The Evolution of the Point Guard

12/5/12 in NBA   |   BenSullivan   |   96 respect

Blog Photo - The Evolution of the Point GuardIt used to be easy to define what a point guard was. If you took a group of weekend warrior pickup players, split them into five man squads, there wouldn’t be much debate about which guy would be the one to take the ball up the court and run the offense. We all know the type, typically it would be the shortest one of the five, who had at least enough ball handling skills to limit turnovers.
But lately we’ve seen an explosion of point guards who break our traditional mold. Players like Derek Rose and Russell Westbrook are taking the shoot first label and turning it on it’s head. But, to understand where we are in the evolutionary line of the point guard, we have to take a look at how we got here.
The duties of a typical point guard used to be easily defined. He would get the ball past half court, start the offense by either swinging the ball to one of the wing players or clearing out the floor for a big man to post up. Then he would space the floor and spot up to shoot, giving just enough of a threat to hit a wide open jump shot. Think Derek Fisher.
The thing was, this was mostly out of necessity because of the built-in deficiencies of a traditional point. If he was taller, and therefore able to drive into the lane and finish amongst the bigger defenders, he wouldn’t be a point but he would be one of the wing players. Really, the only thing that made one point a better scorer than another was how good they were at hitting open jumpers when the defense was forced to double off them.
Blog Photo - The Evolution of the Point GuardThe other way an old school point could drive offensive production was an ability to break down a defense with ball handling and superior passing skills. This was what defined a great point guard. Playmakers, we would call them. Especially when the pick and roll became a staple of the game, you could build a formidable offense around a point guard that had the ability to get in the lane and dish the ball off to those with the ability to finish at the rim. Being able to break down a defense, plus being able to hit the outside jumper if the defense just sagged into the lane, gave your team a chance to win. Think John Stockton.
So while you could build a team around the skills of a traditional point guard, you needed to surround him with other players who could handle the bulk of the scoring load if you were going to be successful.
There have been exceptions, as there always are. Most notably Magic Johnson, the best point to play the game, but I don’t really count him because he was 6’9” with the body of a power forward. He truly broke the mold, and if anything was decades ahead of his time. In truth, he wasn’t actually a point guard, he was a wing player who happened to dribble the ball up the court. The other exceptions, players like Isiah Thomas or even Pistol Pete Marovich, are really just examples of players with traditional skills, just at an incredibly exceptional level.
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12/5/12   |   MortonsLaw   |   156 respect

For the most part I agree. However, look around the league today before you say only Chris Paul distributes the ball. Rondo is probably the best "true" PG in the league when you look at his assists and scoring average. Then guys like Jose Calderon and Gravis Vasquez are also pass first point guards. And don't forget Steve Nash played in the past 15 years, as did Jason Kidd.

I think the argument can be made that both type of point guards have been around for the past 25 years. Kevin Johnson in his prime averaged 20 points per game while averaging over 9 assists per game.

12/5/12   |   jaysinw   |   5037 respect

Just because someone plays point guard does not really make him a point guard. This may be a flash in the pan of players coming up, because we now having players coming into the league, who should be playing on the play ground instead of on a NBA team. Big men cannot post up and point guards who do not know how to run an offense or move the ball, and 98% of players who have no clue how to move without the ball. The issue is we accept this so now the level of play has gone down, it is like when gas prices go up to $3.95 people are upset then drop to $3.23 and people are content again because it is not as high.