Pierce, belongs on the list for a number of reasons. For one, you don't hit as many clutch shots in your career without having an amazing inherent knowledge of the clock and late game situations. Pierce is also a master of the two for one. Something the Doc coached Celtics did as a whole incredibly well. Finally, you don't take on average seven trips to the line throughout your career without being extremely crafty with your ball handling and pump fake ability. Skills that require an immense basketball IQ.
That complaint aside, here is my breakdown of the top five.
5. Rajon Rondo - Of course these lists are always going to be subjective but Rondo is known for his intellect both on and off the basketball court. He is easily the best facilitator in the game right now and will be a perfect fit for Brad Stevens system when he comes back healthy to the team (Not to worry Celtic fans, Jordan Crawford will still be in the rotation as an amazing sparkplug off the bench for both Rondo and Avery Bradley):
Rajon Rondo is simply a wizard on the court. His ability to fake-out defenders in a plethora of ways is mesmerizing to watch. Former teammate Brian Scalabrine called Rondo the smartest player that he has ever played with, saying, “He thinks the game like a coach. He thinks of the different types of offense that [he] can use early, that he won’t use late. He’s just on — intellectually, he’s just on a totally different level than any player I’ve ever seen.”
4. Kobe Bryant - Many Celtic fans might take issue with this because of some of Kobe's off the court indiscretions but there's no questioning his mental toughness. Some might say his basketball IQ is not as high as others because he's a selfish player. I think that label is unfair and a Kobe shot throughout his career with someone in his face, generally, was better than a wide open shot for most NBA players.
I do however think a truly intelligent basketball player knows the importance of keeping your teammates involved and a happy team is a winning team. That would be my one criticism with this selection:
Kobe’s leadership style has been debated over the years, but it’s hard to argue that Kobe’s basketball IQ doesn’t make his teammates better. According to 82games.com, when Kobe is on the court, the Lakers’ offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) is a net +7.7.
Kobe uses his experience and superior understanding of the game to predict what the defense will do in order to create the right play. Per 82games.com, the Lakers shot an effective FG percentage of 51.9 with Kobe on the floor, as opposed to shooting an EFG percentage of 48.7 with him on the bench.
3. Tim Duncan - "The Big Fundamental" is a direct descendant of Celtic great Kevin McHale and both are two of the smartest players on the low block to ever play the game. Duncan is, in some respects, the Peyton Manning of the NBA in that he methodically and systematically eats the opposing team alive on the way to career averages of over 20 points and 11 rebounds while shooting over 50% from the floor. Now that's what I call efficiency:
Tim Duncan is all about the fundamentals. That is the cornerstone of his game. When the league is turning into a showcase of athleticism, speed and flash, Duncan is a throwback to when the big men dominated the game. Using those fundamentals, Duncan displays an efficiency on both ends of the court that even point guards could only dream of.
2. Steve Nash - A no brainer. You don't win back to back MVPs and average over ten assists for six out of seven consecutive seasons (2004-05 - 2011-12) without having an Einstein level basketball IQ.
Additionally, as a result of my living in Phoenix and getting to see Nash play quite frequently, I can tell you he is also one of the best teammates in the league - always the first off the bench to congratulate his teammates when not on the floor:
Steve Nash has dominated the top basketball IQ category for years. Despite turning 40 years old this season, Nash remains arguably the best pure passing point guard in the league. He has made an entire career at making his teammates into stars, such as Amar’e Stoudemire during their days in Phoenix together. Nash may be the best ballhandler in pick-and-roll sets of all time.
1. Chris Paul - Difficult to argue this one especially considering what Paul is doing this season. It's early but CP3 is averaging over 21 points and 12 assists for the chronically woeful Clippers. He is in the prime of his career and even though I think the comparisons to Isiah Thomas are not warranted until he wins a title, there's no debating Paul knows how to both score the ball and make his teammates better.
What makes Paul take the cake in this list is his impact to his teammates. To put it simply, he makes everyone on his team better. According to 82games.com, when Chris Paul is on the court, the Clippers’ offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) is a net +11.9.
As the Clippers become a better perimeter shooting team, the more opportunity CP3 will have to create space and easy opportunities for the Clippers. Per 82games.com, the Clippers shot an effective FG percentage of 54.1 with Paul on the floor, as opposed to shooting an EFG percentage of 50.2 with Paul on the bench.
All in all an excellent list and fun read put together by Dime even with the glaring oversight of not naming "The Truth" as one of "The NBA's 10 Smartest Players."