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The NBA’s Most Underrated Point Guards

A look at some of the NBA’s most underrated point guards, including Mike Conley Jr., a reigning NBA champion and more!

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As it goes with just about everything in life, someone or something doesn’t get mentioned nearly as often as they should and are often viewed as underrated or under looked. In the music scene, for example, certain artists or bands are viewed as more talented than maybe their record sales show or which awards they lose out on at the Grammy’s.

In the NBA, there are plenty of capable players at each position and more often than not there are only a certain number of players being talked about. When it comes to the point guard position, it seems like Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, John Wall, Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving are among the names that are mentioned most often. While those players have earned the right to dominate those conversations, there are a number of other point guards that should be receiving more praise than they are.

Here are five point guards (in no particular order) that are often overlooked and deserve to be talked about more:

Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies – Conley has been climbing the ranks in the NBA ever since he began his career seven seasons ago. Conley has had steady improvement in points per game and field goal percentage in just about each of his seven seasons in the league and remains a big part of the Grizzlies’ success. Conley’s improvement is the result of relentless work watching game film and a better understanding of what it takes to win and to play well.

Conley showed last season the ability to become a great player on the both sides of the ball as he increased his points per game from 14.6 points per game two seasons ago to 17.2 points per game last season. A big part of that increase was due to Conley shooting a career-high 45 percent from the field and 36 percent from three-point range. The improvement on the offensive side of the ball complements his ability to play on the other end of the court. Conley has long been known as a defensive-minded point guard as he earned a spot on the All-Defensive Second Team two seasons while averaging 2.18 steals per game.

It was Conley’s Grizzlies that nearly pulled off an improbable upset of the second-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder in last season’s playoffs. Conley averaged nearly 16 points and eight assists in that series, including a near triple-double of 19 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds in Game 2. Conley will be entering next season coming off of another great showing during the playoffs.

Jose Calderon, New York Knicks – With Calderon in New York City now, the Knicks may very well be a much improved team just by adding his services. The Knicks have long missed a point guard that can run the show and Calderon adds superb passing, shooting and a veteran presence. Calderon is a career 48 percent shooter from the field, including 46 percent last season in Dallas. He finished second among qualified point guards in three-point shooting by shooting 46 percent from beyond the arc. Perhaps one of the most important stats that stands out is Calderon’s 3.66 assists per turnover, which was third in the league last season behind only Chris Paul and Pablo Prigioni.

Sharing the court with Carmelo Anthony this season may have an effect on his numbers, but Calderon shared the court with Monta Ellis last season in Dallas and still managed to remain effective. Knicks head coach Derek Fisher will be able to get Calderon plenty of open looks in the triangle offense from behind the arc and his play could even mimic that of Fisher. Calderon isn’t a player that will light it up with a ton of points, but he is a player that consistently remains one of the most effective in the league and could be one of the Knicks’ unsung heroes by the end of the season.

Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets – It’s hard to imagine a player with averages of 17.6 points, 8.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game getting overlooked much, but that’s exactly what has happened to Lawson. With so much of the conversation focused on Chris Paul, Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving, it’s easy to see how Lawson is overlooked. Much like Mike Conley, Lawson has shown steady improvement in each year in the league. Lawson’s 17.6 points per game was good for 10th-best in the league and his 8.8 assists per game were tied for second-most in the league with Kendall Marshall and John Wall.

When Lawson has been healthy he has proven to be a top-10 point guard. The problem has been that he has battled injuries throughout his career and hasn’t completed a full season in his five seasons in the league, but he still hasn’t missed more than 21 games in a season. With Kenneth Faried having a great summer playing with Team USA and the Nuggets bringing Arron Afflalo back, the Nuggets should begin the season healthy and have the opportunity to compete for a playoff spot which will help Lawson’s chances of entering the conversation among the league’s best point guards.

Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs – Of course no underrated point guard list is complete without listing Parker. The 13-year veteran is still dropping 16.7 points on nearly 50 percent shooting (best in the league among point guards) and 5.7 assists on a nightly basis and is just two seasons removed from averaging 20.3 points and 7.6 assists per game. At this point in Parker’s career, there should be no reason that he is being overlooked among the league’s best point guards. Parker has led the Spurs to four titles during his 13 seasons and has made the playoffs in each of those 13 seasons. In comparison, Chris Paul has yet to advance past the second-round of the playoffs and Paul is widely considered the best point guard in the league.

Goran Dragic, Phoenix Suns – The Suns were under no pressure last season to make the playoffs, but nearly locked in a playoff spot largely in part to Dragic’s season. The Most Improved Player of the Year increased his scoring from 14.7 to 20.3 points per game, which was the result of shooting 51 percent from the field and 41 percent from three-point range. The most impressive thing with Dragic’s improvement last season is that his role mostly remained the same with the Suns. His minutes only increased on average by two per game from the previous season but he still made significant jumps in key statistical areas.  It’ll be tough to predict whether or not Dragic is in store for another season like that with Eric Bledsoe remaining on the team (for now) and the arrival of Isaiah Thomas, but teams will surely be watching Dragic whenever he’s on the floor.

Last season proved that there are point guards capable of being effective without having to score 20-25 points per game like Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving. These players have proven that the top point guard conversations should be expanded to include 8-10 players, rather than the same four or five players.

Which point guards do you think should be included as most underrated in the NBA? Let us know below! 

Cody Taylor is an NBA writer in his fourth season with Basketball Insiders, covering the NBA and NCAA out of Orlando and Miami.

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