We’re only 10 days into the 2017-18 regular season and NBA point guards already are going down like NFL quarterbacks.
With more than one-third of the League’s starting PGs sidelined for one reason or another, perhaps the NBA is going to have to institute some defensive no-contact rules when guarding ballhandlers these days.
Seriously, I have never seen anything like it, which is why we dedicate this week’s Weekly Wrap to what has become the NBA’s most tenuous position.
30. Chicago Bulls
Third-year NBA vet Jerian Grant is holding down the Bulls’ starting point guard position for now, but may give it up this week to second-year pro Kris Dunn, who returns from a disclocated finger index injury Thursday, or to combo guard Zach LaVine, who returns next month from a torn ACL. No matter who starts, the transition will come from a point of weakness from a team that intends to tank throughout the 2017-18 season without a true starting point guard on roster.
29. Atlanta Hawks
Returning starter Dennis Schroder, who was arrested following a hookah bar fight last week, has missed action on the floor this week due to an ankle sprain. Second-year Hawk Malcolm Delaney has served as his fill-in during the meantime. When he hasn’t been sidelined, Schroder is averaging 23 points and 7 assists in 32 minutes per game.
28. Brooklyn Nets
First, Jeremy Lin went down for the season with a ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee on opening night. Then, this week, combo guard D’Angelo Russell, who moved from his starting shooting guard slot to become starting point guard in Lin’s absence, missed Wednesday’s Cavaliers game with a knee injury. So who replaces the former Lakers phenom who has been averaging 23 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds in 29 minutes per game for Brooklyn? Answer: Third-stringer Spencer Dinwiddie, who goes out Wednesday and posts a career-high 22 points in leading Brooklyn to 112-107 victory over Cleveland. Gotta love it.
27. New York Knicks
Rookie lotto pick Frank Ntilikina has been sidelined with an ankle injury for all but 8 minutes this season. So anybody who fancied ideas that the 19-year-old point guard was going to hold down the point guard position all year now is realizing NBA journeyman Ramon Sessions is the better call for the time being. Session already plays the majority of minutes, while backup Jarrett Jack—not Ntililikina—spells him from time to time.
26. Sacramento Kings
George Hill starts and provides the tutelage while his rookie backup De’Aaron Fox plays like the gifted prodigy he is, giving the Kings a solid 1-2 combo for the wild, wild West. Hill is averaging 11 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists in 28 minutes per game, while Fox is putting up Rookie of the Year candidacy numbers, averaging 15 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists in 27 minutes per game.
25. Philadelphia 76ers
Even the most faithful followers of the process are resigned to the fact that their most recent No. 1 pick, Markelle Fultz, will not be able to take the reins to the starting point guard position, either due to his shoulder injury or ankle injury or being out of shape or whatever is ailing the 19-year-old’s process. When Fultz has played, he has put up an inefficient 6 points in 19 minutes per game on a .372 true shooting percentage. The Philly starting point guard in Futlz’s place, journeyman Jerryd Bayless, is averaging 12 points in 29 minutes per game on a .624 true shooting percentage.
Rookie lotto pick Dennis Smith Jr. notched his first NBA victory with the Mavs in five attempts, with Dallas’ 103-94 home win over Memphis Wednesday. Smith is averaging 15 points, 5 assists and 3 rebounds in 29 minutes per game, while keeping his turnovers down (10.6 turnover percentage) and assist rate high (34.2 assist percentage).
23. Phoenix Suns
Eric Bledsoe is getting himself shipped out of Phoenix after his Instagram social-media posting displayed his unhappiness with the Suns and their dysfunctional family (owner Robert Sarver fired head coach Earl Watson after only three games). While Bledsoe should command a fair bounty in trade returns, his replacement Mike James is a 27-year-old undrafted rookie who is displaying surprising poise as the new Suns point guard, averaging 12 points and 3 assists in 21 minutes per game.
22. Los Angeles Lakers
Thankfully, Lonzo Ball—the Lakers’ bread and butter—has been healthy thus far into the NBA season, surviving the Patrick Beverley test one night and mastering the John Wall course three games later. In four games this season, Ball is averaging nearly a triple-double, logging 12 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists in 36 minutes per game, albeit on a paltry .377 true shooting percentage.
21. Indiana Pacers
Point guard has been a revolving door for Pacers points recently with Darren Collison holding it down a year after Jeff Teague who held it a year after George Hill. Collison, who was Sacramento’s starting point guard last season, is averaging 16 points and 8 assists in 33 minutes per game this season with the Pacers.
20. Detroit Pistons
At age 27, Reggie Jackson is off to his best start yet, averaging 15 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds in 28 minutes per game. But it is not just Jackson who is off to a terrific tip-off to the season (20.7 Player Efficiency Rating), but fellow starters Andre Drummond (24.2 ) and Tobias Harris (22.3) are also posting career-best PERs in this very short stint of a season.
19. New Orleans Pelicans
Any thoughts of the Pelicans going with a two-quarterback lineup ended when Rajon Rondo picked up a sports hernia injury in preseason. With Rondo not due back until December, long-time Pelicans point guard Jrue Holiday assumes the position solely until further notice. That said, the one-time NBA All-Star has gotten off to a slow start, averaging 11 points, 5 assists and 6 rebounds in 37 minutes per game, posting only a .401 true shooting percentage.
18. Orlando Magic
Starting point guard Elfrid Payton sustained a hamstring injury in Game 2 and has since ceded the position to backup D.J. Augustin until further notice. Since then, the diminutive D.J. helped orchestrate a big Magic win over Cleveland, posting 12 points and 10 assists in 27 minutes during his first of three starts this week. He is now averaging 12 points and 6 assists in 24 minutes per game on the four-game season.
17. Charlotte Hornets
First-time All-Star Kemba Walker is picking up where he left off with the Hornets last season, averaging 21 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds in 35 minutes per game for the defensive-minded Charlotte squad (currently ranks fifth in the NBA). His Friday matchup with James Harden and the Rockets will be must-see TV in North Carolina.
16. Minnesota Timberwolves
One-time All-Star Jeff Teague is getting acclimated to his new position as Minnesota’s starter, and doing so without his new All-Star backcourt mate Jimmy Butler, who is missing games this week with an upper-respiratory infection. Teague, who is replacing six-year Timberwolves starter Ricky Rubio, is averaging 12 points and 6 assists in 30 minutes per game this season.
15. Utah Jazz
Spain’s own Ricky Rubio is fitting in quite seamlessly with one of the NBA’s most global teams, the Utah Jazz, who proudly boast of having seven players from foreign countries. Rubio, the point guard replacing George Hill, is averaging 14 points, 8 assists and 5 rebounds in 33 minutes per game.
14. Miami Heat
The engine to the Miami Heat machine, Goran Dragic, is off to another terrific start, scoring 20 points along with 4 assists in 33 minutes per game for a team that was able to hold onto most of its free agents this summer, including Dragic’s very capable backup Tyler Johnson, who is averaging 11 points in 27 minutes per game off the bench as a combo guard.
13. Toronto Raptors
After back-to-back losses to the NBA’s two best teams, the Spurs and Warriors, the Raptors now realize how far they indeed have to go to compete for a championship this season. Thankfully, following wins over bottom-dwellers Philly and Chicago, Toronto knows its team’s place in the middle of the league is far from the worst, and with All-Star Kyle Lowry (13 points and 7 assists in 33 minutes per game) running the ship, at least the ball is in good hands.
12. Memphis Grizzlies
Despite promises from head coach David Fizdale, Mike Conley may never get his wish to run a high-octane offense in Memphis (Grizzlies rank 30th in pace). Still, Conley must be happy that he gets to run point for a winner—the sixth winningest club this decade, in fact—that is already off to a fast 3-1 start, thanks to Conley and the ranging center Marc Gasol. Conley is averaging 19 points and 4 assists in 32 minutes per game, while posting a .573 true shooting percentage.
Damian Lillard has been Portland’s mainstay most of this decade, and once against is averaging his Dame-like 21 points, 6 assists and 6 rebounds in 33 minutes per game. Meanwhile, his Trail Blazers are also off to a hot start, going 3-1, while backcourt mate C.J. McCollum is also tearing up opposing guards in similar fashion, scoring 26 points in 35 minutes per game on a .684 true shooting percentage.
10. Denver Nuggets
In a battle lasting longer than a season of American Idol or Survivor, the Nuggets point guard position has finally been won by sophomore Jamal Murray, who bumped Emmanuel Mudiay to second string and made Jameer Nelson expendable (he’s now with the Pelicans). Murray is averaging 9 points and 4 assists in 26 minutes per game, though he is struggling with his shot (.349 true shooting percenetage). Murray had a .518 TSP last season.
9. Milwaukee Bucks
Malcolm Brogdon, last season’s Rookie of the Year and the Bucks starting point guard, had to give up his starting slot to Matthew Dellavedova this week after an ankle sprain kept him from playing. Brogdon had been averaging 16 points on a .607 true shooting percentage in 33 minutes per game for the 3-1 Bucks, who were coming of a win at Boston last week when Brogdon was still in the starting lineup.
8. Boston Celtics
Kyrie Irving may have been the point guard who received the most scrutiny this summer, following his request to leave Cleveland and his subsequent trade to Boston. His start as the Celtics quarterback has been less than stellar, with the former Cav averaging 20 points and 6 assists in 36 minutes per game on a .495 true shooting percentage.
7. Washington Wizards
If it weren’t for a stunning come-from-behind victory by the Los Angeles Lakers, John Wall’s Washington Wizards would be 4-0 right now, sitting alone atop the East. As it stands, at 3-1, they share the top spot with Milwaukee and Orlando, while Wall continues to post his stellar numbers, averaging 23 points and 10 assists in 37 minutes per game, albeit with a subpar .497 true shooting percentage.
With All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas out for months (hip surgery) and former All-Star point guard Derrick Rose out for a couple weeks (ankle), LeBron James has assumed the Magic Johnson-type point guard role on the Cavs, much to the detriment of the team, which has lost two of its last three games. Will Cleveland continue to walk down this perilous path, or simply pull the plug and insert third-string point guard Jose Calderon into the starting lineup so that LeBron can move back to his natural point forward position?
5. Oklahoma City Thunder
Triple-double machine Russell Westbrook may have two All-Star forward teammates by his side—Paul George and Carmelo Anthony—but that is doing little to diminish his trip-dub game, as the 2016-17 NBA MVP continues to average double-digit figures in points (21.5), assists (12.5) and rebounds (9.5), while averaging 35.3 minutes per game.
Perennial All-EuroLeague point guard Milos Teodosic was just in the midst of wowing America as his passing feats made highlight reels everywhere. Until an injury felled him too. Teodosic, who had 11 points and 8 assists in 32 minutes before getting hurt, is now out indefinitely with plantar fascia. His point guard replacement is his good friend and backcourt mate Patrick Beverley.
Newcomer Chris Paul’s left knee contusion might damage most teams, but James Harden is versatile enough to resume his former point guard post and lead the Rockets off to a typical 4-1 hot start. Harden is averaging 26 points, 9 assists and 4 rebounds in 36 minutes per game, while posting a .570 true shooting percentage. Paul should return to his point guard position sometime in mid-November.
2. Golden State Warriors
With his All-Star teammates uncharacteristically struggling while coming out the gate at 3-2, two-time MVP Stephen Curry has resumed his dominating form from the get-go this season, averaging 29 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds in 35 minutes per game, while posting a .680 true shooting percentage. For all of the early talk about Giannis Antetokounmpo being the odds-on favorite to win 2017-18 NBA MVP, the world best not forget the point guard who has already won the award twice.
1. San Antonio Spurs
Tony Parker, Spurs starting point guard entering his 17th season, is supposed to return from his ruptured quad injury sometime in November. But will he be the starting point guard upon return. That is the question in San Antonio, as 21-year-old Dejounte Murray has been playing like the 2017-18 NBA Most Improved Player, averaging 10 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists in 26 minutes per game, while playing stellar defense for the 4-0 Spurs.