NBA - League of Point Guards
Traditionally, Basketball was a sport where height mattered the most. All over the world, people had this notion that only tall players could play Basketball or dominate the game. Even NBA was initially a center driven league (center- generally the tallest player in the team who plays in the paint, scores through low post opportunities and blocks shorts). In the 90's and even 2000's, most teams used to surround their offense and defense around centers or power forwards, case in point being the 1997-2002 Lakers, 1997-2007 Spurs, 1994-1995 Rockets and many more.
However, in modern NBA, things are quite different. The little guys run the show now and the tall centers are just expected to play pick and roll and to block shots. One of the major reasons behind this is how NBA teams depend on three-point shooting more than anything nowadays. Centers and power forwards are expected to increase their range to the three-point line and if they cannot do that, their role on the team automatically diminishes.
Today's NBA is all about teams stacking up at the point guard position first, in order to create a championship roster. The mighty Golden State Warriors have all-star players like Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, but it is Stephen Curry who makes this team unbeatable. Curry's ball handling, lights-out-shooting skills and his ability to score from any part of the court makes him the real difference maker on this team as he literally controls the tempo of his team. The best example of this was evident during this year's playoffs.
In the first round, even though, the Warriors defeated the Spurs in convincing fashion, they didn't look or play on the same level as they had during the regular season. Many people were even rooting for the Pelicans to pull off an upset over the champs in the second round. But, Curry came back from the injury and led the Warriors to victory over the Pelicans without much resistance. Curry has multiple weapons in his game and his ability to use those weapons at the right time and take over a game is something that makes him a 2-time MVP.
On the other hand, we have the Houston Rockets, who acquired Chris Paul this season. Even though James Harden was performing quite well in handling the point guard's duties, it was Chris Paul who took the Rockets to another level this season. His IQ for the game, ability to find the open man and to knock down threes along with James Harden's insane arsenal of moves is what makes Rockets the no.1 offense in the league.
Also, we cannot ignore his ability to take over an important game as he scored 40 points, dished out 10 assists and grabbed 8 rebounds in game 5 vs the Jazz. It would be interesting to see how Paul would match-up against Curry in the conference finals as the league's finest of the finest point guards go to battle for making it to the 2018 NBA finals.
We also have other elite point guards who may not be playing in the playoffs anymore but have led their respective teams well in the regular season. We are talking about the likes of the triple-double mean machine Russel Westbrook, crossover king Kyrie Irving, the flash John Wall and Dame time Damien Lillard.
We don't need any introduction for Westbrook - a player who has been averaging an insane triple-double for two consecutive seasons - a feat that no one in the NBA has ever achieved. Then comes, Kyrie Irving, a player who had a lot to prove this season as he parted ways with Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers after making three consecutive NBA finals and winning one of them.
With the intent of being the focal point, Irving led the Celtics to the No. 2 seed without his fellow all-star Gordon Hayward. However, injuries kept us from seeing how good Irving can be when he is the go-to guy. Then, there is John Wall and Damian Lillard who were All-Stars as well and led their respective teams to the playoffs. They were pretty disappointing in the playoffs but frankly, if you take those guys out of the equation, their teams would not even make it to the playoffs.
How can we forget Rajon Rondo if we're talking about point guards? Rondo is one of the true point guards we have in the league who understands and reads the game better than anyone. Better than some coaches too, arguably. His skill set is kind of old school and many people believed his playing style does not suit today's NBA and that he cannot be relevant in a team's success anymore.
However, Rondo has been proving the detractors wrong from past two seasons now. Last season, Rondo played for the Chicago Bulls, who were 2-0 in the first round against the No.1 seed, Boston Celtics. But in game 3, Rondo suffered an injury which left the team crippled, losing their next four contests and getting kicked out of the playoffs. This season as well, the Pelicans have been a dangerous team ever since Demarcus Cousins went down with an injury, the credit for which goes to Anthony Davis and the floor general Rajon Rondo. His play during the playoffs is one of the reasons why the Pelicans swept a team like the Portland Trailblazers. Also, he dished out 21 assists in game 4 vs the Warriors. This shows that Rondo is far from being done in the NBA.
All these players show how they are the most integral pieces of their teams and how much they impact their respective teams with their performances. These days, every NBA team looks for a point guard first, to build their roster. Point guards, unlike the earlier days of NBA, are doing a little bit of everything these days rather than just being the pass-first guy.
It is strange how a decade has changed the NBA so much. More and more teams look for a point guard to build their team around, rather than a center. However, we also see another breed of big men these days with the likes of Karl-Anthony Towns, Demarcus Cousins, Kristaps Porzingis who can shoot the threes, do crossovers like a point guard and can also pass the ball well. There will be a time again when the big men would be dominating but as of now, NBA is a league of point guards.