On the first full week of each month this season, I’m going to rank the top 10 NBA players at each position based on how I expect them to perform in the coming month. If a player is injured and is expected to miss most of the month, then they probably won’t make the list regardless of his value when healthy. I’ll rank the point guards on Monday, the shooting guards on Tuesday … you get the picture.  Your feedback is welcome, even if you want to tell me how incredibly, irredeemably clueless I am.

10. Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee Bucks — 2009-10 stats: 82 GP, 32.6 MPG, 15.5 PPG, 5.7 APG, 3.4 RPG, 1.3 SPG, .371 FG%, .374 3P%, .817 FT%, 14.5 PER

Jennings surprised a lot of people by finishing third in Rookie of the Year voting thanks to the role he played in the Bucks’ 14-win improvement last season. With the exception of his weak mid-range game, 21-year-old Jennings is already a fully-formed point guard. He’s quick, a creative playmaker, and proved to be a surprisingly tenacious defender. The influence of coach Scott Skiles has clearly rubbed off on this one. If he can improve on his accuracy from two-point range, he should be moving up this list in his sophomore season. Note: I’m aware that Jennings finished behind Curry in R.O.Y. voting, but Jennings gets the edge here because I think he’s more likely to improve his shooting than Curry is capable of improving his defense.

9. Baron Davis, Los Angeles Clippers — 2009-10 stats: 75 GP, 33.6 MPG, 15.3 PPG, 8.0 APG, 3.5 RPG, 1.7 SPG, .406 FG%, .277 3P%, .821 FT%, 17.4 PER

Toiling away on a typically crappy Clippers team, Baron Davis quietly had a nice little comeback season after his uninspired performance in 2008-09. His days of averaging 20 points per game are likely behind him, but he scored in double-figures in his last 15 games of the season so he’s still a reliable source of offense. If he keeps his weight under control, he’s a savvy defender who can average a couple of takeaways per game. Unfortunately, he still hasn’t figured out that the three-pointer just isn’t his shot — 27.7 percent accuracy on four trey attempts per game makes that pretty clear.

8. Devin Harris, New Jersey Nets — 2009-10 stats: 64 GP, 34.7 MPG, 16.9 PPG, 6.6 APG, 3.2 RPG, 1.2 SPG, .403 FG%, .276 3P%, .798 FT%, 16.2 PER

No Nets player was affected more by the nightmarish 2009-10 season than Devin Harris. His shots went increasingly awry and his previously stellar defensive effort was left somewhere on the Jersey Turnpike. Luckily, he’s been reunited with former Mavericks coach Avery Johnson , who I expect to help him return to his 2008-09 All-Star level or something close to it.

7. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder — 2009-10 stats: 82 GP, 34.3 MPG, 16.1 PPG, 8.0 APG, 4.9 RPG, 1.3 SPG, .418 FG%, .221 3P%, .780 FT%, 17.8 PER

After his 2008-09 rookie season, a lot of people wondered whether Westbrook would be better-suited as a two-guard in the NBA. Nobody is wondering about that after he increased his assists per game from 5.3 to 8.0 last season. Westbrook is big and fast and uses those attributes to drive aggressively and get to the free throw line five times per game. He’s smart to do that because he still has a lot of work to do on hitting outside shots. He also needs to focus more on the defensive end, where his play doesn’t quite live up to his reputation just yet.

6. Chauncey Billups, Denver Nuggets — 2009-10 stats: 73 GP, 34.1 MPG, 19.5 PPG, 5.6 APG, 3.1 RPG, 1.1 SPG, .418 FG%, .386 3P%, .910 FT%, 20.2 PER

At 34 years of age, you might expect to see signs of decline but aside from a slight loss of quickness, he’s still the same dangerous offensive player he’s been for the past decade. He actually averaged a career high in scoring last season and most of that added production came from his accuracy on his career-high 5.6 three-point attempts per game and the fact that he’s automatic at the free throw line and he gets there frequently. We should expect his playing time to be dialed back this season in order to preserve his legs and give sophomore backup Ty Lawson more burn.

5. Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls — 2009-10 stats: 78 GP, 36.8 MPG, 20.8 PPG, 6.0 APG, 3.8 RPG, 0.7 SPG, .489 FG%, .267 3P%, .766 FT%, 18.6 PER

As impressive as it is to be considered a top-five point guard when you just turned 22 today (celebratory Skittles, anyone?), I can’t help but feel that D-Rose is just a little bit overrated right now. He has amazing quickness and could easily crack the top 10 in scoring next season (particularly now that new teammate Carlos Boozer is expected to miss eight weeks with a broken hand) but there are holes in his game that some people choose to ignore. If he’s going to enter the MVP discussion at some point in his career, he probably needs to become more of a threat beyond the arc and start using his quickness a lot more on the defensive end — there really isn’t a good reason why he averages under a steal per game so far in his career.

4. Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns — 2009-10 stats: 81 GP, 32.8 MPG, 16.5 PPG, 11.0 APG, 3.3 RPG, 0.5 SPG, .507 FG%, .426 3P%, .938 FT%, 21.6 PER

Are we sure this guy is 100 percent human? I’m well-aware of his intensely dedicated diet and conditioning, but it’s a little ridiculous that he continues to perform at this level at 36 years old. The Suns’ addition of Hedo Turkoglu and the surprising ascendance of Goran Dragic in the 2010 playoffs could mean a slightly reduced and altered role for Nash this season, but I’m not going to bump him down in the rankings until he proves that the standard laws of human aging actually apply to him.

3. Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets — 2009-10 stats: 45 GP, 38.0 MPG, 18.7 PPG, 10.7 APG, 4.2 RPG, 2.1 SPG, .493 FG%, .409 3P%, .847 FT%, 23.7 PER

I fully expect Chris Paul to be back on top of this list at some point this season, possibly as early as next month. Pretty much everyone outside of Boston and Utah considers him to be the best point guard in the NBA, and with good reason. When healthy, he’s pretty much unstoppable on offense and he’s a disruptive ballhawk on defense. It remains to be seen how much his quickness will be affected by his February knee surgery, since he didn’t look like himself in the seven post-surgery games he played last season.

2. Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics — 2009-10 stats: 81 GP, 36.6 MPG, 13.7 PPG, 9.8 APG, 4.4 RPG, 2.3 SPG, .508 FG%, .213 3P%, .621 FT%, 19.1 PER

If Rajon Rondo could shoot worth a damn, you’d be hard-pressed to name a better point guard on this planet. He’s easily the best defender and one of the best playmaking and rebounding point guards around. Plus, he has a knack for raising his game in the playoffs like all the true greats do. Unfortunately, his long-range and free throw shooting are awful for his position. After an embarrassing five-for-19 performance at the line in the 2010 Finals, one can only hope he figures out that he has to improve to at least average in this area to be truly considered the best at his position.

1. Deron Williams, Utah Jazz — 2009-10 stats: 76 GP, 36.9 MPG, 18.7 PPG, 10.5 APG, 4.0 RPG, 1.3 SPG, .469 FG%, .371 3P%, .801 FT%, 20.6 PER

Ah, sweet vindication for Jazz fans! They’ve been screaming for years that D-Will is the best PG around, and he claims the top spot in the TBJ rankings to open the 2010-11 season. He doesn’t do any one thing better than anyone, but his all-around game is extremely solid and perfectly suited to the Jazz and Jerry Sloan’s system. Whether or not he can hang on to the top spot will likely depend on Chris Paul’s health and Williams’ chemistry with Al Jefferson — his pick-and-roll replacement for Carlos Boozer.

Comments (37)

  1. How in the world are Jennings, Baron, and Harris above Tony Parker? Tony had a bad year last season, but he’s a good player, he’s only 28, and he’s prime for a bounce-back year. He was the 2nd best point in the league in 2009, remember.

  2. I keep re-loading the page half-expecting CP3 to be #1 . . . @ticktock6 could care less at this point though . . .

  3. I gotta disagree, just like R Kelly, Chris Paul is the world’s greatest.

  4. Is this your subtle way of telling us that David Kahn’s “quantity over quality” PG acquisition strategy may be faulty?

  5. Doc, Amar, you guys are taking this far too seriously.

    These are power rankings….. pre-season power rankings. They mean absolutely nothing now, and they’ll mean even less 2 months from now.

  6. R. Kelly analogies aside, good show.

  7. I said in my CP3 paragraph that he’ll reclaim the #1 spot when he proves he’s fully recovered from his surgery. And Tony Parker has fallen out of the Top 10 because of his major decline last season and because I anticipate him splitting minutes with George Hill this season.

  8. Stephen Curry is all I have to say to this.

  9. Given the context, I do agree with Scott. These are all based off last season/off season information, and the fact of the matter is, CP3 did not do well last because of the injury, and speaking of what-ifs is not acceptable. Deron was the best PG in both the season and playoffs, and Rondo wasn’t far behind. Given that, I do think CP3 will be back at the top given he can actually play this season.

  10. stephen curry and tony parker are gonna make you feel sillllllllyyyy

  11. No Tony Parker? 28 yr old point guard who has won three championships can’t crack the top ten. Wow.

  12. Watch out for Darren Collison. After a few months learning the Pacers offense I think he’ll have the minutes to show that he’s one of the best PG’s in the NBA.

  13. @bista: That’s what will be fun about doing these rankings monthly, if Curry and Parker make me look dumb, the rankings will reflect that.

  14. Pretty amazing that CP3 at #3 isn’t the most egregious decision here.

    Brandon Jennings over Curry, Parker, and possibly Tyreke Evans (depending on where you put him) is a really tough call to argue.

  15. Daniel: Beno Udrih played the majority of Sacramento’s PG minutes last season. Tyreke is a two-guard.

  16. I don’t have the numbers off hand but didn’t Curry lead the NBA rookies in 3s? Have the highest 3 pt%, fg%, FT % for a rookie since someone worth mentioning? All the while having no inside threat and the best player he played with named Reggie Williams?

    Oh yeah and he was on this past summer’s Olympic team. But your right Baron Davis decided to play last year, he’s better.

  17. Really? An out of shape Baron Davis is better than Tony Parker, who had a slight decline last year due to injury? @Scott, Hill may get minutes as ball handler, but I don’t see it as being that much of a difference as when Speedy Claxton played behind TP since Hill will platoon time with James Anderson and Manu as well.

  18. I know he hasn’t gone deep in the playoffs yet, but I’ll be damned if Westbrook isn’t a bigger, stronger Rondo who hits his free throws. If Westbrook had the luxury of KG and Perkins backing him up on D, he could wreak havoc in the passing lanes just as well.

  19. parker and currrrrry

  20. If I had to pick 10 PGs based on the end of last season, Parker ain’t one of them. Curry’s weird, he’s kind of a PG-SG type, but he’s probably like #11 here. The pre-season is perfect for shots in the dark like Harris, Paul, and Jennings, who were horrible, hurt, and young last year, respectively.

    B-Diddy will probably drop, but as of right now I’ll take him over Tony Parker.

  21. It’s always obvious when someone ranks Baron in a top 10 and puts some comment in there about how he’s wasting away on the Clips that they’ve never watched the Clippers play. Baron doesn’t belong in the top 10.. He’d be lucky to rank top 15.

    He makes lazy plays, plays completely uninspired basketball, froze Eric Gordon out even though he’s far and away the best scorer the Clippers have. He signed a 65 million dollar contract and after 2 years has only earned probably 4 million of that. The Clippers will end up salary dumping him half way through the year, and this time it won’t be because Sterling is cheap, it’ll be because Baron is a cancer. Oh and by the way, he came into camp out of shape, injured, and still isn’t doing contact drills to this point. Time to stop having the talent of the Clippers “toil away” on a primadonna sub-talent like Baron.

  22. @isaac: I dont think Baron froze Eric Goldon at all. They have played well together, although Gordon have struggled occasionally against taller more athletic defenders, which probably was ok last year, but this Gordon will have to step up, otherwise Clips will probably trade him this year.

  23. I’m not sure how you can put Jennings above Curry. Do you expect him to improve his shooting THAT much this year?

  24. Where’s Andre Miller?

  25. I, too, have questions about B-diddy’s drive at this point in his career, though I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt this season since the Clippers are poised to contend for a playoff spot this season (PHX & SAS are slipping quickly). Diddy plays a lot better when he’s playing for something.

    I’m also kind of sick of the Derrick Rose talk, and am less optimistic about him contending for MVPs than you. He still shies from contact despite his frame, his court vision is “meh,” and he pounds the life out of the ball (not to mention his shooting from anywhere outside of 12 ft is questionable). I think the Carlos Boozer acquisition will either make or break Rose’s legacy as a point guard. Booz is a pick & roll expert, and the P&R requires good court vision and good decision-making by the ball-handler (both areas I think Rose lacks). If Rose can learn these things, he can easily be #2 or #3. If not, he’ll still be good, but he’ll never crack the top 5 in my list of point guards.

    Oh, and don’t forget, it’s not the age of the player that matters, but the # of minutes played in the NBA.

  26. To all the Curry supporters: He put up nicer numbers than Jennings last season, without a doubt. But he got those numbers on a crappy team that didn’t play any defense. Jennings played on a winning team for a coach that insists on a strong defensive effort, and that’s what he delivered.

    Now that the Warriors have a new coach that presumably understands there are two ends to the court, we’ll see what Curry is capable of on the defensive end.

  27. Perfect Rankings, for now. I think a lot of people are not familiar with the concept of power rankings.
    I think positional power rankings are a great idea, because all we’ve had for the last few years were those ‘race to the mvp’ columns on nba.com and those were always a little apple-to-orange-ish.

    I’m looking forward to how these will develop troughout the season. And I hope these comment sections won’t turn into bdl-fire-scott-carefoot ranting space due to the larger audience tbj will undoubtedly receive.

    keep up the good work.

  28. Finally, someone got it right and placed the better all-around PG at the top of the list. CP3 has had his lunch handed to him by D-Will in every single head-to-head contest they’ve had, including their rookie years at the All-Star Game in the skills contest. CP3 lives at the top of these lists only on the basis of better hype and a bigger market. D-Will has been, is, and will continue to be the better PG in the NBA.

  29. Taivo: Hate to be a party pooper, but Deron might just be keeping the spot warm for now if Chris Paul returns to his previous performance. As for Williams “handing Paul his lunch”, Jazz fans like to say that a lot, but there’s two problems with it. First of all, it’s irrelevant because these rankings aren’t about how the players do against each other. Second, it’s not true. Here are their numbers in the four games they played each other over the last two seasons. Notice how evenly matched they’ve been, and if anybody got their lunch handed to them in any of these games, it wasn’t Paul.

    Jan. 4, 2010
    Paul: 12 Pts, 5-15 FG, 9 Ast, 6 Reb, 3 Stl
    Williams: 17 Pts, 6-11 FG, 11 Ast, 2 Stl

    Apr. 5, 2009
    Paul: 19 Pts, 7-12 FG, 12 Ast, 3 Reb, 1 Stl
    Williams: 21 Pts, 8-10 FG, 11 Ast, 3 Reb, 3 Stl

    Feb. 21, 2009
    Paul: 24 Pts, 11-19 FG, 7 Ast, 5 Reb, 1 Stl
    Williams: 20 Pts, 9-16 FG, 13 Ast, 2 Reb, 0 Stl

    Jan. 7, 2009
    Paul: 26 Pts, 10-18 FG, 7 Ast, 2 Reb, 1 Stl
    Williams: 8 Pts, 3-7 FG, 8 Ast, 4 Reb, 0 Stl

  30. Get back to me when CP3 actually starts leading his team into the playoffs on any kind of regular basis.

  31. Taivo: Every season he’s been healthy since his rookie year, his team has made the playoffs.

  32. I don’t think knocking CP3 is the way to get your point across about D-Will. I also don’t think how these guys match up against each other is in any way “irrelevant.” That’s who they play aginst all year. What could be more relevant?

    Nash is probably still the best offensive PG in the league, but that’s only half the game.

    Rondo is a beast defensively, and one of the reasons I agree with Deron at #1 is he is one of the better defensive pg’s in the league because of his size and strength.

    I think one of the reasons it’s mentioned that Deron performs well vs. CP head to head is he can back him down or go around him at will. Having said that, CP has extremely quick hands and his steals and quickness make up for a lot. They both play well vs. each other.

    But Deron’s on the ball defense is just better (look at opponents fg%, or Billups drop in the playoffs vs. D-will).

    I also like Curry on this list over Jennings and Baron…his D is no more a liability than Nash’s.

  33. Overall, good post btw. Some good insight into the players. This will be fun to watch as the season gets underway.

  34. Well done. My question to all those complaining about this player or that player who should be ranked higher because they just had an “off” year when they were injured…. How long did you keep Grant Hill in your rankings as best player in the league? The fact of the matter is, when you are injured, you don’t measure up to guys who aren’t. Rankings RIGHT now should be based on their most recent performances. Based on that… Deron Williams is the top PG in the League. That may change three weeks into the season, but hey, as for now, he is Number 1. Anyone who watched the Jazz Nuggets series would know that…

  35. Rondo at #2 is a joke. He must be the most overrated player in the NBA at this point…
    Tony Parker is better than Baron Davis, and a week into the season everyone will agree that CP3 is #1 !

  36. Scott, your analysis of CP3 vs Deron via a numbers by numbers comparison is flawed in that CP3 in the Hornets offense has a “score first, pass second” attitude, and Deron running the Jazz offense, does not. Yes, CP3 scores a lot, and yes he gets a lot of assists, but that doesn’t mean he’s about team ball. Even with Deron running a team ball Sloan offense, he still scores numbers comparable or even greater than CP3 (outscored him in 2 of the 4, out assisted him in 3 of the 4).

    Having said that, your overall assessment of Deron > CP3 is accurate in that Deron is the better player simply because his overall game is much more rounded than CP3. The Sloan system does not cater to a pointguard trying to score 30/night so the urgency to Williams to score/rebound has not been as excessive as it is on Paul (having had Boozer/Milsap who have generally done very well in these areas).

    This year you will probably see that change, as the emphasis on Deron to increase PPG to 20 or so seems probable.

  37. Overall this seems to be a pretty good post. I am a bit surprised that Tony Parker did not make the list however. He’s a borderline all-star in the conference that boasts three of the four best pg’s in the league.

    As for your top four, I believe that you have the right people but I don’t agree with the order completely. Deron Williams is number one. That I agree with. I am not surprised that so many people disagree with that. Chris Paul is a lot of fun to watch. He is amazing with the basketball. His Statistics are absolutely fabulous. But this isn’t entirely about stats because if it were than we would all agree that CP3 is the better defensive pg. Not everything that a player does on the court shows up in a stat column. That is why I believe that the GM’s in the NBA picked Williams ahead of CP3 in the GM survey http://www.nba.com/2010/news/features/10/02/player-predictions/index.html. I also agree with the GM’s that CP3 is number 2, and not Rondo. I love Rondo, but the athletes that surround him are far better than the ones that surround Paul. Paul does more even when defenses are out to stop him.

    That leaves us with Rondo vs. Nash. If Nash starts acting his age than Rondo as #3 is a no-brainer. The problem is that we have been waiting for a couple of years now for Nash to start acting his age. That is why this debate should be as relevant as Paul vs. Williams. It’s the classic debate of defense vs. offense. Conventional wisdom would have you picking defense every time. But the argument for Nash over Rondo is similar to the one of Paul vs. Rondo. Defenses are designed to slow down Steve Nash, and yet they are unable. I think that it is a good debate, but basing this mostly on age (the other factor is Steve Nash’s weak defense) I have to take Rondo over Nash. After all, age has to catch up with Steve Nash eventually… right?

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