The heavyweight battle for the top point guard spot may be a two-horse race between Chris Paul and Deron Williams but there is an overlooked between Devin Harris and Rajon Rondo.
Both of these young points have stepped up their games this season, going from being onesies to 1’s for their respective teams—Harris fulfilling promise that made him the fifth overall pick in '04 and worth trading Jason Kidd for, Rondo going from wide-eyed question mark point guard for the Big Three to applying for Big Four status. Who's the best young PG after Paul and Williams? Let's find out.
--Scoring: This wasn't even close. With 21.4 ppg almost doubling Rondo's 11.2 output, Harris wins this category easily. While Rondo is clever with his little scoops and flips around the basket and is seemingly becoming a master at deking dudes with his up-fake, he cannot match Harris' pure scoring horsepower—although neither has yet to master the art of the three. Whether if s creating his shot off the dribble, using his lightspeed to blow cats away, wetting outside jumpers or netting free throws (the latter two things being very deficient in Rondo's game), Harris is one of the best at his position at filling the basket. Winner: HARRIS
--Floor Game: Watch a Celtics game and pay attention to nothing but #9. He is a virtual pinball, bouncing from one end of the court to the next, with little logic to his next point of impact. Whether it's chasing down a loose ball, snapping up a long board or enabling a teammate to score, it is Rondo's job to fill in every gap in Boston's lineup. It's hard to gauge Harris' skills since the Nets rely on him to be the scoring complement to Vince Carter. The best way to compare the two is to consider Harris a very sharp and reliable pocket knife and Rondo as a multi-tool with a retractable and serviceable blade. Winner: RONDO
--Defense: Lest you forget, as a Maverick, Harris was once used primarily as a harasser of point guards off the bench. His job was to come in and disrupt the opposition's offense by giving opposing 1’s fits with his quickness, long limbs and defensive energy. [Ed note: please don't judge Devin's D on the YouTube video where he gets hustled by a European streetballer] As a Net, Harris has had to throttle down his D to save himself on 0, but he occasionally flashes back to his Big D ways from time to time. KG may cop the accolades for anchoring Boston's defense, but shrewd observers heap credit to Rondo. As the first line of defense, Rondo is the man responsible for making entry passes to the post as un-routine as possible, stripping unsuspecting bigs of the rock and corralling
ballhandlers with his incredible wingspan. This season should mark his entry into the League's All-D squad. Winner: RONDO
--Clutch: We typically grade clutch on the ability to come up big offensively down the stretch. This would be unfair to Rondo since he plays fourth fiddle to clutch kings Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and even Garnett in that regard. Rondo's contribution in closing moments is his ability on the defensive end, making sure PGs have a hard time setting up the offense with ball pressure. Harris, on the other hand, is looked upon to score or initiate opportunities for teammates with the game on the line. His fumbling game-winner against Philly was icing on the cake. Winner: HARRIS
--Leadership: Both Harris and Rondo are still in the padawan stage of their PG training. Harris has the benefit of being thrust into the role on a Nets team filled with youngsters looking up to him for guidance. On the flipside, while Rondo might be the green sapling in Boston's forest of greybeards, he does benefit from learning from the elder statesmen and former NBA point Doc Rivers. What's better— on-the-job crash training or an apprenticeship from the masters? We think the school of hard knocks prepares one better.
Let’s start by saying that any team other than the Hornets and Jazz would love to have either of these fine point guards running their team. Rajon Rondo lost the Shootout against Devln Harris 3-2, but It was certainly a tough call on several categories. Even among the HOOP staff, there are several dissenting opinions—OK, maybe just one-on the matchup, but ultimately, it came down to versatility and adaptability. While both are highly skilled, we feel that terns' game translates better across the board as opposed to Rondo's. Harris could probably go to any NBA team and find a way to make an impact whereas Rondo would have to be in an ideal situation—Boston being an almost perfect system—to shine.