The role of the point guard in the NBA has changed over the years. It used to be all about ball ?distribution. Point guards were doing one thing better than everyone else – distributing the rock. They used to be a moderate scorer, top ball handler, and your main assist guy. They were the player who made the team work, the true leader of the team on the court. The evolution of the point guard in the NBA has gone into a direction I never saw coming.
The scoring point guard.
Like, as in, scoring 25, 30, 40 points…scoring point guard. These kind of numbers are at a different level.
Growing up, I, like many others in my era, watched the greatest point guard ever, Magic Johnson, orchestrate the game on the court like no other. This was a player who, at 6-9, and even though shot over 50% from the field in his career, only finished as a top 10 scorer in one solitary season ’86-87. Magic probably cold have put up a lot more points in his career, but he chose to run the offense instead of dropping 25-30 every night.
In this day’s NBA, the pass first point guards are very hard to come by. There are numerous reasons behind this, in my opinion. When the NBA stopped hand-checking, it made it a whole lot easier for perimeter players to get their shot off. Which typically opens the game up for smaller guys, aka the point guard. So the smaller PGs in the NBA have more space to look for their own shot more frequently. The lack of post playing bigs, and the stretch big evolution has tremendously opened the game up for the PG. Now when a PG gets himself into the lane, there’s oftentimes no one there to solidly protect the rim vs them.
It seems to be on the surface, that the PG position has evolved because there were a bunch of shooting guards who wanted the ball more, so they learned how to handle the ball better, and called themselves “point guards.” Perfect example, and I am not a huge fan, is Russell Westbrook. He is easily the most athletic PG I have seen play the game. He can score, pass the ball, when he decides to, and an outstanding rebounder. There comes a time to accept the changes, and see what talent this NBA has today. But his game and style in which he plays is everything I never considered when I think of a PG.
We have seen the PG position change with players like, Steph Curry, who is seriously making a legit push to be the best shooter in the history of the NBA. 25 year old John Wall is in incredibly rare and genuine elite passer, who at the time of this article, if he has the expected 15 year career, he will probably end up in the top 7-8 category in this stat, which means he would surpass Gary Payton and Isaiah Thomas. And he also a very talented defender, and one of my personal favorites. And, then we have Chris Paul, who is arguably the best overall point guard in the game. This is the most competitive era in NBA history for the point.
The game has always evolved, and will just continue to do so. In this game today, the point guards are needed to carry more of the scoring load. The game is designed for shooters. And I go back to the point of declining of dominant post play by the old school bigs. And let’s also keep in mind, the play making SGs as well as the 3. The NBA is always moving into a direction to accommodate the players coming in. Yes, it used to be more physical, it used to be dominated by guys down low, bumping shoulders and backing in down low. But today, the game is played outside the paint, its controlled by the 15 foot shot and obviously the three point shot, which is more of a game changer than ever these days. Think about his fun fact, in 1990, the top three point shooter, Vernon Maxwell, had 172 made treys, on 510 attempts, hitting only 34%. In 2015, Stephen Curry shot 646 treys, knocking down 286 at an incredible 44% shooting pct. It’s a head shaking era.
The NBA is much more 3 point driven now, so everyone at every position shoots the deep ball. It’s not a commodity anymore, its part of the game, the game plan goes off of the three point shot. The league is geared towards athletic shooting PG’s and the wing player. We can look at the top 10 players in the NBA, and the majority are all in the 1-3 positions now. The PG position is becoming the position to be in, in basketball today. Your job isn’t just to get the ball to the best shooter, or the big down low. You have skills that allow you to do that, as well as, drop 25 in a quick second.
Let’s just enjoy what the game has become, today. We can have a serious, conversation between players like Steph, Paul, Kyrie Irving, Westbrook, Damian Lillard, John Wall, all of whom are great PG’s in the NBA today. It comes down to what everyone expects as what they want from their PG for their team. It is all a matter of preference. Give me anytime in the NBA, when we have witnessed at least 10 candidates competing for one specific position as the best. The PG position is overflowing with talent. We used to have 3-5 guys who were considered the best PGs in the game, we can look at a boatload of guys now, and have a serious debate as to what we can be comfortable with naming the best of the PG’s.
The game is changing, and it’s not all bad.