Being a 5-8 basketball player for my career doesn’t leave me with many options for positions I could play during my time as a player. There was guard and…guard. So that much was predetermined, but somewhere down the line my ability to handle the ball and my willingness (sometimes to a fault) led one of my coaches to try me at point guard..and from there that position stuck.
Once playing point guard though for a few years, I really came to love the position. Love everything about it. The culture, the language, the leadership..I was into every detail. Let me also set the record straight. I’m about as biased as one can be about point guards. Each one of my favorite players in the NBA are point guards. My role models growing up were point guards. Up till now I’ve had nothing but good thoughts to say about point guards. I can’t stress it enough…I love POINT GUARD.
Which leads me to one of the most common and used phrases in all of basketball culture. “Point guards are the most important position on a basketball team.” Trust me, being a point guard I love that statement. But really lets evaluate this statement, one that is used without much thought behind it and see if it is true in the NBA.
I think in younger levels of basketball it is certainly true. I coached a 10 year old AAU team this past spring and the one thing obviously clear to me was that the team who had the player who could best handle the ball was probably going to win. In high school and at the college levels I’d certainly argue that point guards are the most important too. Now of course a dominant player at another position is always going to lead a team to win in college and high school, but I’d estimate that there was enough evidence to prove that point guards are extremely imporant on those levels of play.
Which brings me to the NBA.
You can argue that right now in the NBA is one of the brightest times in point guard history. Some of the games brightest young stars, at any position, are playing point guard. Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo and Russell Westbrook to name just a few. In the draft this year there could be up to seven point guards chosen as lottery picks. Daryl Morey suggests that it could be the rule changes which disallows much contact on the perimeter that is the driving force behind the recent point guard explosion. But the point (pun intended) is that the PG spot is thriving.
But is it the most important position, is it in the NBA? Let’s look deeper.
First we’ll look most recently at the top of the game, the NBA Finals. For the champion Los Angeles Lakers, they used a three headed point guard attack. Derrick Fisher was the starter and played the most minutes, but Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown played there as well. Now certainly Fisher is a pro’s pro…and he did hit some vital shots in the Finals. Farmar and Brown are both players who possess skill and athleticism but are just complementary players for now. So playing the most “important position” for the NBA champions were three players who never made an all-star game between them and were most times the fourth or fifth option when on the floor.
How about the Magic? Orlando is an interesting case study when talking about the NBA point guard. They developed an All-Star one in Jameer Nelson but when he went down they were able to replace him and still see success. While this is an argument that they thought the position was important enough to grab another player, the fact that they were able to replace an all-star at the position with a non-all-star and still make the Finals has to say something about importance. Also in the Finals the Magic most notably played without a “true” point guard for the majority of the fourth quarter and overtime of Game 2.
Let’s take a look at the best two players at this position in the past generation, Jason Kidd and Steve Nash. You would think the team that gets the best players at the most important position would want to keep them right? Well apparently not as Kidd has been moved four different times, while Nash has been moved three different times. The Celtics who have a very good and emerging star at the position right now, Rajon Rondo, have been shopping him. Which is peculiar, if point guard was the most important position as many claim.
Which brings me back to the statement, “point guard is the most important position in basketball.” As with anything else a player in the NBA is only going to be as good as the rest of the team around him, but I feel that that particular statement needs to be used with a little more discretion. In the NBA I think it’s been proven over the past that a skilled big will probably win out over a skilled little. But the debate is still up in the air in my opinion and I think its an interesting one. Would love feedback on this.