20 in 20: Who are the Top 10 PGs in the league?

20 in 20: Who are the Top 10 PGs in the league?

Saturday, Sept. 11, 2010
10:10 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

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.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will the Bulls make the postseason?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will the Bulls make the postseason?

Ben Finfer (ESPN 1000), Brian Hedger (nhl.com) and Jason Goch (SB Nation Radio) join Kap on the panel.  The Bulls beat the Pistons in a game with huge playoff implication.  So could they actually make the postseason?

The Blackhawks are closing in one division title but what’s their biggest weakness?

Plus Theo Epstein’s a really great leader, Kyle Hendricks is going to have to wait a while to pitch plus DeShone Kizer loves the band “Chicago” but will he play here?

NBA Buzz: 2017 Draft could be the best in more than a decade

NBA Buzz: 2017 Draft could be the best in more than a decade

If you've been watching the NCAA Tournament closely, it's apparent this June's draft will include a number of elite prospects, maybe the best top 10 talent since the LeBron, Melo, Bosh, Wade draft in 2003. 

Washington didn't qualify for the tournament, but NBA scouts seem to be in agreement that Washington point guard Markelle Fultz will be the No. 1 pick. The 6-foot-4 freshman has the size and ball-handling ability to play either guard spot, and word out of Boston is Fultz will be the pick if the Celtics get the first choice in the draft lottery.

UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball put on quite a show in the Bruins' win over Cincinnati on Sunday, finishing with 19 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. The 6-foot-6 Ball reminds scouts of a young Jason Kidd, showing amazing court vision and passing skills with the size to see over the top of smaller defenders. And don't caught up in his unusual shooting form. Ball can knock down shots, hitting almost 56 percent from the field this season and 42 percent beyond the 3-point line.

The other consensus top-3 prospect is Kansas small forward Josh Jackson. The 6-foot-8 Jackson is an Andrew Wiggins clone who has amazing quickness and finishing ability. Jackson improved his draft stock with a sensational performance in the first two games of the tournament. If the Bulls decide to trade Jimmy Butler in a deal for one of the top picks this June, the rangy 20-year-old Jackson would be an ideal replacement. If he ever gets a consistent jump shot, look out. We could be talking about a 25 points per game scorer.

Since Fultz, Ball and Jackson appear to be the kind of players NBA teams build around, the Bulls could potentially negotiate with the teams holding the top 3 picks for the best possible Butler deal. Right now, the Nets (pick will be swapped with Boston), Lakers and Suns own the worst records, and if the order isn't changed by the lottery, the Bulls could obtain a quality package centered around this year's first-round pick and a quality young player from any of the three teams.

Here's a look at how the lottery selections could fall based on the draft order as of March 23.

1. CELTICS (from Brooklyn)  Markelle Fultz  PG   Washington
2. LAKERS                              Lonzo Ball        PG    UCLA
3. SUNS                                  Josh Jackson   SF    Kansas
4. MAGIC                                Jayson Tatum   SF     Duke
5. 76'ers                                  De'Aaron Fox     PG    Kentucky
6. KINGS                                  Malik Monk         SG    Kentucky
7. KNICKS                               Dennis Smith      PG   N. Carolina St.
8. TIMBERWOLVES              Lauri Markkanen  PF    Arizona
9. KINGS (from Pelicans)       Frank Ntilikina      PG    France
10. MAVS                                 Miles Bridges    SF    Michigan St.
11. HORNETS                         Jonathan Isaac   SF    Florida St.
12. BLAZERS                          Justin Jackson   SF    N. Carolina
13. PISTONS                           John Collins      PF     Wake Forest       
14. BULLS                                OG Anunoby     SG-SF   Indiana  

Alright Bulls fans, I'm sure you're asking, why would the Bulls want to draft a player coming off a serious knee injury? Well, the Bulls haven't done all that well drafting productive older players from major programs, so why not roll the dice on a 19-year-old who could develop into the next Butler?

Scouts raved about Anunoby's potential heading into his sophomore season at Indiana. At 6-foot-8, Anunoby has good positional size to play both the small forward and shooting guard spots and figures to be a plus-defender from Day 1 in the NBA. Right now, his rehab from right knee surgery and lack of a consistent jump shot are the biggest concerns, but looking at mock drafts in the 13-20 range, do the Bulls really want to take a project big man or a mystery international player? 

Even if it takes a couple years for Anunoby to reach his ultimate potential, he seems like a good choice in today's position-less NBA. Plus, in the Bulls' current position, they need to take some chances and try to get lucky in landing a future star.

Two other athletic possibilities who are projected as late 1st round picks right now are SMU junior swingman Semi Ojeleye, a 6-foot-7 bundle of energy and muscle who should be able to contribute right away, and Oklahoma St. point guard Jawun Evans, one of the fastest players in the college game who could ignite the Bulls' fast break after Rajon Rondo moves on.

AROUND THE ASSOCIATION

If the Bulls are going to make a late season run to the playoffs, they'll have to find a way to pass two of the league's hottest teams. Milwaukee has won eight of its last 10 games to pull into a 6th place tie with the Pacers, while Miami has been one of the league's biggest surprises over the last two months, going from an 11-30 record on January 13 to 35-36, and a game and a half lead over the Bulls and Pistons for the final playoff spot.

Both late surges are surprising, especially the job Erik Spoelstra has done in Miami. After the controversial departure of Dwyane Wade, Pat Riley decided to hedge his bets for the future and signed a number of journeyman veteran types like Dion Waiters, Wayne Ellington, James Johnson, Derrick Williams and Willie Reed to short-term contracts.

Williams was released and signed on with Cleveland, but Spoelstra and his staff have done a masterful job in piecing together a roster with a lot of duplication into a consistent winning team. Hassan Whiteside has continued to improve, averaging 17 points and 14 rebounds, while the guard rotation of Waiters, Goran Dragic, Ellington and Tyler Johnson has been especially effective.

Bulls fans will remember James Johnson as a guy who arrived from Wake Forest with a lot of potential, but went on to bounce around the league with little success. Now that he's finally in optimal physical shape, Johnson is averaging 12 points, 5 rebounds and 3.5 assists off the bench while doing a strong job on the defensive end.

Spoelstra probably won't win the Coach of the Year award, but it might be his best job yet after losing Wade and Chris Bosh, then seeing promising second-year forward Justise Winslow go out with a season-ending shoulder injury.

It's been a different story in Milwaukee, where the Bucks got off to a fast start behind the amazing rise of Giannis Antetokounmpo to All-Star status. A mid-season slump dropped the Bucks out of the top 8 in the East, and when Chicago native Jabari Parker suffered another devastating ACL injury, it appeared Milwaukee was heading towards another trip to the lottery.

But Bucks' coach Jason Kidd got Khris Middleton back from a hamstring injury, and inserted rookies Thon Maker and Malcolm Brogdon into the starting lineup. All of a sudden, the Bucks took off with Antetokounmpo getting back to his early season production, and the bench unit of Greg Monroe, John Henson, Michael Beasley, Mirza Teletovic, Matthew Dellavedova and Jason Terry becoming a real strength.

It's unlikely either Milwaukee or Miami will be a threat to Cleveland and Boston in the opening round of the playoffs, but the hard work and persistence of those coaching staffs should not be overlooked.

STAT OF THE WEEK

Yet another example of the Bulls' maddening inconsistency under Fred Hoiberg over the last 2 seasons is the number of impressive wins offset by blowout losses.

These numbers courtesy of CSN's stats cruncher, Chris Kamka.

Bulls 20+ point wins and 20+ point losses

(with Fred Hoiberg as Head Coach)

                 20+ point wins             20+ point losses

2016-17              6                           7
2015-16              3                           7

total                      9                          14
========================================
(With Tom Thibodeau as Head Coach)

2014-15              7                           1
2013-14              7                           4
2012-13              5                           5
2011-12             14                          0
2010-11              8                          1

total                     41                         11

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

I'm pretty sure Hoiberg was being sarcastic when asked early in the week if battling for one of the final playoff spots in the East is "fun".

The coach's response? "It's miserable." 

Hoiberg won't get a lot of argument from Bulls fans who see their team stuck in the middle among the 30 NBA franchises right now. That's the worst place to be in professional sports, with no hope of contending for championships and little chance of getting a franchise-changing talent in the draft.