We’re a smidgen past the halfway point in the season, so we finally have a big enough sample size to gauge how good all the teams and players are. What I plan on doing is ranking the players in the Central Division by position. I will put together a list of the 10 best players at each position and provide a little bit of an explanation about each one.
I’ll start this little exercise with the point guards. The Central features arguably the best PG in the NBA in Derrick Rose (last true PG to win the MVP), but he has yet to play professional basketball this year, so he will be noticeably absent from the list. After him, though, this was not an easy list to put together. The last six guys on this list could move around a little bit depending on what you value in a basketballer, but it’s my list, so I’m ranking them my way. Deal with it. Here we go.
- Kyrie Irving- He’ll probably be representing the Eastern Conference as the starting point guard in the All Star game, which means there’s nobody east of Memphis that’s better than Irving at what he does. He shoots very well from inside, and outside, the arc. He plays exceptional defense, and passes very well. There may not be a better ball handler in the NBA today.
- Brandon Jennings- He’s not a conventional point guard because he shoots too much. He’s a low percentage shooter, but he can sure score. Personally, I don’t like Jennings, but it’s hard to say he’s not a very good player. In a division that lacks a ton of great guards, he stands out. What gets him the #2 spot is his ability to play tough on-ball defense against other small guards.
- George Hill- In his first full season as a true point guard, Hill has done an excellent job at commanding the Pacers’ offense. He’s kept his turnovers down, which has allowed the offense to work through its natural progressions. Hill has freakishly long arms that make it a miserable experience for the opposition when he’s locked in on defense. His 3P% is lower than one might have predicted, but isn’t so low that he needs to shoot less.
- Brandon Knight- This hasn’t been the second season Knight and Pistons fans had anticipated, but it hasn’t been all bad. Experts predicted he would be deadly from behind the arc, but he’s shooting below 40% from distance. To make up for his poor shooting, Knight should be upping his assist numbers, and decreasing his turnover number. The problem is he doesn’t read my columns and hasn’t actually done that.
- Kirk Hinrich- Kirk doesn’t try to force himself into the natural flow of the Bulls’ offense; rather, he tries to protect the ball and let the more talented scorers do what they need to do. He doesn’t turn the ball over, and plays smart defense. He doesn’t let his lack of physical attributes hinder him by playing an elite cerebral game.
- Nate Robinson- Hinrich’s backup provides everything he can’t. They basically split time, but the offensive dynamic is entirely different with Robinson on the court. Nate tries to find his own shot more often than Kirk, but doesn’t “lead” the offense as well, per se. Robinson can be taken advantage of, though, on the defensive end because bigger guards can easily overmatch the 5’9” Robinson.
- DJ Augustin- Some people may not agree with this choice, but it’s a Pacers site, so back off. Augustin hasn’t gotten the playing time he thought he’d be getting, but that has started to change recently. Since his benching, Augustin has played exponentially better. Whether Frank Vogel has made changes to accommodate DJ’s skill set, or DJ has simply started to play better, the fact is that his play has gotten incredibly better.
- Will Bynum- Backing up Brandon Knight in Detroit has to be very frustrating. Brandon Knight is not living up to expectations, but they aren’t going to give up on a lottery pick. Bynum hasn’t been bad at all, but hasn’t gotten the chance to show what he’s got. He shoots about as well as Knight, on a much more limited basis. Not to insinuate that Bynum is better than Knight, but he’s earned a slightly more even split in playing time.
- Beno Udrih- He doesn’t get many opportunities to show his point guard skills because of Monta Ellis’ ability to play the position. Brandon Jennings is the primary ball handler, but Ellis is the one who takes over that responsibility when the starter leaves the game. In limited time, Udrih has been extremely efficient. Udrih actually has a higher Player Efficiency Rating than Ellis. He’s had to make the most of his chances, and he has, shooting just under 50% from the field.
- Rodney Stuckey- You might be wondering why I have Detroit’s third point guard (Bynum) in front of their second. The answer is because Bynum’s simply better. Stuckey is like Knight, but worse. He shoots miserably from inside and outside of the arc. He turns the ball over. There was a time when Rodney Stuckey was pretty good, but those days are gone. Now he’s a low efficiency minute hog that makes a bad team worse.
Come back soon for the low down on the shooting guards that populate the Central Division.