The Golden State Warriors are your 2016-2017 NBA Champions. Now that the season has come to an end, lets take a look at the leagues top 10 guards.
10. Damian Lillard
Lillard may fall to the bottom of this list through no fault of his own. The Portland Trailblazers do not have as many scoring weapons as the teams of the other guards on this list, so Damian tends to get more defensive pressure than they do. While Lillard is able to shake defenders on the perimeter and score at will, which is evident by the 50+ point performances he’s had in his career, a strong Western Conference schedule often places him in front of elite guards who can key on him. This forces him to put the ball in the hands of a weaker teammate who will not necessarily score, which also means no assist –even on a good pass.
9. DeMar DeRozen
DeRozan is best known for his athleticism and ability to finish at the rim. But what drives him to the #8 spot is his inability to score from outside the arc. Even though DeRozan had a career-high year in scoring and field goal attempts, his poor shooting stroke allows defenses to give him space and dare him to let loose. DeRozan operates best from the block and when scoring off screens from teammates, but his streaky outside shooting could still use improvement.
8. Klay Thompson
Thompson is one of the league’s premiere shooters, with opponents having to keep an eye on the Golden State Warrior whenever he is on the arc. Thompson’s scoring could have dipped with the addition of Kevin Durant, but Thompson’s accuracy from deep, coupled with the added attention given to Durant, has given him opportunities to continue to contribute. He falls this low because he does not have the playmaking abilities that the other guards have, but Klay is still an important piece in Golden State’s success.
7. Kyrie Irving
There is not much argument about Kyrie being the best ball-handler in the NBA. He has a dizzying array of moves that often leave defenders grasping for air. Still, as long as Kyrie is on the super-team Cleveland Cavaliers, he is going to play in LeBron’s shadow. Where the spotlight shines is on his inconsistent defense. Another knock on Kyrie is his durability, which caused him to miss most of his only collegiate season at Duke, and has parlayed into his not playing a full 82 game season in his career.
6. Chris Paul
Years ago, Paul would have been ranked in the top three on this list. His ability to score or make a strong assist in the pick-and-roll is among the best in the game. However, Father Time is creeping up on Paul, and his Los Angeles Clippers teammates have been susceptible to the injury bug that has bitten Paul as well in recent seasons. Even though he had a career high in three-point percentage, he is proving to be less dangerous to opponents, which drops him to the bottom half of the rankings.
5. Isaiah Thomas
The King of the Fourth, as Thomas is known around the league, is a premier clutch player. The Boston Celtics won or closed out games because of Thomas’s ability to score when it matters most. However, Thomas’s size, at 5-9, makes him the shortest player on this list and limits his ability to grab rebounds and adequately defend the tallest guards. Even behind his division rival in Wall, Thomas had a career-best season, looking to potentially vault over Wall in years to come.
4. John Wall
Wall is the best point guard in the East and he led a young Washington Wizards team to fourth place without the supporting cast of the higher-ranked guards. Wall has uncanny athleticism and phenomenal court vision. Although his accuracy from beyond the arc is improving, he attempts fewer than half the long-range shots of the top guards and is not the same presence on the boards. Nevertheless, alongside Bradley Beal, and at the helm of a young team, Wall has Washington primed to challenge Cleveland and Boston in the East.
3. Steph Curry
Curry cooled off this season from last year’s MVP pace as he looked to share the ball more with the rest of the Golden State Warriors’ star-studded cast. Even as maestro of the NBA’s best team, Curry’s season as facilitator dropped him to third in the rankings. Similar to Harden, Curry’s team relies heavily on three-point shooting and isolation plays, which hurt Curry’s assist and scoring numbers compared to the players ranked above him. Also, compared to Westbrook, he remains a defensive liability.
2. James Harden
2016-2017 was Harden’s first season playing point guard in his NBA career, and he won’t be moving out of that spot any time soon given his phenomenal year. Harden just missed averaging a triple-double himself, coming up shy in rebounds. As the pilot of the Houston Rockets’ high-octane offense, Harden was the catalyst to the NBA’s highest-scoring team. But the Rockets’ reliance on the three-point shot left Harden and the team a little short, and his often-porous defense puts him behind Westbrook in the rankings.
1. Russell Westbrook
Westbrook set the league on fire in 2016-17, becoming the second player in NBA history to average a triple-double per game in one season (double-digits in point, rebounds and assists). And he wasn’t just stuffing his own stats. The Oklahoma City Thunder were 32-9 in games when Russ had a triple-double, rising to the sixth seed in the highly competitive Western Conference. Westbrook also won the NBA scoring title, finished second in assists, and was the only guard to finish in the top 10 in rebounding—versatility that makes him the best guard in the game.