The myth of the point guard


The Dallas Mavericks won the NBA title. They did it with a future Hall of Famer – Jason Kidd – who put up career low numbers. Had the Miami Heat won the NBA title, they would’ve done so with Carlos Arroyo, Mario Chalmers and later Mike Bibby sharing time at point. In fact, Mike Bibby posted a player efficiency rating of a 3. In case you’re wondering what that means, that means Brian Cardinal had a better postseason than Bibby. That means Hamed Haddadi had a better postseason than Mike Bibby.

Last season, Derek Fisher’s corpse was the starting point guard of an NBA title team. The year before, Derek Fisher’s corpse was the starting point guard for an NBA team. Rajon Rondo was hardly the Rondo we know now in 2008. Conversely, four of the last 10 MVPs have been point guards (if you count Allen Iverson as a point guard). There’s been a lot of talk about how the NBA is turning in to a point guard’s league. But history shows us point guards may dominate the regular season, needing a great point guard to win a championship is a myth.

If I’m going to be fair – and I’m going to try really hard to be fair – the last time a top five point guard was part of a title team was San Antonio Spurs’ Tony Parker in 2007, and he was maybe the second best player on that team. Calling Parker a top five guy depends on your opinion of Chauncey Billups in 2007.

But while Parker was the Finals MVP and fantastic in that series, Tim Duncan was clearly the best guy on that team. Before that, you had the likes of Fisher, Ron Harper who wasn’t even a true point guard and the Kenny Smith and Sam Cassells of the world winning titles. All of those guys are fine point guards, great leaders but not even top three guys on their teams. 

In fact, in the last 21 years do you know how many point guards have made the All-Star game and won an NBA title in the same year? Two, Parker (06-07) and Isiah Thomas (89-90).

So what’s the point? You don’t need a great player at point. It helps but history has shown us when your best player is your point guard, you’re hard pressed to win a title. Steve Nash, Kidd, Iverson all couldn’t get it done.

So what does this mean for the Spurs? It means if you’re banking on Parker to carry you to the promised land, you’re playing a risky game. Look at what happened with the Chicago Bulls and Derrick Rose this season. The Heat took him out of the game and Chicago crumbled. At times, Russell Westbrook looked like he was the Thunder’s best player and that didn’t work so well either.

The good news is there are no great teams in the league right now as evidenced by the fact that the Mavericks with their one All-Star just won a title after being predicted to get knocked out in the first round. So maybe you trade for another big guy, sign a another small forward and take another stab at it. This team did win 61 games after all but is Parker’s trade value going to get any higher than it is now? Doubtful.

So what do you do? Do you take another stab at a title with Parker and eventually hit rock bottom with no tradeable assets? Doesn’t sound like the most promising long term plan for Los Spurs. Let’s just remember that it’s really, really hard for a point guard to be a team’s leader, best player and win a title.

I’d like to note that I amend every comment I made about the point guard if Chris Paul is the player we’re talking about. I believe when he’s healthy he’s the best point guard in the league and a top 10 and maybe a top five player. He’s today’s Isiah Thomas. He can be a little guy who guides his team to a title. Parker isn’t Paul, not by a long shot, on the court or off.