If you turn on your TV one night this week to whatever NBA playoff game is on, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll see Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Chris Paul leading his team. Paul, who’s listed at 6-1, is certainly far from the biggest player on the court, but he navigates the floor with poise and savvy.
In other words, he has a great basketball IQ.
What is basketball IQ?
“This, to me, I rely on heavily the coaches, who they think is an extension of them,” NCAA.com’s Andy Katz said recently on the #MM365 podcast. “You’ve got to be a good passer I think, for sure. Someone who’s a facilitator, leader. Did your team excel? Did you excel?”
You can listen to the full episode below.
Katz ranked his top 10 men’s college basketball players since 2000 in terms of basketball IQ, and Paul was No. 1.
Here’s the complete list.
1. Chris Paul, Wake Forest
Career stats: 15.0 points per game, 6.3 assists, 3.9 rebounds, 2.5 steals
As a freshman, Chris Paul led the Demon Deacons in minutes played and was the engine behind the country’s most efficient offense. Paul was the only future NBA player on the team. Wake Forest started the 2003-04 season 11-0, highlighted by a triple-overtime win at No. 4 North Carolina.
When Paul was on the floor, he assisted on 30.8 percent of his team’s baskets, which ranked in the top 70 nationally, and that stat is all the more impressive when you realize he was also Wake Forest’s second-leading scorer at 14.8 points per game. The 50/40/90 club, which is reserved for players who shoot at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range and 90 percent from the free-throw line, almost included Paul as a freshman.
His shooting splits were 49.6 percent from the field, 46.5 percent from three and 84.3 percent from the line. In his two seasons in college, the Demon Deacons earned a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament, then a No. 2 seed, and they made the Sweet 16 in 2004.
2. Dwyane Wade, Marquette
Career stats: 19.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 3.9 apg, 2.3 spg, 1.2 bpg
Led by Wade, who was relied on offensively as much as almost any player in the country, Marquette rattled off two different double-digit win streaks during his freshman campaign. The Golden Eagles started the season 10-0 and they later won 12 in a row in January and February.
Wade was a force on both ends of the floor, leading the team in scoring at 17.8 points per game, while getting a steal on five percent of opponents’ offensive possessions when he was on the floor, which was the 10th-best mark nationally.
His play got even better as a sophomore, when he averaged 21.5 points and 4.4 assists per game, while shooting 50 percent from the field and nearly 78 percent from the free-throw line in a season in which Marquette made the Final Four.
MORE #MM365: Check out every episode of March Madness 365
3. Jalen Brunson, Villanova
Career stats: 14.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.5 rpg
Brunson helped Villanova win two national championships in his three seasons in college. He was the consensus National Player of the Year and Bob Cousy Award winner, which recognized him as the best point guard in the country, in his junior season.
He started 39 of 40 games as a freshman, when he was a complementary option on offense, before becoming one of the most efficient players in the country as a sophomore and arguably the best player in the country as a junior.
4. Draymond Green, Michigan State
Career stats: 10.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2.9 apg, 1.2 spg
Draymond Green’s progression in college saw him go from a freshman who averaged 3.3 points per game and didn’t start a single game to a senior who earned National Player of the Year honors from the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) who averaged a double-double.
The Spartans earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament in Green’s final season in college and they had the second-most efficient defense in the country, in large part thanks to Green, who had 54 steals, 35 blocks and grabbed nearly 29 percent of opponent’s missed shots while he was on the floor.
5. Jameer Nelson, Saint Joseph’s
Career stats: 16.8 ppg, 5.7 apg, 4.6 rpg, 2.0 spg
Nelson’s 2004 Saint Joseph’s team was one of the best in the country, as the Hawks went 30-2 after an undefeated regular season that culminated in a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and an Elite Eight finish. Nelson was named the National Player of the Year that season after averaging 20.6 points, 5.3 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 2.8 steals per game for a team that was nearly perfect.
6. Sean May, North Carolina
Career stats: 15.8 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.3 spg, 1.2 bpg
Sean May’s production at North Carolina steadily improved and by his junior season, his last in college, he averaged 17.5 points, 10.7 rebounds and more than one assist, one steal and one block per game during a season in which the Tar Heels won the national title. While playing at one of the fastest tempos in the country, North Carolina’s offense was the second-most efficient in the country and the team’s defense ranked fifth.
May was a truly elite rebounder, ranking in the top five in terms of offensive and defensive rebounding percentage — 16.6 percent and 26.1 percent, respectively — while being the primary scoring option and a rim protector on defense.
7. Kevin Durant, Texas
Career stats: 25.8 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 1.9 spg, 1.9 bpg, 1.3 apg
What ever happened to that Kevin Durant guy? Hmm, I’m sure he was successful in whatever profession he chose.
Durant is one of the greatest basketball players of our generation, if not ever, and while his combination of roughly seven-foot frame and elite shooting ability makes him a rare talent, he also has the intellect to go with his physical tools.
Durant’s share of Texas’ offense ranked among the 20 highest usage rates in the entire country during the 2006-07 season, and yet he maintained impressive efficiency thanks to 50 percent 2-point shooting, 40 percent 3-point shooting and 81 percent free-throw shooting. He got to the free-throw line with regularity (256 free-throw attempts) and he didn’t use the Longhorns’ defensive possessions to simply catch his breath. He averaged nearly two blocks and two steals per game.
8. Joakim Noah, Florida
Career stats: 10.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.7 apg, 1.7 bpg
Noah’s stats don’t necessarily jump off the page but when you consider Florida’s roster during the Gators’ back-to-back national title runs and the role he played defensively (he blocked 7.1 percent of opponents’ 2-point shots when he was on the floor), he was so much more valuable than basic per-game stats might indicate. Along with Al Horford, he anchored the team’s frontcourt, dominating the boards, scoring efficiently inside and helping Florida run the most efficient offense in the country.
9. Deron Williams, Illinois
Career stats: 11.0 ppg, 5.9 apg, 3.3 rpg, 1.1 spg
Deron Williams’ Illinois team faced off with Sean May’s North Carolina team in the 2005 national championship game, which meant that year’s national final featured two of the 10 players with the highest basketball IQ in the last 20 years, according to Andy Katz. Just like North Carolina, Illinois ranked in the top five nationally in both offensive and defensive efficiency.
Williams ran the Fighting Illini’s offense with lethal efficiency, as he assisted on 35.8 percent of the team’s baskets while he was on the floor, which ranked 19th in the country. He did that while having the highest usage rate on the team, too.
10. Jared Dudley, Boston College
Career stats: 15.9 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 3.0 apg, 1.4 spg
You could make the case that the most successful four-year stretch in Boston College men’s basketball history was the four-year span when Jared Dudley was on campus. The Eagles made the NCAA tournament in all four years — earning a No. 6, No. 4, No. 4 and No. 7 seed, respectively — highlighted by a Sweet 16 appearance in 2006.
Boston College finished that season ranked No. 7 in the AP poll. Dudley was an extremely efficient player — 31st nationally in 2007, to be exact — thanks to a 44.3 3-point percentage and he was a strong offensive rebounder.