The NBA is home to phenomenal talents, but only a few have developed unparalleled basketball IQ. Fans can see this in the way they process information at game speed and how game-changing decisions are made on the court.
Despite being an attribute that doesn't show up on the stat sheet, its impact on the game cannot be overlooked. Players with a high basketball IQ have a better understanding of the game, from defensive positioning to identifying good looks. Simply put, players with high basketball IQ are capable of outsmarting their opponents on the court.
5 NBA players with exceptionally high basketball IQ
Over time, several NBA players have compensated for their lack of athleticism with a great understanding of the game. One such notable player is Larry Bird, who occasionally squared up to Magic Johnson and came out on top more often than not.
Here are five active players whose basketball IQ is nothing short of inspirational:
#1 Chris Paul
Chris Paul is not the most athletic NBA player, but what he lacks in athleticism, he makes up for in intelligence. He is arguably the smartest person ever to play the game.
It can be argued that his high basketball IQ is an innate ability as opposed to it developing over time. Chris Paul is the first player in NBA history to record 35 points and 10 assists in a playoff debut. Chris was already an impeccable decision-maker on the court as a rookie for the Hornets.
Chris Paul reads the game at an unexplainable level. He is also very vocal on the court. He notices how a defense is set up and is capable of calling plays that can target that specific type of defensive setup. There are a lot of players with high basketball IQ, but only a few have this ability.
However, Chris Paul is not given enough credit for his high basketball IQ. Even though he does not have an NBA championship ring yet, he has made an immeasurable impact on every team he has played. His ability as a point guard is unmatched; there is a reason he is called "The Point God."
#2 LeBron James
LeBron James can be described as a complete NBA player. He is physical, talented, and is one of the smartest players on the court in every matchup. It begs the question: "Is there anything LeBron cannot do?"
James makes everyone on his team a better player. His ability to read plays and facilitate his teammates to open shots is unmatched. LeBron has repeatedly shown his capabilities with the Cleveland Cavaliers roster that he led to the NBA Finals in 2018. We also saw shades of it with the 2019-20 Lakers team.
It does not mean that these players lacked ability before his arrival. The key takeaway is that he helps improve their overall skills by utilizing their strengths.
Given how sensational LeBron is, a lot of what he does is not given the praise it deserves. In a point guard-dominated list of assists leaders in the NBA, LeBron is ranked 8th. It is a testament to his court vision and ability to pick the player with the best scoring chance.
LeBron has successfully led three NBA teams to the NBA championship. The veteran has spent 19 years in the NBA and has continually competed at the highest level.
To put that in perspective, his worst spell in the NBA in terms of points, rebounds and assists was the 2003-04 rookie season. He averaged 20.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists.
#3 Rajon Rondo
Rajon Rondo is perhaps one of the most underrated players with a high basketball IQ in the NBA. His ability to break down defenses with feigned or disguised passes is incredible.
He is well-known for his superb decision-making, which guarantees fewer turnovers. The guard is attuned to his strengths and is fully aware of his weaknesses as a player. His awareness extends to his teammates as he does not over-complicate a play and risk the chance of getting himself or his teammates in difficult positions.
In his 15-year playing career, Rondo has recorded four double-double seasons in points and assists. Teammates and coaches have continually attested to Rondo's high basketball IQ.
#4 Nikola Jokic
When a big man makes guard-like plays, people are bound to notice. Nikola Jokic is in the running for the 2020-21 NBA regular season MVP, mainly because of how smart and smooth his playstyle is.
Jokic leads the Denver Nuggets in points (26.2), assists (8.6) and rebounds (10.9). He also has the best field goal percentage, .568. For a center, these are nothing short of exceptional.
The fast-paced nature of today's game puts Jokic at a disadvantage. However, the center quickly adapted by creating a mechanism that has helped his game so far. He has started to create more open looks for his teammates and perfected the "Sombor Shuffle."
The move bears an indistinguishable resemblance to Dirk Nowitzki's fadeaway jumper, which has helped improve his scoring. On the defensive end, he is just as intuitive and effective. He averages 1.4 steals per game and 0.7 blocks this season.
#5 Draymond Green
Draymond Green has always been an irreplaceable player for the Golden State Warriors. In recent years, he has taken on more responsibility because of the unavailability of other star players.
Although he is not as explosive as the other players on this list, his contributions on the court are laudable. Green has developed his game in recent years and has been an unstoppable force for the Warriors. It can be argued that his absence in the 2016 NBA Finals Game 5 is what cost the Warriors the championship.
After the 2016-17 regular season, he won the defensive player of the year award. It is a testament to his defensive abilities. On offense, he is also a force to be reckoned with.
On the 23rd of April, 2021, Draymond recorded a career-high 19 assists in the win against the Denver Nuggets. Even though he does not register many points, he creates for his teammates and disrupts the opposition's offense.
Draymond Green is an extremely high basketball IQ player, and an extension of coach Steve Kerr on the court.