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Ranking The Best NBA Point Guards By Category In The 2021-22 Season

Ranking The Best NBA Point Guards By Category In The 2021-22 Season

The 60s and 70s were dominated by big men. The 90s and 00s were ruled by shooting guards. And our modern version of the NBA has become the age of the point guard.

The NBA is loaded with talented point guards, so much so that a high-quality point guard like De’Aaron Fox, who averaged 23.2 PPG, 3.9 RPG, and 5.6 APG, had no chance of making the All-Star team. It's the same story with Jrue Holiday, a top-tier floor general who couldn't make the NBA's mid-season classic, despite fellow Eastern Conference point guard Ben Simmons sitting out the entire season, and another east coast PG, Kyrie Irving, sitting out for over half the season due to his vaccine stance.

It’s no simple task ranking the NBA’s point guards in a general top-to-bottom list, so we’ve broken things down into 15 categories, ranging from scoring and playmaking to leadership and athleticism.

Here, we’ll rank the most effective point guards of the 2021-22 NBA season by category:


Scoring - Luka Doncic (28.4 PPG)

It seems like every time I tune into a Mavs game, things begin as they should. Dallas runs real basketball plays, and I relax into the rationality of NBA basketball. And then Luka Doncic gets antsy and decides to launch something like a 31-foot off-the-dribble step-back three-pointer from the left corner, a shot that is recklessly irresponsible and should miss by a mile. But it doesn’t miss. It swishes cleanly as Doncic's lips peel up into a quizzical smile. And I say to the TV, “How lucky can this guy get?” And then the following time down the court, he takes another entirely negligent shot, maybe a fadeaway jumper in the lane over the opposing squad’s center, and it goes in again, and he smiles once more, and I say, “Is this guy serious?” And then he does it again. And then he does it again. And then he does it again in the next game. And again in the next game. And it becomes apparent that Luka Doncic isn’t reckless or irresponsible or lucky or negligent. He’s just that good. He’s a 22-year-old point guard heading down the road toward becoming a top-10 all-time scorer in the NBA.


Playmaking - Chris Paul (10.8 APG)

Chris Paul

Chris Paul’s passing resume is about as good as it gets. He’s third all-time in total assists at 10,977, and he’s second all-time in assist percentage at 45.26%. CP3 was up to his usual tricks during the 2021-22 regular season, topping the NBA in assists (10.8 per game), assists points created (27.2 per game), and potential assists (19.6 per game).

There’s more to being the leading playmaking point guard in the NBA than passing. You must be able to create your own looks as well, a skill that has tripped up many NBA players, but not CP3. Chris Paul averaged only 14.7 points per game during the regular season. Still, he was a master at getting buckets when his team needed him, destroying opposing squads with his patented mid-range game (59.2% from 10 to 16 feet) and by using the threat of said patented mid-range game to flash to the rim where he connected on 72.0% of his attempts at the basket.

Please allow Chris Paul’s massive collapse in the playoffs against the less talented Mavs to slide by you. It happens. CP3 is still the premier playmaker in the league, and it isn’t exactly close.


Rebounding - Luka Doncic (9.1 RPG)

Luka Doncic Admits He Was Aware Of Having The Same Number Of Points As Phoenix Suns At Halftime In Game 7: “Yes Of Course.”

Rebounding isn’t flashy. It does not make you fall off your seat in pure amazement. It also doesn't take a tremendous amount of skill or talent. Still, if you listen to the current or former NBA head coaches, they’ll tell you rebounding wins championships. They’re right, of course. Snagging the ball so that the opposing team doesn’t have another chance to score is essential to winning basketball games, and thus a title.

Luka Doncic is the most productive rebounding point guard in the league with 9.1 boards per game. He uses his 6'7", 230-pound frame expertly to fight off opposing big men in the lane and snag boards. And his rebounding has led to wins, evidenced by his Mavs squad’s sooner-than-expected arrival to the NBA’s final four.


Defense - Marcus Smart (3.7 Defensive Win Shares)

Marcus Smart won the 2021-22 Defensive Player of the Year Award as the league’s premier perimeter defender. Smart is the rare NBA athlete with the size and speed to guard positions 1 through 4, making him one of the most switchable defenders in a league that craves players who can cover multiple scorers during one possession.

Smart was the engine of the Celtics’ number one ranked defense during the regular season as their energizer and motivator. Smart gave 120% throughout every defensive possession, jumping passing lanes, locking down the opposing squad’s most effective perimeter scorer, and launching out to stifle open shooters beyond the arc.


Shooting - Stephen Curry (285 Total Three-Pointers)

Stephen Curry is the most prolific three-point shooter in NBA history. He’s first all-time in three-point makes at 3,117, and he’s 12th all-time in three-point percentage at 42.8%. Curry has combined the type of volume and precision from deep with the ability to hit from anywhere at any time under any circumstance in a way that was unthinkable 15 years ago.

Stephen Curry was at it again this season. His 285 total three-pointers made, as well as his 4.5 three-pointers per game, were tops in the league. Curry consistently stretched opposing defenses beyond their limits with his long distance stroke, which helped lead the Warriors to the number three seed in the Western Conference and a trip to the third round.


Finishing - Ja Morant (70.6% From 0-3 Feet)

Ja Morant

Ja Morant transformed from a non-All-Star a year ago to the seventh-place finisher in NBA MVP voting this season based mainly on his ability to pressure opposing defenses with his finishing ability at the rim. Morant led the association in 2021-22 with 14.8 points off drives this season, scoring at an excellent 51.0% clip as he leveraged his league-best first step with his nearly league-best handles to explode past his man getting into the teeth of opposing defenses.

Going beyond the numbers, Morant features a mind-numbing array of finishing moves, including one-handed jams, lefty or righty scoop shots, and ridiculous poster dunks over opposing centers he can trigger from as far as ten feet away from the basket.


Athleticism - Ja Morant

Ja Morant is the most athletic point guard in the NBA, and it isn’t close. Morant has video game hops he uses to routinely break the hearts of opposing big men who dare to stop him from obliterating the rim. Morant is so much more than just a springy kangaroo-type athlete. He has stop-on-a-dime handles he unleashes to rock his defender on his heels, creating space, and he also has a top-5 spin move in the lane.


Clutch - Ja Morant (119 Clutch Points)

Ja Morant

Ja Morant led the Grizzlies to a 17-9 record during 26 clutch games in the 2021-22 season. He was also second among all point guards in total clutch scoring, with 119 points for the season. Morant is the quintessential NBA clutch player because he rarely settles for long distance shots when the game is on the line. Instead, he goes old-school, using his incredible athleticism to pressure opposing defenses, leaving the onus on the refs to blow the whistle when he’s inevitably hacked at the rim.


Efficiency - Trae Young (25.48 PER)

Trae Young

Trae Young tops the point guard leaderboard in ESPN’s efficiency rating (PER), a metric that, “returns a value for each of a player’s accomplishments. That includes positive accomplishments such as field goals, free throws, 3-pointers, assists, rebounds, blocks and steals, and negative ones such as missed shots, turnovers and personal fouls.”

Trae Young averaged 28.4 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 9.7 APG, and 0.9 SPG while shooting 38.2% from deep. He also limited his turnovers to a manageable 4.0 per game despite ranking 4th in the NBA in usage rate at 34.4%. All of which means he was the most efficient point guard in the NBA during the 2021-22 season.


Leadership - Chris Paul

Chris Paul Claps Back At Charles Barkley And Shaquille O'Neal For Betting He Wouldn't Get 12 Assists: "I Can Get Chuck Some Buckets Now Even The Way He Looks."

Chris Paul just led the Suns through one of the most aggressive, legacy-crippling freeze-ups in NBA history during the tail end of the Western Conference Semifinals, losing by a combined 60 points across the final two games. Still, CP3 did guide Phoenix to the best overall record in the NBA during the regular season as their two-way floor general who initiated the offense and barked out orders on defense, an accomplishment we can’t take for granted.


Versatility - Luka Doncic

Luka Doncic

Doncic is easily the most versatile point guard in the NBA, a player who has more scoring functions than my mom’s new pressure cooker (and that’s saying something because, for something like $39.99, you can buy a pressure cooker that makes jam, yogurt, rice, and bread along with your typical soups, stews, and porridges). Luka Doncic is an above-average three-point shooter who uses his size and footwork to burn his man in the post, on isolation sets, and off-the-dribble in the mid-range.


Handles - Kyrie Irving

You can say what you want about Kyrie Irving’s commitment to helping the Brooklyn Nets win a title, or his vaccine stance. But you can’t say he’s not a pure baller because he is, in fact, (it’s 90% scientific) a pure baller with Yo-Yo handles who plays with a basketball like it’s attached to a string attached to his finger. Kyrie Irving serves his defenders with a myriad of outlandish crossovers, hesitation moves, and spins he employs to create separation for a jumper or a jaunt into the lane.


Underrated - Jrue Holiday

Jrue Holiday

I appreciate Darius Garland’s skill-set as much as the next man, but how did he make the 2021-22 All-Star team over Jrue Holiday? Sure, Garland averaged 21.7 PPG compared to Holiday’s 18.3 PPG, and he also averaged exactly two more assists per game than the Bucks point guard. Darius Garland is probably a slightly better off-the-bounce scorer than Holiday, and his passing vision is also slightly superior. Still, Jrue Holiday is a much better long-range shooter (41.1 3P%, 15th in the NBA), and he’s a top-10 perimeter defender, two qualities that have become essential in today’s NBA.

Jrue Holiday has made precisely one All-Star team during his 13-season career, which isn’t exactly a crime but is certainly negligence.


Overrated - Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook

Could it be anyone else?

Russell Westbrook enthusiasts love to chatter on about his stats, inevitably confronting you with his four triple-double seasons while you’re trying to have a leisurely sunset stroll on the beach with your wife. OK, Russell Westbrook did indeed average a triple-double during four separate seasons, but to what end? Did they result in a championship? Or a trip to the Finals? Or a trip to the Conference Finals? No, they didn’t.

And since Russell Westbrook enthusiasts love to discuss his stats, here are some of his 2021-22 metrics:

Russell Westbrook was the 17th worst high-volume long distance shooter in the NBA last season with a 29.8% hit rate from three.

Russell Westbrook was second in the NBA in total turnovers in 2021-22 with 295 giveaways, despite landing 29th in the NBA in usage rate at 27.3%.

Russell Westbrook ranked 137th in the NBA in Defensive Box Plus/Minus (-0.8) and allowed his assignments to shoot 3.3% better than their typical average, even though he possesses every necessary physical agency to be a top-5 defender (Westbrook is the same height and almost the same weight as Marcus Smart, and clearly more athletic than the reigning Defensive Player of the Year).


Overall - Luka Doncic

Luka Doncic

Luka Doncic nearly averaged a triple-double during the 2021-22 season (28.4 PPG, 9.1 RPG, and 8.7 APG) as he led his team to the Western Conference Finals. He was first among all point guards in rebounds per game, and he was fifth in potential assists with 17.0 per game.

Let’s go deeper.

Luka Doncic was first among all point guards (minimum 2 possessions per game) in points per possession out of isolation sets at 1.11 PPP.

Deeper.

Luka Doncic was third in the NBA in points out of the pick and roll with 12.0 per game with an excellent 51.0 EFG%.

Even deeper.

Luka Doncic was third in the NBA in points off drives at 12.5 PPG with a ridiculous 55.5% hit rate.

Luka Doncic isn’t merely a clichéd multi-tool player; he’s an every-tool player. He can burn you with his shooting, passing, rebounding, drives, pick and roll play, and off his drives to the rack.


The 2021-22 Season Was Another Excellent Point Guard Season

Luka Doncic was the most effective overall point guard in the NBA during the 2021-22 NBA season, but he wasn’t the only excellent floor general. Chris Paul, 37, proved he was still the most valuable playmaker and leader among all point guards, while Stephen Curry was the leading shooter and Marcus Smart was the top defender.

Ja Morant made the leap in 2021-22, morphing into a destructive force at the basket, and Trae Young proved he was an efficient PG. Kyrie Irving still handles the rock better than any other NBA player and Jrue Holiday was the most underrated point guard of the year.

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