20. terry rozier, boston celtics
Under different circumstances, Terry Rozier could have finished higher in our ranking. But the fact he’ll have to split playing time with an elite point guard ahead of him in the rotation (and No. 3 on our list), with a defensive monster in Marcus Smart, who’s going to get a ton of minutes next year, and with Gordon Hayward, a ball-dominant wing, will hurt Rozier’s overall output.
In 2018-19, Rozier made a jump, averaging career highs in points (11.3), rebounds (4.7), assists (2.9) and three-point percentage (38.1) while playing an important role on an upstart Boston Celtics team that won 55 games and was within one victory of reaching the NBA Finals. Boston’s deep playoff run was heavily buoyed by Rozier, as the Louisville product put up 16.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.7 assists per postseason outing.
He’s still got to work on his overall efficiency, and he performs far better at home than on the road, but with his improved offensive game and his stingy defensive prowess, Rozier could wind up being a prime trade target at the deadline for a rebuilding organization looking for a long-term fix at point guard.
19. reggie jackson, detroit pistons
Had it not been for back-to-back injury-plagued seasons, there’s a good chance Jackson would have finished higher on this list. But lingering ailments of different varieties have taken their toll on the Boston College product, forcing him to miss 67 contests over the last two years, and sinking the Detroit Pistons’ chances of making the playoffs in the process.
Even when he did get a chance to play last season, Jackson shot a meager 42.3 percent from the floor and 33.4 percent from three, though it should also be noted, the Pistons were statistically better with him in the lineup.
If Jackson can show his 2015-16 form, when he averaged 18.8 points, 6.2 assists and 1.5 three-pointers nightly, and finished Top-50 in box plus/minus (BPM) and Value Over Replacement Player (VORP), he could be in store for a bounce-back season. He’s still just 28, so it’s not totally unreasonable to believe that could happen. But it’s been two years since his last fully healthy campaign, so we’re gonna have to see it to believe it.
18. jeff teague, minnesota timberwolves
He may not be the best fit on his new team, but Jeff Teague is still one of the league’s better point guards. In his first year with the Minnesota Timberwolves, the 6-foot-2 floor general averaged 14.2 points, 7.0 assists, 1.2 triples and 1.5 steals per contest while slashing 44.6/36.8/84.5 shooting splits.
Teague is about a league-average threat from beyond the arc, is a good distributor and, even in his late-20s, can be a terror in transition. The issue is, playing next to such ball-dominant players like Karl-Anthony Towns, Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins, Teague wasn’t able to flaunt his full skill set. Minnesota would have been better off with a sharpshooter at the lead-guard spot, who could thrive off the ball. And Teague would have been better-suited on a team needing more scoring punch in their opening lineup – a problem the Timberwolves don’t have.
Either way, Teague will continue to do what he does, and that’s score efficiently and defend opposing point guards well.
17. ricky rubio, utah jazz
Minnesota’s former point guard, Ricky Rubio, also struggled to acclimate with his new team, the Utah Jazz, early in 2017-18.
Over his first 26 games in Utah, the Spaniard averaged 11.8 points and 4.9 assists per contest while shooting a paltry 38.4 percent from the floor, and 29.0 percent from beyond the arc. But then Rubio got more comfortable in head coach Quin Snyder’s system, and over his final 51 outings, upped his numbers to 13.8 points and 5.5 assists nightly, on healthy 43.4/38.7/86.3 shooting splits.
Now heading into his age-28 season, Rubio should improve further, as he’ll be even more familiar with what Snyder wants out of his ball-handlers. Utah has high expectations entering Year-2 of the Donovan Mitchell era, and with an experienced veteran like Rubio manning the lead-guard spot, they could very well exceed them.
16. lonzo ball, los angeles lakers
Quietly – or actually, not that quietly considering all the family-related noise that surrounded him in his inaugural campaign – Lonzo Ball posted a pretty strong rookie season. His shooting numbers (36.0/30.5/45.1) were downright abysmal, but he made a huge impact for the Lakers every time he set foot on the floor. According to NBAWowy, from January on, L.A. posted a +3.2 net rating with Ball in the game and a -0.8 net rating when he sat.
Player-specific advanced metrics are even kinder to Ball. Per VORP, the Chino Hills native had a more productive year (+1.7) than multiple point guards who finished ahead of him on this list. What’s more, Ball’s 10.2/6.9/7.2 averages as a rookie put him in elite company for first-year players; only Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson and a player coming up on our countdown put up similar numbers in their opening seasons.
Ball has a funky game for a floor general, but that’s exactly what makes him so special. He loves to rebound and hit ahead to streaking teammates for easy transition opportunities rather than dribble the air out of the ball. He’d rather make the extra pass than seek out his own shot. And he’s already one of the most impactful defenders at the point-guard spot the league has to offer.
The sky’s the limit for Ball, and with a big 2018-19, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him break into the Top 10 of this list next year. He’s got that type of potential. (Plus, teaming up with that LeBron dude shouldn’t hurt, either.)