Static Positions are Silly
For anybody who has grown up playing or watching basketball, the five positions have been ingrained in our minds. The point guard brings the ball up and runs the offense. The shooting guard shoots threes and provides extra ball-handling. The small forward is more adept in the paint. The power forward is a big that can kind of shoot. The center is the biggest player. Each position guards their position on the opposing team. Simple to explain, teach, and play. Of all the positions, it’s time to bring an end to the point guard.
Obviously, this simplistic view no longer holds especially with the advent of point forwards like LeBron and Giannis (who Jason Kidd actually called the team’s point guard for a while) and teams like the Hawks drafting players who can play this new wave of positionless basketball. Centers don’t dominate the paint like in the 90s. However, that trend is changing dramatically with players like Embiid, Jokic, Towns, and Gobert). Nowadays, a power forward better be able to shoot threes while also being switchable on defense like Horford. It’s an added bonus if that player can also play a small-ball center.
While all of these changes are occurring, one aspect of basketball rosters has remained consistent: the point guard. Even primary creators like LeBron and Giannis often share the court with a traditional point guard. The Lakers’ two most played 5-man lineups with LeBron also had Lonzo Ball, and the Bucks’ seven most played 5-man lineups with Giannis also had Eric Bledsoe. This isn’t necessarily an issue especially considering both Ball’s and Bledsoe’s defensive abilities. Though, teams would be better off not spending their time looking for point guards.
Point Guards Must Shoot and Defend
Let me be very specific with my hottest take: point guards who are average to below average on defense AND can’t reliably shoot threes should not be valued as highly as they are. Even if that player is the team’s leading creator/scorer, NBA teams should try and move on while the market is hot for them.
As my above tweets discuss, my main concern is that point guards like this are not portable. This means that as a team becomes better, their skills won’t translate as smoothly as players with other skillsets (mainly switchable defense, passing, and shooting). Sure, players like Derrick Rose and Allen Iverson saw immense success surrounded by defensively oriented teams. The issue becomes slotting them into a useful role when building a super team.
What would Derrick Rose’s role be in the following lineup: Rose, Kobe, LeBron, Giannis, and Jokic? Everyone else in this lineup is a better shooter, a significantly better defender, a better offensive creator (Giannis?), and bigger. Rose, despite being a tremendous sole offensive creator, wouldn’t provide as much value in this lineup as a player like Mike Conley or George Hill who could space the floor and play strong defense (I discuss this sort of philosophy about being the “best, first-best player”). In this lineup, you could even slip in Klay Thompson because the other players could handle traditional point guard duties. The Derrick Rose archetype provides valuable floor-raising to a team, but it establishes a lower, concrete ceiling. In this context, the era of the scoring point guard has come to an end.
Put an End to the Point Guard
My main suggestion to organizations is to put the main playmaking responsibilities on a different player. The best option is a player who is bigger and with a more varied skillset. Why not let Bradley Beal play the point when Wall is off the court? Why even have a traditional point guard when Jokic, Giannis, LeBron, or Simmons is on the court? Filling that spot with a player like Danny Green, Robert Covington, Jae Crowder (well, maybe not anymore), or Joe Ingles should more than make up for a lost point guard. For anybody skeptical of a non-point guard’s creating ability, know that three of the top four players in Ben Taylor’s passer rating statistic from this last year were not point guards (Draymond, Jokic, and LeBron).
Everybody is always looking for the next market inefficiency that will change the landscape of the NBA. Instead of going smaller, teams will realize that they need to put an end to the point guard and go bigger.