- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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A handful of e-mails are flagged each week for group discussion. Be sure to include your first and last names and city of residence if you want your question to be answered. Seriously, friends. Announce yourself to the masses.
Q: OK, you ranked the power forwards -- which wasn't bad, except that I would have ranked Kevin Garnett above Dirk Nowitzki because of their defense. But now I have an even tougher question. In what order would you rate these point guards: Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Andre Miller, Steve Francis, Gary Payton and Baron Davis? By the way, in two years I think Stevie Franchise will be the best point guard in the NBA.
Los Angeles, Calif.
A: First of all, let the record show that you left out Sacramento's Mike Bibby and Bobby Jackson ... and Phoenix's Stephon Marbury ... and San Antonio's Tony Parker ... and Utah's John Stockton ... and Milwaukee's Sam Cassell ... and any other QB whose fans will be outraged that their guy wasn't included in this discussion.
Secondly, you're right. This one was tougher. But here goes:
Breaking it down one by one ...
Kidd: Still can't believe this guy has been traded twice. He's the modern-day Magic, he's shooting a career-best 46 percent from the floor and, well, if the Lakers would have sacrificed Kobe Bryant to get Kidd a couple years ago as Shaquille O'Neal openly requested, who could have argued?
Nash: There will undoubtedly be protest that Nash is this high, but he's the purest point guard out there not named Kidd or Stockton. He keeps everyone in Dallas happy and there are lots of guys there who need the ball. His flaw is durability. Last season, when he finally played all 82 games, there was nothing left for the second round of the playoffs.
Francis: Maybe we need to rank the combo guards separately, so Franchise can get the top billing he deserves. He continues to rebound the ball at a sick pace for a 6-foot-3 lad (6.5 rpg) and keeps growing as a set-up man while scoring at will. Rockettes obviously have something special with Stevie and Yao Ming in tandem.
Payton: Even at 34, you can still make the case that Payton is no worse than No. 2. Reasons we don't: Payton has always been too volatile for our unconditional affection, and he didn't manhandle the rookie-year Parker in the playoffs last spring like everyone expected.
Davis: Another strong and dynamic combo guard but, yes, I'd take Francis first. Philadelphia's Allen Iverson, incidentally, was also omitted from the original question and isn't a bad combo guard, either. Back to Baron, his bad back scares me more than Stevie's migraine history.
Miller: Not playing as well as the Clippers envisioned, but he's still young. So there's still time to get it, in other words.
Q: I was wondering why, whenever you post a Rank Comment from a Toronto fan, it's inevitably from one of the spectacularly, unreasonably delusional Toronto fans. First in the East? Vince Carter for MVP? Clearly, these people are lunatics. With our never-ending parade of injuries, we're getting into LeBron James raffle territory. But there must be more reasonable voices speaking out for the Raps. As it is, your comment choices paint all of us fans up north as clueless, basketball-ignorant chumps. We have a bad enough name already from the likes of Charles Oakley and certainly don't need you pitching in. There are plenty of people in Canada (especially Toronto) who deeply love and understand basketball. Frankly, I think that the widely held belief to the contrary -- particularly amongst players -- is ultimately going to kill our obviously struggling franchise. Please don't help that happen because that theory is wrong. Vancouver was a mistake, but Toronto is a basketball city.
A: No one is rooting for Canada harder than me, Karl. Toronto and Vancouver were my two favorite stops on the NBA map as a tourist. Canada combines the best of wondrous England and the United States. Trading British Columbia for Memphis, in terms of pure aesthetics, was one of the worst trades in NBA history. So I don't want to see the demise of the Raps any more than you do. There are nonetheless much bigger problems at present than what NBA players think of your country. The Raps signed or re-signed every guy they wanted two summers ago and haven't been able to keep any of them healthy. Vince's knee has a much stronger bearing on Canada's NBA future than the fans' rep.
Q: Could you please tell me what Antonio McDyess says in the ESPN commercial when they ask each other to choose between Dr. Pepper or Mr. Pibb? No one I know could understand him and now everyone is dying to find out. I know this isn't really a basketball question but I don't know whom to turn to.
A: Lucky for you I just saw this commercial the other day. Dice, far as I can tell, says "Fanta." My brother loves it, too, but I'm strictly Coke or Pepsi. RC, in a glass bottle, also works.
Q: Please set the record straight. I have a bet with my Irish friend about the nationality of Pat Burke. Web sites and editorials go back and forth. So, is he Irish or what?
A: Bad news, Misha. Burke was born in Ireland and immigrated to the States as a toddler. He considers himself an Irish-American and carries both passports.
Q: How is an assist officially scored? Does an assist depend on how long the player who receives the ball has it in his possession before he shoots? Or the number of dribbles he takes? Or is it left up to the official scorer to determine what an assist actually is, like an error in baseball?
A: The rule states that the pass must lead "directly" to a bucket. But it's the official scorer's call, like in baseball on an error, to define "directly." If the receiver dribbles the ball, that doesn't necessarily rule the assist out.
Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here.
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