Several years ago, we were all taken by storm – A new era of the point guard. Freakishly athletic, shoot-first mentality, and most, were the leading scorers of their respective teams. This was unheard of from the position. The pace of the game changed and the focus shifted from having a dominant center, to a dominant point guard.
The 2008 draft class featured Derrick Rose, number 1 overall, and Russell Westbrook at number 4. The following year James Harden and Stephen Curry were also top 10 picks. Back-to-back number 1 picks; John Wall 2010, and Kyrie Irving ’11 were next. Rounding out this new breed of point guard was Damian Lillard in 2012. Now, simply being a floor general was one thing, but completely taking over a game and willing your team to victory night in and night out was something else.
Three MVP’s (Rose, one; Curry, two), five total Finals appearances (Westbrook and Harden, one; Irving and Curry, two) and two Rings (Curry and Irving) are just some of the accolades of this not so traditional point guard era thus far.
All of which begs these three questions:
- Is the floor general, pass first, point guard dead?
- Is a top-tier, top scoring PG the recipe for success?
- Can you still win with a “traditional” point guard?
It sure has seemed this way for some time now but let’s try not to forget how the 2003-04 and 2007-08 seasons played out. Our very own, King of Park Hill aka Mr. Big Shot, Chauncey Billups lead the Detroit Pistons to defeat the star-studded Lakers in ’04, and the 2008 Champion Boston Celtics paved their way to another ‘ship lead by Rajon Rondo.
One of the things these two teams had in common was the point guard play. Nothing flashy. No shooting clinics. No single-handedly taking over of the game. The 9.3 PPG, 3.8 RPG and 6.7 APG stat-line is a collection of mere mortal numbers compared to the Thor-like numbers Russell Westbrook fills the stat sheet with… and that’s on an “off” night. The aforementioned, mere mortal, stat-line is what Rajon Rondo averaged in the 2008 NBA Finals. Westbrook more often than not has that at the end of the 1st quarter.
But who has the ring? *Don’t answer that, it was a rhetorical question.
The style of point guard play we have been accustomed to seeing the past 8 years has traditional point guards, like Denver Nuggets’ own Emmanuel Mudiay, in the backseat of the rest of the league. Left as an afterthought to the general public.
Granted this is only his second season, and he has many areas in his game that he needs work on. But can his traditional “floor general” style of play translate into success? Right now, through a year an a half of play, his stat-line looks like this: 12.8ppg, 4.9apg, and 3.6rpg. That looks earily similar to the numbers Rondo in ’08, right?
Look, there are obviously other aspects to winning in this league and they start with who you surround your floor general with. You need three-point shooters, lockdown on-ball defenders and athletic scrappers to clean up the boards. It takes years to find the perfect pieces that cater to a point guards needs in order become a well-oiled machine, and careful consideration of these pieces to complement the type of point guard you have. Whether you have a top 5 scoring point guard or a traditional point guard there are ways to win.
Even though Mudiay very well could be the last of a dying breed, with the right complementing players by his side his style of play may still generate wins. It’s been proven to work before, and the Denver Nuggets should keep that in mind when making plans for the future.