POSTED: Apr 6, 2015 11:27 AM ET
Curry can get defenders off-balance with the crossover, then nail the jumper.
Stephen Curry can send defenders off-balance with the killer crossover and nail the jumper.
There is no real statistic to quantify how good a player is at ball handling, until someone like Stephen Curry makes you leap up from your couch after making one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA look silly. Killer crossovers, behind-the-back dribbles and general wizardry with the rock are beautiful things to watch, and the NBA has several guys that are magicians with the ball in their hands.
Sure, for the sake of winning basketball games, limiting turnovers is the aspect of ball handling that is most important. But for this list, style points count too. With that in mind, here are the 10 best ball handlers in the NBA.
Flash isn't in Conley's vocabulary, and quite literally, Conley might be the best person at taking care of the ball on this list. He averages just 2.2 turnovers per game, an outstanding mark for someone who handles the ball as often as Conley. But style points matter, and though the savvy floor general likely has a bag of dribbling tricks in his arsenal, he's not one to show those off in games. There's a reason Conley is one of the more unheralded point guards in the league: he's not it in for the fame; he's in it for the victories.
The Nuggets aren't good enough for people to consider them as anything resembling a threat in the West but aren't bad enough to challenge the likes of the Knicks, 76ers or Lakers, so they aren't often talked about. Lawson is their best player, and for some of those George Karl teams a few years back, he was able to show off his talent with the orange in his hands. Outside of John Wall (and Ish Smith), Lawson may be the fastest player in the league. Combine that with his low center of gravity and tricky maneuvers with the rock, and he is one killer ball handler.
Nikola Mirotic thinks Walker belongs higher on this list. The Hornets lead guard is almost too talented of a ball handler for his own good, as he has a bad habit of over dribbling and stalling Charlotte's offense. He's Lance Stephenson-lite, in that sense. But when you can break ankles and buckle knees like Walker, it's hard not to show off those gifts.
Parker is a master of deception, and while he's not as prone to embarrass a defender as some of his peers, his array of dribbling moves is up there with anyone. His crossover is simple yet effective, and he gets into the paint at will for the Spurs. If a team employs the Rick Carlisle strategy from last year's playoffs to halt the Spurs attack, where off-ball defenders stick to shooters near the 3-point line instead of helping, Parker will have a chance to showcase those abilities once again.
Rondo is an interesting case here, as he's not necessarily as good of a dribbler as the other folks on this list. But some of the passes he dishes out are just crazy entertaining, as seen above. Rondo also makes the most fundamental of basketball plays, the bounce pass, look cool. There aren't many guys in the NBA who can yo-yo the ball around and find an open teammate as quickly and effectively as Rondo, which makes him an exquisite ball handler.
The dude's nickname is J Crossover, and quite often, he lives up to it. Crawford is an outstanding ball handler, and he knows it. Killer crossover, behind-the-back, hesitation dribble... you name it, Crawford has it in his repertoire. He's getting near the end of his NBA career and he's still clowning fools, and I'm probably not the only one that he thinks he would make an excellent Harlem Globetrotter once his time with the Clippers comes to an end.
Paul is an outstanding blend of caretaker and style, as CP3 can make a fool of an opposing point guard with the best of them. But he also understands that sometimes, less is more. The Clippers are a machine on offense for a reason, and rather than showcasing his own dribbling powers, Paul is more interested in limiting turnovers and making the right basketball play whenever possible.
To put it kindly, Harden is not nearly as shy as Paul in showcasing his dribbling abilities. He'll take entire possessions dribbling out the shot clock multiple times per game, usually a recipe for a terrible shot attempt. But you know what usually happens with Harden? He'll hit a ridiculous step back jumper, pull up for a 3 or, most commonly, get into the paint and draw a foul. Harden is the champion of the through-the-legs dribble, and the Rockets have given him complete control of their offense.
Curry inspired this entire column after clowning not just another point guard this week, but Chris Paul. The behind the back crossover inspired several memes, and when deciding between Curry and the next player on this list, there's not much you can do besides flip a coin. They're both immensely talented with the ball in their hands.
Curry vs. Irving is truly a toss up, but Irving gets a slight edge based on participation points. Is Curry just as talented of a ball handler as Irving? Probably, but Irving makes opponents look stupid multiple times per night, every night. Also, Irving is a wizard in the paint, and might be the best point guard in the league at finishing in the lane. He'll show big men the ball and switch his angle at the last second and flip a shot off the glass with gorgeous english, which sets him apart from others on this list. For those reasons, Irving is the best ball handler in the NBA.