The Point Guard Is The New Quarterback
By: Lawrence Brooks
Basketball has long been a “big man” sport and to some degree it still is. However, the game has evolved dramatically over the years. When you scan the NBA landscape, many of the more successful teams feature a terrific point guard. Steph leads the Warriors (although they had a down year, they’re fresh off a dynasty). LeBron is playing point guard for the Lakers, Dame Lillard has made the Blazers a force, and James Harden runs the Rockets. Even Chris Paul with the OKC Thunder has done wonders! NBA teams are constantly looking for their franchise “quarterback.” Granted, the Phoenix Suns just recently took Deandre Ayton with the #1 overall pick in 2018. He has been a great addition to the team when on the court, but we still find ourselves wishing they had a “point guard to play with Devin Booker.” Imagine if Phoenix would have taken Luka or Trae Young!
I’m sure the Suns wish they had a do-over. As the game has become more perimeter-oriented, it has put a premium on ball-handling and shot creators. This has a direct correlation to the point guard position. The “Pick n roll” is an NBA staple and has even trickled down into college hoops. Hunting mismatches and taking advantage of it is the bread and butter of NBA playbooks. Especially late in games when the best plays usually revolve around the ball being in your best players’ hands. Dame Lillard is one of the best pick n roll guards we have today.
Throwing the ball in the post is no longer as efficient as when the game was played at a slower pace. There are a few contributing factors to but mainly most of the bigs in today’s game don’t play down low. They’re trained to be shooters and aren’t great at throwing out of the post. The best low post big man we have in today’s game is Nikola Jokic. His vision to punish double teams with the pass or scoring creates such a problem for defenders. However, everyone doesn’t possess his talent. Most guys just end up pounding the basketball and trying to muscle up against another big to get a basket. Not the best method of scoring in today’s game.
Steph Curry for example opens up the entire floor for his offense. So does Giannis Antetokounmpo but both for different reasons. Due to Steph’s absurd shooting, he pulls teams further from the basket which creates a ton of space to operate. It’s almost like trying to corral a cat in the parking lot. Too much space to play! His range makes him an overwhelming assignment.
Giannis’ elite level athleticism, strength, and size causes teams to load up the paint. This opens shooting pockets for his teammates. You can’t stay attached to your assignment because of the fear he will attack the lane at will. Point guards dictate the game flow and gameplans.
The New York Knicks are still looking for a franchise point guard. Minnesota has high hopes that D’Angelo Russell is their guy. The Bulls would be much better off if they had a table-setter at point guard. The Hawks have a much brighter future having Trae Young as their young star. The face of most franchises is their point guard, much like QB’s in football. The game has put high priority on shooting and shot creation so everyone wants the next stud point guard to run their team.
There are at least 8 teams still looking for a guy to hand the keys because that will unlock everything they want to do. Point guards used to be a compliment to the big man but now they’re the building block. Even when you think of the Raptors, the first player that comes to mind for most is Kyle Lowry. Lowry is a tier below the elite point guards, but he is the most important piece to the Toronto puzzle. Without him, that team isn’t nearly as cohesive. You need a quarterback for your team, or it will be an uphill climb trying to run anything. Point guard play evolution has made the game more skilled than it has ever been. It will be interesting to see if the Bulls land LaMelo Ball and how it stabilizes their roster. He’s an ideal quarterback for Chicago. LaMelo’s ability is to see the floor and create shots for his teammates is desperately needed for a team that is loaded with finishers. Much like a football team with big-time playmakers but need someone to get them the ball. Point guards command the court, and everyone needs one.