2010-2011 NBA Chat: Rajon Rondo, Deron Williams, and Russell Westbrook - The New Point Gods

In our weekly chat we chat about a trending topic in the NBA world. This week, Eric Perdiguerra calls this the era of the "Point God" with the amazing talent, leadership, and athleticism of Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, and more. What is a "Point God" and do the Warriors have one...or two?

Eric: Episode 4 in the flesh. Happy belated Thanksgiving to you Brian, and everyone else out there. Amazing that four weeks have passed by so quickly. Gotta love basketball, man. The first month into the NBA season and there are a number of story lines beginning to unfold throughout the league right now.

Everybody seems to have an opinion about the Miami Heat's slow start and Erik Spoelstra's status of employment (even Phil Jackson apparently). Not to mention the various opinions people seem to have of the early repercussions of Lebron's decision (as spoofed by the city of Cleveland, South Park, and Michael Jordan himself). I also find it amazing that Cleveland fans are being asked (required) to show restraint when Lebron arrives back at Quicken Loans Arena. Dan Gilbert got to write a snappy little letter, but fans are being restricted from wearing any anti-King apparel as well as holding up any signs talking negatively about said decision-maker. Instead of the many signs telling Lebron what he should and shouldn't do, we're left with the standard Maurice Williams and Boobie Gibson signs. BUT, in what might be a bigger phenomenon, the arrival of John Wall, the ascension of Derrick Rose, the emergence of Russell Westbrook, and the resurgence of Chris Paul, I think the point guard position is really on another level right now. While Rajon Rondo arnd Chris Paul are racking up a ridiculous average of assists per game (14 and 10), guys like Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook are putting up big scoring numbers (2nd & 8th in the league in scoring), offering another element to have to defend against.


So come with it, Brian. Who do you think is the best point guard in the NBA right now?

Brian: Jeremy Lin.

Just kidding. Now that I got everyone's attention, I think the best point guard of the moment is Deron Williams. After saying that, I expect all the Chris Paul and Derrick Rose fans to crucify me now.

But honestly, after replacing Carlos Boozer with Al Jefferson (someone with no track record of winning), losing shooting guards in William's BFF Ronnie Brewer and then Wesley Matthews, and having to manage Andrei Kirilenko's confidence issues, Williams has led this team to a very impressive 13-5 record. Stats aside, Williams has proven that he knows how to win and he's got the swag that makes you believe it, too. With the recent come-from-behind victory against arguably the #1 team in the Western Conference (if not the league) in the Lakers last week, I'm convinced that Williams has, at least temporarily, taken the #1 spot.

Eric: Haha hence you selecting him, what was it fourth in our fantasy league? It's definitely hard to argue against Deron Williams. Besides a career average at just about 10 assists a game, Williams has proven himself to be more than a solid scorer with at least 20 points a game and respectable percentages across the board. Not to mention his early playoff track record, Deron Williams is undeniably one of the game's upper echelon point guards. His threat to score indeed emphasizes his ability to dish. Unlike Rajon Rondo, who despite his robust assist numbers, his inconsistent shot makes you wonder why teams don't just force him to shoot and make his jumper kill you. In 4 ½ weeks alone (roughly 13 games), Rondo has had a 24 assist night, three 17s, a 16, and two 15s. The level of experienced talent in Boston might be a tremendous factor here, but that's still something kind of ridiculous. I might have to go in a crazy direction and say Rondo is the best pure point guard right now. If indeed the true essence of a "Point God"* is to facilitate the offense, get everyone involved, and systematically disassemble opposing defenses, Rajon Rondo drives the bus. Granted he has shooting deficiencies that might make him less appealing to build your team around, but he's also doing what he's doing in spite of those said deficiencies. Many times he's able to get to the basket at will because of the threat he has to dish to cutters inside or outside of his peripheral.

Brian: Wow, Rondo? I'll give it to you that Rondo, during the playoffs, is arguably the best player in the whole league. His consistent post-season averages last two seasons of 16-10-8 remind me of Magic Johnson or Jason Kidd. If Rondo, a "point god," drives the bus, then I think Williams steers a battleship! And I guess that's what matters most (ahem ahem Dirk Nowitski 2006-7). And while "advanced" statistical evidence support your theory that Rondo is better than Williams, I would like to read these stats in a different way to show that Williams is, indeed, better.

Case in point, Rondo has an incredible +113 total +/- but above him are Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce with 155+ and 152+ ratings respectively. Shaquille O'Neal and Ray Allen are right below Rondo, too. Compare that with the much less experienced "winners" that Williams has had to work with. Williams only has a +30 total +/-, but I would say he's working with a new squad with much less experience, skill, and leadership. Many of the players on the Jazz have much better +/- ratings than Williams, with 6th man CJ Miles having the best at +113. With that said, reading "advanced" stats in this way might show us how differently these teams are constructed and perhaps what both players have to work with. I'm thinking that Rondo's +/- is relational to the amazing +/- of the rest of the starters. Williams doesn't have the same liberty.

Then again, I might not be using these stats correctly. I guess the bottom line, for me, is Williams is doing a lot with less whereas Rondo is doing a whole lot more with more.

Eric: I got you B, you can't deny the difference in the supporting casts these two have to work with. And it would probably be just as hard to argue against CP3 as well. Personally, I'm starting to really like Russell Westbrook's game too. Along with the 8 assists a game he's getting this year, he's dropping about 24 a game as well, along with 5 boards and 2 steals. He's becoming one helluva a compliment to Kevin Durant, with speed, quickness and relentless defense. That throwdown on Shane Battier was pretty impressive as well. But all in all, can't argue much with jewelry. Of the point guards mentioned here, Rondo gets to rock the hardware.

Russell Westbrook dunks on Shane Battier (via getbangedon)

Brian: That dunk alone, I believe, epitomizes the new "point god" (almost sounds like guard but with a heavy New York City accent) to me! The way Westbrook has improved over the last two seasons, I can definitely seem him cracking people's top 3 point guard discussions. I haven't watched enough of him to get a sense of what kind of a point guard he is. But I think Westbrook gives us a sense that the "point god" is an incredibly explosive offensive player that is part Isiah Thomas and part Shawn Kemp (pre-weight gain and pre-Cleveland Cavaliers). For the "point god" athleticism and highlight dunks seem to be a must have.

But what about actual "wins"? That seems to be the category that defines all of them. With that said, I'm waiting for Westbrook to win a playoff series (or hardware) before putting him in conversation with "point gods" like Paul, Rondo or Williams. But does that mean players like Derrick Rose aren't in that upper echelon of elite point gods, either? Hmmm. At the same time, Rose always seems to "will" his team to victory, so does that make him better than Westbrook? I'm going to say "yes" for now given that he doesn't have much of a wingman at this point.

Eric: In the meantime, here in the Bay, the quarterback for our Golden State Warriors happens to be the sharp shooting baby faced assassin, Stephen Curry. J.A. Adande wrote about the very fact that the Warriors point guard is a guy more heralded for his stroke then his ability to drop dimes. However, because of the uncanny ball handling skills Curry displays when he's not shooting the rock, the guy he is most often compared to happens to be Phoenix's Steve Nash, someone who won back to back MVP awards simply for being that good of a point guard. What do you think B? As good as Curry is passing the ball, do you think he would be better suited at the two spot? Against Minnesota, Monta Ellis racked up 26 points, 10 assists, 4 rebounds and even 7 steals, more than solid production from your point guard. Is that enough to open the debate on whether Monta should be the point guard?

Brian: Monta Ellis, to me, is not a point guard and never will be. 10 assists is still 10 assists, but I don't know if that is enough to convince me that Monta should dominate the ball all the time. In that game versus the T-Wolves, some of Monta's assists came from recognizing teammates on the break and that's what any player should do, not just point guards. In the past, I don't think Monta would ever think to pass up a shot if he knew he could beat this man in transition no matter what the situation. But I see Monta making better decisions this year with the ball, but he's just making passes I think any player should be making. It isn't some improved court-sense, in my opinion.

BUT, what I've noticed in the games where the Warriors have won, such as the game against the T-Wolves, Monta and Curry seem to look out for each other on offensive, sometimes more than others. And both seem to take turns initiating the offense depending on who's got the hot hand that day. But if I had to pick one or the other, I would say Stephen Curry should be the point guard because he's just a better ball handler and passer. That doesn't take away from the fact that Monta is the unquestioned leader of this team, though.

Eric: I do think there's some merit to the idea that a case can even be made here. Monta definitely is starting to display the skills that once had the Warriors banking on him as the starting point guard. His ability to take his man off the dribble opens up passing lanes, as you pointed out, should he choose to use them. I'll admit his trust issues seem to be based on the idea that he trusts himself to score more than anyone else on the floor (or he just really really likes to shoot), but his faith in Curry is either expanding, or his desire to win has him realizing what role he needs to play. Unfortunately as Adande pointed out, Curry's percentages have dipped a bit, or in other words, the things that make him so dangerous aren't as lethal as they were last year. I'm just saying that Monta seems to be more comfortable in whichever role you give him, whether its the two spot or being the primary ball handler. Whereas at least in my view, Curry seems to still be feeling his way through at the one. Maybe the Warriors dynamic duo is still trying to find a comfort level with what works best for them, in which case traditional ‘labels' need not apply. Although that does sound very, well, Don Nelson-ish.

Brian: Haha. The Don Nelson definition of "versatility" needs to go out the door. But I would agree that they seem to have found a way to co-exist as combo guards or that the Warriors success lives and dies with their co-existence. Seems that the more they pass together (17 assists between them versus the T-Wolves) the better they produce. Interesting fact though is that according to 82games.com, the two of them play their best together with David Lee in the starting 5. They are disastrous when they substitute Lee for Dan Gadzuric.

I see what you're saying though. Monta seems like he's okay playing on and off the ball and he does seem more willing to defer to other teammates this season. But Curry seems to struggle a bit if he's not involved as much from tip-off. Or rather, it seems that he needs the ball in his hands more to get into a rhythm -- this includes passing and such, not just shooting. There were some games early on the season where Curry struggled in the first 3 quarters, only to turn it on in the 4th as he would go on scoring sprees.

And on top of that, it seems like the Warriors system, at least in their slump, seem to favor a lot of isolation plays that perhaps is why Curry or even Monta's assists averages have dipped a bit. But, so long as the Warriors win, it doesn't really matter to me who the "official" or "unofficial" point guard.

Eric: Excellent point. Winning does cure all ills, and for once in a young season we have the ability to even throw around that cliche'. The versatility of both guards allows the Warriors to run their offense from any spot on the floor, with either Curry or Monta in the cockpit. The downside is without David Lee they just aren't as threatening. Dorell Wright has definitely exceeded some expectations with the things he has been able to do, but its the double headed dragon in the backcourt that every opposing team has to worry about first.

Brian: Agreed. The Warriors fate definitely depends on these two. And Jeremy Lin. Just kidding.

Eric: So what do you guys think, who's the more suitable point guard in Oakland, Monta Ellis or Steph Curry? How do they stack up against the rest of the leagues "Point Gods"? Can Curry or Ellis ever be "point gods" or are they already? Which "point god" -- Ellis, Curry, or any of the rest -- would you choose to build your team around?

*We use "Point God" in a secular fashion. It is non-denominational. Though we all bow to the alter of Michael Jordan if we had to pick.

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