Derrick Rose

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.

This is the final month of the 2010-11 NBA regular season, which means this is the last month I’m doing these rankings until whenever the next season begins. These have been as fun to do as they have been time-consuming and nerve-racking — I almost always feel bad that I had to leave a particular player off, and the exclusion of Andre Miller from my final point guard rankings is no exception. He’d be 11th, for what it’s worth.

10. (New entry) Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets — 2010-11 stats: 74 GP, 26.0 MPG, 11.3 PPG, 4.6 APG, 2.6 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 0.0 BPG, .499 FG%, .382 3P%, .759 FT%, 17.5 PER

In the 19 games since Lawson took over the Nuggets’ starting point guard job on February 22, he’s averaged  13.7 points, 7.1 assists, 2.1 turnovers and 1.7 steals per game while shooting 49 percent from the field and 36 percent from deep. Those are impressive numbers, but not as impressive as the Nuggets’ 15-4 record over that stretch. This seems like a good time to remind everyone that Lawson was drafted 18th overall in the 2009 draft and five other point guards (Ricky Rubio, Jonny Flynn, Stephen Curry, Brandon Jennings and Jrue Holiday) were drafted before him. Only one of those players joins Lawson on this month’s PG rankings.

9. (Last month: 9.) Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors — 2010-11 stats: 69 GP, 33.5 MPG, 18.2 PPG, 5.8 APG, 3.7 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 0.3 BPG, .474 FG%, .435 3P%, .934 FT%, 18.9 PER

The strongest case you can make for Stephen Curry not being a “true point guard” is that he’s too indecisive on pick-and-roll situations. He takes too long looking for his shot or a safe pass and he gives the defense too much time to react. He’s young and can obviously learn to be more aggressive in those moments, but it’s holding back his game and the Warriors’ offense right now.

8. (New entry) Kyle Lowry, Houston Rockets — 2010-11 stats:  73 GP, 34.1 MPG, 13.5 PPG, 6.6 APG, 4.2 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 0.3 BPG, .432 FG%, .379 3P%, .763 FT%, 16.8 PER

I’ll be honest and admit that I haven’t paid very much attention to Kyle Lowry’s career before this season. He always struck me as a tweener guard who wasn’t a good enough shooter to really make an impact as a sixth man. And yet here we are late in his fifth NBA season and it’s become pretty easy to make the case that he’s a top-10 point guard. He’s scoring more at a higher efficiency and with a vastly improved three-point shot, and he’s improved to the point that he’s an above-average playmaker who doesn’t turn the ball over often. It probably surprises many that Lowry is making 38 percent of his treys after he hadn’t made more than 27 percent of those shots in any of his past three seasons, but he shot over 50 percent on two-point attempts between 16 and 23 feet in the 2008-09 season (according to Hoopdata.com) so it’s not that shocking he was able to extend his range a few more feet.

7. (5.) Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics — 2010-11 stats: 64 GP, 37.3 MPG, 10.5 PPG, 11.3 APG, 4.4 RPG, 2.2 SPG, 0.2 BPG, .478 FG%, .256 3P%, .538 FT%, 17.0 PER

How the mighty have fallen. It wasn’t that long ago that Rondo was in the running to be considered the best point guard in the world. Now, the Boston Celtics are in a tailspin and Rondo’s inconsistent play is a significant contributor. Celtics fans know that they need the Rondo who showed up in the past three post-seasons if they’re going to have any shot of returning to the NBA Finals.

6. (7.) Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns — 2010-11 stats: 70 GP, 33.6 MPG, 15.3 PPG, 11.4 APG, 3.5 RPG, 0.6 SPG, 0.0 BPG, .495 FG%, .398 3P%, FT%, 21.0 PER

Nash has finally passed Rondo for the league lead in assists per game but his 0.1 APG margin is unlikely to hold up. How do I know this? Let’s just say this particular title will probably go to the player who “wants it more” — I think most of us know which guy is more likely to pass up open shots to try to pad his assist total.

Kyle Lowry

5. (6.) Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs — 2010-11 stats: 74 GP, 32.6 MPG, 17.6 PPG, 6.6 APG, 3.0 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 0.0 BPG, .519 FG%, .368 3P%, .767 FT%, 20.3 PER

While he probably won’t play a whole heck of a lot in the Spurs’ six remaining regular season games, I still think he’s earned the right to be included among the top five point guards in the league this season. He’s one of those guys who tends to get overlooked in discussions about the best players at his position, but he’s played the most minutes on the team that will likely finish with the best 2010-11 regular season record. I may not be crazy about French hip-hop, but I’m a big fan of this particular French point guard.

4. (3.) Deron Williams, New Jersey Nets — 2010-11 stats: 64 GP, 37.8 MPG, 20.2 PPG, 10.1 APG, 4.0 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 0.2 BPG, .440 FG%, .331 3P%, .849 FT%, 21.0 PER

Did D-Will forget to pack his shot when he left Utah? In 11 games with the Nets, he’s shooting 34 percent from the field and 26 percent from beyond the arc. To be fair, he’s playing with a strained tendon in his shooting wrist — it’s beyond me why he’s playing through that for a team with literally nothing to play for.

3. (4.) Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets — 2010-11 stats: 75 GP, 36.2 MPG, 16.1 PPG, 9.8 APG, 4.1 RPG, 2.4 SPG, 0.1 BPG, .469 FG%, .392 3P%, .883 FT%, 24.2 PER

No David West? Fine, Chris Paul will carry his whole damn team into the playoffs by himself. Random fact that bolsters Paul’s aura of greatness: he’s the only point guard on this list who averages more steals (2.4 per game) than turnovers (2.2 per game).

2. (1.) Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder — 2010-11 stats: 76 GP, 34.9 MPG, 21.8 PPG, 8.3 APG, 4.6 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 0.4 BPG, .440 FG%, .337 3P%, .838 FT%, 23.2 PER

Since Derrick Rose isn’t likely to win Most Valuable Player and Most Improved Player — even though you can soundly argue he deserves the second award at least as much as he deserves the first one — I expect Westbrook to get the nod for the extremely arbitrary and almost entirely pointless M.I.P. award. Remember when a lot of people thought Westbrook was a reach with the fourth overall pick of the 2008 draft? Yeah, not anymore. Consider that yet another draft that T-Wolves fans would prefer to forget about.

1. (2.) Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls — 2010-11 stats: 75 GP, 37.5 MPG, 25.1 PPG, 7.9 APG, 4.2 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 0.6 BPG, .441 FG%, .334 3P%, .854 FT%, 23.7 PER

When Rose eventually hoists the Most Valuable Player trophy he essentially clinched with his strong finish to this regular season, he’ll be just the second player since 1965 to win the award with a field goal percentage under .450. I bet you won’t even need to get to the end of this sentence before you correctly guess who the other guy was — Allen Iverson and his .420 FG% in his 2000-01 MVP season.

Comments (17)

  1. disrespecting jru

  2. Altough Westbrook is playing great right now, don’t forget that the Wolves (and Kahn) got Kevin Love in that draft… I bet they regret the ’09 draft a whole lot more.

  3. Andre Miller is a top 10 point guard in this league.

  4. “Nash has finally passed Rondo for the league lead in assists per game but his 0.1 APG margin is unlikely to hold up. How do I know this? Let’s just say this particular title will probably go to the player who “wants it more” — I think most of us know which guy is more likely to pass up open shots to try to pad his assist total.”

    best quote ever.

  5. Derrick rose hoists shots up at the end of quarters regardless of how good that look is. I think the true mark of an mvp is a guy who will sacrifice field goal percentage and take the right shot if his team needs him to. if you factor out the 20 something end of the quarter half court heaves, rose’s 3pt percentage goes up to a respectable 35%. He had a ridicuously bad 3pt shooting month in march, but i expect him to pick it up in the playoffs. In alot of the games, rose jacked up a 3 rather than drive the ball. If you’re up by 10, you try driving.

  6. That AI statistic is shocking. Good research.

  7. You should list Keith Bogans in the top 10 for shooting guards tomorrow. Just for levity. Base it on his ‘defense’ or something.

  8. Went back to look at the initial point guard rankings for this season and you had Rose listed at #5 and as “a bit overrated” and then went on to talk about what he needs to do “if he ever wants to enter the MVP discussion.” Not knocking you, Scott, just loving the fact that this kid studied his flaws and dedicated himself to eradicating them. Impressive that he improved every single shortcoming you had listed (all true at the time, of course). Yes, even defense. I’m betting that he focuses more on defense this offseason. Scary to think how he might be even better next year.

    From October– “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.”

  9. Basharat: I’d like to think it’s to my credit that I change my opinion based on new evidence rather than stubbornly sticking to an outdated viewpoint in some misguided attempt to protect my image. Rose has exhibited tremendous improvement this season and absolutely deserves to be at the top of this list right now.

  10. @ Scott Carefoot: erm, were you just defending yourself? why? basharat made it clear that he(?) did not want to “knock” your analysis… if you weren’t defending your point of view, were you just giving props to yourself for no particular reason then? if so, i will give you props for that! we should do that more often. in fact, i will start right now!
    i’d like to think that it’s to my credit that i am just generally awesome. so are you and everyone else on the basketball jones! embrace the day people

  11. ps
    i’m serious! love is the word, don’t hate.

  12. Nash passes up way too many shots as well.

    @joe: I like Miller, but someone has to come off this list. To say he’s top 10 is like those lazy analysts who say “so and so is an all-star” and list like 20 people from a conference. Well, no, they’re not, unless one of those other guys isn’t. I could agree with dropping Lawson for Miller overall, but this month?

  13. I think someone should compile a “power ranking” for NBA bloggers who are annoying losers.

    Pretty sure Scott Carefoot passed Kelly Dwyer this season.

  14. Passing on Stephen Curry for Jonny Flynn in ’09 and taking Wes Johnson over Monroe/Cousins are completely indefensible, but why would the T-Wolves regret getting Kevin Love? He and Westbrook are at least equals, as far as value goes. If anyone is kicking themselves, it’s Memphis for swapping Love with O.J. Mayo.

  15. @telecustom Thanks for the backup and understanding the comment as it was intended. Props to you. Hell, props to all! (and yes, ‘he’)

    @ Scott – Chiiiiillllllllll. I like the fact that you re-assessed these rankings every month and if you were blindly protecting your own rep I wouldn’t bother reading anything you wrote. I don’t even think your analysis from October was wrong. I was trying to remind you and other commenters how far Rose has come this year. Looking back at the October entry, it’s like Rose read what you wrote and decided he would just fix almost all of it immediately.

    I included the “not knocking you” part after reading over my comment and realizing it could be interpreted as criticism. Maybe I didn’t make it clear enough, sorry. I agreed with your assessment and thought that it makes Rose’s season even more impressive, or more deserving of appreciation, that what you wrote at the beginning of the year was essentially very, very accurate. And most people at the beginning of the season made comments along the lines of your “if he’s going to enter the MVP discussion at some point in his career” then he needs to do x, y and z. My main point was that no one, you or anyone else, probably ever imagined he would actually do x, y and z within THIS season. Yes, I did dream Rose would be able to address those flaws (hell, I’m still holding out hope that he’ll be much more efficient in the playoffs) so I’m enjoying this even more but I don’t pretend that I was smarter than everyone else. I just had a wildly optimistic belief in Derrick Rose as a fan (probably what leads to my also being a Cubs fan), and it was one that I didn’t actually think would happen. So, as the Cubs are once again highly unlikely to win it all this year, let me revel in it a little, yeah?

    Once again, to be clear, I am not accusing you of inconsistency or of being blind or stupid at the beginning of the year. Your analysis then, and now, I agreed with almost entirely. What I am saying is “Wow, what a year, huh? Pretty cool.”

  16. Agree with all the guys on the list, though I’d have had Lawson over Curry- but that’s just splitting hairs. Can’t imagine how T-Wolves fans feel whenever they watch the odd man out in 2009′s PG orgy and another one that they passed on (Steph). Brutal.

  17. Westbrook has owned every other elite point guard he has went up against this season. When Westbrook adds the 3 pointer and floater to his arsenal he will be unstoppable.

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