If they're willing to burn the midnight oil, Celtics fans will get a look Monday night at the player widely considered the best in the business at the point. Chris Paul, who came to the Los Angeles Clippers after an earlier deal that would have sent him to L.A.'s other team was reportedly shot down by the league office, has energized the Staples Center's other tenant. The Clippers are in an unusual position for them, battling the Lakers for supremacy in the Pacific Division.
The improvement is largely due to Paul, but even the main orchestrator of "Lob City" doesn't lead the NBA in assists. That honor belongs to Steve Nash, who is still the league's top distributor at 38 years young.
Rondo isn't far behind, but he and Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook may be the only guards on the list who can be the hero one night and a liability the next. For Rondo, it's the complete lack of an outside game or free throw shooting; for Westbrook, it's questionable shot selection.
Derrick Rose never has to worry about taking a questionable shot, because even his bad shots have a better chance of going in than shots by most of his teammates. The reigning MVP shoulders a heavy load for the Bulls, who don't have another player averaging more than 15.6 points per game.
With Rose as the elite scorer, Paul and Nash as the elite shot-creators and Rondo as the ultimate intangibles artist, Deron Williams might be the best all-around player in the bunch. He averages 22 points per game and erupted for 57 points against the Bobcats, yet he still finds time to average 8.1 assists.
As Rondo supporters like to point out, however, none of those other guys has a championship ring. So we can't overlook a guy with three of them. Tony Parker has a Finals MVP award to his credit and is the leading scorer on another playoff-bound Spurs team. The 29-year-old Frenchman appears to have many good seasons ahead of him in San Antonio.