Saturday, Sept. 11, 2010
By Aggrey Sam
A historic summer for the NBA has passed and for the Bulls, while they didn't acquire quite the star power many expected andor hoped for, optimism runs high, both within the organization and throughout the team's fan base. With the offseason coming to an end, the time to fully delve into the upcoming NBA season is here. Instead of a traditional season preview, issues both throughout the league and in Chicago will be probed daily here on CSNChicago.com up until the squad officially convenes for training camp toward the end of September.
4. Who are the top 10 point guards in the league?
1. Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets (2009-10 averages: 18.7 points, 10.7 assists, 4.2 rebounds, 2.1 steals, 2.5 turnovers, 49.3 field-goal percentage, 40.9 three-point percentage in 45 regular-season games): An injury-riddled season and a summer in which his pristine image took a hit may only serve as motivation for Paul, who, with backup Darren Collison now in Indiana, must realize that he must again pull off amazing feats to make the Hornets relevant -- something the competitor inside the former MVP candidate will relish, disgruntled or not.
2. Deron Williams, Utah Jazz (2009-10 averages: 18.7 points, 10.5 assists, 4.0 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 3.3 turnovers, 46.9 field-goal percentage, 37.1 three-point percentage in 76 regular-season games): More like No. 1a, Williams will face an adjustment process with the departure of partner Carlos Boozer (although new Jazzman Al Jefferson has the ability to do many of the same things, he'll take awhile to fit into Jerry Sloan's system), which may result in better numbers and decreased team success, thus facing similar challenges to his rival Paul.
3. Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls (2009-10 averages: 20.8 points, 6.0 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 0.7 steals, 2.8 turnovers, 48.9 field-goal percentage, 26.7 three-point percentage in 78 regular-season games): As Chicago fans already know and LeBron James mentioned after dispatching the Bulls in the playoffs, Rose is one of the best in the league in his position, and his USA Basketball experience this summer should only add to his development.
4. Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics (2009-10 averages: 13.7 points, 9.8 assists, 4.4 rebounds, league-leading 2.3 steals, 3.0 turnovers, 50.8 field-goal percentage, 21.3 three-point percentage in 81 regular-season games): Despite not being a shooting threat, Rondo is uniquely capable of impacting a game, something evidenced by his performance in last spring's playoffs, where he was more than often the best Celtic.
5. Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns (2009-10 averages: 16.5 points, league-leading 11.0 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 0.5 steals, 3.6 turnovers, 50.7 field-goal percentage, 42.6 three-point percentage in regular-season games): Even with longtime running mate Amar'e Stoudemire now in New York, don't expect Nash to slow down just yet; rather, his scoring numbers should see a boost, although it's hard to expect Phoenix to make another deep playoff run with the current roster.
6. Chauncey Billups, Denver Nuggets (2009-10 averages: 19.5 points, 5.6 assists, 3.1 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 2.4 turnovers, 41.8 field-goal percentage, 38.6 three-point percentage in 73 regular-season games): "Mr. Big Shot" put up a career-high in points last season, but with the turmoil within his hometown Nuggets, a long summer with the national team and a drop-off in his shooting percentage, Billups can no longer be considered the cream of the crop anymore.
7. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder (2009-10 averages: 16.1 points, 8.0 assists, 4.9 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 3.3 turnovers, 41.8 field-goal percentage, 22.1 three-point percentage in 82 regular-season games): While Westbrook isn't a proficient outside shooter and is still a bit out of control at times, not only is he an excellent sidekick to Oklahoma City teammate Kevin Durant, but the UCLA product's defense is superb and his physical tools may be second to none at his position.
8. Tyreke Evans, Sacramento Kings (2009-10 averages: 20.1 points, 5.8 assists, 5.3 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 3.0 turnovers, 45.8 field-goal percentage, 25.5 three-point percentage in 72 regular-season games): Probably more of a shooting guard by definition, the reigning Rookie of the Year is his team's primary ballhandler and while Evans is a natural scorer, his ability to distribute the ball, attack the basket and take advantage of his size puts him in this category.
9. Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs (2009-10 averages: 16.0 points, 5.7 assists, 2.4 rebounds, 0.5 steals, 2.7 turnovers, 48.7 field-goal percentage, 29.4 three-point percentage in 56 regular-season games): If healthy, look for Parker to return to his former status as one of the league's best scoring playmakers, especially with all the scuttlebutt that heir-in-waiting George Hill is ready to take his spot.
10. Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee Bucks (2009-10 averages: 15.5 points, 5.7 assists, 3.4 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 2.4 turnovers, 37.1 field-goal percentage, 37.4 three-point percentage in 82 regular-season games): Forget the 55-point game: Jennings' playmaking, surprisingly mature basketball I.Q. (remember how many so-called "experts" thought he was a potential bust based on his admittedly disappointing season in Italy a year prior?) and better-than-advertised defense (playing for tough-minded Scott Skiles helped) were some of the primary reasons (outside of Andrew Bogut and John Salmons) his overachieving Bucks made the playoffs -- and almost advanced to the second round.
Next 10 (in alphabetical order):
Aaron Brooks, Houston Rockets: Absolutely carried his team in Yao Ming's absence, although he's a bit trigger-happy at times.
Darren Collison, Indiana Pacers: Much has been made of his gaudy stats as Paul's understudy, but he'll get a chance to run his own show after being traded in the summer.
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors: Didn't make the playoffs like Jennings or quite dominate a la Evans, but a sophomore slump is doubtful.
Baron Davis, Los Angeles Clippers: One of the most talented players at his position when in shape and motivated.
Raymond Felton, New York Knicks: Developed into above-average status under Larry Brown and has the opportunity to further thrive in Mike D'Antoni's run-and-gun system.
Devin Harris, New Jersey Nets: Talent isn't the question, but some of the onus for a league-worst record has to lie with the guy running the show.
Jason Kidd, Dallas Mavericks: He's slowed down over the years, but not only does he still direct traffic like few can do, but has finally added consistent deep range in the latter stages of his career.
Jameer Nelson, Orlando Magic: Not quite an upper-echelon floor general, but earns kudos for directing one of the league's better squads.
Andre Miller, Portland Trailblazers: The veteran is always steady -- yet always underappreciated -- and should have more of an impact in his second season with the Blazers.
John Wall, Washington Wizards: Every rookie struggles at times, but not including him in the top 10 could look foolish by season's end.
Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.