- Chris Palmer, ESPN the Magazine
We're officially in the dog days of the lockout. Negotiations between the players and owners have stalled and seemingly every day there's talk of another star jumping overseas. But not even the lockout is cause to stop evaluating the best players in the game and seeing how they stack up against their peers based on talent, skill and productivity. This week, I'll be ranking the top five players at each position and breaking down what makes them so special. Each day, I'll look at a different position, starting with point guards and finishing with centers. So toss out postseason awards and career accomplishments and find out who's the best of the best.
1. Chris Paul, Hornets
If his commanding performance against the Los Angeles Lakers in the playoffs showed us anything, it's that Paul is the game's most complete point guard. His fundamentals are impeccable, and he's capable of effectively running any set in any style of offense. With arguably the best handle in the NBA, it's virtually impossible to deny him access to any path to the rim or spot on the floor. His combination of yo-yo-like ball control, speed and split-second decision-making make him the best pick-and-roll point guard in a pick-and-roll league. He rarely makes the wrong decision after the pick, and no one is better at throwing the lob to the rolling big. Inside the arc, he makes tricky floaters from odd angles seem routine. His deep cache of runners and pull-ups save him the trouble of having to go all the way to the rim, which prevents him from getting his shot blocked as often and reduces wear and tear on his body. One of Paul's most effective but least-known assets is his strength. It gets lost among all his other attributes but helps him to absorb contact in the lane and shrug off bigger defenders while trying to turn the corner.