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.
It’s been a month of transition for the top NBA point guards — three of the players on this list were traded and the former undisputed (outside of Utah) best point guard in the league is enduring an inexplicable slump. More importantly, there’s a new “point god” at the top of the rankings for March.
10. (New entry) Devin Harris, Utah Jazz — 2010-11 stats: 58 GP, 32.0 MPG, 15.2 PPG, 7.6 APG, 2.5 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 0.1 BPG, .427 FG%, .308 3P%, .836 FT%, 18.0 PER
Devin Harris loves playing for the Utah Jazz and the fans in Utah are loving him right back. He’s been described as being more “media-savvy” than Deron Williams, which is a polite way of hinting that Williams was apparently a bit of a dick.
9. (Last month: 9.) Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors — 2010-11 stats: 54 GP, 33.7 MPG, 18.6 PPG, 5.8 APG, 3.6 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 0.3 BPG, .485 FG%, .421 3P%, .933 FT%, 19.8 PER
Considering that his dad played three seasons in Toronto at the end of his career, I’m not sure why Stephen Curry has it in for the Raptors — his 32.7 points per game average in three games against that team is five points higher than his average against any other team. I suppose it probably has something to do with Jose Calderon “guarding” him.
8. (8.) Chauncey Billups, Denver Nuggets — 2010-11 stats: 55 GP, 32.3 MPG, 17.0 PPG, 6.0 APG, 2.6 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 0.2 BPG, .434 FG%, .434 3P%, .920 FT%, 19.4 PER
Chauncey has never shied away from big shots and he’s flourishing so far on the big stage in New York, averaging 25.8 points, 6.6 assists and 5.3 rebounds in four games with the Knicks. If he can keep this up, they won’t need to look elsewhere for a point guard to complete their own “big three.”
7. (7.) Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns — 2010-11 stats: 59 GP, 33.5 MPG, 16.0 PPG, 11.4 APG, 3.6 RPG, 0.6 SPG, 0.0 BPG, .505 FG%, .380 3P%, .917 FT%, 22.1 PER
Last night against the Thunder, Nash passed Isiah Thomas for sixth all-time in career assists — not too shabby for a Canadian boy who went to Santa Clara University. Next on his hit list is Oscar Robertson, and Nash should be able to pass him with another healthy season.
6. (6.) Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs — 2010-11 stats: 61 GP, 32.1 MPG, 17.0 PPG, 6.6 APG, 3.1 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 0.0 BPG, .517 FG%, .340 3P%, .782 FT%, 20.4 PER
When Parker suffered a calf strain last week, the Spurs thought he could miss up to a month in recovery. After sitting out just two games, Parker returned to face Miami on Friday and had 15 points and eight assists in just 23 minutes as the Spurs blew out the Heat by 30. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich attributed Tony’s early return to “foie grois and truffle treatment”.
5. (5.) Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics — 2010-11 stats: 50 GP, 37.9 MPG, 10.8 PPG, 12.2 APG, 4.4 RPG, 2.4 SPG, 0.2 BPG, .505 FG%, .323 3P%, .546 FT%, 18.0 PER
When Rondo was averaging 14 assists per game after the first month of the season, I would have bet my house that he would win the assist title this season if he stayed healthy. Now, Rondo is just 0.8 assists per game ahead of Steve Nash and his turnovers are on the rise — he tied his season-high with eight turnovers against the Bucks last night.
4. (2.) Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets — 2010-11 stats: 65 GP, 35.8 MPG, 15.9 PPG, 9.6 APG, 3.9 RPG, 2.4 SPG, 0.1 BPG, .467 FG%, .423 3P%, .893 FT%, 23.9 PER
I can’t believe I have Chris Paul ranked this low, but something is not right with him at the moment. He was dominated by Jose Calderon and Toney Douglas in back-to-back games last week and he’s not playing with the kind of aggressiveness and intensity I’m used to seeing from him. Is it mental? Is it physical? I’m guessing it’s a combination of the two. Regardless, he suffered a concussion last night against the Cavaliers and the Hornets will be hard-pressed to hang onto their playoff seed if he doesn’t return soon.
3. (4.) Deron Williams, New Jersey Nets — 2010-11 stats: 58 GP, 38.2 MPG, 20.8 PPG, 10.2 APG, 3.9 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 0.2 BPG, .450 FG%, .333 3P%, .849 FT%, 21.6 PER
Here’s what I wrote about Williams in last month’s point guard rankings: “At this point in his career, it seems that Deron Williams is a very talented player who probably isn’t cut out to be a team leader. That’s not necessarily a knock on him, but he and the Jazz organization might have already come to the conclusion that they’re not going to another conference final anytime soon. I’m sure Jazz fans don’t want to see him traded, but unless they’re going to bring in a new coach with a fresh approach for next season (fat chance of that happening unless Jerry Sloan retires voluntarily), I don’t expect Williams to remain in Utah past the end of his contract in 2012.” Spooky, huh?
2. (1.) Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls — 2010-11 stats: 60 GP, 37.8 MPG, 24.6 PPG, 8.1 APG, 4.3 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 0.6 BPG, .443 FG%, .328 3P%, .840 FT%, 22.7 PER
The Bulls have won five of their last seven games while Rose has shot 39 percent from the field and 16 percent from long range — he’s actually missed his last 16 three-point attempts. Still think he’s your MVP?
1. (3.) Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder — 2010-11 stats: 61 GP, 35.3 MPG, 22.3 PPG, 8.4 APG, 4.8 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 0.4 BPG, .440 FG%, .310 3P%, .840 FT%, 23.9 PER
The timing of this month’s rankings coincides nicely with Westbrook winning the Western Conference Player of the Week award today. When you consider that he averaged 27.0 points, 9.7 assists and 3.0 steals in his three games (all victories) last week, I don’t think I’m crazy to put him at the top of point guard rankings this month.