Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Is Steve Nash the best point guard in the NBA?

Hello. He probably is. But he doesn't play good defense, doesn't have a ring, blah blah blah, and he does things like rip his shirt apart on the dance floor to exhibit his diminutive, hairy chest, which he probably conditions. Which necessitates some list making.

First, though, I want to take a little time to talk about the point guard position because it is falling out of favor in the NBA. Teams get themselves in tizzies about 6'7" guys who can't shoot but are really quick and strong, and they forget that someone has to run the offense.

I know what you're thinking. "Steve Nash won the MVP the past two years, and probably will this year, and you're saying the point goes overlooked? You're crazy Jimmy V." Steve Nash does throw a wrench in my argument, but I think that part of his popularity has a lot to do with his marketability as a fun-to-watch, handsome (and this counts for a lot, ask any girl who watches basketball), hard-working white guy. He's arguably the most marketable athlete in all of sports right now other than Peyton Manning. (Though he looks very, very out of place in those new Nike Air Force II ads.)

I still think that teams don't give a damn. Take a look at last year's draft: the first point guards drafted were Marcus Williams and Rajon Rondo, both of whom are looking very good initially. People drafted ahead of them include Rendaldo Balkman, Quincy Douby, Oleksiy Pecherov, Shawne Williams, Rodney Carney, Cedric Simmons, Ronnie Brewer, Thabo Seflosha, Hilton Armstrong, JJ Reddick, Saer Sene, Patrick O'Bryant and Shelden Williams. You know what those players have in common? They haven't done shit.

Of course, looking at this year's draft without some time for players to mature is unfair, but going back a five years should fix any inconsistency as most players at least make the rotation after that much time. In 2001, the infamous Kwame Brown year, the last two picks in the first round were Jamal Tinsley and Tony Parker, who are excellent and start for perennial playoff teams. They followed bums like Brandon Amrstrong, Jeryl Sasser, Joe Forte, Jason Collins, Michael Bradley, Kirk Haston, Steven Hunter, Kedrick Brown, Rodney White, and of course, Kwame Brown. How is that possible? I can understand not drafting Tony Parker, being that he's a little French wisp of a man, but Jamaal Tinsley had an extremely distinguished college career in which Iowa State was a 2 seed. A 2 seed! He had the ability to make Marcus Fizer (not good) look good.

For anyone that claims Miami won the championship last year without a good point guard, I would note that they had the best passing shooting guard in the league (7.9 assists this year, good for 7th in the league and higher than guys like Chauncey Billups, Stephon Marbury, Tony Parker, etc.) as well as a talented Jason Williams and hall-of-famer Gary Payton. (Yeah I said it.) [Also, Dwayne has the quickest hands in the league, as you can see...]

The thing that's really damning is it seems like teams are not willing to look at traditional good point guards as valuable players. The only point guards who get any publicity are guys like Shaun Livingston and Sebastian Telfair, who are both getting paid but not played. They are stuck behind, uh, real point guards like Sam Cassell, or point guards who know how to shoot like Delonte West (never thought I'd put that sentence together...). Telfair was recently moved to third string behind the aforementioned Rajon Rondo. The only time Boston was good post-Bird was the only time they had a point guard, Kenny Anderson. (Remember that Chauncey Billups played two when he was on the Celts. Thanks Rick Pitino!)

For an illustration of the importance of the point guard, look at NBA records division by division. In the Atlantic, three teams have good point guards: The Nets in Kidd, the Raptors in Ford, and the Knicks in Marbury. Each team, which by all rights should be very, very crappy, is decent (especially Toronto, who seems like an early under-the-radar team already. They're only one game under .500!) Philadelphia did not have a point guard for most of its season, and Boston hasn't had one all year (though Rondo may get a shot now that they lose every game), and they are terrible.

The Central Division is kind of tough to use as evidence, because every team has a good point guard (Detroit - Billups; Chicago - Heinrich; Cleveland - they have LeBron; Indiana - Tinsley; Milwaukee - Mo Williams). It is the tightest division in the league and Milwaukee would be better if they weren't beset by the most injuries of any team. [I put Cleveland in there becuase Lebron is just ridiculous and it's impossible to have a bad regular season record with a guy like him. But, I don't think they'll do a thing in the postseason because of their weakness at the point. Damon Jones is a pure shooter at best, and he thinks that makes him special. He's just a black Jeff Hornacek with no size, a worse shot, and a worse attitude. (See picture at right)]

In the Southeast division, Washington, Orlando, and Miami have good point guards in Arenas, Nelson, and Williams/Wade. They are all good. Atlanta and Charlotte have nothing at point guard, though Charlotte would if Brevin Knight and Ray Felton. Atlanta and Charlotte are terrible.

In the West, Utah is far ahead in a division where it is the only team with a good point guard. Not surprisingly, this is the worst division in the conference, and Denver, Minnesota, Portland, and Seattle all know they're not going anywhere.

In the Pacific, Phoenix is killing everybody, obviously. The Lakers are also good, and they are an exception to this rule, but they run a unique offense where the ball goes through the forwards and the shooting guard (Kobe, Odom, and Walton combine for 14.7 assists per game). Everyone else that is threatening in that division has a good point guard with injury problems (GS with Davis, the Clippers with Cassell). Bibby isn't the player he used to be in Sacramento, and I don't think of him as a traditional point guard anyway.

Finally, in the Southwest, there's Dallas, which has two good point guards in Harris and Terry, followed by San Antonio, which has Parker and the underrated Udrih, and Houston, with the most underrated point guard in the league, Rafer Alston. New Orleans was playing well until Paul went down, and Memphis has no point guard and sucks ass.

This, in my mind, establishes that the point guard position is extremely important. I remember last year when Dallas created series-defining matchup problems with their use of Devin Harris, and the year before when Steve Nash almost single-handedly willed Phoenix to the finals. I don't really remember any other playoff heroism by anyone other than Wade, who is good enough to defy categorization.

So that means the most important question is: Who is the best point guard in the NBA?

Well, Steve Nash is, even though he can't play defense. I would have said Jason Kidd, but he can't shoot, and I'd rather have someone who can knock down an open three than someone who is an average defender.

Here is my list. For purposes of clarification, I am leaving Chris Paul (injured) out, and I am considering Iverson, and Wade shooting guards.

1. Steve Nash: for the reasons above. (And as we all know he'd be a great soccer player) [Counterpoint here. Sample comment: "Nash eats dick with maple syrup!"]
2. Jason Kidd: for the reasons above. What a rebounder and hustler, by the way.
3. Deron Williams: He's really coming into his own this year, hits big shots, and can dunk in your face.
4. Stephon Marbury: He had a bad start, and his defense is god-awful at times, but when you need someone to drive and score or drive and kick, he's among the best, and he can run the break, though he has never had the opportunity to do this with any consistency. Also he hits big time shots and is unselfish.
5. Gilbert Arenas: Great scorer, good passer, decent defender, but he turns the ball over a lot and marginalizes his post players with his me-first approach (not that he's selfish...if I were as good as him I'd be me-first too).
6. Brevin Knight: Great midrange jumper, great defense, great passer, great driving skills, great attitude. The model for a great traditional point guard. If only he had an outside shot, was a little bigger, and played with one good teammate in his life. (check out his history, he never has.)
7. Baron Davis: He'd be higher if he weren't so injury-prone, and I also think he is a bit selfish. One of the best dunking point guards ever, though.
8. Kirk Hinrich: Plays good defense, runs the offense well, says funny stuff, but also is a much streakier shooter than he should be. (He also has a questionable bracelet tattoo)
9. TJ Ford: Really quick, decent shot, good defender. If he didn't turn the ball over so much I'd think more of him. (This "really quick" clip, along with the Deron dunk, is easily the best today)
10. Andre Miller: I guess he is good at passing and scoring, but something about him has just never really made me confident that he was great at running the offense or being an effective scorer. (Reminds me of the way I used to think about Mark Jackson.) [Though he can block shots really well].

Teams take notice. That's all for today As always, e-mail me at dontgiveupthebasketballblog@gmail.com

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

*tongue planted firmly in cheek* "the most underrated point guard in the league, Rafer Alston"