The NBA’s Top-5 Playmakers
It takes a special set of skills to be considered a playmaker in today’s NBA. Playmakers are players that can change the game at the drop of a hat with a spectacular pass that elicits a collective gasp from the arena crowd.
Assists are the main benchmark for a playmaker but being a dual threat as a scorer goes hand and hand with getting teammates open looks. These players use that to their advantage the best and help to make the game easier for everyone around them.
For all intents and purposes, these guys are the engine behind their team’s offensive success.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the top-5 playmakers heading into the upcoming season:
1. Steve Nash, Los Angeles Lakers
For the majority of his career, especially since his relocation to Phoenix after the 2003-04 season, Nash has been the epitome of the prototypical, John Stockton-like facilitator. The combination of first rate handles to get to the basket at will, nifty finishing moves when he gets there, and deadly accuracy practically anywhere on the court allows his teammates to get open looks all game long. Tack on Nash’s court vision and ability to thread the needle in any given situation and you’re looking at the top playmaker in the game.
For the better part of the last decade, Nash has been near the top of the league in assists per game every season. In fact, Nash led the league in assists per game in two of the past three seasons (five of the last eight overall) and has finished no lower than third in the NBA in dimes since 2003.
This is a huge reason why the Lakers were so aggressive in their pursuit of the former two-time NBA Most Valuable Player. Nash’s ability to get everyone both involved and satisfied on this potent Lakers’ offense will pay dividends in helping LA to gel more quickly in the upcoming season.
2. Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics
The reigning leader in the NBA in assists per game, Rondo has the ability to take over a contest with his dynamic penchant for getting teammates open. As with the rest of the players on this list, the key is to be a multi-faceted threat on the offensive end so that defenses have to respect every dimension of a players’ game.
Rondo’s shot, while still a work in progress, has gotten gradually better over the past few seasons and his penetration game is one of the best in the league. These talents help set Rondo’s talented group of teammates up with open looks on a night-in, night-out basis over the course of an NBA season.
The most impressive thing about Rondo is that he continues to evolve as a distributor. Since his rookie season in 2006, Rondo’s assist totals have risen each year which culminated in the All-Star point guard leading the NBA in 2012. As a whole, Rondo has finished no lower than sixth in the NBA in assists per game over the last four seasons – including top-2 finishes in each of the past two years.
3. LeBron James, Miami HEAT
The only non-point guard on this list, and also the only non-point guard in the NBA last season to finish in the top-15 in the league in assists per game, James is a different animal at the forward position. Featuring the body of a power forward, the athletic ability of a guard and the court vision of a point guard, it’s easy to see why James is such a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.
With the ability to play distributor from virtually any position on the floor, James’ versatility helps put his teammates in the best position to succeed on the offensive end. For his career, James’ nearly seven dimes per contest is a number that many starting NBA point guards would love to have on their resume.
Especially with the addition of Ray Allen to secure open looks from behind the arc, expect James’ playmaking ability to be an even bigger factor throughout the upcoming season.
4. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
When healthy, many would argue that Paul is the best point guard in the NBA.
Paul’s combination of speed and savvy both on the break and in half court sets makes him one of the most dangerous players on the floor. That combination of quickness and skill has resulted in Paul finishing as one of the league’s best passers practically every season since his rookie year. This includes back-to-back NBA-leading finishes in assists per game average between the 2007-08 and 2008-09 regular seasons.
Residing with the Los Angeles Clippers in Lob City with Blake Griffin for at least next season, Paul will have plenty of opportunities to pad his nearly 10 assists per game career average in 2013.
5. Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets
Possibility the most unheralded player on this list due to the fact that he’s toiled in obscurity with the moribund Brooklyn Nets over the past few seasons, Williams is undoubtedly a top playmaker in the NBA. Built like more of an NFL linebacker than an NBA point guard, Williams uses his size and strength to his advantage, bullying many other point guards around the league.
Since becoming a full time starter to begin his second season in 2006, Williams has finished no lower than fifth in the NBA in assists per game as he’s been one of the most consistent players at his position.
With a more talented cast expected to surround him in Brooklyn for the upcoming season, it’s difficult to imagine Williams not finishing among the league leaders in assists once again in 2013.
Who is your pick for top playmaker in the NBA? Top-5? Let your voice be heard in the comments section below!