NBA 2017: The Point Guards Era

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Credit: Slam Studios Sports

Credit: Slam Studios Sports

Historically, the point guard position has been known as a facilitator. Oscar Robertson, Gary Payton and Allen Iverson are examples of players who broke that mold, often scoring more than assisting their fellow teammates.

Since the mid-2000’s, that mold has been completely redefined, and the point guard is now the powerhouse of the NBA.

Russell Westbrook has led the charge for multi-versatile point guards in the league. He is now, without a doubt, a top 3 player in the NBA, with averages of 31.4 points/game, 10.5 rebounds/game, and 10.4 assists/game. You would expect 10+ assists/game out of a premier point guard, but what you wouldn’t expect is that same guard to lead the league in points/game and be 10th in rebounds.

Very few players have followed in his shoes in terms of rebounding, however, most of the league's point guards have followed suit in scoring.

In the 2006-07 season, only one point guard (excluding Allen Iverson) scored over 20 points/game, being Gilbert Arenas scoring 28.4 points/game. Now in the 2016-17 season, 12 players are averaging 20+ points/game at the point guard position (Westbrook, Harden, Thomas, Lillard, Irving, Curry, Wall, Walker, Dragic, Conley, Lowry, Bledsoe), as well as eight being in the top 20 of that category (excluding Giannis Antentekounmpo). Four shooting guards make that list (DeRozan, McCollum, Butler, Beal), two centers (Cousins, Towns), and six players from the forward positions (Davis, James, Leonard, Durant, Antentekounmpo, Wiggins).

Because of this change in the game style, we see versatile forwards being moved to the point guard position to match up with players like Westbrook or Harden.

Giannis Antentekounmpo is one of these players. At 6’11”, he is taller than some centers, while being as fast, if not faster, than most guards. The Bucks have played him at the point guard position to counter these talented guards, and it has worked out pretty well. In the 2015-16 season where he primarily played point guard, against Oklahoma City and Westbrook, he had 10 and 12 rebounds, while Russell only had 7 and 10 respectively.

Another player that will be played as a point guard is 6’10” Ben Simmons. Simmon’s exceptional court vision and speed makes him a great point guard, while his height and vertical give him the ability to play just about any other position.

The future is bright for point guards in the league, and Westbrook shows that hard work and hustle pays off.

Along with this increase in guard play, we see a decline in dominant centers. 25 years ago, we saw a league with Shaquille O'Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, and Dikembe Mutombo at the same time. Not only were these players dominant defensively and on the glass, they were premier scorers as well. Today we only see two centers in the top 20 of scoring, and even some centers getting beat out of the top 20 in rebounds/game. We only see maybe 3 or 4 teams that have centers as their primary scorers.

Stretch 4’s are also becoming a regular occurrence in most team’s rosters, essentially removing the center position completely. Even power forwards are taking a hit, only having one player in the top 20 of scoring. Small forwards are over-running their position, being faster, better shooters, and even taller times than their power forward counterparts.

The big man is becoming a big obstacle, while the little man is thriving. It’s a new age in the NBA.

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