Top five point guards heading into the 2016-17 Season

From Jerry West to Stephen Curry, the point guard has always been the NBA’s most polarizing position in league history.

While every era has seen their share of legendary floor generals, this generation may be the greatest the league has ever seen. With the 2016-17 season rapidly approaching, take a look at the top five point guards heading into the new year.

Note: Ranking these top five point guards are tough. Perhaps the toughest in all sports. So if you do not agree with this list or do not see your favorite player, leave a comment below.

  1. Damian Lillard

Stats: 25.1 points, 6.8 assists, 4.0 rebounds

It’s no question that the Portland Trail Blazers were the biggest surprise last season. After losing four of their five starters (including LaMarcus Aldridge), critics assumed the Blazers were headed for a disaster season.

Despite the doubts he faced to carry a franchise, it is safe to say that Damian Lillard has put all doubters to rest. Behind Lillard, the Trail Blazers managed to seal the fifth-best record in the West, as well advancing to the Western Conference Semifinals.

As an MVP  candidate, Lillard took his talent to another level. He averaged career highs in points, assists, and free-throw attempts. According to NBA.com player tracking, Lillard also improves in his catch-and-shoot situations (from 36 percent in 2015 to 41 percent in 2016).

Alongside the league’s Most Improved Player C.J. McCollum, Lillard helped established the second-best backcourt in the NBA. The two combined for an average of 47 points, 9.6 assists, and 7.9 rebounds per game.

Damian Lillard has shown that the Trail Blazers are no longer underdogs. With the addition of Festus Ezeli and Evan Turner, the Portland Trail Blazers are looking like a dark horse to come out of the West.

  1. Chris Paul

Stats: 19.5 points, 10.0 assists, 4.2 rebounds

Since coming out of Wake Forest in 2005, Chris Paul has always been one of the top point guards in the league. Now after 11 years averaging 18.8 points and 10 assists, he has also established himself as one of the greatest point guards in league history.

Even in an era where the position has changed drastically over the years. Paul has stayed relevant as the last definition of a true point guard.

With Blake Griffin sidelined for a lengthy portion of the season, the Clippers’ success was just another reminder of Paul’s greatness.

For the fourth consecutive season, the Clippers posted a record of winning 50 games or more- also making it the most consecutive winning seasons in franchise history. Mostly because of Paul’s leadership, poise and brilliance to run the pick-and-roll with DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers have been able to experience such success.

He was one of four point guards to average a double-double last season. He was third in steals, averaging 2.05 per game, as well as ranking fifth in field goal percentage at 46.2 percent per game. It’s also worth mentioning that Paul averaged the most points since his first year in L.A.

Despite Paul’s regular season excellence, it’s his postseason failure that keeps him out the top three. The Clippers have yet to make it to the Western Conference Finals in the CP3 era, and it’s looking like it will never happen.

Sure injuries played a factor in the Clippers’ first-round exit against the Blazers. However, even with a healthy Chris Paul, the Blazers still would have come out on top.

At 31 years old, the days of Paul as the league’s best point guard are over. However, if his postseason failures continue, look for Paul’s all-time rank to fall as well.

  1. Kyrie Irving

Stats: 19.6 PPG, 4.7 APG, 3.0 RPG

Since winning Rookie of the Year honors in 2012, Kyrie Irving’s sick handles and ability to score at a high level made him one of the game’s best showmen.

However, after an MVP performance in the finals, Irving has shown that he is more than a showman. At 24-years-old and scratching the surface of his prime, Irving is by far a top three-point guard in the league.

Of course playing alongside LeBron James has made the game a bit easier, yet Irving is constantly evolving into the Cavaliers’ number one option. With an aging LeBron, look for Irving to take full control of the Cavaliers’ offense this season.

Despite exploding into one of the top-three points guards in the league, there are a few weaknesses in Irving’s games.

His biggest weakness is the lack of creating shots for his teammates. Believe it or not, but Irving has yet to established himself as a playmaking point guard.

Sure, having the ball in LeBron’s hand for a majority of the season has hindered Irving from evolving into an elite playmaker. Yet, there is no excuse for Irving to average 4.7 assists in a single season.

  1. Russell Westbrook

Stats: 23.5 PPG, 10.4 APG, 7.8 RPG

Since entering the NBA in 2008, it’s safe to say that the league has never seen a point guard like Russell Westbrook. There have been super athletic point guards before like Derrick Rose and Steve Francis, yet Russell has evolved into a different kind of monster.

With the passion of Kobe Bryant and the intensity of Kevin Garnett, Westbrook is quickly making his mark in NBA history. Although he has established himself as a top-tier point guard, last season was his best by far.

He surpassed Magic Johnson for the most triple-doubles in a single season with 18, as well as becoming the third player in the last 20 years to rack up a triple-double in a single half of a game. (The others were Kevin Johnson and Jason Kidd.)

Even though he is known as a scorer, Westbrook averaged a career high in assists and rebounds to go along with shooting 45 percent from the field. His highest field goal percentage of his career.

Regardless of how good Westbrook is, playing alongside Kevin Durant is the reason why he was able to dominate the league at a high level.

With Durant demanding so much attention on offense, it allowed Westbrook to dominate at a high level. Now with Durant a member of the Golden State Warriors, the game is going to get a bit harder for Westbrook.

While many critics have predicted Westbrook to get the 2017 MVP, it’s not going to be an easy transition as the franchise player.

Many forgot during the 2015 season Westbrook failed to lead his Thunder to the playoffs in Durant’s absence. One can expect Westbrook will average a triple-double next season. Unfortunately, there has never been a player to win league MVP honors with his team sitting eighth in the West.

  1. Stephen Curry

Stats: 30.1 PPG, 6.7 APG, 5.4 RPG

Like Westbrook, the league has never seen a player like Stephen Curry. Unlike the athleticism of Westbrook, it’s shooting in a variety of different ways with almost perfect efficiency. Despite his horrendous performance in the NBA Finals, Curry is still the best point guards heading into the 2016-17 season.

While leading his Warriors to an NBA-record 73 wins, Curry set all kind of records that may never be seen again.

With 402 three-pointers made, he doubled his own record for most threes in a single season. He became the fourth players to entering the 50/40/90 club for the second consecutive season (Larry Bird, Mark Price, and Steve Nash). As well as becoming the first unanimous MVP in league history.

However, the scariest part about Curry’s game, this season could be even better. With the addition of Kevin Durant, the game will become a lot easier for the two-time MVP.

Unless injuries and team chemistry causes this team to self-destruct, the Warriors have secured their place in the NBA Finals.

Like it or not, this is Stephen Curry’s league, and it’s time to sit back and watch Chef Curry go to work.

 

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