Jerry Colangelo, director of USA Basketball, was an executive with the Phoenix Suns when he pushed NBA Commissioner David Stern to make the changes. He received an immediate payoff when his team signed Nash the summer before the rules were initiated and saw him win back-to-back most valuable player awards.
“We did talk about, these rules, once in play, would give the point guard an opportunity to come back. . . . I think that’s exactly what’s happened,” Colangelo said in a telephone interview. “We brought back some skill to the game by allowing guards, the point guard to play a much more significant role than they had been for a period of time. And that was good for the game.”
It also put the pressure on teams to find players who could take advantage of the new rules. In three of the past four NBA drafts, point guards have been taken first overall, which is staggering considering that only three point guards had been taken first in the previous 32 years. Irving or Rubio are the favorites to win rookie of the year this year; they would join Rose and Evans among the point guards who have won the award in the past four years.
The rise of the point guard has come at the expense of the traditional shooting guard, with several teams now relying on two ballhandlers in the back court. Shooting guard Kobe Bryant
leads the NBA in scoring, but more point guards rank in the top-20 in scoring (five) than shooting guards (three) this season. Dallas, Minnesota, Denver, Golden State, Sacramento and the Los Angeles Clippers are among the teams that often use point guards or combo guards to keep steady ballhandlers on the floor.
“A lot of teams are starting to play two point guards — it’s becoming more of a personality in the NBA,” Nuggets Coach George Karl said. “I’d bet you at least 10, 12, 15 teams are doing it. The game is now such a pick-and-roll game and a pace game that making good basketball decisions is as important as execution.”
The glut in point guard talent and the demands that come with it means that the players who man the position rarely have the opportunity to get any rest on either offense or defense, because they have to involved in nearly every play.
“Every night, you got to come out and show that you’re better,” Westbrook said. “It’s definitely a challenge every night. There’s a lot of great guards in this league — and young guards, so they’ll all be around for a while. You want to make your presence known.”
And right now, several of them are.
Staff writer Rick Maese contributed to this report