Training camp is underway across the NBA, and the Oklahoma City Thunder is less than a week away from the first preseason game and just a few weeks away from starting the regular season.
This season, we are ranking each team in the Northwest Division by position. First up in our preseason rankings is the point guard position.
The consensus rankings come from a points system. A first place selection is worth 5 points, second place is 4 points, and they continue in descending order with fifth place equaling 1 point.
Consensus Point Guard Rankings
1. Oklahoma City 15
2. Denver 10
3. Portland 9
4. Utah 7
5. Minnesota 4
1. Oklahoma City | There’s no doubt that Russell Westbrook is the best point guard in the division. That being said, what earns the Thunder a top spot in my rankings is the addition of Dennis Schröder. I could even go a step further and say that this duo is the best at the point guard position in the NBA.
We all know what Westbrook can do. In addition to that, Schröder is going to bring the pace, decision making, and experience of a starting point guard to the second unit for the Thunder. Of course there will be a decrease in production without Westbrook on the court, but I don’t expect Oklahoma City to take that much of a step back having a guy like Schröder.
2. Portland | Damian Lillard brings a similar style of play to the game as a guy like Russell Westbrook. He’s going to try to beat you with his speed, his physicality, and his ability to improvise. Last year he averaged nearly 27 points per game, and 6.6 assists. If you aren’t careful, he’ll single handedly take over the game and make you look silly while doing it.
Portland does come in second purely based off of Damian Lillard. However, at the back up position they have an inexperienced guy in Wade Baldwin IV. Baldwin isn’t going to blow you away with his stats, but he’s no pushover either. He’s solid enough to keep up the pace of play long enough for Lillard to get a quick breather.
3. Denver | Denver might come as a surprise at number three, but they’ve got some serious talent on their roster. The combination of Jamal Murray and Isaiah Thomas is going to be a tough one to defend.
As of now, Murray is listed as the starting point guard. I’m not sure if it’ll stay this way, but I do know whether it’s Murray or Thomas on the court, opposing teams are going to have their hands full.
4. Utah | Utah comes in at a close fourth in my rankings. Choosing between Denver and Utah was difficult. At the end of the day, I think Ricky Rubio is just a step behind Jamal Murray and Isaiah Thomas. That being said, Ricky Rubio can definitely hurt a defense in many ways (just ask the Thunder).
Out of all the point guards in the division, Rubio is the most traditional of the group. He’s going to look for the pass first, and then take his shots when given the chance. Because of this, he’s going to shoot a pretty high percent. If you’re not careful, he’ll pick apart your defense.
5. Minnesota | Minnesota comes in last in my rankings with Jeff Teague and Tyrus Jones running the ball up the court. These guys aren’t terrible at all, but in a division with some notable point guards, they tend to be a step behind the rest.
Jeff Teague is a very experienced guy. He’ll be heading into his tenth year in the league. Averaging nearly 13 points per game in his career, he certainly knows how to get the job done. He’s going to look for consistency, but he also has the potential to go off for a big night.
1. Oklahoma City | Although the Thunder has the best point guard in the game, their team assist average sits at third-to-last. Courtesy of some offseason “Presti-Magic,” the Thunder added depth at the point guard position acquiring former Hawks PG Dennis Schröeder, along with re-signing veteran Raymond Felton. The addition of Schröeder brings stability to Billy Donovan’s bench, allowing OKC to offensively spread the floor in-absence of Westbrook. Since the departure of Reggie Jackson, OKC has been on the hunt for a reliable back-up. At 25 years old, Schröeder can further improve his game playing behind Russell Westbrook, and he can solidify himself as a crucial role to this team down the stretch.
2. Denver | The addition of Isaiah Thomas skyrockets the Denver Nuggets to #2 on my list, but it likely won’t be enough to remain relevant in a ridiculously stacked Western Conference come April. With Thomas likely to miss the season opener, Murray will look to pick up where they left off averaging in the top five in team assists. If healthy, the point guard trio in Denver can be a problem for teams that “take the night off” or for teams coming off a back-to-back. Regardless who starts at point guard for Denver, expect rising star Nikola Jokic to facilitate most of the Nuggets offense. Besides Thomas’ debut and Jokic’s nightly highlight reel, the only thing Nuggets fans can look forward to this season is a possible late push for the 8-seed.
3. Utah | The Jazz continue to see flashes of excellence within their organization, and they show no fear in going up against the absurd Western Conference lineups. After what seemingly felt like the peak of Ricky Rubio’s career last season, the Jazz land at #3 on my list. With production level declining at the tail end of his tenure in Minnesota, it appeared Rubio was slowly falling off the league’s map. Rubio was a problem for OKC back in April, averaging a postseason career-high 14 points in Utah’s series victory. Utah just re-signed 5th overall pick of the 2014 draft Dante Exum to a 3 year, $33 million contract extension after playing in only 24 games.
4. Minnesota | Tom Thibodeau, for some reason, believes his unsuccessful lineup from his former Bulls team can rejoin in Minnesota. The Wolves find themselves in a place of uncertainty for the future, but signing Anthony-Towns long term was a great start. After his eighth season in the league, Jeff Teague proved he can still produce an effective offense running the point for Minnesota. He averaged seven assists, leaving the Wolves at 17th across the league with 22.7 APG. Thibodeau sees a lot of upside from backup Tyus Jones, who was taken by Cleveland with the 24th pick in the 2015 draft. Jones, who appeared in all 82 games last season, will challenge former MVP Derrick Rose to step up and contribute after seeing the court just 30 times in 2018.
5. Portland | Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum certainly have enough confidence to come out of the West, but the Blazers just don’t have the surrounding talent to take them there. Lillard has nothing to do with Portland sitting at #5 on my list, but the fact that Portland finished dead last in the league with just under 20 APG, #5 seems very much deserving. Lillard and McCollum combined for roughly 10 of the 19.8 APG last season, leaving the rest of the 14 Blazers with a combined 9.8 APG. Portland desperately needs depth at the point guard position. With the departure of Shabaaz Napier this offseason, Portland signed Seth Curry to a two-year, $2.75 million contract. While former 2016 first round pick Wade Baldwin IV will also look to appear in the rotation, he only played 7 games last season.
1. Oklahoma City | When it comes down to the position of floor marshal, the Thunder is the clear cut winner of the Northwest Division. Russell Westbrook is a consensus top 10 player in the NBA, and one of the best point guards in the league, let alone the best point guard in the Northwest Division. Throw in the addition of Dennis Schröder, now the league’s best backup point guard, and experienced veteran Raymond Felton, and the Thunder is stacked at the point guard position.
2. Portland | The Trail Blazers have a true star in Damian Lillard, who is coming off his first All NBA First-Team selection. Lillard has proven himself as a top-notch shooter as well as one of the league’s most clutch players, but after him, the Blazers have inexperience. Seth Curry had to sit out all of last year due to a fractured tibia after having a decent run in the 2016-17 season. He should serve as a solid backup to Lillard.
3. Denver | In his only his second season in the NBA, Jamal Murray flourished in his first year as the starting point guard for the Nuggets. While his stats were not particularly jaw-dropping at 16.7 points and 3.4 assists per game, he showed a lot of maturity in his decision making, and he proved that the spot was his. In the offseason, the Nuggets acquired Isaiah Thomas, who only played a total of 32 games between the Cavs and the Lakers due to multiple hip injuries, but he is hoping for a comeback season of sorts.
4. Utah | The Jazz are hoping for another solid season out of Ricky Rubio after he scored a career-high 13.1 points per game shooting career-high percentages from both the field (41.8%) and the three (35.2%). His assist numbers dropped, but a large part of that is due to the fact that Donovan Mitchell works a lot with the ball already in his hands. After Rubio is Dante Exum, who played only 14 games last season after dealing with multiple injuries. If Exum can stay healthy, he could be poised for a breakout year, but considering his struggle to stay injury-free over the last few years, the Jazz could find themselves struggling with depth at the point guard position at some point in the season.
5. Minnesota | Jeff Teague is set to enter his second season as the starting point guard for the Timberwolves after seeing a slight drop in his numbers from his one-year stint in Indiana for the 2016-17 season. Teague has nine years under his belt as an NBA player, so he’s an experienced veteran, but he’s no all-star. After Teague, the Wolves have Tyus Jones and Derrick Rose, who could both see time at backup point guard, but the two are at different points in their careers, so Jones could earn more playing time as the younger, healthier option.
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