Ranking the Top 10 Point Guards in the NBA

7 of 11

6. Stephen Curry

Ladies and gentlemen, Stephen Curry has officially arrived.

Mar 02, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) is defended by Philadelphia 76ers guard Royal Ivey (7) during the first quarter at the Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Many wondered if this day would ever come when they saw Curry on the sidelines last year, his season ended after complications with his troublesome ankles.  Now?  He’s at the forefront of the NBA landscape after his lights-out performance at Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks four days ago, and that All-Star snub is looking worse every time he takes the floor.

Curry is enjoying the best year of his career and leading the Golden State Warriors to their best season since they made the playoffs in 2007.  They currently hold the sixth seed in the Western Conference, and much of that is due to Curry’s presence.  In the previous five games, he’s averaging 33 points, six assists, and three steals while shooting 52 percent(!) from three-point range.  In short, he’s showing that he is an offensive force that deserves to be mentioned with the best players in the league.

There’s really nothing to dislike about Curry’s offensive game.  He’s got great touch around the basket, he’s an underrated passer with great vision, and he’s the most likely candidate to be the next player to join that exclusive 50-40-90 club.

Now, for the bad news.  The Warriors have lost four of their last five, and while they wouldn’t have been in most of those games without Curry, he shares responsibility for Golden State’s recent slide.  He’s averaged nearly five turnovers over those five games, and his efficiency has fallen back to earth a bit in the last two games against the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers.

The one thing that has been the Warriors’ Achilles heel in these losses has been there inability to get a stop on the defensive end, and Stephen Curry is not ever going to be much help on that end of the floor.  When you look at the players he has to match up against on a nightly basis, there’s not going to be many that he’s capable of stopping one-on-one, and last night his counterpart Jrue Holiday scored 27 to help lead the Sixers to a close win over the Dubs.

Curry is somewhat effective when defending off of the ball, as he’s quick enough and has the anticipation to step into passing lanes and get easy steals.  Still, he’s getting paid for his offense, and when he doesn’t show up on that end his value takes a huge hit.

Still, the past five games have shown that the Warriors success can really be attributed to Curry’s development as he takes the leap to the next level as a player, and if they can get some consistency out of young players like Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson, they’re going to continue to win games and make some noise in the Western Conference.

5. Rajon Rondo

Jan 23, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo (9) takes the ball down the court in the first quarter against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

For as many detractors as Rajon Rondo has, he’s got the resumè to make him the number five point guard on this list.  NBA champion, four-time All-Star, doer of things like this.  Whether you like him or not, the guy’s got skills.

By now his career his well-documented: Young upstart player suddenly finds himself playing with three future Hall of Famers in his second year in the league, rubs his teammates the wrong way with his introverted, stubborn nature and figures it all out and finds his happy place in time to contribute meaningfully to a title run.

And everything ends happily ever after…right?

There’s so many things to like about Rondo.  His vision and creative ability in terms of finding ways to get the ball to the open man are one-of-a-kind.  He’s led the league in assists per game the last two seasons, and his knack for buzzing around the floor on the defensive end and accumulating steals must drive the opposition crazy.

But the thing about Rondo is, he’s prone to driving his coach and teammates crazy too, not to mention the fans.  Much like Westbrook, there seems to be a sort of internal struggle going on within Rondo.  Lifelong Celtics fan Bill Simmons put it best when he described the two versions of Rondo that you’ll get on any given night — Basic Cable Rondo and National TV Rondo.

To summarize, National TV Rondo can carry a team on his back and baffle a defense pretty much by himself.  He looks for his shot, competes on every possession, and looks like not just the best point guard in the league, but one of the best players in the league.

Basic Cable Rondo does not.  Thus Boston GM Danny Ainge goes through the same tradition every year, leaking bits around the league that Rondo’s available for the right trade package, only to end up keeping him and overachieving in the playoffs on the back of a couple brilliant Rondo performances.

It must be maddening for the Celtics’ front office.  Why can’t they get a consistent level of performance out of this guy?  Clearly he’s capable of being a great player, but to what end?

Most of Rondo’s problems occur from the neck up.  He’s got elite skills, but he lacks the assertiveness to embrace the responsibilities that come with being the best player on a team.  We knock players like Westbrook for being too selfish, but you look at Rondo and see that there is such a thing as being too unselfish as well, and in his case years of deferring to teammates has created a condition for Rondo where he’s scared of being “the guy”.

If he ever learns how to find a balance between those two identities, Rondo is going to do great things for whatever he team he finds himself on.  Otherwise, we’ll remember him as a very good — but not great — point guard.