We all know Mike Conley has developed into an extremely good point guard over his 7 years in Memphis. He's gone from Greg Oden's sidekick at Ohio State to being a major team contributor and leader for the Grizzlies. We here in Memphis know how good Conley is and can be, and he is slowly but surely starting to make a name for himself around the rest of NBA. The real question is though where does Conley stand compared to the other elite point guards in the NBA? Is Conley a top 5 point guard? Is he even an elite point guard? The talent pool for point guards is incredibly deep. It is probably the deepest position in the NBA with more than half the teams in the league having notable ones. So without further ado, here's my list of the top 10 point guards in the NBA.
Chris Paul can do any and everything. He is the complete package when it comes to point guards. He can score the basketball averaging 19 points a game while shooting 47%, but there is rarely a basket made in L.A. that doesn't involve Chris Paul. Paul assisted on 45% of his teammate's baskets and he had over 55% of the team's assists last season earning 11 per game. Chris Paul is a monster of a point guard and is easily the best in the league.
Tony Parker is a little interesting in the sense that his stats do not reflect his deadliness on the court. Parker only averaged about 17 points a game and about 5 assist. The reasoning for his lackluster stats though comes from Greg Popovich's system. Parker averaged only 29 minutes a game last season. So if you take a look at his per 48 minutes number you'll see that they balance out pretty well with the rest of the elites. Per 48 minutes he averaged around 27 points a game along with 9 assist. Tony Parker is the definition of the eye-test. We've all seen him. We've all seen him burn the Grizzlies so many times and I don't know if there is a player with a higher basketball I.Q. or better court vision than him.
Westbrook is a dangerous man who can hurt you in many ways. Although he is criticized for taking too many shots and trying to steal Kevin Durant's thunder, he is still a deadly force. Westbrook can easily take over games and when his shot is falling he is not afraid to shoot. He averaged about 21 points per game along with 6 assist, here's the kicker though, he did this all while playing only 30 minutes a game. Biggest criticism I have for him though is the number of shots he takes from beyond the arc. He takes over four 3-pointers a game and shoots an unimpressive 32%. Cut down on the 3's and Westbrook could become even better.
This is an interesting one. We've barely seen Derrick Rose play in two years. Before his injuries though we maybe saw one of the most explosive players to ever play the point guard position. He was the youngest player to ever be named the MVP and led the Bulls to 62 wins and an Eastern Conference Finals appearance. This is one that could easily change after this season or even after a month into this season. In Rose's last significant season he averaged 22 points and 8 assists. The only thing Rose could improve on this season other than not getting hurt would be his turnover numbers. He averaged 3 turnovers per game in 2011-2012 and has been averaging 3 turnovers a game every season of his career.
The next 3 guards are really a toss up right now, but due to Curry's success in the playoffs I give him the top nod. Stephen Curry is easily the best shooter in the NBA right now. His 47% percent field goal percentage is second only to Tony Parker and his percentages from beyond the arc are just scary. He averages 42% from three while putting up about 7 a night. Although he does put up around 8 assists per game he isn't very crucial to his teammates scoring; ability only assisting on 37% of his teammate's buckets. He is still very young though and hasn't peaked just yet, which is extremely impressive. It will be interesting to see what would happens to his numbers though if Klay Thompson takes his talents somewhere else next off-season.
The emergence of John Wall has provided a new spark in Washington. They have now become a major threat in the East and they are expected to compete for the number two seed along with Chicago, Toronto, and Charlotte. Wall has really stepped up his game over this past season by developing his three point shot. After his first three seasons of shooting under 30% from beyond the arc, this past season he increased his number by taking almost four a game and hitting about 35% of them. Very similar to Curry, Wall has yet to peak and it will be exciting to see him become even better over the next few seasons.
Kyrie Irving finishes up the newest generation of elite point guards in the NBA. It's pretty much a toss up between these three guards. Unfortunately, Irving hasn't seen the playoff success (or any kind of success for that matter) like Wall and Curry have. That along with his injury issues over his first three seasons has put him behind the other two. All the same, Irving is still an incredible player. He's been consistently putting up around 20 points per game over his career and this past season improved his turnover numbers to drop below three per game. Of course with the additions of LeBron James and probably Kevin Love, Irving is expected to have some incredible post-season success and his first winning season.
8. Mike Conley - Memphis Grizzlies
Mike Conley just came off his best season as a Grizzly. Putting up a career high in scoring, shooting percentage, and shots taken. Ever since the Rudy Gay trade, Conley has found his role in the offense and his outside shot is also becoming more reliable. While increasing the number of shots he's taken to 4 per game he has not seen a major dip in his three-point percentage. The high point for Conley last season though was his ball security. Among the guards on this list, Conley had the lowest turnover percentage at 2.1 per game. He has been playing for the Grizz for 7 seasons now, but is still at the young age of 26 and his best days are still ahead of him. Two reasonable goals for him this year should be to reach an average of 8 assists per game which would be a 2 assists increase and shoot 38% from outside. If he can reach those two marks, Conley could see much more national recognition as an elite point guard.
9. Damian Lillard - Portland Trailblazers
Ranking Lillard this low will probably cause a little controversy, but I think it's still a little early in his career. He is still a great point guard though with ice in his veins as showcased in the playoffs.
His assist numbers are still a bit low averaging less that six per game especially playing about 36 minutes a night. He's still a great scorer putting up around 20 per game and he shot over 38 percent from beyond the arc. Lillard is extremely young and his prime is way ahead of him. After 2 or 3 more season, he could easily find himself near the top of this list.
Rajon Rondo definitely falls into the pass first category when it comes to point guards. His stat line says it all scoring about 12 points per game while putting up over 11 assists in 2012-2013. Rondo can do it all and in only 8 seasons he's already recorded 29 triple doubles which is one less than Kobe Bryant in his 17 seasons. The biggest red mark on Rondo's record though is his shooting percentage. Yes he puts up about 48% from the field, but he shoots a terrible 24% from downtown and an even scarier 65% from the free throw line. Boston losing Rondo will be a huge mistake for them and I can't wait to see what he does with some better pieces around him again.
Number 8 is reasonable for Conley right now. Would I call him elite? I think Conley is just on the outside edge of elite, but he is right there. If his stats improve like I think they can he could be considered a top 5 point guard by the end of the season. Unfortunately I don't think Conley will make the All-Star team this year. The guard talent pool is far too deep in the West and other guards such as Chris Paul, Tony Parker, and Russell Westbrook all have higher priority amongst fans and coaches. Where do you think Conley lands amongst the best point guards in the land? Leave a comment below to let us know.