Posted by: sportsandbeans | October 31, 2006

NBA 2006-2007: The Leader of the Band. =)

Migs IDBy Migs

In many a speculative NBA article, who would be a GM’s pick to be the star of his/her franchise is a subject that often arises. Because of the prevalence of articles like that, today, allow me to write about something a little off tangent. The question I have on my mind write now is one that deals with who you would chose as your primary point guard if you were starting an NBA team.

I’ve narrowed the list down to 5 individuals, from different generations of players, whom I feel would catch the eye of GM’s looking to strike it rich in the win column.

John Stockton John Stockton, Utah Jazz

When the term “point guard” enters a discussion, one can’t help but mention the mastro of the boys from Salt City, John Stockton. He was drafted as the 16th overall pick by the Utah Jazz in 1984, and he came into the league virtually unheralded. In his rookie season, he averaged a mere 5.6ppg, along with 5.1 apg and 1.3 stls. As the years wore on, Stockton’s averages increased across the board, and, along with Karl Malone, he spearheaded one of the most dangerous duos in NBA history. He holds the NBA all time record for assists and steals, and shot over 50% from the field for his career. The 6,1″ spitfire was known in his playing days for his uncanny court vision, and his ability to keep opponents guessing each time down the floor. If Stock didn’t hurt you with a bounce pass for an easy deuce by Karl Malone or Jeff Hornacek, he’d bludgeon you with a top of the key three to ice the ballgame. What’s more, the 10 time all star was an iron man, logging in only 54 DNP’s over nearly 20 years in the league. Yes, a championship always eluded Stockton, but his contributions to the game, particularly, his paying homage to the spirit of what a true playmaker ought to be, can never be overlooked. Many of today’s star point guards would not be around to claim their place in the sun if not for the pure brilliance of number twelve in purple and yellow. It was he who laid the foundation down for the evolution of many a pure “1”.

Jason Kidd Jason Kidd, Dallas Mavericks/Phoenix Suns/NJ Nets

Jason Kidd was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks in 1994. He was brought into a Mavericks team that already had two young, prolific, scorers in Jamal Mashburn and Jim Jackson. For a squad brimming with inexperience hungry to make a name for itself, Kidd was the ideal man for the job of “floor director”.

Like other great playmakers of his day, JK got the job done in the assists and steals department, as expected. What set Kidd apart from other point guards in his few years in the NBA was his ability to rebound with the best of them. In his tenure with Dallas, Kidd averaged an impressive 5.4 caroms per contest, and, most recently, at age 33, he averaged 7.3 rpg. If your 6,4″, 210 pounds and nimble, then you’d be capable of doing some damage on both ends of the court, for sure.

The knock on Jason, has always been, the steadiness of his shooting touch. The man’s only shot 40.2 % on field goals for his career, and shot under 70% from the charity stripe in his first four years in the league. For someone who is as pivotal to a team’s patterns being set as Kidd is, a gimpy J is a killer. Instead of being virtually unstoppable on the break because of the unpredictability of his actions, opponents have resorted to forcing Jason play the perimeter, instead of allowing him to cut to the interior for a layup, or a kick out or drop pass. For a GM, this chink in the former California star could very well deter him from being the number one option on his/her acquisition list. Other than the shaky shot, you have to generally applaud Kidd’s skills and acumen for the sport. He’s a man who merges size, quickness, strength, and on-ball savvy and shiftiness in one solid package.

Steve Nash Steve Nash, Dallas Mavericks/Phoenix Suns

To me and a lot of other basketball fans out there, former Suns boss Jerry Colangelo acquiring Steve Nash from the Dallas Mavericks via free agency a few years back was, silently, the coup of the century. Silently, because, as good as everyone knew Stevie was, we all didn’t realize that he could actually improve his team, and his own individual stats, as much as he has. I’m not talking about “baby steps” type improvement here. I’m talking more about moving forward a few miles.

And miles are a unit of measure which represent a revolution when juxtaposed with the Canadian whirlwind. Yes, Nash isn’t the best defensive player, but sure knows how to run an offense. Last season, he averaged a career best 18.8 ppg, while dishing out 10.5 dimes a contest. All in all, that basically means that Nash accounts for well over 30 points for the Phoenix cause, while allowing those arrive him to thrive in a pace that he himself dictates at the push of a button. Additionally, Steve is a lights-out shooter, having shot over 47% from the floor, 89.6% from the line, and 42.1% from rainbow country in 9-plus years. Because of this pint-sized bolt of lightning’s contagious, up-tempo, progress-driven style, the Suns have made the conference finals for 2 years running, falling short, both times, to their Texas rivals, the Spurs and the Mavericks. Despite the absence of the Larry O’Brien trophy during Nash’s second go-around in Arizona, one can say that the reigning MVP (and one of the smallest ones in terms of stature, at that) has exceeded expectations. He’s openly proclaimed that as much as nabbing the NBA MVP plum has meant the world to him, he has stressed that the real heroes in his mind are his teammates, who, he also claimed, could beat him in a game of one-on-one anytime. Such humility is a testament to this swingman’s maturity and genuine, all-around, talent, traits that go beyond the physical and cover the mental and emotional aspects of battling it out on the hardwood as well. It’s that sort of leadership that any coach, GM, owner, or player would want in his/her midst throughout a grueling season of athletic struggle.

Yes, Dallas owner Mark Cuban got something back when he got former Hawk Jason Terry to fill in Nash’s shoes, but now that we’ve seen what Stevie can REALLY DO, did the Mavericks let a legend slip by them, or did they actually get the better end of the deal by making a sound business move (one has to admit that offering a lofty, long term, contract to an over-30 guard who likes to run like there’s no tomorrow is pretty risky)? Dallas sure could have used a steady “1” in last season’s NBA Finals when Dwyane Wade, along with aging veterans in Shaquille O’Neal, Alonzo Mourning, and Gary Payton, made better late-game decisions than the Western Conference Champions. The Mavericks’ window of opportunity has not shut yet, because of the system and the stars they still have in the fold. The same goes for Steve Nash and his Suns. Ergo, we’ll have to let fate determine what the legacy of the Mavs/Suns deal of 2004, along with the complete story for Nash himself (his story already is peppered with glory in its own right at this point, make no mistake about it), will be.

magic johnson Magic Johnson, Los Angeles Lakers
This man revoultionized what it meant to be a “point guard”. He was the first real hybrid “1”. He was too big to be adequately defended by other traditional guards and too fast to be covered by those who manned the front court. What’s more, he was an impeccable shooter from the foul line (a career 84.8% shooter), and could run the break like no other in his time (11.2 apg for his career). Along with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Michael Cooper, and Byron Scott, he brought a “showtime” element into professional basketball, blending dazzling exploits with utmost efficiency.

So did Magic Johnson have a feasible weakness as a player? Did this man who scored 42 points in Game 6 of the 1981 NBA finals wherein he started at center in place of an injured Kareem have any downside? Well, he wasn’t as good a jump shooter as Jordan in his prime, or Kobe Bryant, but he was decent enough to keep defenders guessing with his multifaceted offense skill set. This fellow was so good that the only real thing that kept him from playing basketball to the hilt was life’s gambit- the HIV virus which he had contracted, according to him, due to lifestyle that had in some shape or form, been promiscuous. This fact does not lessen Magic’s value as a leader, though. It just so happened that fate had caught up with Magic the person, and, consequently, Magic the athlete.

The Lakers of today have young superstars like Lamar Odom and Kobe Bryant, but in the annals of Laker history, none, or, very few, people could and can compare to the impact Earvin “Magic” Johnson had on the Hollywood franchise and on the game of basketball itself. Substance, plus flair, plus passion, equals resounding victory. Plain and simple.

bob cousy Bob Cousy, Boston Celtics

He was known as the “Houdini of the Hardwood”, and for good reason.

From 1950 to 1963, Bob Cousy of the Boston Celtics dazzled audiences with playmaking skill never before seen in the then teenage NBA. The fellow good his on the offensive end, logging in 18.5 PPG over 13 seasons. Like any great point guard, the “Couz” knew how to give just as much as he knew how to receive, averaging nearly 8 assists for his career. With stalwarts such as KC Jones and Bill Russell by his side, and with the late great Red Auerbach to guide them, Cousy and the Celtics swept through the 1950’s, winning the NBA title every year, with the exclusion of 1958, from 1957-1969.

As much as the latest generation of basketball fans may not be too familiar with Bob Cousy’s exploits, this 6,1″, 175 pounder from Holy Cross College’s contributions to the game cannot be overlooked. What he represented was the game’s first real playmaker, the game’s first “dominant” small man. What the “Couz” did in the 50’s was groundbreaker, considering the fact that the stars of the game at the time were taller, heftier cagers like Pettit and Russell. Way before the Allen Iversons, Stephon Marburys, Magic Johnsons, and Steve Nash’s, there was this man. What sets him apart from others on this list is, I feel, the fact that he probably possessed the best ballhandling skills amongst the greats mentioned here, with Steve Nash and Magic Johnson probably coming in at a tie for second place. He wasn’t a lights-out shooter, or a man who could power his way into the shaded lane ala Baron Davis. Instead, he used quickness and court savvy to outwit bigger, potentially more athletic defenders. In summary, Cousy made use of every physical and mental attribute the Good Lord gave him, towards 5 NBA titles, 1 regular season MVP plum (1957), 13 all-star appearances, plus two NBA All-Star Game MVP awards (1954, 1957), 7 NBA assists titles (1953-1960), and a spot on the NBA’s “50 Greatest Players” list. Not bad, if you asked me.

Are there any losers in this gold studded story? Well, such a title would certainly befit the Tri-Cities Blackhawks, and the Chicago Stags, who lost Cousy through a trade and dispersal draft respectively, in 1950. That’s the way the ball bounces, I suppose.

THE VERDICT: So I’m in my office, at night, slaving away trying to decide which point guard I’m going to nab so I can start my little NBA club. On the table, I have the high basketball acumen and amazing hands of Bob Cousy, the “super point guard in a big man’s body” in Magic Johnson, the “devil-may-care”, run and gun style of Steve Nash, the methodical, calculating, ways of an iron man in John Stockton, and yet another hybrid in the stocky, yet ultra quick and shifty Jason Kidd. In this case, I think I’d have to go with Magic Johnson as the cornerstone of my team. Why you ask? Well, Nash, as good as he is, has a tendency to hit the wall at some point during the season, J-Kidd lacks offensive firepower, Cousy lacks an imposing physical presence and, like J-Kidd, a truly consistent jumpshot, and Stockton, well, isn’t quite as athletic as I’d like him to be and had a bit of a tendency to choke, or, take matters into his own hands too much during certain critical times in the ballgame (Stock, Stock, you should’ve passed off instead of taking the 3 “early” in the clock in Game 6 of the ’98 Finals against MJ and the Bulls, Stock…if you had shared, like you normally would, maybe Utah could’ve actually pulled a rabbit out of the hat that year and beaten the Bulls). Magic, on the other hand, had a Jordanesque power over pressure (skyhook on the Celts to ice the game? remember that?). He was 6,9″, and could run the break, shoot the J, post up, and didn’t get hurt too much because he blended a durable, big, frame with a style of play that was smooth as silk and as evasive towards defenders as rain during El Niño. That’s why I’d pick Magic over all the others. That’s why I feel Magic is the best all-around point guard of all time. As his GM, or coach, I’d look highly upon Magic as my team’s leader because of his tenacity, and his ability to adapt mentally and physically to any number the proverbial dice could render. So, there you go. You’ve got to believe in “Magic”, indeed.

So what do you guys out there think? Do you agree, or disagree? Do feel free to share your feedback. The world is, after all, one big “basketball nation”, where every man/woman has the right to grasp the leather, and, the right to be heard with regards to matters that comprise intelligent discourse. =)

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Responses

  1. naahhh…, i’d choose JKidd. ^_^

  2. Hey John! Thanks for visiting. =) That’s one point for JKIDD then. =) Hehehe.

  3. nash hes so unselfish and can take over the game when ever he wants to even tho he lack d he makes up for it in his beautiful shooting percentage in every category

  4. john stockton.. still the best in my opinion!


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