I like Drew Cannon‘s piece today on the intrinsic uniqueness of the point guard position. Drew’s point (har!), that 1-guards are context-sensitive to an unusual extent, really did help me make sense of this whole Kendall Marshall fuss.
Like Drew I too was confused by everyone falling all over themselves to praise to the skies a turnover-prone and defensively diffident guard who refuses to shoot. (Except for the stellar passing part, I too could be Kendall Marshall!) Well, this particular turnover-prone and defensively diffident shoot-never guard delivers the ball to a team full of first-round picks in a position where they can score. In other words Marshall would be a pleasant but innocuous quantity if he played for Miami (OH) but he’d be much more valuable on the Miami Heat — on that basis mock drafts are right to list him. Understood. (Though even the Heat might appreciate an occasional gesture toward defense from their point guard.)
Now, as part of a spontaneous and naturally occurring Point Guard Day here at Prospectus (be sure to read Corey Schmidt‘s judicious forgiveness of Ohio point guard D.J. Cooper‘s continuing Peyton Siva-esque inaccuracy from the field), I wish to bring this discussion around to my pet cause: banishing the term “true point guard” from respectable hoops circles and rendering it as unfit for use by sentient adults trafficking in reality as “rebound margin,” “field goal percentage,” or “RPI.”
I choose to read Drew’s piece on the incorrigibly contingent nature of the point guard position as a brief against the kind of one-size-fits-all mindset which inheres in the very term “true” point guard. Take Baylor. Last year they really needed a level of point-guard performance that was merely average. They didn’t get it, and, arguably, it sabotaged what could have been a very nice season. But it wouldn’t have mattered if that capable performance came from a feisty tough-as-nails 6-0 never-shoot floor-general or a calm silky smooth 6-4 combo guard and featured scorer, just as long as the dude didn’t give the ball away 32 to 38 percent of the time.
Point guards come in all shapes and sizes. Some of us are old enough to remember hoops pundits freaking out when Ohio State coach Thad Matta anointed 6-7 Evan Turner as the “new” point guard going into the 2009-10 season, even though to anyone who’d been paying attention it was clear that Turner had already functioned at the point for much of 2008-09.
Lastly, point guard duties can be farmed out and done by committee. That can work too. The cardinal importance of the “true point guard” is a discursive habit, a way of talking among people sitting around a basketball court, and not something that obtains on the basketball court itself. If you see a coach or analyst falling into that habit, I say you best beware.