Recent NBA history has been identified by some as the 'golden age' of the point guard, ushering in the popularization of the do-it-all floor general who can score, dish and serve as the fulcrum of a club's offensive attack. Just last year, Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers toppled Steph Curry and his Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, soon after contenders like Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder, Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers and Tony Parker and the San Antonio Spurs fell by the wayside.
But just as we appreciate true greatness through exposure to that which is less than great, we can also only understand what makes an elite point guard by having lesser ones to compare them to. After all, life is hard for point guards in today's NBA. It isn't enough to be a steady, reliable, play-it-safe distributor - not when Westbrook is exploding coast to coast on a fast break and Curry is making a mockery of NBA history from the three-point line. Where the league used to find a valuable place for a safe, un-sexy ball handler like Jose Calderon, those players have now been largely cast to the side in favor of flashier, younger talents.
It is this changing of the guard that makes identifying the 15 worst point guards of the 2010s such a difficult exercise. Many of these players, after all, were never going to be Chris Paul. They had simply hoped for a career in which they could provide a stabling presence on a roster filled with plenty of supporting talent. But just as the expectations for the point guard change, so too does our outlook on what comprises a good - and bad - point guard. Here are the 15 worst, based on the modern concept of the point guard.
15 15. D'Angelo Russell
The designation of D'Angelo Russell as one of the worst point guards of the 2010s could well look positively head-scratching in a few years if Russell is to deliver on his promise as the No. 2 overall pick of the 2015 NBA Draft. After all, few rookies have been thrown into the fire with quite the degree of flourish as was Russell, who was basically handed the keys to the offense while sharing a back court with Kobe Bryant in his swan song campaign. But if he is to fulfill some pretty lofty hype and become the next Los Angeles Lakers superstar, he will have to overcome an awfully rocky introduction to the league.
14 14. Earl Watson
Credit the one-time UCLA standout Earl Watson with squeezing every ounce of ability out of his game, turning some solid ball-handling abilities, a high basketball IQ and stingy on-the-ball defense into a 13-year playing career that has now transitioned into a coaching career as head coach of the Phoenix Suns. But an NBA starting point guard?
13 13. Raul Neto
If you aren't a fan of the Utah Jazz or the Brazilian national basketball team, chances are you would probably have trouble picking Raul Neto out of a lineup. Yet, the 2013 second rounder was still the primary option at the point for the Jazz during the 2015-16 season, which also happened to be his rookie campaign. Neto did well in what was largely a caretaker role, with the offense running through Gordon Hayward and the injured Dante Exum having already been tabbed as the hoped for point guard of the future in Utah.
12 12. Patrick Beverley
If it seems like Patrick Beverley's path to the NBA could serve as the basis for a Hollywood movie, it's because it already sort of has been. Hoop Reality, the 2009 documentary sequel to the better known Hoop Dreams, charts the path of Beverley as a hyped high school guard facing the challenges that come with being an NBA-bound local legend. He didn't handle it perfectly - being expelled from the University of Arkansas due to academic fraud and toiling in a Ukranian semi-pro league.
11 11. D.J. Augustin
A lot of baggage comes associated with being a lottery pick, both good and bad. While the pressure and expectations can be a burden to some young NBA debutantes, the sense of achievement and lucrative financial reward offer reason for celebration. One other positive that is rarely discussed is the job security that can typically come with being selected in the lottery. Take D.J. Augustin, for example.
10 10. Derek Fisher
It's hard not to love Derek Fisher. His teammates and fans did during his Laker heyday, his Oklahoma City fans did when he came in as a veteran sage. Heck, even Utah Jazz fans couldn't muster anything but love when he asked for a trade in order to be closer to his daughter while she fought a rare illness. Okay, maybe the San Antonio Spurs weren't terribly fond of him when he hit the dramatic game winner with .04 seconds on the clock in the 2004 Western semis, but that's about it.
9 9. Michael Carter-Williams
You might consider every entry on this list to have, at one point in time, been a colossal draft bust, but that is far from the truth for Michael Carter-Williams. The former Syracuse standout could actually be considered a steal for the Philadelphia 76ers, who landed him with the 11th pick in a terrible 2013 draft and later saw him earn Rookie of the Year honors. But credit then-GM Sam Presti and the Sixers with knowing to cut the bait.
8 8. Luke Ridnour
Pity poor Luke Ridnour. A veteran of 12 NBA seasons and 830 career games, Ridnour remains best remembered for an odd and rather embarrassing bit of cap manipulation when he - and his contract - were traded four times in a week in June of 2015. Before that whirlwind week, the number 14 pick of the 2003 NBA Draft had carved out a rather nice niche for himself as a steady hand, a safe and sure-handed but unspectacular ball handling option who could offer some serviceable minutes.
7 7. Donald Sloan
A quick glimpse at the NBA career of Donald Sloan indicates that the 2013-14 season represented something of a turning point for the Texas A&M product. After bouncing around the league on a slew of 10-day contracts over two seasons, Sloan found a landing spot in Indiana, opening the door for a two-year stint over the past pair of seasons as a regular starter on both the Pacers and, this past season, the Brooklyn Nets. So what changed in 2013-14 for Sloan? Well, nothing really.
6 6. Trey Burke
The cache of young talent currently enjoyed by the Utah Jazz drove a crafty veteran off-season signing splurge that saw Joe Johnson, George Hill and Boris Diaw come on board, not to mention swayed many an NBA observer to tab the Jazz as a sneaky wild card in the Western Conference playoff picture. Guys like Dante Exum, Gordon Hayward, Rudy Gobert, Alec Burks and Rodney Hood have Utah on the verge of heights they haven't hit since the Karl Malone / John Stockton era.
5 5. Rafer Alston
Credit Rafer Alston with leveraging his status as a street ball legend into a notable 671-game NBA career filled with plenty of highs and lows. The guard once known as 'Skip to My Lou' turned a surprisingly productive 2003-04 campaign alongside Dwyane Wade with the Miami Heat into a $24 million contract in Toronto. When that fizzled out on account of questions about his attitude and work ethic, Alston still managed to find starting jobs in Houston and, later, in place of Jameer Nelson on the NBA Finals-bound Orlando Magic.
4 4. Isaiah Canaan
Murray State University alum Isaiah Canaan now has 60 NBA starts on his resume because, well, someone had to suit up for the deplorable Philadelphia 76ers. True, nine of those starts came for the playoff-bound Houston Rockets, who thrust him into duty after nabbing him with a second round pick in 2013 to address their own point guard inadequacies (see Beverley, Patrick). But Canaan might have found the only landing spot in the NBA that would grant him the opportunity to take about 10 shots a game and play 25 minutes per night.
3 3. Mike Bibby
In his heyday, Mike Bibby was a special player. The second pick of the 1998 draft never made an All-Star team, but he averaged as many as 21.1 points and 8.4 assists per game during a 14-season career that also featured an impressive 10 trips to the postseason. Most of those playoff appearances came as a member of the vaunted Sacramento Kings, with whom he enjoyed 40 playoff starts by age 25.
2 2. Jamaal Tinsley
There's something about former streetball players that make for intriguing NBA prospects but rarely effective players. We already discussed Rafer Alston earlier in this list and now we get to Jamaal Tinsley, who once went by the handle of "Mel Mel the Abuser" (no, not in the criminal sense). Tinsley, who once strung together a season of 15.4 points and 6.4 assists per game, seemed to have nine lives as an Indiana Pacer. Despite ranking among the league leaders in turnovers each season, he managed to last seven seasons in Indy.
1 1. Raymond Felton
Raymond Felton has now spent 11 seasons in the NBA, often seemingly in spite of himself. After all, clashing with your head coach, complaining about playing time, showing up to training camp out of shape and being arrested on gun felony charges are all actions capable of resulting in a messy divorce between player and team - and Felton has done all of them!
On the court, Felton has been just good enough to remain gainfully employed. The former UNC standout's career averages of 12.4 points and 6.0 assists per gamehelp overcome his 2.4 career turnover per game rate, but you would think NBA general managers would be just as content to opt for a serviceable point guard without the added baggage. And yet, here he remains, having just signed a new contract with the Los Angeles Clippers after starting 223 games over the past five seasons for the Portland Trail Blazers, New York Knicks and Dallas Mavericks.
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