Washington Wizards: Anatomy of the Ultimate NBA Point Guard
Given who the best player on the Washington Wizards is, the NBA point guard is a topic of conversation that often comes up between fans of the franchise. In fact, I happen to consider myself somewhat of a connoisseur of the subject. Sure, that might sound egotistical but the reality is I’ll debate anyone anywhere on a ranking of today’s floor generals and provide statistics, game examples, and even a sarcastic remark or two (all free of charge).
But rather than get into it on Twitter to yell about how to value defense vs. shooting and passing vs. scoring, I’ve decided on a new approach. Let’s just create an alien robot from outer space, and call him the best point guard that can be constructed in today’s NBA! Here’s how it works:
1. I will select 8 attributes from various point guards in the league. These attributes may not be the player’s absolute best, but at least the most unique to set them apart from the field.
2. Each player can only be selected for one attribute. Otherwise the article would be titled ‘Steph Curry’, the byline would read ‘Steph Curry’ and the body would consist of two words – can you guess what they might be?
3. For added bonus, and because I’m so creative, the attributes will be written in a manner that also unveils my 2015-16 point guard rankings, strictly based on what I’ve seen this year.
4. Ready to go? Let’s do it. We’ll start off easy.
Off the Dribble Shooting: Stephen Curry
Explosiveness: Russell Westbrook
I don’t think there’s much argument with this one.
No matter how many times I watch Russ play, I continue to be amazed with his ability to elevate amongst the trees and transport from the 3-point line to the rim faster than you can say ‘Dion Waiters sucks!’ Next time you’re watching the Thunder, check out where he takes flight from on those drives.
Rather than taking an extra step to get closer to the rim, he jumps one step early because of his ability to move laterally and vertically at the same time. This doesn’t give the rim protector time to prepare for the ensuing impact, meaning he’s either giving up a free layup or sending an 84% free throw shooter back to the line for 2 more.
Strength: Kyle Lowry
Oh man, do I hate me some Kyle Lowry. Minus the 2015 Playoffs, the dude has been tooling on the Washington Wizards for the entirety of his Toronto career. And while he used to be known as a mercurial type who would show up to camp out of shape, fight with coaches and teammates, and jack up terrible shots, he’s been a model of consistency in the Raptors uniform.
After his performance tailed off last spring, he finally slimmed down and has set the world on fire this year. However, the weight loss has not stripped him of his greatest strength; a powerful ass. Lowry still manages to bully fools in the post and on his steam engine drives to the rim. Despite standing only 6’1” is able to check bigger guards because his lower body and core are unwilling to give up even an inch. I’d rather stop watching the NBA than admit I’m a fan of his game but give props where they are due (except when we get to the Kyrie section).
Decision Making: Chris Paul
One of my favorite aspects about Chris Paul is his unbelievable ability to keep hidden his intention on any given play until the last possible second, almost like a pitcher who covers up the ball in his glove so helpless hitters can’t tell if he’ll firing 99 mph heat or dialing it back to the 70 mph change up.
Because Paul is such a threat to shoot, pass, or dribble at any moment, he sucks defenders into thinking he’s pulling up and out of nowhere will find a soaring DeAndre Jordan or Blake Griffin ready for a Sportscenter highlight. In the case that a defender is willing to play that game and sag off to help the lob, Paul will gladly accept the open mid-jumper, a shot he makes at a clip representative of the best in the game.
Transition: John Wall
This has been Wall’s calling card since he came into the league. Easily the fastest player in the league with the ball (apologies to Westbrook and Ish Smith), Wall is an absolute blur in the open court. Depending on the angle and situation, there is really no fastbreak that he can’t convert into points either for himself, for a streaking big man, or a trailing 3-point shooter happy to take his spot in either corner.
Wall has spent a number of years learning how to slow down, execute a pick-and-roll offense (which he’s excellent at), and hitting open jumpers but where he remains the most dangerous is in transition. Now that the Washington Wizards run even off made baskets, we’re getting a chance to see Wall run the secondary break which an exciting development because defenses are still backpedaling like he’s attacking at warp speed and he has more room and time to operate.
Catch and Shoot: Damian Lillard
Lillard owns one of the more iconic playoff moments in recent history with his buzzer beater in Game 6 vs. Houston in 2014 but he’s been a fantastic catch-and-shoot player for his whole career. That’s how you become an absolute offensive dynamo without great handles or passing ability. Lillard is a marksman whose range almost stretches to Curry’s ridiculous levels.
He can shoot coming off screens with ease and while C.J. McCollum runs the offense is more than capable of spotting up for drive and kick opportunities. To be totally forthright, I expected Lillard to struggle after the mass exodus from Portland given that he’d face nightly attention unlike the type he’d seen when LaMarcus Aldridge was around. The result has been his best statistical season to date and the Blazers are hanging around in the uninspiring battle for the 8 seed.
Ball Handling: Kyrie Irving
Look, do I think that Kyrie expends too much energy auditioning for the And-1 before pulling up for a contested mid-range jumper? Yes. But even I can’t deny Uncle Drew’s handles, especially as it relates to attacking the basket and finding maneuvers to get his shot up over taller defenders. The first three years of Kyrie’s career included a lot of highlights and very few wins but with LeBron James in tow, Kyrie can finally move to his more natural position of de facto shooting guard.
He remains one of the very best one-on-one players in the league and he owes much of that to his unreal ability to keep the ball on a string. While not quite the leader in the clubhouse of good shot selection, there are few sights quite like an Irving hot streak. Just ask San Antonio.
On-Ball Defense: Mike Conley
Conley has regressed a bit this season and I’d be wary of giving him a max contract extension this summer but the NBA’s official Most Underrated Player gets some love here. Conley is fairly diminutive in stature but has been the perfect point guard for the Grizzlies’ Grit-N-Grind approach because he is an honest defender, choosing to stay in front of his man rather than go for cheap steals and help-side double teams.
It helps to have Marc Gasol (former DPOY) and Tony Allen (FIRST TEAM ALL DEFENSE!!) flanking him in the lineup but Conley does his part at defending probably the deepest position in the league. His reaction time allows him to often beat his man to the spot, making it tough for anyone to just power through at the risk of being whistled for an offensive foul.
Passing Vision: Rajon Rondo
If you’re still with me and counting, you’ll realize this is the 9th player listed. That’s right, it’s a BONUS! Also, it feels relevant to include some type of passing specific trait when creating a prototypical player who’s often tasked with running the offense. Anyway, while I’m not yet convinced Rondo has regained his status as a top 10 point guard, he is undoubtedly the best at finding miniscule angles and slinging the rock to its designated spot.
His career has been revitalized playing with the best interior scorer in basketball and he’s back atop the assists leaderboard. Sure, there are times where he fishes for his stats rather than moving the ball quickly but few can make the type of passes he completes regularly.
Well there you have it folks, the Ultimate Point Guard, as created in the Wiz of Awes Laboratory. Feel free to agree, disagree, love the list, or hate it but most of all remember how much fun this position to watch, how its evolved over the years, and how Steph Curry is making it all unfair for so many other great players.