It still really annoys me that the San Antonio Spurs don’t get enough media and nationwide attention. I thought that winning made you popular after all nobody wants to come see a team that loses all the time. Winning means you were better than the other team and who doesn’t want to see teams that win all the time?
Real Madrid and Barcelona in soccer win all the time and they have a huge following, so why not the Spurs in basketball who have easily been the best team over the past two decades. Over that time period, they are the only team which has made the playoffs every single year without fail.
How has San Antonio managed to sustain this very high level of success? They play with their minds, not just their bodies. Basketball is a very strategic game. On offense, there are an infinite amount of plays you can run to get a player a good shot then on defense it’s all about communication, hustle and reading what the opposition is doing.
Having a high basketball IQ is just making a lot of correct basketball decisions. For example, if you have a two on one of the fast break, the correct decision is to keep passing back and forth to keep the defender confused then get an easy layup, or if the defender goes to one of you then you throw it up for a lob. It’s about making decisions which lead to success on the court both on offense and defense. San Antonio are the so good because they constantly make good basketball decisions.
To be successful as an individual means that you have a high basketball IQ. You read the game well which leads to plays being successful for you and your teammates. Here are my top 5 guys which the highest basketball IQ in the NBA.
Honorable Mention - Gregg Popovich
I wasn’t going to sing the praises of the Spurs without mentioning the master behind it all now was I. Coach Pop has the highest basketball IQ in the world right now, it’s that simple. Nobody else knows how to be extremely effective both on offense and defense.
His Spurs are the best team in Sports and have been for some time because of Popovich. On offense, his mind has created an abundance of offensive sets that always get his teams points and is especially known for drawing up key plays in the clutch to get his team a needed basket.
On defense, he preaches running shooters off the three point line so that they have to take an inefficient long two pointer, or drive and face a shot-blocker at the rim. The Spurs in the early 00s were the best defensive team in the league because Pop knew how to get the best use out of Tim Duncan in the middle and using long athletic wing players to get his opponent where Pop wanted him.
5. Nikola Jokic - Denver Nuggets
My favorite player in the NBA has been LeBron James ever since I first saw a highlight video of him in 2010. That hasn’t changed and probably won’t until he retires. However, a close second is now Nikola Jokic in the mile high city.
Jokic has not established himself as the best passing big man in the NBA. He averaged nearly 5 a game last year in only 28 minutes of action. He is simply amazing at finding cutters going to to the rim, either with flashy bounce passes or slick over the head dishes with the perfect amount of weight and timing. He sees what is going to happen way before anybody else and he is able to react accordingly.
Jokic is also a great scorer for a big man who shot 57.8% from the field last year and an astounding 55.2% on his jump shots from 16 feet to the three point line. His mind can so easily read what the defense is given him that he offensive rating for the year was the 7th highest in the league.
4. Stephen Curry - Golden State Warriors
You don’t become the league’s first unanimous MVP without having an incredible mind for basketball and Steph Curry has just that. On the offensive end, he is the most unguardable player in the NBA. You have to pick this guy up as soon as he crosses half court, he is a threat from everywhere.
Curry, especially over the past 4-5 years has truly mastered the skills required to be an incredible shooter for his team. When he’s on the ball he can use amazing handles to break the ankles of his defender, then quickly splash a three in his face. When he’s off the ball he’s great at reading screens set by his teammates and excels at creating as much space as possible in order to give himself the open look for a corner three.
If he has a big man on him then Curry will put him on skates then get to the rim and finish with either hand. Whoever is guarding him, Steph will get that individual into a position where he is no longer able to effectively contest a Curry 30 footer. He’s only 29 so thankfully we have a lot more Steph Curry to enjoy.
3. Draymond Green - Golden State Warriors
Any team that has had the success that the Warriors are currently enjoying is bound to be stacked with high IQ players. In any matchup, the smartest team usually wins and Golden State has certainly done a lot of that.
Draymond reminds me a lot of Kevin Garnett with the Celtics in 2008. Garnett won the defensive player of the year that season because he wasn’t just an amazing individual defender, he was the best team defender in the league.
It was always KG calling out where the screens were coming from, whether to switch or not, who should guard who and what offensive play was being run. This made everyone around him better which lead to fewer points be scored against them.
This year Draymond rightfully won the DPOY and lead the league in defensive rating. He can guard all five positions and knows more than anyone how to approach defending each different position. He is the Warrior’s voice on defense and it’s been a huge reason why they’ve been successful.
On offense, he’s potent as well as he’s averaged over 7 assists a game over the past two seasons. Golden State run a lot of the offense through Green and he’s usually the one dishing out the passes to Steph and Klay when they are coming off screens.
2. Chris Paul - Houston Rockets
CP3 is still the best pure point guard in the NBA and has been ever since 2009. He has the highest offensive rating in NBA history currently at 122.69. Even at only 6 feet tall, Paul sees everything on the floor.
One of the best indicators of how intelligent a point guard is his assist to turnover ratio. The worst thing anyone can do with the basketball is turn it over. It takes away a chance for you to score and gives the opponent the chance to attack when your defense isn’t set up.
Paul has been in the top 5 for assist to turnover ratio for the past decade and he’s lead the league in it more than anyone else in that period. He is never careless with the ball knowing how valuable it is to his team. He places his passes so that the opposing team has only the tiniest chance of intercepting it meaning his team is always effective on offense, hence his offensive rating.
Paul is also a master at the pick and roll and always make the right decision, whether it be to score himself, lob the ball to his big man or pass it out for an open three.
1. LeBron James - Cleveland Cavaliers
It’s pretty obvious to anyone who watches basketball that LeBron is the smartest player we’ve seen play since MJ. On defense he is unmatched in his ability to read where the opponents are passing the ball and then rush in and intercept it, leading to a fast break dunk.
On offense, he is the complete package. He can shoot, he can post up, he can cut and he is the best attacker of the rim in basketball history. Not only is he the best passer in the NBA with his flare and creativity but he’s an artisan at throwing skip passes to his shooters in the corner right over the defense. These are some the hardest passes to make as you’re off balance and it’s an unnatural motion for your body.
He’ll always spot of if he or one of his teammates have a mismatch, they can exploit and has a fantastic memory for the defense the other team is playing. LBJ is known as the ‘unofficial GM’ of the Cavs because he is in charge of who the team bring in. So many players want to go play with him because they know that he will get them involved as much as possible. This lead to higher team chemistry which means more Ws.