Ranking the rookie point guards
With less than one full season as evidence, it is still too early to proclaim the rookie point guard class of 2009-10 to be among the best of the past quarter century. It will be a while before we know if this crop can rival the class of 1987 (
But we can say that the quality and quantity of this year's first-year floor generals have been auspicious thus far. Point guards should grab the top four spots in the Rookie of the Year race, and another half dozen are regarded as valuable future assets by their respective teams.
In the interest of dramatizing the depth of this class -- and hopefully starting a few arguments -- I offer up my ranking of this year's top 10 rookie point guards. There is no set methodology here. I've perused a raft of smart, stat-oriented Web sites -- I'll often cite, from
This is a conventional pick -- Evans is the ROY favorite -- but a very close call. Evans has some maddening foibles, like incessant dribbling and only so-so court vision even when he's inclined to give up the ball. His assist-per-minute frequency is eighth among the 10 point guards being considered here, and the Kings' offense is
But at 6-foot-6, 220 pounds, Evans has the physique of a linebacker and the quickness and agility of a mountain lion.
"Right away this guy showed he was physically ready to take on NBA players and sometimes physically dominate them," the scout said. "That's a huge thing to be able to say about a rookie."
In fact, it's helped Evans get to the free-throw line an average of 6.4 times per 36 minutes, easily tops among rookie points. The rugged style also pays off on defense -- the Kings permit 2.7 fewer points per 100 possessions when Evans is on the court.
"He's probably the toughest matchup for me defensively [among rookies] because of his size," Brooks said. "One thing he needs to work on is his shooting, but once he gets that down, he's going to be a phenomenal player."
Evans showed his alpha-dog mentality when backcourt mate
ABC analyst and former coach
"His passing is underrated," Brooks said.
Questions about Curry's fitness to play the point coming out of college seem absurd now. He intuitively dribbles to optimize spacing for his teammates and deploys the right feed -- a wraparound bounce pass while driving through the lane, an expertly lofted baseball toss in stride to a teammate in transition -- with nonchalant fluidity. A deadly outside marksman (41.6 percent from beyond the arc), he shoots less frequently than most of the Warriors' starters and half of the point guards in this ranking.
His primary weakness is a frail physique that makes him seem smaller than his listed height of 6-3 and leaves him susceptible to hard traps on the perimeter.
"He's not a terrific athlete who can finish over other guys," the scout said. "And his defense is never going to be a strength" -- though in
Because Lawson plays behind
"He can drive, he can shoot, he can get his teammates involved. I'd say right now he is probably the most complete of all of the rookie point guards," Brooks said.
Lawson was the 18th pick in the draft and the seventh point guard selected.
"I don't know why he didn't get picked sooner," the scout said. "He's quick, strong, competitive, very well-rounded. What a great pick for them. I guess if he has a weakness, it would be his shooting."
If so, Denver will settle for 51.4 percent from the field, including 43.2 percent from three-point range.
Who would have guessed that the 55 points Jennings hung on Golden State in November would boomerang back on his reputation? That shooting explosion focused an inordinate amount of attention on what turns out to be a notoriously inaccurate jumper. But while Jennings' field-goal percentage has declined for four straight months, he has become the minutes leader on a team improbably overachieving its way into the playoffs.
The Bucks don't run much -- they're 27th in fast-break points -- but the 6-1 Jennings' court vision and ball-handling have fostered crisp, rapid passes and minimal turnovers in the half-court set. He leads all rookies in assists, and has the highest usage rate -- a calibration of how often a player is involved in his team's plays when he is on the court -- of any player ranked here, yet turns the ball over less frequently per minute than any of them but Lawson and Atlanta's
"Jennings is very quick, very fast, a sparkplug type of player," Brooks said. "You can get in trouble overplaying him to his left because he'll go the other way and take advantage of you."
Said the scout: "The best comparison I've heard is to [fellow left-hander]
I'd say his weakness is that clanging jumper. He's helped some by being more accurate on threes (38.3 percent) than he is overall (36.6 percent). But when you shoot more frequently per minute than any other rookie point guard and have an anemic 46.8 true shooting percentage to show for it, that's problematic.
Collison fans can certainly make an argument that he's ranked too low. Despite just 26 starts, he's already compiled eight games with double-figure assists (Curry is next best with four), including Monday's 20-assist extravaganza against (who else?) the Warriors. Along with his rookie-best assist-per-minute totals, Collison is rangy and opportunistic on defense. He's also level-headed with a good temperament for the locker room.
But my view is that Collison looks better on paper than he does on the court. His assist totals are somewhat inflated by an offense geared to maximize the passing contributions of
Collison also tries too often to make the spectacular play in crunch time -- jumping the passing lane for a steal instead of maintaining on-ball defense, or driving hard for a layup in deep traffic rather than probing for an open look for West, Stojakovic or his prolific rookie backcourt mate,
All that said, Collison is a tremendous value as the 21st pick in the draft and easily one of the league's most pleasant surprises filling in for Paul for large parts of this season.
"Darren has learned a lot from Chris," Brooks said. "He's not the best shooter but he's smart and quick. If you relax for a minute, he will split right by you."
Flynn, the No. 6 pick, has been a disappointment. The conventional wisdom is that he's been hamstrung by coach
Part of the problem is that Flynn is accustomed to freelancing, mostly via a steady diet of high pick-and-rolls. He's lightning-quick and can get to the rim, but his outside shot hasn't been falling often enough (he's shooting 35.8 percent from three point range, and 42.2 percent overall) to make defenses pay for packing the paint against
Brooks and the scout have a more charitable view.
"I like Jonny Flynn," Brooks said. "He reminds me a lot of myself as far as being what they call a 'shoot-first' point guard. But I look at it as him trying to be a leader and do what it takes to win."
Said the scout: "I agree that he is looking to score, but that roster doesn't have a lot of good shooters, so maybe they need that. My suspicion is that he doesn't see a lot of the court anyway, and that it is a weakness that he is a 'me-first' shooter. But you don't know until that team gets some help."
Back in mid-November, when Maynor was still in Utah and
A disciplined, pass-first point guard who takes pride in his defense, he was just right for
"He is not ultraquick or ultraphysical, but he does have a little savvy and court presence about him," the scout said.
The NBA's youngest player (he turns 20 on June 12) has benefited from the chaos and underachievement in Philadelphia, which jump-started a rebuilding project and led to his 31 starts and counting. Holiday's shooting percentage has risen every month and he's now up to 40.2 percent from three-point range (but just 41.4 percent overall) for the season. Like most every aspect of his game, his defense needs seasoning, but giving a rugged, energetic teen like Holiday constant playing time instead of the ghost of
"The question that was being circled was, Why did he come out so early when he didn't have a huge year in college [as a freshman at UCLA]?" the scout said. "He's still a very unfinished product."
The dean of NBA point guards,
The emergence of Sixth Man Award candidate