Mario Chalmers is the most confident man in a Spalding polo you've ever seen. (AP)
During a recent appearance in Queens, N.Y., to visit the winner of Spalding's "Arena to Driveway" promotion — remember, Mario rocks Spaldings on the floor, which his well-heeled Heat teammates find pretty hilarious — Chalmers sat down with Bleacher Report's Peter Emerick for a catch-all summer recap interview that touched on topics like offseason training, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash joining the Los Angeles Lakers, and Miami importing shooters Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis.
Peter Emerick: "Rajon Rondo recently said that he's the NBA's top point guard. What are your thoughts on that, and where do you think you rank among all the point guards in the NBA?"
Mario Chalmers: "He's not the best, but he's in the top five. There are a lot of great point guards in the league, Deron Williams, Chris Paul and Steve Nash. There are a lot of great guards in the NBA so for him to say he's the best is a pretty bold statement. I'd say that I [Mario Chalmers] am in the front end of the top 10."
Before we get to the argument side of this coin, let's all pause for a second and applaud Chalmers for handily and stylishly winning this particular Bold Statement Contest.
It's one thing to say that a competitor isn't as good as he thinks he is, even though said competitor is a three-time All-Star who has dished the second-most assists in the NBA over the past four years (Rondo's 2,833 dimes trail only Nash's 3,128), has four straight All-Defensive Team selections to his credit and a owns track record of amazing performances in big games. It is QUITE ANOTHER INDEED to then immediately assert your own claim to nearly-as-lofty status, based solely, it seems, on gall. That's some good gumption, Mario. Nicely done.
That said: The "Who's the best point guard in the NBA?" debate is always fun specifically because you can make arguments for a variety of guys in a variety of contexts — for my money, no point guard controls a game as completely and as brilliantly as CP3 — but reasonable people can differ on that score for a million reasons. If you agree with Rondo's self-assessment and think his defense, big-game performances and laundry list of double-digit assist games bumps him up the list, you can make a sound case for it without anyone trying to toss a straightjacket on you.
You might not know that, among the 67 point guards who played at least 6.1 minutes per game last season, Chalmers ranked 48th in Player Efficiency Rating and 43rd in Estimated Wins Added, according to ESPN.com's John Hollinger, but you know he's not a top-10 NBA point guard, irrespective of which guy tops your list, because you know that Paul, Williams, Rondo, Nash, Derrick Rose, Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook, Ty Lawson, Kyrie Irving and Stephen Curry all exist. Even the biggest Heat fans in the world would have a difficult time arguing with a straight face that they'd rather have Mario Chalmers than any of those 10 players.
You might have an argument if we're talking about 11 through 20, because then you'd have to consider how much Chalmers' often-solid on-ball defense (especially on ball-handlers in the pick and roll, which is how opponents most frequently attacked him last year, according to play-tracking data from Synergy Sports Technology) and 3-point shooting (a career-high 38.8 percent last year, good for 36th in the league and 11th among point guards) mitigate his weak 1.56-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and generally unremarkable play.
But are Chalmers' 3-and-D talents enough to slot him in ahead of/on par with skilled and steady vets like Mike Conley, Kyle Lowry, Andre Miller and Jose Calderon, developing playoff-caliber points like Jrue Holiday, Jeff Teague and Goran Dragic, or more purely talented but often erratic players like John Wall, Ricky Rubio and Brandon Jennings? You could argue that he works just fine for what Miami wants him to be, given that coach Erik Spoelstra obviously (and understandably) prefers running offense through James, Wade and Bosh, and just wants someone to D up and hit open jumpers. But from a pure "who'd you rather have?" point of view? It's hard to say he's "in the front of" that second set, either.
A charitable analysis would probably slot Chalmers in as a middle-of-the-pack NBA point guard, capable of being a supplemental scorer and facilitator who occasionally pops for a big night (to wit: 25 on 15 shots in Game 4) but mostly just lives on the margins; a more sober viewing could drop him down into the bottom third of NBA starters. Luckily for Heat fans, Chalmers doesn't believe a word of that; frankly, with the Heat coming off a title and looking poised to play big games late into the spring again this coming season, that unyielding (and largely unfounded) confidence is probably his greatest asset.
Hat-tip to r/NBA.
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