Bulls

20 in 20: Who are the Top 10 PGs in the league?

20 in 20: Who are the Top 10 PGs in the league?

Saturday, Sept. 11, 2010
10:10 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

A historic summer for the NBA has passed and for the Bulls, while they didn't acquire quite the star power many expected andor hoped for, optimism runs high, both within the organization and throughout the team's fan base. With the offseason coming to an end, the time to fully delve into the upcoming NBA season is here. Instead of a traditional season preview, issues both throughout the league and in Chicago will be probed daily here on CSNChicago.com up until the squad officially convenes for training camp toward the end of September.
4. Who are the top 10 point guards in the league?
1. Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets (2009-10 averages: 18.7 points, 10.7 assists, 4.2 rebounds, 2.1 steals, 2.5 turnovers, 49.3 field-goal percentage, 40.9 three-point percentage in 45 regular-season games): An injury-riddled season and a summer in which his pristine image took a hit may only serve as motivation for Paul, who, with backup Darren Collison now in Indiana, must realize that he must again pull off amazing feats to make the Hornets relevant -- something the competitor inside the former MVP candidate will relish, disgruntled or not.

2. Deron Williams, Utah Jazz (2009-10 averages: 18.7 points, 10.5 assists, 4.0 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 3.3 turnovers, 46.9 field-goal percentage, 37.1 three-point percentage in 76 regular-season games): More like No. 1a, Williams will face an adjustment process with the departure of partner Carlos Boozer (although new Jazzman Al Jefferson has the ability to do many of the same things, he'll take awhile to fit into Jerry Sloan's system), which may result in better numbers and decreased team success, thus facing similar challenges to his rival Paul.

3. Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls (2009-10 averages: 20.8 points, 6.0 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 0.7 steals, 2.8 turnovers, 48.9 field-goal percentage, 26.7 three-point percentage in 78 regular-season games): As Chicago fans already know and LeBron James mentioned after dispatching the Bulls in the playoffs, Rose is one of the best in the league in his position, and his USA Basketball experience this summer should only add to his development.

4. Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics (2009-10 averages: 13.7 points, 9.8 assists, 4.4 rebounds, league-leading 2.3 steals, 3.0 turnovers, 50.8 field-goal percentage, 21.3 three-point percentage in 81 regular-season games): Despite not being a shooting threat, Rondo is uniquely capable of impacting a game, something evidenced by his performance in last spring's playoffs, where he was more than often the best Celtic.

5. Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns (2009-10 averages: 16.5 points, league-leading 11.0 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 0.5 steals, 3.6 turnovers, 50.7 field-goal percentage, 42.6 three-point percentage in regular-season games): Even with longtime running mate Amar'e Stoudemire now in New York, don't expect Nash to slow down just yet; rather, his scoring numbers should see a boost, although it's hard to expect Phoenix to make another deep playoff run with the current roster.
6. Chauncey Billups, Denver Nuggets (2009-10 averages: 19.5 points, 5.6 assists, 3.1 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 2.4 turnovers, 41.8 field-goal percentage, 38.6 three-point percentage in 73 regular-season games): "Mr. Big Shot" put up a career-high in points last season, but with the turmoil within his hometown Nuggets, a long summer with the national team and a drop-off in his shooting percentage, Billups can no longer be considered the cream of the crop anymore.
7. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder (2009-10 averages: 16.1 points, 8.0 assists, 4.9 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 3.3 turnovers, 41.8 field-goal percentage, 22.1 three-point percentage in 82 regular-season games): While Westbrook isn't a proficient outside shooter and is still a bit out of control at times, not only is he an excellent sidekick to Oklahoma City teammate Kevin Durant, but the UCLA product's defense is superb and his physical tools may be second to none at his position.
8. Tyreke Evans, Sacramento Kings (2009-10 averages: 20.1 points, 5.8 assists, 5.3 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 3.0 turnovers, 45.8 field-goal percentage, 25.5 three-point percentage in 72 regular-season games): Probably more of a shooting guard by definition, the reigning Rookie of the Year is his team's primary ballhandler and while Evans is a natural scorer, his ability to distribute the ball, attack the basket and take advantage of his size puts him in this category.

9. Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs (2009-10 averages: 16.0 points, 5.7 assists, 2.4 rebounds, 0.5 steals, 2.7 turnovers, 48.7 field-goal percentage, 29.4 three-point percentage in 56 regular-season games): If healthy, look for Parker to return to his former status as one of the league's best scoring playmakers, especially with all the scuttlebutt that heir-in-waiting George Hill is ready to take his spot.
10. Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee Bucks (2009-10 averages: 15.5 points, 5.7 assists, 3.4 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 2.4 turnovers, 37.1 field-goal percentage, 37.4 three-point percentage in 82 regular-season games): Forget the 55-point game: Jennings' playmaking, surprisingly mature basketball I.Q. (remember how many so-called "experts" thought he was a potential bust based on his admittedly disappointing season in Italy a year prior?) and better-than-advertised defense (playing for tough-minded Scott Skiles helped) were some of the primary reasons (outside of Andrew Bogut and John Salmons) his overachieving Bucks made the playoffs -- and almost advanced to the second round.

Next 10 (in alphabetical order):

Aaron Brooks, Houston Rockets: Absolutely carried his team in Yao Ming's absence, although he's a bit trigger-happy at times.
Darren Collison, Indiana Pacers: Much has been made of his gaudy stats as Paul's understudy, but he'll get a chance to run his own show after being traded in the summer.
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors: Didn't make the playoffs like Jennings or quite dominate a la Evans, but a sophomore slump is doubtful.
Baron Davis, Los Angeles Clippers: One of the most talented players at his position when in shape and motivated.
Raymond Felton, New York Knicks: Developed into above-average status under Larry Brown and has the opportunity to further thrive in Mike D'Antoni's run-and-gun system.
Devin Harris, New Jersey Nets: Talent isn't the question, but some of the onus for a league-worst record has to lie with the guy running the show.
Jason Kidd, Dallas Mavericks: He's slowed down over the years, but not only does he still direct traffic like few can do, but has finally added consistent deep range in the latter stages of his career.
Jameer Nelson, Orlando Magic: Not quite an upper-echelon floor general, but earns kudos for directing one of the league's better squads.
Andre Miller, Portland Trailblazers: The veteran is always steady -- yet always underappreciated -- and should have more of an impact in his second season with the Blazers.
John Wall, Washington Wizards: Every rookie struggles at times, but not including him in the top 10 could look foolish by season's end.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, and Kevin Anderson react to a breakout game from Kris Dunn against the Hornets Friday night. They’ll discuss his development and how it impacts rookie Lauri Markkanen. Plus just how long will both the Wolves and Bulls be judged on the Jimmy Butler trade? Is Dwight Howard a hall of famer? And a new era in Philly with Simmons and Embiid. That and more on this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast.

Observations from Bulls-Hornets: Kris Dunn, a sigh of relief and hack-a-who?

Observations from Bulls-Hornets: Kris Dunn, a sigh of relief and hack-a-who?

Kris Dunn did it: You can’t play that position without an edge, without some form of “basketball killer” in you. Kris Dunn showed at the very least, he has that in his DNA in his best game as a Bull with a career-high 22 points, seven assists and five rebounds.

Leave it to Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg to point out a forgotten stat: one turnover in 26 minutes.

“That’s the biggest thing I’m proud of,” Dunn said. “Everyone knows I’ve had a lot of careless turnovers in the season. It’s one thing I’ll take credit for.”

Dunn scored 13 with six assists in the fourth quarter alone as the Bulls outscored the Hornets 40-28 for the comeback victory. More than anything, it was his competitive spirit and aggressiveness that stood out. Kemba Walker stood across the way and gave Dunn—and the Bulls—every bit of 47 points.

“He tested my conditioning, for sure,” Dunn admitted. “He’s a great player. He’s been in the league for so long. It was good to go out there and compete with him.”

It could’ve went a different way had Walker not been bothered by Lauri Markkanen’s challenge at the rim, blowing a layup that would’ve given the Hornets the lead back with seconds remaining but he missed it and the narrative changed at least for a night.

And when teams are talking about learning experiences, it’s good to have them in a win every now and again. Markkanen’s challenge at the rim followed by his closing free throws right after, along with a quietly effective 16 points and seven rebounds, proved huge on this night.

Dunn finally having a confidence booster was imperative.

Dunn scored but it wasn’t an easy 20 or a smooth 20. It was an attacking 20, a necessary 20. He did hit some elbow jumpers, especially in the fourth as the defense laid off him.

But his biggest basket was a slithering drive to the rim for a layup with 2:24 left, because he attacked and was under control.

“That’s huge growth for Kris,” Hoiberg said. “He made the right play darn near every time he had the ball in his hands. Rose up with confidence, knocked down huge shots. Defensively got them going, got steals.”

What a relief: Nobody wanted to say it, but it bore out on the floor, the sheer desperation the Bulls played with.

Coming in with a five-game losing streak and headed out west to for four games in the next week, they were staring in the face of a possible double-digit losing streak to end November.

Confidence was sparse after three bad losses, and it’s a dangerous time for a team that will struggle to win games all season.

The United Center crowd got into it, particularly late when the Bulls began climbing back into contention to start the fourth quarter. The fans wanted this win too, even with the eyes being on a larger prize coming in mid-2018.

The relief was written all over Hoiberg’s usually-stress ridden face and he even cracked a couple jokes that weren’t aimed in his direction, as self-deprecation is normally his escape of choice.

“It is important but I asked the guys: is it hard to play with that type of effort? When you play with that type of energy and effort and swagger, it’s fun,” Hoiberg said. “When you play low energy and hang your head, it’s a drag. It’s hard to play at this level with that mentality.”

Starting change: Justin Holiday returned after his quick leave with his wife delivering a baby girl recently and his game-high 27 points showed he missed the Bulls as much as they missed his shooting, hitting four triples and going 10 for 15 from the field.

“Guys were serious about getting their jobs done,” Holiday said. “It was a lot of energy, a lot of energy, competitiveness. That’s how we have to play every night for our team to do well.”

Denzel Valentine, although he didn’t want to say it, wants to be a starter. Hoiberg chose Quincy Pondexter over him recently and then made the change Friday to insert Valentine for more scoring.

Valentine scored 18 with six assists and five rebounds in 32 minutes of run—and with those two starting as scoring options, the Bulls surpassed that seven-point first-quarter mark really early and scored 26 overall.

He hit a big triple in the fourth with 2:49 left to give the Bulls a 110-109 lead on a set play the Bulls actually executed between Valentine, Dunn as a setup man and Robin Lopez as a screen to pop Valentine open.

If he continues to hit 3-pointers at a 40 percent clip, especially with the way the Bulls have struggled to start games, he’ll have the right to feel he belongs in the first five.

“It’s definitely more confidence,” Valentine said. “You feel you’re an NBA starter, you get to go in and feel it out for a second and bring some energy to start the game.”

He didn’t mince words about starting, with a little honesty saying, “I think it’s huge being a starter.”

When asked if he felt validated by his performance and the result being a high-scoring win, it was just as telling.

“I think I deserve…I think I deserved a starting role,” Valentine said. “At the same time it’s different combinations, different people that need to be on the floor at certain times, so if he feels like I don’t need to start, I won’t start. But I feel very comfortable starting as well.”

Hack-a-Dwight: It could be Hack-a-Dwight, hack-a-Drummond, hack-a-Wilt or Shaq or Charles Shackleford.

The Bulls went to it and Howard went two of four from the line but it took a little rhythm from the Hornets and probably slowed Kemba Walker down just enough before he got cooking in the last 90 seconds and almost pulled a win out of his keister.

But…

I hate it. Get it out of the game completely.