You already know it’s a point-guard driven league. Goran Dragic‘s omission from the All-Star game despite injury and then his All-NBA Third Team selection showed how tight the discussion is when comparing the best half of the NBA’s starting point guards. ESPN Insider’s Bradford Doolittle reminded us of this when he began rolling out his projected top-10 position series.
Ranking the best point guards in the league based on a projected Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP) statistic, Dragic was left just outside of the top-10 that didn’t even include older stars in Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose and Tony Parker. Eric Bledsoe was ranked at the No. 16ish spot, while Isaiah Thomas closed out the top-20. This is what the top-10 looked like:
Doolittle notes that it’s heavily leaning on ESPN’s new Real Plus-Minus, of which former Suns forward Channing Frye ranked No. 11. That should warn you that this is just a matter of statistics, not necessarily that Dragic is simply an average NBA starting point guard.
The shooting guard rankings were released on Tuesday and that combined to the point guard rankings lends a little more insight as to why Phoenix is so set on running out Dragic, Bledsoe and Thomas rather than using a traditional shooting guard. In a way, it helps understand what might be viewed as a snub toward Dragic. Here’s the shooting guard rankings followed by their projected WARP:
1. James Harden, 16.2
2. Dwyane Wade, 9.1
3. Monta Ellis, 8.4
4. Jimmy Butler, 8.3
5. Dion Waiters, 6.9
6. Tyreke Evans, 6.3
7. Victor Oladipo, 6.3
8. Klay Thompson, 6.2
9. Manu Ginobili, 6.0
10. Lance Stephenson, 5.6
The 10th-ranked point guard, Ty Lawson, has a WARP of 10.1, which I suspect is a click or two better than Dragic’s ranking (Doolittle didn’t list the WARPs for those outside the top-10, but he did rank them in order). At shooting guard, James Harden ranked first with an impressive 16.2 WARP projection, but there’s a major drop-off thereafter. Dwyane Wade comes in No. 2 despite his injury issues with a 9.1 WARP. The lack of depth at shooting guard is evident with Jimmy Butler ranking fourth with a 8.3 projected WARP and Dion Waiters‘ 6.9 projected WARP ranking fifth.
All this goes to support three interconnected decisions by the Suns: Why they aren’t willing to pay Bledsoe max dollars, the signing of Thomas for a decreasing four-year deal that begins at $7.2 million, and finally the more general idea of using two point guards rather than a traditional shooting guard.
The signing of Thomas is at the intersection of the other two ideas. For that reason, the signing is considered as one of the better value moves by any team this summer.
Look at it this way. Even if Bledsoe doesn’t re-sign, the Suns move a value honorable mention in Thomas into the starting point guard spot and have Dragic alongside him with a projected WARP that’s better than every shooting guard on the list save for Harden.
WARP projections may have snubbed Dragic in one way, but in another, it helps compliment what the Suns are doing with him, Thomas and (possibly) Bledsoe.