Well, at this point in the 2009 NBA playoff race, the point position seems to be point production -- otherwise known as scoring at an unprecedented consistency. Through Friday, a dozen players listed as point guards in the league (via espn.com) were averaging 14.7 points or more, with Tony Parker leading the way at a 28.6 clip. It makes no difference that Parker and the next three at the top (Andre Miller, Deron Williams, and Derrick Rose) are now out of the postseason -- the point is, and has been, making more noise in the playoff scoring column than ever before.
The next point guards on the list are Chauncey Billups and Rajon Rondo. Billups is the mature and effective leader of the erratically entertaining Denver Nuggets, and the player behind coach George Karl's understanding that this particular homegrown point means more to his team than anyone. Rondo, of course, is arguably the most critical point in the league now, as he pushes his defending champion Boston Celtics with energy, versatility, will and weekly triple-double digits.
Rondo is averaging 18.3 while Billups is a shade higher at 19.6.
So what? Well, the last point guard to average an exact 19.6 points throughout the playoffs was Jason Kidd. That was in 2002. And he led ALL point guards in scoring that year. Guess how many other points averaged more than 14.7 ppg in Kidd's calling?
Two. The previously mentioned Parker with 15.5, and Darrell Armstrong with 15.3.
Since 2002, at least five point guards have scored at least 14.3 ppg each year in the playoffs, with an average of just under seven players hitting that rate each postseason. Stephon Marbury led the way in 2003 and 2004, with more than a 21 point mean in each of those years, while Steve Nash took over the top spot in 2005 with just under 24 points per contest. Nash was ahead of seven other points during that period, all who scored more than 16 a night. Marbury's mark of 22 ppg in 2003 began a 20+ point production streak by the PG leader. Gilbert Arenas scored a ludicrous 34 a game in 2006 -- albeit in just a few games -- almost double the leading PG in 2001 (Damon Stoudamire)!
2008 saw eight point guards in the high scoring column again, leading to this year's revolutionary 12. The others in the current span are Mo Williams, Aaron Brooks, Rodney Stuckey, Mike Bibby, and Jason Terry. (Remember, these are players categorized as point guards -- they do not necessarily bring the ball up more often than some notable teammates, i.e. Williams on LeBron's Cavs or Terry on Kidd's and J.J. Barea's Mavs).
As I write, Aaron Brooks just dropped in points 28, 29, and 30 on the Lakers in his Houston Rockets' mothers' day romp.
So, with the three aforementioned point guards listed from 2002 and just three others the year prior above the 14.3 mark (Stoudamire, Sam Cassell, and Kidd), the point guard role has morphed into more than that of basic ball distributor, and it's happened at four times the rate. The game today is being led by plentiful point producers, or by lead guards, as some may now refer to them.
And why not? May as well put five out on the floor that can score; seeing how the game is now guard dominated with pace, penetration opportunities, and 3-point emphasis, it's no surprise. Further, the popularity and exposure of basketball at a young age, with year-round playing, AAU, and potentially ridiculous profits, has helped more prospects with guard-like physiques develop. Competition at the guard slot has produced a greater number of smaller and younger players that can flat out score and do everything else required of the extenstion-of-the-coach role.
Depending on who one talks to and what the situation is, Kobe, LeBron, and Dwyane Wade could be considered point guards in their specific offensive systems. The lesson from the pros: keep the ball in the hands of the scorer. If he is able to dribble the ball up the court under pressure, set-up, survey for open teammates, drive to the hole, pull up, and operate out of the pick-and-roll, it all makes sense.
As explained to me by one NBA executive, "Teams are terrified of turnovers, so do everything possible to limit passing."