Last season, Ja Morant emerged as one of the league’s premier talents. Ja went from a talented player with a bright future to a bonafide superstar in MVP conversations. Morant’s breakout season even won him the 2022 Most Improved Player award.
He has soared up lists and rankings of NBA players. A season ago he was often slotted in the late 20s or even 30s in many rankings. In 2021, Morant was not ranked in The Ringer’s top 25 players in the NBA list. In the site’s most recent list, Morant was ranked eighth, right behind Luka Dončić and LeBron James. HoopsHype recently ranked the top 25 point guards for the 2022-23 season and Morant was third.
With talent comes expectations and after Morant’s incredible campaign last season, all eyes will be on him. With more nationally televised games and more coverage, the pressure will be higher, and how the Grizzlies respond will be a reflection of Morant’s performance.
Point guards in the modern NBA are much different than the floor generals of old. Great point guards in 2022 must get their teammates open looks while also creating their own shots. So who does that the best?
Honorable Mentions: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, LaMelo Ball, Cade Cunningham
10. Darius Garland
Last season: In 68 games (35.7 minutes per game) — 21.7 points on 46.2 FG% (38.3 from 3-point, 89.2 from the FT line), 3.3 rebounds, 8.6 assists, 1.3 steals
Before being decimated by injuries, the Cleveland Cavaliers were a playoff contender. A large part of the team’s success was Darius Garland’s breakout season. Like Morant, Garland made his first All-Star game last season.
Garland’s shooting and playmaking make him one of the league’s best guards. Shooting over 38% from beyond the arc, Garland can make opponents pay from all over the court. Garland’s playmaking is among the best in the league. He is able to make the difficult passes that create easy shots for teammates like Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen.
Garland is growing as a scorer. He had the eighth-highest points per possession on iso opportunities last season. At 6’1”, Garland is at a disadvantage defensively, but his contributions on the other side of the ball make him one of the league’s best point guards.
9. James Harden
Last season: In 65 games (37.2 minutes per game) — 22 points on 41.0 FG% (33 from 3-point, 87.7 from the FT line), 7.7 rebounds, 10.3 assists, 1.3 steals
James Harden is no longer the dominant league MVP he once was but he is still a talented guard who can be lethal with the ball in his hands. He has shifted to the point after spending most of his career as a two-guard.
Since being traded to Philadelphia last season, the Beard has mastered the pick-and-roll with Joel Embiid racking up assists. Harden was in an unusual position in Brooklyn. Kyrie Irving rarely played and Kevin Durant was hurt, leading Harden to leave the Nets. At this point in his career, Harden is more effective as an over-qualified second option, as opposed to the number one option.
With a full offseason together, Harden and the Sixers could take the league by storm if he resembles the player that used to dominate in Houston. It is also a good sign that Harden looks to be in the best shape he has been in years.
8. Kyrie Irving
Last season: In 29 games (37.6 minutes per game) — 27.4 points on 46.9 FG% (41.8 from 3-point, 91.5 from the FT line), 4.4 rebounds, 5.8 assists
When Irving plays basketball, he is one of the most skilled guards the league has ever seen. Unfortunately, he has only played 103 games in the past three seasons. Last year, he did not eclipse 30 games because of New York’s vaccine mandate.
Irving can be a turnstile on defense but his explosiveness on the other end makes up for it. Irving flashed his unmatched scoring ability in Game One against the Boston Celtics when he scored 39 points on 60% shooting. Irving averaged 15.3 points on 37.4% shooting for the rest of the series. Kyrie’s inconsistency is the only thing holding him back from being in the top five of this list.
7. Jrue Holiday
Last season: In 67 games (32.9 minutes per game) — 18.3 points on 50.1 FG% (41.1 from 3-point, 76.1 from the FT line), 4.5 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 1.6 steals
It is hard to overstate how good Jrue Holiday was in Milwaukee’s series against Boston last postseason. He did not score over 25 points once and he shot 30% from three, but what he gave the Bucks on both sides of the ball shows just how important Holiday is.
Holiday is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league and has been for years. He consistently makes impactful defensive plays in the clutch. He compliments Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton perfectly. He can be a playmaker or he can space the floor as he lets his teammates handle the ball.
While Holiday is now 32, guards have shown it is possible to evolve and extend their primes. One of the best two-way players in the league, Holiday remains one of the most impactful guards in the NBA as he goes into his 14th season.
6. Damian Lillard
Last season: In 29 games (36.4 minutes per game) — 24 points on 40.2 FG% (32.4 from 3-point, 87.8 from the FT line), 4.1 rebounds, 7.3 assists
Damian Lillard is coming off of his worst season since 2015 but his track record is too impressive to have him any lower. Lillard is 32 and one of the smaller guards on this list, so there is reason to be concerned about future injuries but before last season, he had not played less than 66 games in a season.
Lillard is an elite scorer who is lethal from beyond the arc. From 2019-2021, Lillard averaged nearly 40% from three on over 10 attempts per game. Lillard’s volume scoring is only matched by Stephen Curry, one of the greatest scoring guards ever.
Despite the Trailblazers’ current position in the Western Conference, Dame is committed to Portland after signing a max extension this summer. With an extended offseason, Lillard should be fully healthy for the 2022 season.
5. Chris Paul
Last season: In 65 games (32.9 minutes per game) — 14.7 points on 49.3 FG% (31.7 from 3-point, 83.7 from the FT line), 4.4 rebounds, 10.8 assists, 1.9 steals
Chris Paul is 37 and going into his 18th season, yet he is still one of the league’s best floor generals. Maybe the most traditional point guard on this list, Paul has never been a volume scorer. He excels in the midrange and uses the pick-and-roll to create open shots for himself and his teammates. CP3 led the league in assists and even at this point in his career he is a disruptive defender who racks up steals and annoys his opponents.
Last year, the Suns failed to make it out of the Western Conference Semifinals despite having the best record in the league. CP3 had some stellar performances against the New Orleans Pelicans in the first round but struggled against the Dallas Mavericks. It was revealed afterward that he was dealing with a left quad injury throughout the series.
Nevertheless, last year’s result was a disappointment and this season could be CP3’s last opportunity to win a title. The Suns have the fifth-best championship odds and for Phoenix to reach the mountaintop, Paul will need to remain one of the league’s best guards.
4. Trae Young
Last season: In 76 games (34.9 minutes per game) — 28.4 points on 46 FG% (38.2 from 3-point, 90.4 from the FT line), 3.7 rebounds, 9.7 assists
Trae Young has been an elite scorer from the moment he stepped onto an NBA court but some questioned if he truly makes his team better. Young silenced his haters with the Hawks’ Eastern Conference Finals run in 2021.
Young led the league in total assists last season. Since he has come into the league he ranks first overall in total assists. He also ranks only behind Antetokounmpo, Harden, and Devin Booker in total points scored in that span.
Trae had a disappointing 2022 Playoffs, he averaged 15.4 points on 31.9 FG% and 18.4% from 3-point with 6 assists. He also averaged 6.2 turnovers per game. Young had the fourth-worst defensive rating in the league last year. That is why the Hawks’ acquisition of Dejounte Murray will be greatly beneficial for Trae. Murray will help on the defensive end while also giving Young another creator to play with. Young will have the option to play off the ball more next season, which could result in more open shots.
3. Ja Morant
Last season: In 57 games (33.1 minutes per game) — 27.4 points on 49.3 FG% (34.4 from 3-point, 76.1 from the FT line), 5.7 rebounds, 6.7 assists. 1.2 steals
The most electric player in the league, Morant has room to grow as he enters his fourth season. With an improved jump shot and higher efficiency from the free throw line, Morant could be unstoppable. His finishing is unmatched. No matter the defender, Ja can contort and use his wingspan and hops to make difficult shots.
The attention Ja draws from defenders creates open shots for Desmond Bane and Dillon Brooks. Even Morant’s passing is highlight-worthy. His incredible court vision and handle help him rack up assists.
This pass don’t get talked about enough pic.twitter.com/CSbecjbvaz— Seajay (@yoseajay) August 1, 2022
Morant is 6’3” and 174 lbs, and as a result, he often gets targeted on defense. He still averages over a steal per game and consistently takes on tough assignments.
With the explosiveness that Morant plays with, he seems destined to average around sixty games a season. Letting Morant rest here and there could maximize his on-court performance and as Ja evolves his game, the league will be his for the taking.
2. Stephen Curry
Last season: In 64 games (34.5 minutes per game) — 25.5 points on 43.7 FG% (38 from 3-point, 92.3 from the FT line), 5.2 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 1.3 steals
It is hard to not have Curry first on this list after the 2022 playoffs. After an average regular season for Steph, he completed his legacy by winning his fourth ring and first Finals MVP. In the Finals, he averaged 31.2 points on 48.2 FG% and 43.7% from 3-point, with 5 assists, 6 rebounds, and 2 steals.
Even at 34, Curry is the NBA’s best shooter and one of the most unguardable players in the league. Curry’s constant off-ball movement loses defenders and creates open shots. If there is any space at all, Curry will make the defense pay, and if defenders guard him tight he will fight his way to the basket and finish strong.
Curry’s defense is also overlooked. He remains active defensively and fights through screens to stay on his man. Like Morant, he is undersized and mismatches can be exposed but Curry will make up for it on the other end.
Even going into his 13th season, Curry is one of the league’s best. And after the 2022 Finals, he might have solidified himself as the greatest point guard of all time.
1. Luka Dončić
Last season: In 65 games (35.4 minutes per game) — 28.4 points on 45.7 FG% (35.3 from 3-point, 74.4 from the FT line), 9.1 rebounds, 8.7 assists, 1.2 steals
The odds-on favorite to win MVP next season, Luka Dončić is ready to claim the title of best player – not just point guard. Dončić was already a superstar but he took the next step when he led the Dallas Mavericks to the Western Conference Finals last year. Luka averaged 31.7 points, 9.8 rebounds, 6.4 assists, and 1.8 steals in the 2022 Playoffs.
Dončić is not the traditional size for a point guard; at 6’7” and 230 lbs Luka uses his size to bully his way to the basket. Dončić’s frame makes him a tough matchup for opposing guards. Despite always drawing the opponent’s best perimeter defender, Dončić finds ways to score and dish to his teammates. Luka can score on all three levels and has a certain versatility that very few possess.
The Mavericks lost their second-best ball handler when Jalen Brunson walked in free agency, so there will be more pressure for Dončić to create for his team. The Mavs did add Christian Wood via trade so Luka has a new weapon to run pick-and-rolls with.
After last year when he came into the season overweight, Dončić looks to be in the best shape of his life. With the momentum from the Playoffs, Luka looks primed to have a career year and bring home his first MVP in 2023.
The league is as deep as it has ever been, and that is especially true for point guards. Players like Fred VanVleet, Tyrese Haliburton, and Jamal Murray were not even mentioned because of the depth at the position. While there are a lot of good point guards, the Grizzlies are lucky to have one of the best.
For Memphis to be the home of a top ten player and one of the three best point guards in the NBA is thrilling. It is an exciting time to be a Grizzlies fan and there is a lot to look forward to for the 2022-2023 season.