The 10 Best Passers In the NBA
Who Are The 10 Best Passers In The NBA?
The NBA is a league where we tend to predominately celebrate the scorers. It’s quite easy for fans and analysts to talk about the merits of a guy dropping 40 points in a game. However, it’s much more difficult for people to always find the other things in the game as easy to discuss as scoring. Quite simply, points are much more attractive than rebounds, assists, and so on.
However, the intrinsic value of the “other” stuff in the NBA deserves to be appreciated more. Quite frankly, many of the scorers in this league aren’t as prolific as they are without a big man pulling down boards on the defensive end of the floor and someone facilitating the play on the offensive end of the floor.
Passing is one of the most underrated skills in the game of basketball. Sure, there is plenty of appreciation for when a guy nutmegs a defender with a pass or goes behind-the-back on a fast-break, but that doesn’t fully account for the things like court-vision, timing, recognition and quickness that all play a part in a player being a great passer at the pro level.
Obviously passing is key to success in the NBA game and is something that most people reserve in their mind for guards. However, there’s something that can also be said for the value of a big man that can throw outlet passes like Kevin Love or a big man that can facilitate on the interior or in the high-post. Those types of things can make an offense more dynamic, especially if they’re done at a high level.
I realize that there are plenty of people who appreciate good passing, but I also know that it’s not as abundant as the appreciation for scoring. However, the great passers of this league deserve to be commended for the flair and value that they bring to the NBA. Here are the 10 best passers in the Association today.
10. Tony Parker
Tony Parker has been doing it for the San Antonio Spurs for quite a while now and we all know he can score the basketball, especially with that tremendous floater in the lane. However, he’s also one of the most creative and capable passers in the league. Sure, it’s nice to have guys like Tim Duncan to distribute to and to play in Gregg Popovich’s system. However, you can’t take away from the productivity and ability of Parker that he’s displayed over his career and when he’s been healthy this season.
9. Steve Nash
Health has been the biggest hurdle for Steve Nash over his first two seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, but as the 40-year-old is still in the league his savvy as a passer has to be appreciated. He’s obviously not as quick as he once was, but Nash is still one of the most nifty and smart passers in the NBA when he’s on the floor. With his retirement looming in the seemingly near future, you can just imagine Nash at the local YMCA for the next 20 years dropping dimes to everyone in pick-up games.
8. Marc Gasol
I’ve long championed Marc Gasol’s value offensively to the Memphis Grizzlies and a large part of that is due to his ability to facilitate for the offense. Gasol is such a physically demanding presence deep on the interior and his mid-range game is good enough to demand attention as well. This opens up a great deal of room for the rest of the offense to move and get open looks. Gasol is fantastic at finding those guys for those looks. It’s not flashy, but it’s highly effective.
7. Stephen Curry
One of the great things about Stephen Curry this season is that the Golden State Warriors point guard has had the chance to showcase his ability as a passer more often this season. Yes, Curry is still a juggernaut when it comes to shooting the rock, but he’s had the opportunity to be a more prolific facilitator this year as he’s averaging a career-high 8.9 dimes per game. It also goes often unappreciated how Curry can make flashy passes look routine, whether he’s going off-the-backboard for an alley-oop or finding a cutter with a behind-the-pack dish. The three-point shooting is unbelievable, but so is his passing if you pay attention.
6. Joakim Noah
Joakim Noah often gets talked about because of the energy, toughness and hustle that he brings to the Chicago Bulls. However, the center is also arguably the most skilled passing big man in the NBA. Wherever he is on the floor, Noah has a knack for finding open guys and helping create good looks for them. It’s truly a thing of beauty to watch Noah operate in the post when it comes to how he distributes to his teammates.
5. Rajon Rondo
While we still haven’t seen Rajon Rondo in full force this season in his 14 games since returning to the Boston Celtics’ lineup, there’s no denying Rondo’s ability as a facilitator. What makes Rondo such a special passer is that there’s seemingly no pass that he can’t make. He can thread the needle through the defense, but can also get in among the big bodies and fight to make a pass to a driving teammate or open shooter. His giant hands also allow him to pull off some nifty passing moves on occasion, but it’s the whole body of passing work that lands Rondo here.
4. LeBron James
LeBron James is the best player in the NBA, despite Kevin Durant’s best efforts to prove otherwise. LeBron has the skill and physically ability to score 35 points per game, but what sets him apart is his savvy and ability to facilitate for those around him. Not only is he a smart passer that seemingly is always setting guys up for the best look on any given play, but he can also make passes that are simply incredible when you think about him. No one makes a cross-court pass with the force, accuracy and timing that James does on a regular basis. Hate him all you want, but the man can do it all and do it with the best of them.
3. Manu Ginobili
Over his wildly prolific career with the Spurs, one thing that has made Manu Ginobili such a treat to watch is his passing. The eurostep is legendary, but so are his passes that bend like a David Beckham free kick into the lane and right into the hands of the intended target. Ginobili’s a great overall passer, but his crowning achievement in that respect is his ability to make passes when the angles seemingly aren’t there for him to make it.
2. Chris Paul
Chris Paul could easily be number one on this list and, honestly, I flip-flopped on where he should fall. The Los Angeles Clippers guard definitely benefits from having guys like Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan in the post that can catch any lob in a quarter-mile radius, but that’s not all Paul is capable of doing. Paul’s ability to muscle his way into the lane and find guys is legendary, as his ability to completely annihilate defenses because of how well he can read them. Paul is one of the best pure point guards in the history of the game and that’s largely due to his prowess as a passer.
1. Ricky Rubio
Ricky Rubio might not be getting minutes with the Minnesota Timberwolves if it weren’t for his ability to pass and facilitate. However, he’s the best in the league at doing so and it’s huge for the Wolves offense. Rubio combines flair, touch, and smarts in his passing in ways that we’ve rarely seen in the history of the NBA. Obviously giving the rock to Kevin Love would help anyone’s assist numbers, but it’s truly Rubio that gets this Minnesota offense clicking. What’s even crazier to consider, though, is just how dangerous Rubio could be as a passer if he could get his shot and scoring offense to a higher level.