Here's the top 10 PGs as well.
Projecting top 10 PGs for 2014-15
Chris Paul headlines WARP-based projection rankings for coming season
Updated: August 18, 2014, 12:50 PM ET
By Bradford Doolittle | ESPN Insider
Do you know the last NBA champion that had its point guard lead the team in wins above replacement player (WARP)? It was the 1990 Detroit Pistons, led by Isiah Thomas. Perhaps it's no coincidence that teams like Phil Jackson's Bulls and Lakers, which decentralize the playmaking role, have dominated the annual title chase. Nevertheless, 20 of next season's top 50 players by projected WARP are point guards. Championship trends aside, it's a point guard's league.
Starting Monday with point guards, over the next week we'll rank players by position according to forecast WARP, which is perfect for this kind of exercise because it accounts for a player's efficiency, volume of production and team context. This also means that injury and age played a part in the rankings, so notable veteran point guards who suffered injuries last season, like Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, Tony Parker, are absent from the top 10. (A complete explanation can be found at the bottom of this page; last year's point guard rankings can be found here.)
Here are the projected top 10 point guards for the 2014-15 NBA season, followed by the next five and an overview of why some notable PGs fell outside the top 10.
PG | SG | SF | PF | C
1. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
Projected 2014-15 WARP: 17.8 | Win%: 73 percent
Paul topped these rankings last season and, really, why would things have changed? His 14.2 WARP was held down by the 20 games he missed, but still ranked eighth in the league. Over the last three years, his 48.2 WARP ranks in the 99th percentile. Paul still hasn't enjoyed the magical kind of playoff run that would be the icing on the cake of a historically great career. He'll be 30 by the end of the coming season, but given Paul's floor-based skill set, there is no real need to start talking shrinking windows of opportunity. Paul does it all, he does it consistently and he does it on both ends of the floor.
2. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
Projected 2014-15 WARP: 15.1 | Win%: 69 percent
Westbrook was also second last summer at point guard, but this time around he crawled a couple of WARP closer to Paul. Westbrook missed 36 games last season and as a result finished 30th in WARP, down from third the season before. On the other hand, Westbrook's winning percentage was a career best, and if he goes back to playing 82 games a year, he'll rank as one of the top six or seven players in the league. Westbrook's primary improvement was in shot selection; he increased his frequency of 3-point attempts. If he ever becomes consistent on those deep shots, look out.
3. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Projected 2014-15 WARP: 14.2 | Win%: 67 percent
Curry's plus-6.1 offensive real plus-minus was a career best. Part of that was Curry's getting his own offense, as his usage rate and true shooting percentage were both career highs. So too was his assist rate, and Curry now runs the point not like just another shoot-first guard, but like a pure playmaker who also happens to be an amazing scorer. Curry has finished fourth in WARP in each of the last two seasons, and a future MVP trophy is well within the realm of possibility.
4. John Wall, Washington Wizards
Projected 2014-15 WARP: 13.8 | Win%: 65 percent
Wall's 2013-14 season wasn't much different in terms of value from the season before; he was just healthier, playing in all 82 games and logging nearly 3,000 minutes. His winning percentage actually fell from .597 to .594, but all that extra time on the court was worth a five-WARP leap to 11.1, good for 17th in the NBA. Wall will be just 24 at the end of this season, and the projection you see referenced above means this system sees him taking a leap forward. If that happens, the improvement will come from three areas: a better jump shot, a decrease in turnovers and a more focused effort on the defensive end.
5. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
Projected 2014-15 WARP: 12.1 | Win%: 63 percent
Irving was third in last year's rankings and figured to be on the verge of a breakout campaign. It didn't happen. Irving's winning percentage was a career low. This season, Irving's game will change one way or another with new teammates LeBron James and (probably) Kevin Love around. He'll have to be a more efficient scorer. Irving's true shooting percentage was just 53 percent a season ago, and he shot just 46 percent on 2-pointers. More importantly, Irving will need to quit putting up defensive metrics that seriously undercut his bottom-line value.
6. Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
Projected 2014-15 WARP: 11.8 | Win%: 62 percent
Last season could hardly have gone better for Lowry, who ranked eighth in last year's projections. After three seasons right around 8.0 WARP, Lowry exploded for 14.3 last season, ranking seventh in the league, 27 spots better than his previous best. He led the Raptors to a franchise-record 48 wins, then signed a four-year, $48 million deal to remain in Toronto. Lowry's indirect impact has been very consistent over his career, but last season he became more efficient with his own offense, posting career bests in both usage rate and true shooting percentage.
7. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Projected 2014-15 WARP: 11.24 | Win%: 60 percent
Any concerns that Lillard might have entered the NBA near his perceived ceiling were assuaged by his terrific second season. He remained a workhorse by again playing all 82 games and getting nearly 3,000 minutes. His improvement outside the 3-point arc offset a bit of a decline inside it, and he also got to the line more often. Lillard's assist rate fell a bit, but that didn't affect his indirect impact, and his offensive RPM climbed from plus-2.1 to plus-5.3. His defensive indicators are poor, and that should be an area of focus going forward.
8. Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies
Projected 2014-15 WARP: 11.21 | Win%: 62 percent
Conley missed a few more games in 2013-14 than he did the previous season, but otherwise last season was a dead ringer from the previous campaign, with one exception: Conley used more offense, which came primarily in the form of 2-point shots. More important was Conley's ball protection. He turned the ball over between 14.2 and 15.7 percent of his possessions in each of his first six seasons; last season, that number was slashed to 11.5. Unlike some other top point guards, Conley doesn't kneecap his value on defense, with a defensive RPM of break-even-or-better four years running.
9. Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves
Projected 2014-15 WARP: 10.9 | Win%: 63 percent
Rubio rates as one of the league's best defensive point guards. This season, he'll have to up the ante on the offensive end with Kevin Love likely on his way to Cleveland. Despite an ugly turnover rate, Rubio's playmaking clearly elevates the level of his teammates. But his usage rate fell almost 5 percent in 2013-14, to an unacceptable 16.5 percent. And while he made nominal improvements with his shooting accuracy, he has a long way to go. Simply put, with Love gone, Rubio has to figure out a way to put the ball in the hoop.
10. Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets
Projected 2014-15 WARP: 10.1 | Win%: 60 percent
In his first post-George Karl season, Lawson did a little more of everything, but he did it more inefficiently than ever before. That's been the trend throughout his career, with a usage rate that has gone up every season and a true shooting percentage that has fallen accordingly. Last season, Lawson's assist rate climbed over 10 percent for the first time, but his turnover rate spiked. His defensive metrics have always been poor, so on a healthier roster, Denver needs Lawson to recover some efficiency.
The next five: Goran Dragic, Deron Williams, Kemba Walker, Michael Carter-Williams, Trey Burke
Dragic's career season puts him on the verge of the elite, while Williams' worst season drops him from the top five.
Also notable: Eric Bledsoe, Patrick Beverley, Jrue Holiday, Isaiah Thomas, as well the aforementioned Rondo, Rose and Parker. As we mentioned in the introduction, Injury woes and age undermine the projections for some of these big-name players.