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Power Rankings: Year of the passer ... Spurs still No. 1

by | Special to CBSSports.com

As great Peyton Manning and Tom Brady -- the NFL's greatest passers --were on Sunday, they have nothing these days on any number of their basketball counterparts.

Manning and Brady combined for six scoring passes in their head-to-head Sunday afternoon -- exactly 24 fewer than the combined total of Gilbert Arenas and Chris Paul in NBA action later that night.

Rajon Rondo is averaging 14.2 assists per game. (Getty Images)  
Rajon Rondo is averaging 14.2 assists per game. (Getty Images)  
The night before, Rajon Rondo and LeBron James were 22 better than the sure-fire Pro Football Hall-of-Fame duo. One night later, Russell Westbrook and Tony Parker were on the front end of 18 more scores.

Don't look now, but the NBA has surpassed the NFL as America's passing game. It's clear where the credit should go.

No, not to Jason Kidd, the most clever indoor passer since Pete Maravich. Nor Steve Nash, the Canadian who came south to bring NBA assist averages north of the 10.0 border.

Heck, not even to LeBron James, whose all-around brilliance almost single-handedly has taken the league to new height.

Nope, the reason so many are assisting so often in recent years -- and especially this season -- can be directly tied to the NBA All-Star Game, which has transformed annually from a dunk-a-thon into a vintage Harlem Globetrotters exhibition.

OK, so maybe Kidd should get the credit. Or maybe John Stockton and Magic Johnson before him. All knew how to put on a show on the NBA's grand stage.

No matter who started the ball rolling toward the game's best shooters, when it became more cool to give than to receive in All-Star company, the NBA benefitted big-time.

This season's gaudy assist numbers are unselfishly amazing. In a season when James could duplicate Oscar Robertson’s feat of averaging a triple-double, it's likely he'll come nowhere near leading the league in assists.

Rondo currently heads that chase with an average (14.3) that would challenge Stockton’s all-time, single-season record. But others are in hot pursuit.

Seven rivals are threatening to join Rondo in double figures, an astonishing accomplishment when considering that only seven seasons ago, the league leader averaged 9.2. And the way Westbrook, Parker and even Raymond Felton have been going, they’re possibly only days away from joining that list.

With John Wall immediately making a name for himself, as well, some are calling it the Year of the Point Guard. But being that James is in the thick of the ball distribution, with apologizes to the likes of Manning and Brady, maybe the Year of the Passer would be more apropos.

Unbeaten since they vaulted into pole position last week, Parker’s Spurs remain at the head of the class in this week’s CBSSports.com NBA Power Rankings.


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