Chris Paul and John Wall

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.

Two new entries lead off the first positional power rankings of the year, while Stephen Curry and John Wall get temporarily dropped due to their recurring injury problems and the fact that their individual numbers are overshadowed by the awfulness of their teams.

10. (New entry) Andre Miller, Portland Trail Blazers — 2010-11 stats: 33 GP, 32.7 MPG, 12.7 PPG, 7.5 APG, 3.7 RPG, 1.7 SPG, 0.0 BPG, .447 FG%, .053 3P%, .858 FT%, 18.9 PER

Sure, he never really developed a solid J but he never misses a game, he makes up for his lack of athleticism with his craftiness, and opposing point guards usually finish below their season averages when they face him. Now that Greg Oden and Brandon Roy are out for the season, Miller is arguably the second-best player on the Blazers and they’ve won six of their last eight games.

9. (New entry) Chauncey Billups, Denver Nuggets — 2010-11 stats: 27 GP, 33.3 MPG, 16.8 PPG, 5.4 APG, 2.2 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 0.2 BPG, .412 FG%, .423 3P%, .908 FT%, 17.7 PER

He’s baaaack! Maybe he sensed that Ty Lawson was gunning for his job, but whatever the reason he’s been playing out of his mind lately. In his last six games, Billups has averaged 25 points while shooting 59 percent from the field. Yeah… I might have written him off a little bit too soon.

8. (Last month: 9.) Raymond Felton, New York Knicks — 2010-11 stats: 33 GP, 39.0 MPG, 17.9 PPG, 8.7 APG, 3.7 RPG, 1.9 SPG, 0.2 BPG, .444 FG%, .345 3P%, .860 FT%, 18.2 PER

Now-deposed Bobcats coach Larry Brown is probably wondering where this Raymond Felton was when he played in Charlotte. Guess you should have loosened up the reins a little bit, eh, Brownie?

7. (6.) Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns — 2010-11 stats: 30 GP, 32.5 MPG, 17.1 PPG, 10.6 APG, 3.4 RPG, 0.6 SPG, 0.0 BPG, .530 FG%, .392 3P%, .899 FT%, 24.1 PER

Is there anybody who doesn’t feel bad for Steve Nash right now? I don’t think most Suns fans would even be mad at him if he asked for a trade — which I can pretty much guarantee he’ll never do. You can make the case that he should be a little higher on this list since his numbers are about as good as they’ve ever been, including in comparison to his two MVP seasons.

6. (7.) Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs — 2010-11 stats: 33 GP, 33.2 MPG, 17.7 PPG, 7.1 APG, 3.3 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 0.0 BPG, .518 FG%, .320 3P%, .738 FT%, 21.1 PER

So much for the divorce affecting his game. Regardless, he’s thriving under Coach Pop’s new loosey-goosey offense and he’s also playing better defense than I think I’ve seen from him in his 10 NBA seasons.

Derrick Rose

5. (4.) Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics — 2010-11 stats: 21 GP, 38.3 MPG, 10.8 PPG, 13.5 APG, 4.4 RPG, 2.3 SPG, 0.1 BPG, .531 FG%, .294 3P%, .410 FT%, 19.0 PER

In spite of the obvious holes in his game, there’s no question the Celtics are much better off with him on the court. They had lost three of their previous four games before he returned to right the ship on Sunday against the Raptors.

4. (3.) Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder — 2010-11 stats: 35 GP, 35.5 MPG, 21.9 PPG, 7.9 APG, 4.9 RPG, 2.1 SPG, 0.3 BPG, .434 FG%, .263 3P%, .872 FT%, 23.4 PER

His numbers are down now that Kevin Durant is back asserting himself as the offensive leader of the Thunder, but his triple-double against the Hawks on Friday showed that he’s far from fading away. It shows you how strong the point guard crop is in this league right now that he can have stats like these and not crack the top three at his position.

3. (5.) Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls — 2010-11 stats: 31 GP, 38.1 MPG, 24.0 PPG, 8.6 APG, 4.7 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 0.6 BPG, .450 FG%, .388 3P%, .776 FT%, 22.3 PER

The Bulls have won 13 of their last 15 games with Rose leading the way and it now seems silly to think that they needed Carmelo Anthony to be contenders. Rose is now much more than an athletic freak — he can beat you from afar or by setting up his teammates. On top of that, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has motivated Rose to finally exert some effort on D.

2. (2.) Deron Williams, Utah Jazz — 2010-11 stats: 34 GP, 37.9 MPG, 22.2 PPG, 9.3 APG, 3.9 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 0.2 BPG, .471 FG%, .369 3P%, .844 FT%, 23.7 PER

I honestly feel like I can’t definitively state who is better between Deron Williams and Chris Paul anymore. They have different playing styles on very different teams, but what really matters is that neither fanbase wants to swap their guy for the other one. I can’t be mad at anyone who thinks D-Will should be on top.

1. (1.) Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets — 2010-11 stats: 34 GP, 34.9 MPG, 16.6 PPG, 9.9 APG, 4.4 RPG, 3.0 SPG, 0.0 BPG, .497 FG%, .447 3P%, .910 FT%, 27.1 PER

The Hornets are not quite ready to fade out of the Western Conference playoff picture and we can thank Chris Paul for that. If he can maintain his three-thefts-per-game average to the end of the season, he’ll be the first player since Alvin Robertson in 1990-91 to do so. Aside from his amazing ball-hawking, there is nobody in the league who will punish you more when you go under on a screen.

Comments (22)

  1. This is a really good list. Much better than last time. I like that you looked beyond just stats.

    Good work.

  2. Rafael: The further we get in the season, the more of an edge I’m inclined to give to players on winning teams. It’s not necessarily fair to a guy like Steve Nash who obviously isn’t to blame for the Suns’ troubles, but it does mean that a guy like Andre Miller gets some recognition over guys like Curry and Wall who are putting up numbers that have no real impact on team success.

  3. Yep, good list.

    Rondo’s FT% is .410 so far? Yikes. Shaq’s lowest for his career was .422 with the 2006-07 Heat.

  4. dj augustin seems to be blooming in charlotte under paul silas now… he probably doesnt deserve to make the list yet, but keep an eye on him in the future

  5. I think you should extend the list to Top 40 point guards so Baron has a shot to make it.

  6. I still think that Rose’s ability to carry a team even when Boozer was and now Noah injured makes him better than CP3 and D william but hey let’s keep ignoring the obvouisly better D Rose

  7. rose is just below westbrook on his rebounding stat. working out with westbrook must have paid off for him.

  8. “Curry and Wall who are putting up numbers that have no real impact on team success.”
    I think that’s a simple and unfair way to look at it. Maybe without Curry the Warriors would only have 8 wins right now instead of 13. That’s still an impact on winning, you know.
    “hey let’s keep ignoring the obvouisly better D Rose”
    Maybe it isn’t so obvious. His defense, scoring efficiency and passing are still kind of lacking.

  9. Rose is still improving defense and efficiency when he first started he had Zero defence and no shooting skill he is better because he is stepping up his game I wouldn’t agree with Wall not being an impact but as a rookie his injuries are just annoying to anyone who wants to be a fan

  10. ok first: nice idea rating-wise. this is fun.
    second: hm. i think rose has had the better season so far than either cp3 or deron. and i honestly think rondo is seeded too low. his game is completely different from anyone else on the list, which makes him kinda hard to compare, but ever since the playoffs i think he’s some kind of miracle (and i’m not even a celtics fan). then again, this is not the playoffs.. whatever. keep up the nice work!

  11. It’s feels almost heretical to say this, but these days Chris Paul topping PGs happens more out of habit than anything. As great as he is and as vital to the Hornets as he is, belongs at #3 on this list.

    The argument that “The Hornets are not quite ready to fade out of the Western Conference playoff picture and we can thank Chris Paul for that” is a valid one, but the fact is that after starting 11-1, they are in fact fading, pretty badly, and will probably miss the postseason. The contention that Paul is somehow more important to his team than Williams is to the Jazz (with better stats, mind you) is a bit silly.

    Also, what’s with people focusing on everything that’s missing from Derrick Rose’s game? How about the things he actually does well? The guy is the most electrifying guard in the league, can penetrate at will, is has added 3-point range to his game and is improving on D. Also, averaging 24- 8.6- 4.7 isn’t too bad.

  12. Here’s how I justify keeping Chris Paul at the top: Out of the top three point guards, he’s the best shooter, the best playmaker and the best defender. He’s shooting almost 50 percent from the field, just under 45 percent from long range, and he’s averaging 10 assists and 3 steals per game. And there’s no question that Williams and Rose have a better supporting casts. Who is the fourth-best player on the Hornets? Marcus Thornton?

  13. I’m obviously biased, but it is worth noting that CP3 is playing the shortest minutes of his career, and putting up those stats in several fewer minutes per game than DWill or D-Rose. Having a backup PG is so nice.

    I’d also like to gripe that the canard that Deron Williams “has better shooting range than CP3″ is still floating around, despite not having been true for several years, possibly since they were rookies. I heard it from Steve Kerr of all people, on the SportsGuy podcast, and he’s a dang GM and 3-point shooting expert! All he has to do is look at a stat sheet!

    Deron Williams IS still bigger though, I’ll grant that. Fatty.

  14. Deron Williams – 12-3 record vs Chris Paul, has reached the playoffs more than Paul, has gone deeper than Paul, and plays in a system where he doesn’t have the ball in his hands NEARLY as much as Paul, so he doesn’t have as many opportunities to pad his stats.

    And let’s please stop this myth that Paul is a great defender. He is not. Just because he gets steals does not make him a good defender. It means he gambles on defense, and that’s one of the reasons Williams always slaughters him.

    You can make the case that Williams has had more playoff success because of a better supporting cast, but stat-wise, if anything Paul should have WAY better stats than Deron, not slightly better stats. Playing on a worse team tend to make the best player’s stats go up, not down.

    As for Rose, he’s playing in a horrible conference, and while being “electric” does not have the well-rounded game of Deron or Paul. Yet, anyway.

  15. D-Will should be in the #1 spot!

    Don’t hate!

  16. Paul is a pretty great defender. His steals are either simply picking off the dribble or deflecting entry passes. He doesn’t often lag too far from his man, but as his man cuts, he takes every opportunity to swipe the ball from bigs. No gambling, just smart anticipation and strong, active hands. Deron Williams takes advantage of his size and strength (and the fact that he is really good, don’t get me wrong), not defensive gambling, to get past CP3.

    This season the New Orleans offense is better at moving the ball and using other ballhandlers, but I see what you’re saying about CP3 having the ball in his hands more than DWill. Here’s why I don’t think that is an explanation for the better stats: fewer minutes, as I said above; and the best efficiency, by far, of any point guard. I don’t think PER is the last word on everything, but as I understand it, PER is about efficiency. Ball-pounding stat hogs shouldn’t be the most efficient players in the league, right?

    Anyhow, I concede that DWill is super great, and that there are strong arguments for him to be #1. I wish that I got more chances to watch him play (though I’d be happy not to see him come through New Orleans as often!).

  17. I like your statement about how close the decision between Paul and Williams was. Personally I would go with Emilie and put Paul on #3 on my list. Both D-s (Will and Rose) are such dominant offensive players that they can simply take over games down the stretch like they have shown several times this season. Paul imo trails them a little in this area of the game.

  18. Good list. Deron Williams needs to stop turning the ball over so much.

    And Chris Paul can well take over a game down the stretch. He did it fine early in the season but just because he hasn’t been doing it all that much as of late doesn’t mean he can’t.

    And yeah, Paul is a pretty darn good defender. Don’t be fooled by his size. Being bigger does not mean you’re a better defender. His defensive rating is pretty good too.

    Paul isn’t as athletically gifted as say a Rose, Wall or Westbrook, but those guys don’t have his BBIQ either.

  19. Black Matt, don’t act like you don’t know that Deron has always had better teammates than Chris Paul. Even when Paul outplays Deron, the Jazz still win because Deron’s teammates have been better. Coaching has been better. The Jazz bench has been better. Deron would go to the bench in foul trouble and the Jazz would just keep on rolling. And di you know there are stats to back up that the Jazz is better defensively with Deron on the bench? The Hornets defense falls off when Paul goes to the bench. Deron is scoring more than he ever has in his entire career this year. With Boozer gone, he apparently needs to do so.

  20. Geez Rondo. You have GOT to do better at the free throw line man.

    Oh yeah and Black Matt, if you look at the advanced stats, you’ll see that Paul’s are WAY better.

    Playoff success. Carlos Boozer helped a whole lot in those series. Don’t disregard him to prop up Deron. Chris Paul could only wish that David West was as good as Boozer.

    And since when are steals a bad thing? When your favorite player doesn’t excel in them? Jazz/Deron fans should only hope that Deron can learn to steal the ball more to be able to take possessions away from the opposing team.

    CP3 is a pesky knat on defense. Forget about the steals. The guy puts a lot of pressure on the ball. He causes players to lose the ball out of bounds, travel, etc. He has exceptionally quick hands too. The point guard is supposed to be the first line of defense on your team. When Paul would blow by Deron, AK47 or Boozer or Harpring or some other player would be waiting for Paul because they knew full well he’d get by Deron easily. Then when Paul would kick it out to a teammate, they’d brick it. LOL.

  21. N.O. Mark, people always talk about Paul having the ball in his hands more than Deron so then why does Deron turn the ball over at such a higher clip than Paul? Seems with CP having the ball more he should be the one always averaging 3 turns a game right?

    And Deron has never even been a better rebounder than Paul. Why doesn’t Deron’s ample height allow him to ever avg more rebounds than Paul? I guess now you’re going to give Deron’s teammates some credit and say because he has good rebounders on his team right? Yeah, right. LOL.

  22. Seems like these rankings are all out of habit, but hey everyone has an opinion.

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