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NBA top 15 point guard rankings for 2021-22: Stephen Curry sits at No. 1; Trae Young cracks top five

1 If you’re waiting on the decline of Curry, get comfortable. Coming off his second scoring title and a third-place finish in the MVP race, Curry, who will turn 34 about a month prior the 2022 playoffs, remains at the height of his powers as arguably the single-most dominant offensive force in the league. Curry’s combination of pick-and-roll mastery, one-on-one space creation and dizzying off-ball movement allows him to get pretty much any shot he wants, and those shots continue to go in at an unprecedented rate.   2 At Media Day, Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd said Doncic was a “young Picasso,” which is just the latest descriptor to explain the 22-year-old superstar’s game. It was difficult to envision how he would follow up his historic sophomore season, but in Year 3 he increased his efficiency from the field (47.9 percent) and 3-point territory (35 percent) to career highs, and almost single-handedly beat the Clippers in the first round of the playoffs. With a new head coach and some new role players at his disposal, we’ll be watching to see if Doncic can get Dallas higher in the standings and further in the playoffs this season.   3 Only in a league this talented can a player the caliber of Lillard land outside the top 10 on a list like this. Reasonable minds could place him at least two or three spots higher. For all the talk of Lillard’s potentially impending trade request, it hasn’t come, and quietly the Blazers look like they could be a really good team again as Lillard continues to operate as one of the league’s most clutch performers and overall shotmakers. There isn’t a more lethal off-the-dribble 3-point shooter not named Curry, and Lillard’s shooting range is arguably even greater than Curry’s.   4 Irving, unfortunately, has made more headlines off the floor than on it recently. He was knocked out of the playoffs due to a sprained ankle, and is now a COVID-19 vaccine holdout, which could prevent him from playing home games for the Nets this season. If he doesn’t change his mind on that front it would be a shame, because he truly is one of the most entertaining players to watch. His dribbling, scoring and flair for the dramatic put him on a different level than nearly everyone else.   5 Young vaulted up this list after a magical run through his first postseason, averaging 28.8 points and 9.5 assists in leading the Hawks to within two wins of the Finals. What makes Young special is his ability to manipulate the entire floor out of pick-and-roll, getting into the paint for his virtually unstoppable floater and drawing fouls at a rate almost hard to believe for a finesse player. The threat of Young’s 3-point shooting continues to be worth more than his actual shooting — he hit just 34 percent of his 3s last season, and that number dipped to 31 percent in the playoffs. But there’s no denying his shooting talent and knack for making huge shots. If Young can get to above 36 percent from 3 this season, he’ll be in the All-NBA discussion.   6 It cannot be understated just how important of a role Paul played in getting the Phoenix Suns not just to the playoffs for the first time in a decade, but a No. 2 seed in the West and a trip to the NBA Finals. At age 35, Paul experienced his most efficient season in years, while being the perfect veteran leader for a group of young, talented players in Phoenix. He secured a longer-term deal this summer on the strength of his performance as well as his importance to the team as a player coach.   7 Up until last season, Holiday had played in just 31 career playoff games, but the Bucks mortgaged their future to trade for him because they thought he would make the difference in winning a title. It turned out they were right. Though he had some rough moments on offense during the course of the playoffs, he made shots when it mattered. And, more importantly, he made a definitive case that he is the best defensive guard in the league.   8 When it comes to Simmons, the main questions at this point are when will he play his next NBA game, and what team will that be for? Simmons is in the midst of a messy public divorce from the 76ers, and he has made it clear that he doesn’t plan to play until he is traded. The Sixers, though, are in no rush to make a move, so the two sides are basically locked in a stalemate for the time being. Whenever Simmons does ultimately play again, he’ll bring elite defense and playmaking to whatever team he’s on.   9 Morant’s efficiency dropped considerably last season, but a jaw-dropping performance in his debut playoff series (30.2 points, 8.2 assists per game) left little doubt regarding his status as a future superstar. Improved 3-point accuracy would make him nearly unguardable given his athleticism and passing ability, and it’s a good sign that his free throw attempts increased from 4.6 per game as a rookie to 5.9 last season. At 22 years old, Morant is already a borderline All-Star who will only get better as he matures.   10 Fox’s career has gone somewhat under the radar because the Kings have failed to earn the national spotlight of a playoff appearance. Case in point — did you know that he averaged more points per game than LeBron James last season? Fox’s 3-point shooting hasn’t come along quite yet, but he was in the 76th percentile in offensive efficiency including assists last season, per Synergy, and the Kings offense improved by 4.6 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor. One of six players to average at least 25 points and seven assists per game last season, the future is bright for the 23-year-old point guard.   11 Is there a better match between player and team in all of basketball than Lowry and the Heat? The player that has made his name taking charges, diving for loose balls and outsmarting more talented opponents now plays for a team that very recently made the Finals taking charges, diving for loose balls and outsmarting more talented opponents. Lowry just spent the bulk of his career sharing those gifts with the Raptors. Now, in Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, he has two star teammates who bring them in abundance. The Heat were already a nightmare to play against. Now they’ve added among the NBA’s most frustrating possible opponents, a basketball genius that’s tougher than rivals twice his size.   12 Murray was in the midst of his best campaign as a pro last season before suffering a season-ending ACL injury in April. There’s no firm timetable for Murray’s return at this point, but he’s likely to miss a large portion of the ’21-22 season. When he does ultimately return to action, look for him to pick up where he left off last season.   13 Westbrook has averaged a triple-double in four of the last five seasons, a testament to his still-elite speed and athleticism as well as a motor that never quits. But does he help a team win games at a meaningful level? We might get our answer to that question this season as he teams up with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, only now his impact will have to be felt in a reduced role. Whether Westbrook embraces a lower-usage existence and controls his worst shooting impulses could largely determine how far the Lakers go.   14 As tough and beloved as the Grizzlies were with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph pushing people around, part of me wishes Conley hadn’t had to wait so long to play this style of basketball. Launching pull-up 3s in transition and making the absolute most of Utah’s spacing, Conley had something of a career season offensively at the age of 33. When healthy, he’s still an effective defender at the point of attack, too. He finally made an All-Star team, so the only milestone left is a championship. Bet he’d engrave “Grit&Grind” on the ring, like Gasol did.   15 Smart is an all-world defensive player, more versatile than a 6-foot-4 guy has any right to be. He has playmaking chops, too, and is a confident shooter, if far too streaky, shooter. Despite playing a different position, he’s much more similar to Draymond Green than most of the undersized bigs who get those comparisons every season.  



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