NBA Report: The Changing Of The (Point) Guard

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Words by Phlip

Personally, I blame Stockton and Malone…

They rode the pick-and-roll (which NO ONE in the NBA can defend to this day, 30 years later) to the Hall-of-fame. Jordan and his band of achievers prevented them from taking it to a championship, as they did so many others cursed to have to play in the 90s.

When the as-applied-by-the-Bulls approach of not having a classic Point Guard worked to the tune of a dynasty, NO ONE really bothered to have one, opting simply to have a guy who could bring the ball up the court and letting the offense work itself out. Sure, there were teams during this time that employed Point Guards, but it was more a matter of convenience and tradition as it related to physical size than anything resembling necessity.

Next thing you know, it is 2003, and the second great Lakers dynasty – who also lacked a “traditional” Point Guard – came crashing down to the Detroit Pistons in a series that featured one Chauncey Billups, who will come up a little later in this presentation. Immediately upon this taking place, the league was put on notice, in that no more of these “combo guards” (ahem, Iverson) running the point would get it in the league.

At the same time, a certain Mike D’Antoni was hired in Phoenix where he would install a frantic “shoot the ball in 7 seconds or fewer” offense predicated on getting out and running on rebounds, or a quick screen/roll in the half court, both of which happen to necessitate a Point Guard with the legs and basketball IQ to make work. Call it a hybrid of “Stockton to Malone” and Showtime Lakers with none of the defense. Lo and behold, this took Steve Nash from “that funny looking dude in Dallas” to perennial All-Star and two-time MVP. No, it didn’t create any championships, but it had EVERYONE’S attention.

From then, every team in the league TRIED to shore up their point guard spot, much to the point where now, 8 years later, roughly two-thirds of the league can lay claim to being “pleased” with their current point guard situation. Colleges are turning out more hotshot big-scoring Point Guards like Derrick Rose, Brandon Jennings, Russell Westbrook and, to a lesser extent Stephen Curry. We’re seeing more of the traditional PG with SUPER high court vision and basketball IQs, like Rajon Rondo and the oft-compared Chris Paul and Deron Williams. The too-young-to-judge-yet, but highly talented and showy Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving and my rookie-of-the-year pick, Ricky Rubio. See what I did there? Those 10 names, the ones the media has us TRAINED to rattle off first when discussing NBA Point Guards, make up a third of the league’s starting PGs, and we won’t even delve into the fact that both Paul and Rubio both have two more on the bench behind them, and that neglects to mention the fact that Chris Paul’s starting backcourt mate until a season-ending injury last week was, himself a Point Guard by trade.
[Phlip note – I guess we DID mention it, huh?]

Anyway…

What we’re seeing here is another shift in the way we do things. Gone are the days where a Point Guard EXCLUSIVELY did one of two things…

    1. brought the ball up the court, tossed it in to his Center in the post, to draw a double team and then pass back out to an open shooter.
    or…

 

    2. facilitated a motion offense in wait for someone to become open enough to shoot.

This could have EVERYTHING to do with the fact that kids these days – despite being taller than we were – are not interested in playing Center, even if they DO make it to the prescribed height, and there are far too many top-level athletes in the NBA for a motion offense to work once out of college.

Again, the fact that three top-level, or who we should believe to be top-level, teams in Miami, Los Angeles (the Varsity team) and the Knickerbockers (more on them in a sec) have been hurting for PG play this season should not suggest that it isn’t available to be had. The guard has been changed, literally. The elite scorers are not the Shooting Guards so much anymore, they’ve moved a spot to the Small Forward position, and Point Guards are playing their position for profit again. The OG’s of the league are still where we expect them to be, that being Tony Parker (who, by the way is only 29), Steve Nash, and Jason Kidd. They hold the mantle and it is theirs to pass.

And back to the Knicks, mercilessly ridiculed for their lack of PG play in a system that NEEDS one to produce points and wins. They happened upon one sitting on their D-League team and gave him a shot. Bear in mind that ‘Antoni’s (no D) system will make a mediocre PG who keeps his eyes open and maintains his dribble into a good-almost great PG and WILL take a great PG to the hall of fame. Right now, Jeremy Lin is above mediocre and primed to be great in this system and – if what we’ve seen to this point is not a fluke – would do well in most others, because he seems to have his head on straight enough to take coaching. That and he is America’s Asian Sports Crush of the moment.

And there you have it, somewhere between 2003 and now, the NBA Center is an endangered species and the NBA Point Guard began a return from the brink of it, which has brought us back to where we are right now. The bonus is that (mostly) properly executed basketball by at least one team on the court on a given night’s televised games has made for some INFINITELY entertaining basketball and a few surprising teams, namely Denver, Indiana and Philly to name a few.

Words by Phlip
@CallMePhlip
Callmephlip.blogspot.com

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9 comments on “NBA Report: The Changing Of The (Point) Guard

  1. Loki says:

    Great post Philip.

    My thoughts on the NBA, SIXERS!!
    I’m a die hard boston fan, but ever since the sixers lost to the lakers a couple times in the finals at the turn of the century, i’ve been following them. They’ve always been exciting, first i liked Iverson, but whatever, the man in philly for me as always been Iggy. Hes just a great basketball player, i’m really happy to see him with other good young talent around him and a smart coach. Hope they can stay healthy and focused through the playoffs.

    Like

  2. K says:

    you may be right on the Jeremy Lin thing. he’s not an elite PG, but knows how to play with good basketball IQ and is pretty good so Antoni’s system is making him look like a star. With any other team with a more civil offense, he would be a good backup.

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  3. DV says:

    Great assessment.

    STAT is back Tues. Melo soon after. Im sure Lin will figure it out. Look for the 20/10 Amare to return. I believe Anthony (20/5/5) is now ready to win instead of scoring. Hes been scoring for years and that has gotten him absolutely nowhere but to the 2nd Rd once (i think). Im sold on Lin. Knicks will finish the season strong and play like I hoped they would last year..

    A humbled, in-shape, and rededicated Arenas will do well in LA. The pressure is off becaue he doesnt have to do much. And if he comes off the bench that will ease the high/low emotional rollercoaster that is watching Artest do anything other then defend or putbacks.

    Orlando is playing roulette with there future with every game that goes by. Any injury to a potential trade piece keeps Howard a Magic till he walks in the offseason.

    Speaking of offseason hoopsrumors.com has all the F/A lists. Pretty decent players out there.

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  4. DV says:

    Oh yeah and Jerry Sloan will be back soon enough. 6 teams have inquired about him.

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  5. […] like the previously-discussed Point Guard position, the Power Forward position is one that LITERALLY no team in the NBA is […]

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  6. Todd says:

    We’re definitely in a golden age of point guards. This post is an interesting analysis of why. Here’s a quiz question:

    When was the last time (before Rose and Nash) the NBA had two active point guards who owned MVP trophies?

    http://polentical.com/2012/02/17/lin-part-of-an-overrepresented-demographic/

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  7. […] to the previously discussed abundance of Point Guards and Power Forwards and compared to the dearth of Shooting Guards and to-be-discussed centers, this […]

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  8. Walter says:

    Kinda disappointed that you didn’t mention John Wall in those top PGs, but with the Wizards being such a crap team, I guess I can understand.

    It’s definitely true that the PG position has gotten a lot of GREAT talent in recent years, to the point that we’re really looking at Rajon Rondo (who would’ve been a top 5 PG in the 90s, IMO), and telling him he needs to get a jumpshot, or his spot on All-Star teams will not be locked. Hell, it could be argued that Jameer Nelson is a good PG, but I don’t think any of us have him in the top 10 PGs in the league.

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  9. […] Point Guards and Power Forwards are ubiquitous in the league nowadays while Small Forwards are simply well […]

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