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By Shawn Clarke, NBA Contributor - Archive - Email
NBA keeping its guard up
(L-R) Chris Paul, John Wall, Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry A point guard in basketball is often referred to as the "quarterback" or "floor general".
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The point guard and quarterback share interesting similarities in an otherwise opposite world of sports.

A point guard in basketball is often referred to as the "quarterback" or "floor general" of the hardwood. They take instructions and facilitate them among teammates with the end result a productive combination.

Point guards and quarterbacks are responsible for orchestrating a winning formula in their respective sports, and the most common job requirement for each position is getting the ball into a playmaker's hands.

The NFL is going through another golden age of quarterbacks with Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Andrew Luck and a solid tier No. 2 of signal callers right behind. It's up for debate if this generation of QBs exceeds the days of Dan Marino, Joe Montana, John Elway and Warren Moon.

Point guards are prosperous in the NBA and the Rajon Rondo trade piques the interest of those who deliberate over the best in basketball.

Below is an unofficial, and opinionated, list of the top 10 point guards:

10. Darren Collison (Sacramento Kings) - Collison is in his first season with the Kings and is hoping to find a permanent home after stints with the Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks the previous two seasons. He leads the Kings with 6.1 assists per game and is dealing with a team under new supervision with the recent firing of Mike Malone. DeMarcus Cousins is back from an illness, so Collison's job will be easier. Rudy Gay is at his disposal under Tyrone Corbin's philosophy.

9. Rajon Rondo (Dallas Mavericks) - Rumored to be on the trading block for a few years, Rondo was finally shipped out of Beantown to the successful surroundings of Dallas. Not known anymore as a high-powered scorer, Rondo does possess the knack for distributing the ball. An ACL tear with Rondo may have hampered Boston's bargaining power, but the deal was done and now he has four scorers to work with in Nowitzki, Ellis, Chandler and Parsons. Rondo's a solid defender and rebounder with an NBA-high 10.8 assists per game, and is joining the highest-scoring team in the league.

8. Mike Conley (Memphis Grizzlies) - Conley is loving the opportunity he has playing with the Grizzlies. He's got Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol down low and is also a scorer himself with a career-high 17.6 points per game, which is second on the team. Conley doesn't slouch on defense either for Memphis, one of the top defensive units in the association.

7. Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers) - Irving no longer has to carry the Cleveland torch through futility because LeBron James and Kevin Love are here to make it all better. Irving does like to get his share of shots, however, and is arguably the top scoring PG in the game. Irving has scored 20 or more points on 14 occasions this season and has dished out five or more assists in each of the past seven games. He has the dream job for now with LBJ and Love.

6. Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors) - He may resemble Bad Boy label rapper Mase, but Lowry can mix it up with anyone on the floor. Lowry was looked upon to carry the Raptors and keep them even-keeled when star guard DeMar DeRozan went down with a severe groin injury. Lowry knows how to get everyone involved and learned that at a young age. The former Villanova standout has handed out 10 or more assists five times in December and leads the team with 36 steals. Toronto is already the best in the East and Lowry deserves the credit.

5. Ty Lawson (Denver Nuggets) - A scrappy, compact ball of fire, Lawson lets the Nuggets breathe where the air doesn't come easy. Lawson, who has posted a double-double in 10 of his last 13 games, is averaging 15.4 points, a career- high 10.6 assists and 1.50 steals in almost 38 minutes a night. Lawson and Washington Wizards guard John Wall are tied for second in assists with 10.6. Lawson is Denver's MVP so far and if Kenneth Faried can pick up his game, maybe the Nuggets can make a run for the playoffs. Lawson leads the NBA in drives to the basket, posting 15.0 ppg in that scenario, and has handed out nine or more assists over the past 18 games. He has 16 games with 10-plus assists this season.

4. Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers) - One of the smoothest point guards in the better of the two conferences, Lillard is young and still has room to grow. For how difficult that may be to realize, Lillard is second on the team with 20.8 points and first in assists (6.2) and steals (1.5). Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge are making sweet music in Rip City and the dangerous tandem is about to begin a difficult stretch of games. Portland's mettle will be tested during the stretch and Lillard will be up for the challenge. Lillard is known for his 3-point prowess, another weapon the Blazers have utilized. Only four players in NBA history have more points and assists in their first two seasons (Robertson, Archibald, Iverson, James).

3a Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors) - Curry was the impetus for Golden State's franchise-record 16-game winning streak and some credit should deservedly be directed toward Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Marreese Speights. Curry leads all starting point guards with 23.9 points and has handed out 7.6 assists. The sharpshooting Curry has the Warriors off to a 21-3 start, the best in franchise history. Golden State has no issues playing on the road as evidenced by a 13-2 record. Thompson said about a week ago the Warriors are good without Curry, but great with him.

3b Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder) - Westbrook is a dynamic scorer and facilitator, and suffered a scare early this season with a hand injury. He's back and doing what he does best: run the floor, speed past defenders and stuff the stat sheet. Westbrook and the Thunder are beginning to click, but the quick guard may have to deal without Kevin Durant again after the reigning NBA MVP sustained an ankle injury in the most recent game. OKC is 8-4 with Westbrook in the lineup and he has scored at least 20 points 11 times. KD, Westbrook, Reggie Jackson and Serge Ibaka should capture a fifth or sixth seed in the playoffs unless health becomes an issue again.

2. John Wall (Washington Wizards) - This is supposed to be the year the Wizards overthrow the Miami Heat in both the Southeast Division and Eastern Conference. Toronto, Atlanta and Cleveland may have something to say about that in the East. Wall leads the Wizards in points (17.8), assists (10.6) and steals (2.2), and just matched a career-high with 17 assists in a win over Minnesota. Wall has handed out 10-plus assists eight times in the past nine games and has stepped it up in home defense, posting 18.7 points, 11.5 assists and 5.1 rebounds at the Verizon Center. Wall, Bradley Beal and Marcin Gortat are primed to make a big run if all goes well.

1. Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers) - What's not to like about CP3? Nothing. The guy can do it all: pass the rock, score the rock and land clients an affordable State Farm Insurance rate. Of course the latter was a reference to the company's popular insurance ads, but Paul is ensuring the success rate of the Los Angeles Clippers for years to come. It's quite elementary for Paul, who has it easy with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan to loft the ball to. Jamal Crawford providing a lift off the bench helps, too. Paul is a strong defender with 1.9 steals per game to go along with 9.7 assists, and is the cream of the NBA crop of point guards.

Honorable mention - Tony Parker, Derrick Rose, Jeff Teague, Deron Williams, Kemba Walker, Ricky Rubio, Brandon Jennings, Trey Burke, Mario Chalmers, Eric Bledsoe. Note: Injuries to Rose and Rubio have altered this list significantly.


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