The Impact a True Point Guard has on a team

There’s a lot of talk about the Knicks and how Carmelo Anthony will not be able to mesh once Jeremy Lin comes into the lineup. Some say with his “selfish” style of play that he won’t be able to coexist with Lin running the point and having the ball in his hands. Well first I don’t think Anthony is a selfish player ,he’s a scorer always has been and there are plenty of them in the league. The negative is the ball stops when he has the ball on offense meaning he’ll tend to take extra time finding holes to get his shot off. Scorers like that have problems with efficiency because defenders load up their side and make it tough on them. The league is full of ball stopping scorers, some dominate the ball when they have the ball deep in the shot clock while some dominate it anytime they catch it.

 

I think what Lin will do is make it easier on Carmelo to get his shot. Scorers always benefit from having true point guards on their teams so it decreases the amount of time they need the ball in their hands. You often see teams with poor point guard play sometimes have their scorers handle the ball a lot which is almost never a good thing. Scorers tend to break plays and go off on their won trying to score on most of their possessions. This type style of play is easy to scout enabling opponents to load up the scorer’s side with the ball and force them into tough shots. The Knicks have gone through this problem this year as didn’t have a true point guard on their roster until Lin came along.

 

What a true point guard does is organizes their team’s offense. They make sure everyone is in their right spot and lets them know when they aren’t. There is a big difference when you watch a team with a true point guard rather than watching team with a manufacture one. True point guards know where and when to give the ball to their teammates. Never will you see a high level point guard give the ball to a clumsy big man 15 feet from the basket. They know to wait until that player is close to the basket where all they have to do is catch the ball turn and finish. Spot up shooters tend not to be great isolation players so real point guard wont give them the ball when a defender is close , choosing instead to penetrate draw the shooter’s man and kick to them for an open shot. There are a million examples of what a true point guard is and what isn’t. What people sometimes don’t realize is the effect of having a true point guard and a manufactured one has on a team.

 

The best example that I can give is the 2000-2001 Phoenix Suns and New Jersey Nets. Two teams at that time heading in two completely different directions. The Suns coming off a 51-31 campaign had a nice collection of young players and veterans. Most of their nucleus were under the age of 30. Led by the up and coming Shawn Marion (17.3 pts and 10.3 rebs) and star point guard Jason Kidd(16.9 pts 9.8 asts) the Suns future was looking very bright. The only real issue that they were dealing with is Afernee Hardaway’s season ending knee injury and uncertain future. The Nets 200-2001 campaign was the complete opposite finishing with a record of 26-56. Their future was very much in doubt touting a roster with young twenty somethings that had no real direction on the floor. Their top players at the time were Stephon Marbury(23.9 pts and 7.6 asts), Kenyon Martin (12.0pts and 7.4 rebs), and Keith Van Horn (17.0 pts and 7.0 rebs).

On July 18, 2001 both team’s would be forever changed as The Suns traded Jason Kidd and Chris Dudley to The Nets in exchange for Stephon Marbury,Johnny Newman, and Somaila Samake. At the time the average observer would say the trade was about even, both teams receiving all-star point guards and their records wouldn’t change much. Well to sum it up the Nets went on to two straight trips to The NBA Finals as well as six straight playoff appearances. The Suns initial season after the trade were a dismal 36-46 firing Head Coach Scott Skiles 51 games into the season. The Marbury experiment didn’t last long as they traded him to the Knicks 34 games into the 2003-2004 season. All in all they were 92-106 with Marbury running the point for them. Now there were other factors to point out as the Nets drafted Richard Jefferson and added some small pieces to the mix. The Suns had to deal with not having Penny Hardaway with his severe knee injury. But really the only change that both teams made was at the point guard spot. What makes both players so different as both were in there prime and all-star level talents.

 

This is the difference of having a true point guard on your roster and a manufactured one. Jason Kidd has been a point guard his whole life. I don’t like to use the common phrase well this guy makes players better.  The term that I like to use is he knew where and when to give his teammates the ball to help their teams win. Jason is a very unselfish point guard that gets his teammates easy shots. We’ll go into the positive affect that he had on his teammates and how their production decreased without him later in this post. Jason knows how to put his team’s in position to win. Yes he couldn’t do it without a good supporting cast, but knowing how to use that supporting cast is just as if not more important. Marbury is a scorer, yes he is good with the ball in his hands but mostly to create scoring opportunities for himself. No question that he had a lot of talent, but as far as organizing his team and leading not so much. Players such as Shawn Marion are more productive in transition, pick and rolls, and cuts rather than giving them the ball and creating fro themselves. Getting spot up players and paint scoring post players easy uncontested shots using penetration and transition is a very important key to success. That is the difference between having a scoring point guard run your team and a true point guard at the helm. There is no question that team personnel has a big effect on winning and losing. But, having a point guard that knows the strengths and weaknesses of their teammates is so important. It’s not an easy job to have a teammate want the ball, but look them off because it’s not the shot for them. Some guards will just give it to them and hope that they can score with it. A true point guard will never do that as they will know that they need to be patient and give it to them in a different spot.

 

How much of an impact did Jason have on his teammates? Well I seem to think that Richard Jefferson, Kenyon Martin, and Brian Scalabrine benefited greatly from him statistically as well as financially. Richard Jefferson averaged 17.7 points while shooting 47% from the field, and going to the free throw line 7.2 times per game. Jefferson signed a 6 year 76 million dollar extension from his play with Kidd. Since Kidd left Jefferson has averaged 13.3 points while shooting 45% from the field and 3.3 free throw attempts a game. While playing with Kidd, Jefferson didn’t have to create a lot of offense for himself. Kidd can find him on look a heads on the break as well as drawing defenders on pick and roll and penetration to find Jefferson easy shots. Kenyon Martin is a little different than Jefferson as he’s battled injuries which can’t be linked to not playing with Jason Kidd. With Kidd Martin experienced his best scoring numbers averaging 16.1 points per game.  Jason utilized Kenyon’s strength and athletic ability by rolling him to the rim on pick and rolls and finding him in transition. Again, not posting up and isolating Martin, but taking advantage of his leaping ability and toughness finding him on cuts and duck ins. Kenyon signed a 7 year 92 million dollar deal in a sign in trade with the Nuggets.  Actually,it could be said that Kenyon got more efficient with his shooting numbers after leaving the Nets shooting over 50% from the field multiple times. Although you can see the difference in production from playing with an elite point guard and not. Brian Scalabrine didn’t put up all star numbers with Jason, but had a career best 6.3 points and 4.5 rebounds in 2004-2005 which led to a 5 year 15 million dollar contract with the Boston Celtics. Kidd took advantage of Brian’s shot making ability and basketball IQ to have a role on the team.

 

As you can see players and teams benefit from having a true pass first point guard on their team. In that example both guards were all-star level, but as you can see a team benefits so much more from having a guard that knows where and when to throw their teammates the ball.

 

Jeremy Lin can have this impact with the Knicks even with Anthony and Amare back in the lineup. Because his job is so much easier with high level players and scorers on the floor with him. This opens up the floor and defenders need to respect those two which gives Lin the ability to operate. Also with his ability to change speeds and get in the lane it makes it easier for him to finish around the basket. If defenders help off anyone to stop his penetration Lin has the ability to find them spotting up or cutting. Lets not forget the impact Tyson Chandler has had on this team since Lin was inserted in the starting lineup. Lets not forget how great Tyson was with two true point guards in Chris Paul and Jason Kidd. Defenders need to respect his energy rolling to the rim and running the floor. Having a true point guard to attack and always look for him is a big plus.

 

Lin has weaknesses but every point guard does. You can say he doesn’t guard anyone but you can say the same for Steve Nash or  Jason Kidd. There’s not one complete player without a weakness or knock everyone has them. It’s finding that skill that can get them on the floor that they do better than anyone else. Carmelo and Amare just need to allow Lin to do what he does. This will make their job easier and get them easier shots. The Knicks won’t win with Amare and Carmelo isolating every possession. They can and WILL win if they give a true point guard the ball. Just look at the history behind it.

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Mike Procopio

Mike Procopio

- Currently Director of Basketball Operations for ATTACK Athletics in Chicago,IL. Clients such as Kobe Bryant,Dwyane wade, Caron Butler, as well as 75 other NBA players. - Strategic Game Management Coach to Kobe Bryant
Mike Procopio

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