As we get closer to the start of the season, we feel like it is the perfect time to look at the starting point guards in the upcoming season. Note that this will be based on the performance from last season and the projection of how they will play this upcoming season.
We live in what is definitely the golden years for point guards. Year after year, the talent just keeps increasing for the position whether via the draft or by free agent acquisition from overseas. In fact, in the last five seasons, the Most Valuable Player award went to two point guards in Russell Westbrook (2017) and Stephen Curry (2015 and 2016), even last year’s winner James Harden was playing the point a couple of seasons ago. May it be scoring, passing, and defending, the very top point guards today has all three characteristics and it is not unusual to see guards get a triple-double, in fact, Westbrook made history in the 2016-2017 season by being only the second player to average a triple-double for a whole season.
With teams looking to fill the position with talent and leadership, the market for point guards has never been better. Seemingly out of nowhere the NBA has been dictated by how talented the point guard is rather than who has the best center. They used to say basketball will always be about the giants who roam the paint, but today we take a look at the small guards who control the game.
30 Phoenix Suns – Shaquille Harrison
As of right now, the Phoenix Suns have Shaquille Harrison, Isaiah Canaan, Elie Okobo, and De’Anthony Melton as their rotation for the point guard position. It is unclear who will start for the Suns, but it is clear that none of these four are starting quality guards in the NBA just yet. Harrison is a second-year point guard who won the hearts of Suns fans with hustle and defense; Canaan is a veteran but unfortunately, he had a freak injury half-way through last season, Okobo and Melton, while talented still have a lot to prove as they are both second-round rookies from the past draft.
Whichever one of these four starts for the Suns will still be the worst starting point guard in the league
29 Los Angeles Clippers – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
While the Los Angeles Clippers will most likely start Patrick Beverley during the first quarter of the season, we have no doubts in our minds that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will overtake him as the season progress. Not only will the Clippers not contend for a playoff spot soon, but they will also outright tank once the season reaches the new year. Gilgeous-Alexander is a talented point guard as he showed in his lone season with the Kentucky Wildcats but he still has a lot to prove in the NBA.
This ranking might look bad at the end of the year as Shai certainly has the talent to win Rookie of the Year, but as of the moment, he has not yet played meaningful minutes in the NBA.
28 Atlanta Hawks - Trae Young
Speaking of unproven talents, we have the scrutinized Trae Young, the hyper scoring point guard from Oklahoma. Young is a rookie who made a name for himself because of how he led the nation in scoring and assists as a freshman in college. Much like Shai, Trae still has not stepped into an NBA regular season game and that puts him as low as 28th on our ranking. A disappointing summer league certainly did not help his case.
The former Sooner will be relied on to score from the perimeter and to compliment the young players for the Atlanta Hawks, namely John Collins and Taurean Prince.
27 Orlando Magic - D.J. Augustin
Besides the Suns, the Orlando Magic might have the worst rotation for point guard in the upcoming season. They have veteran D.J Augustin, Jerian Grant, and Isaiah Briscoe as the rotating three, which is certainly an uninspiring group.
Augustin will most likely start for them as they still continue to search for a point guard of the future. Augustin is a vet who has played for multiple teams; he will provide leadership on and off the court and will still produce at an average level. Quite frankly, D.J. was never seen as a star point guard but he will be solid like always and sometimes that is enough.
26 New Orleans Pelicans - Elfrid Payton
After half a season for the Suns, Elfrid Payton found his way to the New Orleans Pelicans this past offseason. Payton will replace last year’s starter Rajon Rondo and the team will look for the same role from Elfrid as a defensive pass-first point guard.
Payton will have the luxury to play with All-Stars Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday, along with solid role players in Julius Randle and Nikola Mirotic. Whether or not Elfrid makes the most of his opportunity is up to him.
A disappointing run with the Suns sees Payton as low as 26th. He is still young, and playing with someone like Davis might revitalize his career.
25 Chicago Bulls – Kris Dunn
Kris Dunn was never a main part of the Jimmy Butler trade during last year’s draft. In fact, he was a throw-in for the Chicago Bulls’ real target in Zach LaVine and the seventh overall pick, which they used to pick Lauri Markannen. But last year, Dunn proved his worth as a potential guard of the future when he played his heart out; Dunn increased his scoring by almost 10 points and he also dished out 4 more assists per game.
By NBA’s standards, Dunn is not that young anymore, as he is about to turn 24. But that should not stop him from improving even more after a promising sophomore year for the Bulls.
24 Sacramento Kings – De’Aaron Fox
The Sacramento Kings made a major decision in not picking international sensation Luka Doncic during this past draft. This move certainly affirms their belief in De’Aaron Fox as the primary ball handler.
Fox had a quiet rookie season as he was overshadowed by other rookie guards such as Dennis Smith Jr., Donovan Mitchell, and the ever-popular Lonzo Ball. But even though he did not stand out to the national media, Fox still had a pretty good campaign.
If the speedy Fox can build upon his exciting rookie year, then we might certainly regret this decision to put him this low. But if not, the rebuild of the Kings might be delayed for another season.
23 New York Knicks – Trey Burke
The Knicks have three young players who were all drafted as point guards; Trey Burke, Emmanuel Mudiay, and Frank Ntilikina. Even though it seems like Ntilikina is the starter, Coach Dave Fizdale might start him as the shooting guard alongside Trey Burke.
Burke had a bounce-back year last season where he proved that he belonged in the NBA, as the former Wolverine was seen as a bust prior to his comeback in the NBA. It's not necessarily eye-popping, but Burke averaged a solid 12.8 points and 4.7 assists per game last season.
22 San Antonio Spurs - Patty Mills
An unfortunate pre-season ACL injury suffered by Dejounte Murray might mean the end for his season.
Fortunatel,y the San Antonio Spurs still have the ever-reliable Patty Mills. Patty might not have the defensive tools and the potential that Murray has, but he is still one of the veterans that Coach Gregg Popovich relies heavily on. Mills was always seen as a bench player due to his tendency to heat up at random games and flat-out win them games they had no business winning. But this season, the Australian will step into the starting role for the Spurs as they try to contend with new All-Star DeMar DeRozan.
21 Cleveland Cavaliers – George Hill
This part of the list is where we start to dive into the point guards who are just really good. George Hill is the very definition of a solid starting point guard. He provides much-needed defense, shooting, and leadership; although he does not excel at one skill, he certainly gives the Cleveland Cavaliers some cushion in regards to being a reliable player.
While the Cavs might not be the Eastern Conference powerhouse they were the last few seasons, Hill will still provide the same energy each night. And although Collin Sexton is the point guard of the future, it will not surprise us if he plays the off-guard next to Hill, as the rookie is more of a scorer rather than a facilitator.
20 Indiana Pacers – Darren Collison
The Pacers quietly made strides in terms of firepower this past off-season. They added offensive talents in Doug McDermott and Tyreke Evans, who both provide scoring off the bench.
Even though they did not pick up a new point guard, the Pacers do not need to. Surprisingly, it was Darren Collison who led the league in three-point shooting percentage with a remarkable 46.8%, higher than both Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. While Collison may not have the star power of some of the other guards, he certainly is more than capable of being a starter in the league.
19 Detroit Pistons – Reggie Jackson
Many considered the Detroit Pistons a disappointment in 2017-2018. Finishing with a 39-43 record, the Pistons did not play to their talents especially with a frontcourt consisting of Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond.
While Reggie Jackson has yet to break out like fans hope, he is still a better point guard than most. Averaging 14.6 ppg and 5.3 apg, Jackson had a somewhat lacking 2018 season. With an extra training camp to gel with recent Detroit acquisition Blake Griffin, Jackson might find the motivation to finally push for a playoff run in the Motor City.
18 Los Angeles Lakers – Lonzo Ball
Probably the most watched rookie since LeBron James, Lonzo Ball certainly proved his worth as the second overall pick. Playing for the Los Angeles Lakers is no joke, with celebrities watching you each game, the national media always focusing on you, and the fact that they are globally the most popular franchise in the NBA. However, Lonzo rose through all of that. Playing himself into the All-Rookie team, Ball displayed an all-around game for someone so young; averaging 10.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 7.2 assists per game, Lonzo showed the potential to be a franchise changer.
Although his shooting percentage needs work, he will have less of a facilitating role with LeBron James doing most of the ball-handling duties.
17 Minnesota Timberwolves - Jeff Teague
By the time of writing this article, Jimmy Butler is still a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Of course, Butler demanded a trade and the collateral might very well reach Jeff Teague.
Even though Teague had a disappointing season with the Wolves he still put up good numbers with 14.2 ppg and 7.0 apg. If you watched the Wolves last year, the numbers certainly do not back up Teague’s play because fans know what the point guard is capable of. If Teague does get traded, expect Tyus Jones to finally get his much-needed break. But for now, Jeff Teague is still Minnesota’s starting point guard.
16 Dallas Mavericks – Dennis Smith Jr.
During the 2017 NBA draft, everyone was surprised that Dennis Smith Jr. fell all the way to the ninth pick. Of course, the Dallas Mavericks instantly pounced on the bouncy point guard as they needed a floor general of the future to pair with Harrison Barnes.
Smith certainly impressed in his first season as he looked composed for his age. Averaging 15.2 ppg and 5.2 apg, Smith was one of the standout rookies this past season.
The Mavs will be better than they were last season and DSJ might make us regret this ranking but right now he still needs to jump over the infamous sophomore slump.
15 Brooklyn Nets – D’Angelo Russell
It has been over a year since the Los Angeles Lakers traded former second overall pick D’Angelo Russell to the Brooklyn Nets. At the time many believed Russell was about to have a career year for the Nets. Even though he did not have a career year due to injuries, Russell still had a solid year; averaging 15.5 ppg and 5.2 apg, Russell had a similar year to Smith Jr., but we gave him the nod over DSJ due to his shooting.
With his close friends Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns and Karl Anthony-Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves getting max contracts, do not be surprised if D’Angelo is more motivated this season. Performing for New York might be overwhelming for some; it certainly is not the case for Russell.
14 Milwaukee Bucks – Eric Bledsoe
After only four games, Eric Bledsoe was traded from the Phoenix Suns to the Milwaukee Bucks last season. Bledsoe showed his displeasure with the Suns on Twitter with a tweet that reads “I Dont [sic] wanna to be here”.
Bledsoe will have his first full year with the Bucks completed with an entire off-season and training camp. People often take for granted how huge training camp is in terms of developing with teammates.
Although he had a lackluster season, Bledsoe still has the potential to be the All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo has always wanted by his side.
13 Utah Jazz – Ricky Rubio
The Utah Jazz were last year’s surprise team. Led by rookie Donovan Mitchell, the Jazz somehow overcame the odds and made it to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs while managing to knock off the star-studded Oklahoma City Thunder.
In the middle of it all was Ricky Rubio, a throwback point guard who had quite a resurgence this past season. Rubio scored a career-high 13.1 ppg for the Jazz.
Although the Spaniard's assists per game were the lowest of his career, it was because he sacrificed his offense for the greater good of the team.
Expect another solid season for Rubio as the Jazz try to make a push to the western conference finals.
12 Memphis Grizzlies – Mike Conley
Mike Conley missed 70 games last season with a surgery to smooth a bone intrusion in his left heel.
Although the All-Star point guard missed quite some time on the court, we still fully expect him to be back to his usual self this upcoming season. Before his injury, Conley was seen as the most underrated player in the NBA as he provides everything you need for the point guard position. May it be shooting, defending, or passing, Conley excels in all three.
With a healthy Conley, expect the Memphis Grizzlies to try and grind their way back to the playoffs. Marc Gasol might be getting up there in terms of age, but he still has a lot left in the tank, Jaren Jackson is a rookie big, but his playstyle is ready to contribute to an NBA team, and of course, Mike Conley will once again prove why the national media needs to have their attention on him.
11 Denver Nuggets – Jamal Murray
Are we overrating Jamal Murray? Maybe, but the young guard out of Kentucky has proven his worth for the Denver Nuggets. Oozing with confidence, Murray scored 16.7 ppg for the Nuggets, which included 37.8% from beyond the arc; although he needs to choose his shots better, Murray is certainly on the rise as one of the league’s best young point guard.
Another option is the recently signed Isaiah Thomas. Although Thomas is not the same player he was for the Celtics, he is still a capable sixth man with his scoring ability. With the makeup of the Nuggets roster as it is right now, Thomas will most likely come off the bench for Murray.
10 Miami Heat – Goran Dragic
At this point of the article, we are entering the elite level for NBA point guards. Goran Dragic is not an exception, as the Slovenian has put together a remarkable run for the Miami Heat. Dragic made his first All-Star appearance for the Heat last season as he put up 17.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg, and 4.8 apg on a remarkable 45/37/80 shooting split.
Dragic is certainly in the twilight years of his career but the All-Star still has a lot to offer. Although the Heat got bounced in the first round of the playoffs at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers, Dragic was one of the few bright spots for Miami
9 Charlotte Hornets – Kemba Walker
A lot has changed for the Charlotte Hornets this past off-season. Dwight Howard is gone, Steve Clifford is gone, James Borrego is in charge as the head coach, Miles Bridges is now a Hornet, but one thing will always remain the same for Charlotte, and that is Kemba Walker.
Walker had a borderline elite year for the Hornets. Making his second All-Star appearance, Kemba lead the offense for the Hornets with 22.1 ppg and 5.6 apg.
Although the Hornets missed the playoffs last year, they can always rely on the scoring threat of Kemba. With much to prove, expect a career season for Walker and possibly a playoff push for the Hornets.
8 Washington Wizards – John Wall
Speaking of Dwight Howard, John Wall and the Washington Wizards have a new center in Howard. While we still need to see the two play a regular season game together, the prospect of Wall and Howard in a pick and roll is must-see.
Wall has always been one of the best athletes and defenders for the point guard position. Throughout his career, Wall averages 1.7 steals per game and last season he averaged 1.1 blocks per game, an impressive feat for a point guard.
But Wall has always been an underrated passer, and this coming season he has a chance to showcase his passing more with a bigger target in Dwight Howard.
7 Toronto Raptors – Kyle Lowry
It has been a hectic off-season for the Toronto Raptors. One trade changed the franchise; DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard might be the story of the off-season.
For the first time in a while, Kyle Lowry will play without his good friend DeMar. Although we have yet to see how Lowry will perform next to Kawhi, it is easy to say that Kyle will still be one of the best guards in the NBA.
Lowry averaged 16.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg, and 6.9 apg for the Raptors last year and with a better defender and shooter in Kawhi, the point guard will get more spacing and less of a defensive task this upcoming season.
6 Philadelphia 76ers – Ben Simmons
At 6’10", Ben Simmons is the tallest point guard in the NBA but he is definitely one of the most talented. Winning Rookie of the Year, however controversial it may seem to some, Simmons showed his talent as he averaged 15.8 ppg, 8.1 rpg, and 8.2 apg during the regular season. He then followed this up with a 16.3 ppg, 9.4 rpg, and 7.7 apg performance in the playoffs, not bad for a young player.
With a full year under his belt, expect Simmons and the entire Sixers locker room to be better than last year, a scary thought if you are a fan of a different team.
While Simmons still has yet to show a jump shot, he definitely has shown that he does not need one just yet.
5 Portland Trailblazers – Damian Lillard
It might be fair to say that Damian Lillard is one of the best scoring point guards the game has ever seen. Coming off a 26.9 ppg season, Lillard has proven that he can score with the best of them.
Even though Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers have yet to reach the playoff summit, Dame has certainly showcased his talent and it is up to his teammates to keep up.
If the Blazers can finally break through the first and second round exits then Lillard might have a higher spot on this list next season but for now, he is at the very edge of the top-5 best point guards in the NBA.
4 Boston Celtics – Kyrie Irving
Without a doubt, Kyrie Irving is one of the most exciting players we have today. With his crossovers, ankle breakers, fancy layup package, Irving has entertained millions around the world with his streetball style of play.
After his first year with the Boston Celtics, Irving has proven he is more than capable of being the main guy for a contending team. 24.4 ppg, 5.1 apg was more than enough for Brad Stevens and the Celtics as they finished as one of the best teams in the NBA.
Although Irving needs to stay healthy if he wants to make it back to the Finals, he will certainly entertain us once more next season.
3 Houston Rockets – Chris Paul
One of the best point guards in the history of the NBA, Chris Paul will enter his 14th season in the NBA. As that's a goal many young players want to achieve, Paul has certainly had a Hall of Fame-caliber career and fans should expect him to add more to his already illustrious career this coming season.
The Point God will try and lead the Rockets alongside season MVP James Harden to its very first finals birth since the Hakeem Olajuwon days.
If Paul can play at the level he can, then the chances of them making the Finals is highly likely.
2 Oklahoma City Thunder – Russell Westbrook
As mentioned earlier, Russell Westbrook has made history in his MVP campaign in 2017. Averaging a triple-double was something most fans thought they might never see again but lo and behold, Westbrook shocked the world as he is the first player to do it twice in his career.
It was certainly a disappointing season for the Oklahoma City Thunder as their season was cut short in the first round of the playoffs.
Russ will surely have the same energy and drive he has played with for years. If he averages another triple-double, it will not come as a surprise to anyone as he has shown he is that great of a player.
1 Golden State Warriors – Stephen Curry
Was there any doubt it was Stephen Curry? Curry and the Golden State Warriors have elevated the basketball world to another level. The greatest shooter in the history of the NBA, Curry has been the best point guard since his first MVP campaign in 2015. And we might never see another season like the one he had in 2016 where he solidified himself as one of the best players to ever grace the hardwood.
With the addition of All-Star DeMarcus Cousins, expect the Warriors to be the odds-on favorite to win the championship once more.
Personally, I do not see someone knocking Steph out of his throne just yet.