The point guard position is incredibly interesting because it has drastically evolved over time. In the early years of the NBA, the point guard was primarily a distributor. The job of the person playing this position was to bring the ball down the court, organize the offense and get the ball to the primary scorers.
Players such as Magic Johnson, John Stockton and Walt Frazier were point guards. Although these players could score, they were not considered the primary offensive weapons. Magic had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Stockton had Karl Malone and Frazier had Earl Monroe. The point guards acted as floor generals and would move the ball to get the offense going. Of course, there were a few exceptions to the position’s concentration on passing, such as Isiah Thomas on the “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons in the late 1980s. Thomas was one of the main offensive weapons, though big men like Joe Dumars and Bill Laimbeer were also heavily relied on to score.
The player who revolutionized the point guard position to be more scoring-oriented was Allen Iverson. Iverson was drafted first overall by the 76ers in 1996. He dominated the Big East during his two years at Georgetown, averaging over 20 points per game during both of his two seasons as a Hoya. Iverson was relatively undersized, being listed at just under 6 feet tall. However, he was able to use his shifty footwork, quick first step and trademark crossover to get to the hoop and score prolifically. He immediately took the NBA by storm and averaged 23.5 points per game, earning the rookie of the year award. He then etched his place into NBA history by making an improbable run to the 2001 NBA finals, earning the MVP award on the way. Iverson averaged a staggering 31.1 points per game that year, while the second-highest scoring player on the 76ers averaged a meager 12.4 points per game. Iverson would earn the NBA scoring title on four separate occasions and ultimately pave the way for other point guards to take control of the game rather than facilitate.
After seeing Iverson’s success, many young point guards realized they could focus more on their scoring potential rather than organizing offenses and passing. Most notably and recently, we’ve seen the likes of Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose electrify defenses with their scoring prowess.
Rose went on to become the youngest NBA MVP of all time at age 22. His stunning athleticism allowed him to blow by defenders and finish creatively in the paint. Westbrook plays very similarly to Rose; however, he has been able to score at a higher rate. In fact, Westbrook has won the scoring title twice in the past four years, most notably in the 2016-17 season when he tallied a remarkable 31.6 points per game. He received the MVP award that season, averaging a triple-double. Curry has arguably been the most dominant point guard in recent history. He won back-to-back MVP awards in 2015 and 2016. In fact, he was the first unanimous MVP in NBA history during the latter year. Curry also won the scoring title in that 2015-16 season with an average of 30.1 points per game. Furthermore, he has won three NBA titles in the past four years, being at the forefront of the Warriors’ dynasty.
Although these players have achieved success as scorers, many point guards since Iverson have still embodied the traditional form of the position. The best examples are Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Tony Parker and Chris Paul. These players have found immense success in the league without scoring the ball at a high rate. However, it is evident that their style of play is becoming relatively outdated in the league nowadays. The huge increase in relying on the three-point shot has taken the league by storm and resonates heavily in the point guard position. Curry proved how deadly teams can be when their point guards can shoot the lights out from beyond the three-point line. Since then, the rest of the NBA’s teams and players have tried to play catch-up to Curry’s offensive dominance.
Overall, it is undeniable that Georgetown’s own Iverson revolutionized the point guard position. Since Iverson, players like Rose, Westbrook and Curry have continued this revolution and brought it to new heights. This new scoring approach from the point guards has brought endless excitement to the league and forced players to change the way they play.
Shane Gilligan is a sophomore in the College. Professional Positioning appears online every other Friday.