo and Harden become a fiercely competitive back court in the Wild west, Jeff Green reunites with his old Thunder teammate, and the Rockets become a serious title contender. On the other hand Danny Ainge becomes stocked with guards, after recently drafting Marcus Smart, and Avery Bradley re-signing as a combo guard the Celtics have to build some front court depth. Taking back the contracts of Donatas Motiejunas and Kostas Papnikolaou provide some young rich European talent on a rebuilding squad who will most likely have a high draft pick. Nick Johnson is an exciting, athletic, crafty ball handler and scorer who has the potential to develop into a serious SG.
20. Marc Gasol
Since Phil Jackson moved to New York, there have been multiple rumors that speak of the younger Gasol ending up in a Knicks uniform next year. After seeing Phil deliver his older brother a couple of championships could you blame him? Marc has twice the talent, and twice the toughness that his older brother possesses, not to mention he loves to play defense. He is the glue that makes Memphis compete in the tougher western conference and he continues to elevate his game each year. High post, low post, back to the basket it does not matter, Marc Gasol can score anywhere inside the paint and has recently developed the 16 foot jump shot. If Marc ends up with Phil Jackson expect his game to reach a Hall of Fame level.
19. Derrick Rose
The former MVP has fallen a few notches down on my power rankings and before you begin to question my basketball acclimate keep in mind that Derrick has barely played the last two seasons. I am unable to give credit to on court production if you are never ON THE COURT. Given that information, I witnessed enough over the summer to know that DROSE remains a top 20 layer in the league. He came off the bench for the FIBA National team, and although his minutes were closely monitored he showed glimpses of the former MVP. His speed and explosiveness mirrored the old Derrick, and as he continues to get back into game shape, he will shoulder the offensive burden that the Bulls have lacked for the past two seasons.
18. Klay Thompson
The younger of the “Splash Brothers”, Klay Thompson has elite level talent. He continues to strengthen all aspects of his game and is far from just being a spot up shooter anymore. This past summer he had the privilege to line up against James Harden and DeMarr DeRozan during the FIBA World games everyday in practice and it paid off. It doesn’t hurt to play alongside the most prolific shooter in NBA history. Teams are unable to give the appropriate help needed and Klay capitalizes on defensive mismatches (which are nearly every night). Thompson can only move up this list and challenge Harden and Lance as the top 2-guard in the league.
17. Joakim Noah
Hands down Joakim Noah may be the most underrated player in the NBA. At a legit 7 feet tall, outside of his awkward shooting form, he is the most fundamentally sound player since Tim Duncan came into the league. He has singlehandedly kept the Bulls afloat the past few seasons in D-Rose’s absence. He is a coach’s player who does all the little things and wants no credit. He takes charges, fearlessly defends the rim, enables low post opportunities for his teammates, and he does not care about statistics. Noah has evolved the Center position and has became the new hybrid prototype for ‘True Centers’. If he increased his scoring output he could easily breach the Top 10.
16. Kyrie Irving
Despite the shaky start, Kyrie is on the brink of stardom. The uncanny street handle, stop and start acceleration makes him arguably one of the best guards in the league. Only Chris Paul and Steph Curry can break down a defender quite like “Uncle Drew” can. Although Kyrie has top 10 talent, I cannot move him up on this list due to his inability to make those around him better. Irving has proven that he can score and create his own shot, but in his first few years the Cav’s have failed to reach the playoffs. The argument can be made that guards like Steph and Westbrook have better supporting casts, but the Cavaliers play in what has been considered a tissue-soft Eastern conference. This year he has no excuses.
Created Hiphop and Home Runs in 2014 out of his broadcasting studio in Queens, NY. Visit daily to find updates and breaking news in the urban sports community
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