With the NBA’s history of explosive forwards and indomitable centers, point guards tend to get overlooked. Most NBA fans, for instance, have several memories of Michael Jordan, but forget the important shots that point guards John Paxson and Steve Kerr made during Jordan’s tenure with the Bulls. Often referred to as the quarterbacks of their respective offences, point guards have generally been known as good passers with sound fundamentals—the sidekicks to their teams’ superhero scorers.
Of course, some of the league’s best all-time players have been point guards. One cannot downplay the role that Isiah Thomas played on those dominant Piston squads, or imagine the Lakers in the 80s without Magic Johnson. Johnson and Thomas, however, were especially notable because of the way they transcended what was typically expected from the point guard position. They were exceptions to the rule.
In the new millennium, however, the NBA has seen the rise of a talented group of point guards who score as well as (if not better than) they pass. Since Mike D’Antoni’s days as the Phoenix Suns’ head coach, with Steve Nash leading the team’s high-scoring attack, a steady shift from center-oriented to guard-oriented offences has occurred. As a result, more is expected from today’s point guards. Whether it’s fast-breaking up and down the floor, dissecting the defense before throwing the perfect lob pass, or erupting from behind the arc, today’s point guards are not just important to their offences; they are vital. Teams cannot overlook the point guard position, and as the NBA’s guard-oriented culture shows few signs of change, it appears that, in the years to come, point guards will continue to play polyvalent roles for their respective teams.
Since 2000, point guards have won three MVP awards—Steve Nash in 2005 and 2006 and Derrick Rose in 2011—an award that a point guard had not won since Magic Johnson in the 80s. Today's point guards routinely challenge for the league’s MVP, and it seems likely that another one will win the coveted award in the near future.
Salaries have begun to reflect the point guard’s importance. This season, eight point guards will make more than $10 million—an increase from last year, when seven point guards eclipsed the $10 million mark. This list looks at the league’s ten highest-paid point guards based on 2013-2014 salaries.
10 Jrue Holiday - New Orleans Pelicans - $9,714,484 in 2013-14
Though his stats are down this year, Jrue Holiday remains one of the most promising NBA talents. At the tender age of 23, this former UCLA Bruin averages over fourteen points and close to eight assists per game. Hurt by injuries to key players, New Orleans has the worst record in a tough Southwest division. However, the squad is loaded with talented young players like Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon. With Holiday leading the team in assists and steals, New Orleans has the requisite pieces to climb the standings in the uber-competitive Western Conference, though the team may be a year or two away from making that leap.
9 Stephen Curry - Golden State Warriors - $9,887,642 in 2013-14
The son of Dell Curry, Stephen Curry exploded onto the national scene with his stellar performance for Davidson in the NCAA playoffs. Since then, Curry has not ceased to amaze basketball fans with his deft shooting touch. Curry, who ended the 2012-2013 season with 272 made three-pointers, breaking Ray Allen's record, has proven that he is worth his contract. This year Curry is averaging twenty-three points and over nine assists per game, as he leads one of the NBA's most exciting attacks. His squad looks poised to make another run in the NBA playoffs.
8 Ty Lawson - Denver Nuggets - $10,786,517 in 2013-14
With his team struggling under new head coach Brian Shaw, Ty Lawson is nevertheless having a career year in terms of offensive production, averaging eighteen points and over eight assists per game. At 5'11, Lawson gets the most out of his height, justifying his lucrative contract. He and his squad will have to improve their consistency, if they want to make the playoffs in the Western Conference. In any case, Lawson's importance to his team as a passing and scoring threat cannot be overstated.
7 Tyreke Evans - New Orleans Pelicans - $11,796,247 in 2013-14
Despite winning the Rookie of the Year award in 2010, Tyreke Evans' numbers have steadily declined since. Most NBA fans expected Evans to make a positive impact on a young New Orleans squad, but he is having his worst year as a professional, plagued by injuries and averaging a career low in points. Making over $11 million this season, Evans still has to prove that he is worth his expensive contract.
6 Rajon Rondo - Boston Celtics - $11,954,545 in 2013-14
Nate Robinson once called Rajon Rondo the best point guard in the league. This year, though, Rondo has been unable to corroborate Robinson's assertion, as he continues to recover from last year's season-ending injury. With Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett being traded to Brooklyn, Rondo will return to a drastically different Boston team. Still, averaging over ten assists per game the last three seasons he has been active, Rondo has proven that he is worth his contract.
5 Tony Parker - San Antonio Spurs - $12,500,000 in 2013-14
Though Tony Parker and the Spurs lost to the Heat in last year's NBA finals, they have not missed a beat this season, as the team leads the Southwest division. Parker's offensive production is down from last year, as he is averaging 18.1 points and 6.4 assists per game, but he shoots the ball efficiently, making over 51 percent of his shots. His consistency and efficiency show why he is one of the league's highest-paid point guards.
4 Russell Westbrook - Oklahoma City Thunder - $14,693,906 in 2013-14
Russell Westbrook’s shift from shooting guard to point guard affords a lucid example of how the role of the point guard has changed. Like Derrick Rose, Westbrook can penetrate the defense at will, using his athleticism to dominate defenders. As last year’s playoffs showed, Oklahoma needs Westbrook if the team wants to succeed in the playoffs. Thus far in the 2013-3014 season, Westbrook is averaging 21.3 points and 7 assists per game—numbers that prove why he is one of the NBA's highest-paid point guards.
3 Derrick Rose - Chicago Bulls - $17,632,688 in 2013-14
Since his spectacular MVP season in 2010-2011, Derrick Rose has been plagued by injuries. Fans expected Rose to return to form this season, but another unfortunate injury has sidelined him. The hapless Bulls' front-office has now begun the process of restructuring their team, having sent Luol Deng to the Cavaliers for Andrew Bynum, who looks to be no more than a cipher for a new-look Bulls team. Few experts would argue, however, that Rose is not worth his contract. He has the ability to get to the rim at will, and though he will not return this season, experts will still regard Rose as one of the position’s best when he returns.
2 Deron Williams - Brooklyn Nets - $18,466,130 in 2013-14
Unfortunately, Deron Williams has fallen short of fans' expectations in Brooklyn. This season, Williams' numbers are rather low for a point guard who makes over $18 million, as he is averaging less than fifteen points and seven assists per game. However, he has battled injuries this season, the team has a new head coach, and the addition of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett has been largely unsuccessful. There is still time for Williams to prove that he is worth his lucrative contract, but fans will view anything less than an appearance in the second-round of the playoffs as a failure for Williams and company.
1 Chris Paul - Los Angeles Clippers - $18,668,431 in 2013-14
With Derrick Rose out again, Chris Paul's place at the top of the NBA's talented crop of point guards seems unassailable. The Clippers stop and start with Paul, as few players in the NBA mean more to their team than he does. Paul is having his best year as a Clipper, averaging 19.6 points and 11.2 assists per game—numbers that make Steve Nash's MVP stats look poor in comparison. With the addition of head coach Doc Rivers and sharpshooters J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley, the Paul-led Clippers finally look prepared for a successful playoff run. If the Clippers finish the season strong, Paul could become the fifth point guard in league history to win the MVP award.
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