Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
New Nets coach Jason Kidd wants Deron Williams to average double-digits in assists. Who’s the best passer in the league? Who do you see leading the league in assists a game this season?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Smart to ask this as two questions, because the best passers don’t always play alongside the best shooters or finishers. That, for instance, will be a challenge now for Boston’s Rajon Rondo – when he returns from his ACL rehab, he won’t have Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett converting off his passes, one year after losing Ray Allen (on those occasions he passed to Allen). Anyway, my choice for best passer is Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio, who can see openings and create something from nothing on a nightly basis to elicit smiles. As for assists leader, though, I like the Clippers’ Chris Paul, who led the NBA in that category in 2008 and ’09. With Blake Griffin reportedly polishing his low-post game and J.J. Redick to hit from outside, Paul’s 9.7 apg could easily bump up by two per game.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Chris Paul and Chris Paul. Nobody in the league has a better handle and a better idea of what he wants to do with the ball than CP3. Got to think Rondo’s numbers drop because he no longer has Garnett and Pierce around to finish.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Rajon Rondo was the assist king the last two seasons and the two seasons before that belonged to Steve Nash. Let’s discount both, what with Rondo returning from ACL surgery and Nash, well, turning 40. That takes us all the way back to 2009 when New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul (11.0 apg) finished No. 1 and Utah Jazz point guard Deron Williams (10.7) was No. 2. Back then those two guys were also 1-2, with arguments over which was which, in any discussion about the best two young point guards in the league. CP3, the guy I consider the most gifted passer and playmaker in the game today, has closed that debate — for now. Williams is set up to have a terrific season. He’s got a good friend (Jason Kidd) as his coach who will run an up-tempo, D-Will-friendly offense. He should be in great shape and he has proven weapons inside and out. Williams could not only hit Kidd’s double-digit assist goal, but also lead the league in the category for the first time in his career. I will also note my excitement to watch a fully healthy Ricky Rubio, and a sleeper in new Kings PG Greivis Vasquez, who quietly averaged 9.0 apg last season with New Orleans.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Chris Paul is the best passer, and Kidd has a right to place those expectations because Williams isn’t far down the list. Kidd himself wouldn’t be either, still, if he was on the court instead of the sideline, just as Steve Nash should not be overlooked. But Paul plays fast and still makes the right play and precision passes. Who leads the league? I’ll go CP3 over Williams while also keeping an eye on the Pelicans’ Jrue Holiday. The Clippers have several options beyond Paul and his leadership mentality is to put a priority on a night of big assists over big scoring.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: In terms of vision, creativity and intelligence, Steve Nash is the gold standard, especially now that Kidd has retired and LeBron James isn’t technically a point guard. But Chris Paul will lead the league in assists. He was second to Rondo last season and has a couple of more scorers on his team this year, while Rondo will need to do a lot more work to set up his teammates now that Pierce and Garnett are gone.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Chris Paul is the most creative and best passing point guard in the league and has been for the past few years. And he gets that nod from me having risen to the top of the deepest, most talented and diverse group of point guards I can remember in the past three decades of the league. CP3 is an absolute master at the position and as a facilitator and passer, he’s as good as it gets. But he won’t lead the league in assists during the 2013-14 season. That honor will go to Deron Williams, provided he plays the way his coach asks him to with future Hall of Famers like Pierce and Garnett joining forces with Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson. He should have no problem averaging double-digit assists, something only Rondo did last season, on a team with as many different scoring options as the Brooklyn Nets will have to choose from during the regular season.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I think Chris Paul will lead the league in assists per game. CP3 will have more weapons around him than anyone else, and he’ll be able to pile up those assist totals playing Doc Rivers‘ offense, the same way Rondo did the last few years. But that said, I think Ricky Rubio is the best passer. I’m biased, sure, because I’ve been watching him since he was 15, but he plays with such panache and flair, and his vision is as good as it gets.
Hanson Guan, NBA China: If the category’s restricted to active players only, my answer is Chris Paul. As a point guard, his performance has been nothing but consistent since he joined the league. His 9.8-apg average ranks as the highest of active players. He’s led the league in assists three times. Plus, at critical moments, Paul can dominate the game by scoring. Presently, he is still at his peak. For the next season, I’m still looking forward to another year spent dominating the assist list.
Aldo Avinante, NBA Philippines: Two names will likely pop up in the debate for best passing PG: Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo. But I’m going to give that honor to Ricky Rubio. Paul is known for his cerebral approach and over-all control of the game, Rondo is known for his all-around abilities while Rubio is known for one thing: passing. The Spanish sensation has the full repertoire and seems genuinely happy with passing the basketball with Kevin Love and Kevin Martin as his targets. Expect Rubio to make a run for the assists title next season.
Eduardo Schell, NBA Espana : Steve Nash is still the best. A true magician who makes other betters. Here’s hoping injuries don’t give him as many problems as they did last season. I think Chis Paul will lead this category since Rondo will be sidelined and doesn’t have as much talent around as last year, and top rivals like Holiday and Vasquez have been traded. I would like to see José Calderón up there: not a flashy player but one who makes his team better, and will take advantage of having Dirk, Marion and Ellis with him.