This article is a part of the Take Notice Column. This column serves to bring the attention of the reader to a new, unique, and / or radical point of view from the author. To view other Take Notice pieces, click here.
When I say point guard, who do you think of?
For the past decade, the answer to this question would have been Chris Paul, Steve Nash, or Jason Kidd. It would have been Rajon Rondo, Derek Fisher, or Tony Parker. Or maybe it would have been Chauncey Billups, or Gary Payton.
But not anymore. The age of the pass first point guard, the game manager, the distributor, is over. And the NBA as you know it, has changed.
No longer do point guards run offenses. Rather, in many cases, they are the offenses. Just look at the reigning MVP and face of the NBA, Stephen Curry.
He has changed the game, bringing 30 foot three point shooting, one on one point guard battles, and defense-slicing dribble penetration to the forefront of what we see every single possession.
But it isn’t just him. Look at the other ‘best’ point guards in the association. Damian Lillard is putting on a MVP candidate like showcase since his All Star snubbing, having his Trail Blazers 12-3 in their last 15 games and inching their way up the Western Conference standings.
I’m telling you, if I could choose from any NBA player to build a team around, Lillard would be up there with Curry, Durant, and LeBron.
Just look at his craftyness, finding ways to get the ball in the basket. No wonder he exploded for 51 points in their game against the Warriors on Feb. 2oth.
But Dame and Steph aren’t alone.
Russell Westbrook is the most unguardable guard in the NBA aside from Steph Curry. This guy practically averages a triple double while being the best player on a Thunder team that is as close to an NBA Finals trip as any of the top three seeds in the West.
But these three standouts are just the cream of the crop. Now, the only successful teams have a Lillard, or a Westbrook, or a Curry – However, thay are not usually nearly as spectacular. It is a trend, a craze now that your point guard is your offensive leader.
The tiers of PGs in today’s NBA goes something like this, order relevant –
First Tier: Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Damian Lillard, Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry, Kyrie Irving
Second Tier: Kemba Walker, John Wall, Mike Conley, Reggie Jackson, Isaiah Thomas
Third Tier: Eric Bledsoe, Jeff Teague, Tony Parker, Jrue Holiday, Rajon Rondo, Goran Dragic
13 of the 17 point guards listed above are on currently positioned playoff teams. The Pacers, Mavericks and Rockets are the only teams currently in playoff position without one of these guards listed above.
Among these point guards, eight of them lead their team in points per game, and four are second on their squads.
The age of the volume shooter is dead. Coaches now don’t have to worry about the Kobe Bryants, Michael Redds, Vince Carters, Tracy McGradys, and Joe Johnsons.
Instead, its “how in the world are we going to stop [top tier point guard]?”
The league’s impact players have devolved mostly into two different categories – scoring point guards, and stretch fours / oversized wing players.
Name any All Star, and chances are they will be one of these two. Sure, there are DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis, but besides them, the big man position is nearly muted in today’s NBA.
I don’t mean that having good big men isn’t valued anymore, but if you check the starting lineups of the top 3 teams in each conference, you see their best players are either LeBron, Kawhi Leonard, or their point guard.
The Bulls have tried it this season with new coach Fred Hoiberg, crowding the paint with talented big men like Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah, and having bigger bodies defend wings with Bobby Portis and Taj Gibson.
The Bulls are not going to make the playoffs for the first time in 8 years.
What baffles me is, here in Mock Draft season, the NBA draft rarely sees point guards go number one overall.
In the last 20 years, only 4 of the number one overall picks have been point guards – Allen Iverson, Derrick Rose, John Wall, and Kyrie Irving.
Now, that is an impressive bunch. But the fact that NBA GMs find so much more talent in other positions, most notably the center position (8 of last 20 #1 picks), is telling that good point guards don’t come by all that often.
Of the first tier point guards I laid out above, Kyrie Irving was the only taken first overall, while the rest were picked in the lottery, except for the lone Kyle Lowry, a 24th overall pick.
The NBA is flushed with talent, but the point guard is the most important position in the league to be talented in.
It is clear that today’s NBA is led by point guards. They may not win all the MVPs (only Steve Nash and Rose have taken home the MVP as point guards since 1991), like LeBron, Kevin Durant, and other big bodied forwards and wings, but they sure as hell are some of the most integral parts of title contending teams.
Don’t believe me? Ask Stephen Curry. Or, better yet, ask his teammates.