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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Golden Era of Point Guards Fighting History

As we approach the All-Star Game, the NBA is in the middle of a Golden Age at the point guard position. Not since Magic/Isiah era has the Association had the depth of talent at the position. Derrick Rose, Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo are the headliners of the class. Beyond that group you have upstarts like Russell Westbrook, John Wall, Stephon Curry combined with veterans like Steve Nash, Tony Parker, Jason Kidd and you get a nightly duels. With this new Golden Era, it begs the question:  Who will be the first to break the ceiling and win a title? but is the better question: Is it necessary to have one to win a title?

There have been many great point guards who never won a title. John Stockton, Kevin Johnson, Mark Price, Kidd just to name a few who never quite grabbed the ring. Tim Hardaway was one of the better PGs of the 90s and his quest came up short a couple of times. Isiah Thomas won two rings with the Bad Boy Pistons but there is a real argument that when he won them, he wasn't the best player on that team and certainly not its best offensive player. Gary Payton didn't win his ring until he was a role player for the 2006 Heat team. What has made this such a difficult task for the elite point guards?  Let's examine a couple of causes and see how it could affect the current crop

1) Size does matter: With the exception of Magic Johnson, most of your point guards are 6-4 and under. While many have been blessed with great leaping ability or great quickness, they are still relatively undersized compared with the rest of the NBA. This size makes a difference at the end of a game when its halfcourt basketball and your PG can't get off that quality look against a set defense....Magic , at 6-9, wasnt bothered by going to the basket and look at his famous Babyhook in the finals. he was eye level with Parish and Bird so he didnt have to alter the shot

2) Pulling double-duty is tough:  Many of your great point guards not only were distributors but also were first option scorers. Not only having to set everyone up but get baskets as well such as Hardaway, Payton , and Kevin Johnson. Fast forward to 2010 and you have that case with Rose, Williams, and Westbrook who have to score the ball as effectively if not more than passing. Against championship defenses, the scoring point guard can be forced into becoming a scorer only which for a smaller player in a series is tough or forced to get teammates involved that aren't good enough to take the load off

3)You are great but he is greater:  Sometimes its just a case of their being someone on the other team who is greater than you. In the 90s, it was MJ...In the 21st century, its Shaq, Kobe, Duncan and now Boston's Big 3. A great point guard is a wonderful thing but put that great point guard against All-Time great talent at another position and I will take the All -Time great. This is the big advantage for Rajon Rondo over his peers. Rondo can distribute, freelance on D, run the team while the Big 3 makes the shots. Tony Parker has had Tim Duncan to lean on (along with Manu). Even with all the talent at the PG spot, the favorites to win title are Boston, LA, Miami, Orlando, and Spurs. After Rondo, your next point guard in that mix is Tony Parker. The rest of them are D-Fish/Steve Blake, Jameer Nelson/Gil, Mario Chalmers/Carlos Arroyo. Hardly a great group and thats okay when you have whats around them

The challenge for the GMs of the Bulls, Thunder, Jazz, Hornets and other teams with great pgs is to find matching pieces. In the last 30 years of the NBA, only one team has one a title with point guard has the clear #1 on that team and that was the 87 and 88 Lakers led by Magic. John Paxson, Ron Harper,  Kenny Smith, Sam Cassell, Avery Johnson among others have won titles as role playing point guards. Can the Bulls find a complimentary wing player for Derrick Rose?  Can Westbrook evolve into a better distributor to go with Durant? Will Chris Paul have to change teams and get with an Amare or Melo to ever win? This great crop of guards has a lot of talent , and a lot of remaining questions


  1. Excellent blog. The PG is loaded like never before, and I thoroughly enjoy it. The real question is how many of those elite PG's (Paul, Williams) will be changing zip codes in the near future to get that elusive ring?

  2. I think you could see both the PGs you mentioned change teams.. Williams hasn't been to open about his intentions to sign a new deal in Utah. I do think he is more likely of the two to resign. Paul, I think will depend on what goes on with Carmelo.. New Orleans is a tough place to win long term and the Saints are still that towns first love

  3. Great post! I definitely think it can be done. The thing that is missing from the typical PG position is that they are generally not the Alpha male. By nature, hey are largely dependent on a teammate finishing the play in order to have success. The first (or next) PG to win as the best player will be the pioneer and change the conversation but they need to have really good options next to them. Both Magic and Isiah were able to pull this off, but Magic had HOFers next to him. After years of disappointment, the Bad Boy Pistons relied more on the team concept rather than "the star and supporting cast" model. I think this Bulls team can pull it off with Rose as the Alpha male because they are developing a hybrid of those two models. They obviously need to raise the level of talent at SG, but I don't think they need to have a Kobe / D-Wade talent. Just someone that can drop a dependable 15 ppg and create his own shot.