The Point God: Western Conference
The NBA has changed from the old ways, where the game was played from the inside out with big bruisers and star centers. Teams built around players like Russell and Wilt to Kareem and then Shaq. Nowadays, the game is played from the outside in, with guards running the show and everyone looking for the next Steph Curry.
Referecing my previous article, this may be why Atlanta felt the desire to trade Luka Doncic for Trae Young on draft night. Regardless of the reasons, ball-dominant players are what teams build around today. Due to that, I am going to break down the best point guards in each conference to determine who the Point God is. First up, the Western Conference. (Note: players are listed in no particular order.)
Team: Golden State Warriors
Shooting: A+, Maybe the greatest shooter to ever step foot on a basketball court.
Rebounding: C, Not a main part of his game and he knows this.
Assists: B, Can make impressive passes, but is generally a shoot first point guard.
Basketball IQ: B+, His court vision and playmaking abilities are somewhat hidden by his impressive shooting.
Contribution to team’s success: B, This may be a point of contention, but the Warriors are a very system structured team. With Steph on the bench, Durant can still run the offense. When Quinn Cook plays, the team shifts their playing style to support his strengths.
(*As I am only choosing one player from each team, Harden is being excluded since I consider Paul more of a true point guard.)
Team: Houston Rockets
Shooting: B+, Three point shooting is not his number one strength, but he plays aware of that and gets off his mid range jumper.
Rebounding: B-, Not as great of a rebounder as his grade may show, but his effort on the glass does not go unnoticed.
Assists: A-, I believe Paul is on of the best pure passers in the game right next to LeBron. He is a pass first point guard and plays the point guard position as it should be played.
Basketball IQ: A, The banana boat connection is real, because Paul is probably the second smartest player in terms of basketball IQ currently in the league.
Contribution to team’s success: A-, The team is showing resolve in his absence currently, but Harden is scoring astronomical numbers. Can that really last? Paul’s absence was clearly seen in the Western Conference Finals last season.
Team: Oklahoma City Thunder
Shooting: C-, This might even be a generous grade, but it doesn’t stop Westbrook from putting up a lot of shots.
Rebounding: A, Russell is the best rebounding guard in the league, even if his teammates occasionally let him grab the easy boards.
Assists: A+, He currently leads the NBA in assists and is always top five.
Basketball IQ: B-, Russ sees the game fairly well, but doesn’t always make the best decision for the team.
Contribution to team’s success: B, Even with his unheard of stat lines, the Thunder seem to perform well when he is on the bench. Could be vital for a deep playoff run.
Team: Portland Trail Blazers
Shooting: A, Dame is steadily one of the best shooting point guards in the league, especially in crunch time.
Rebounding: C+, Not a main part of his game, as he saves energy for shooting.
Assists: B+, C.J. and Dame are the main scorers for this team, but Dame shares the ball more when his fellow guard is on the bench.
Basketball IQ: B, His decision making can be questioned at times, but a lack of supporting cast usually covers for his mistakes.
Contribution to team’s success: A-, The backcourt for the Trail Blazers makes this team run. Without one or the other, it is tough for Portland to consistently win.
Team: New Orleans Pelicans
Shooting: B+, Has a good shot, but his around the rim and mid range game is stronger than his three point shooting.
Rebounding: B-, Anthony Davis dominates the boards in New Orleans, which doesn’t create much opportunity for Jrue.
Assists: A-, Jrue makes great passes look routine and has been know for his passing prowess since he came into the league with the Philadelphia 76ers. This season he is averaging a career-high 8.3 assists per game.
Basketball IQ: A-, The court vision for Jrue has developed with age. Whereas with the Sixers, he may have received a B or B- grade, his maturity has helped in his game play.
Contribution to team’s success: B+, The Pelicans go as Anthony Davis goes, but with the lack of a serviceable backup point guard, Jrue is key in Anthony Davis getting his stats up.
Honorable Mention: Derrick Rose and De’Aaron Fox
Derrick Rose’s resurgence in Minnesota is the reason I added him to this list. His main strengths are scoring and basketball IQ. I think similar to Jrue, Derrick’s IQ has grown exponentially since his rookie season. That’s why he is an important role player in Minnesota. Rose is continuing to improve his game late in his career, as his three point percentage is a remarkable, career-high 46.2% this season.
De’Aaron Fox, the young buck for the Sacramento Kings, is the self-proclaimed fastest player in the NBA. Is that shot a Russell Westbrook? Fox can get to the rim at will and makes great passes due to his ability to space the floor and draw defender’s attention. If he develops an outside shot, he could become a superstar in the making.
Who is the Point God of the Western Conference?
I think that is an extremely subjective question, and one that the answer will vary for almost everyone you ask. But, if I were in the GM chair and had just one season, I would choose Chris Paul to lead my team at point guard. I understand Paul is injury prone, and at the time of this article, of course, he hasn’t played in months due to a recurring hamstring injury. However, there is something to be said about the way he plays the position of point guard.
The question I asked was not who is the best player or who can score the most points, it was who is the best ‘point guard.’? Many of the point guards in this article, and all over the league nowadays, are shoot first guards who bring the ball up the court. Paul plays the position to its’ purest definition and has an incredibly high basketball IQ, which helps all of his teammates play better.