Unlike previous years, point guard is now the marquee position in the NBA. (Harry How/Getty Images)
The "Golden Era" of NBA shooting guards is a thing of the past. Long gone are the days where legendary players such as Jerry West, Michael Jordan, and Clyde Drexler ruled the hardwood. In previous generations, the off guard position almost always featured the team's best offensive player, perimeter defender and graceful athlete.
Fast forward to 2014, where the more wide-open play styles give way to speedy, explosive lead guards like Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook, who serve as both playmakers and scorers. If you look at every team in the league, most of them have an elite lead guard or forward but there is a glaring drop off at two guard.
Currently, the main stars at the position are James Harden, DeMar DeRozan, Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant, with the latter two definitely on the downside of their careers. Remember, just a few short years ago, stars like Kobe, Allen Iverson, Ray Allen, Michael Redd, Tracy McGrady, and Vince Carter were superstars in their own right.
So the question must be asked: why the sudden change? There must be an explanation why there is such a tremendous lack of shooting guards in the NBA today. Here are some ideas worth taking a look at:
1) The Evolution of Point Guards
As alluded to, point guards are the main draw in the Association these days. Rose, Westbrook, Tony Parker, Chris Paul, Steph Curry, Kyrie Irving, John Wall...insert your favorite lead guard and he is likely regarded as a very special player. High school and college players see the lucrative benefits of playing the position and immediately aspire to do the same.
Simply, being a point guard in today's NBA is "cooler" than anything else. It means you are able to lead a team, get others involved and, maybe most appealing to a young player, are given the green light to shoot and score the ball.
It is no coincidence that 5 out of the last 6 Rookies of the Year (Rose, Tyreke Evans, Kyrie, Damian Lillard, Michael Carter-Williams) all share the same position.
With the ability to play both the one and two, prospects now label themselves as "guards," which automatically trends them to playing point. Teams draft "combo guards" based on their ability to play the one along with the two...not the other way around. Case in point with this year's draft, where Marcus Smart and Dante Exum were selected high based on their potential to run a team.
With the dawn of impressive point guards who drive and penetrate, someone needs to be able to knock three pointers. Today, there is a premium placed on stretching the floor and providing driving lanes for everyone, which might be the reason why hired guns like Ben Gordon, Jodie Meeks and C.J. Miles have cashed in during free agency so far.
In just the last three drafts, guys like Allen Crabbe, John Jenkins and, most recently, C.J. Wilcox, were selected on their ability to just to hit threes.
Aside from spot-up shooting you also have more defensive-minded specialists like Tony Allen, Jimmy Butler and Thabo Sefolosha. Their primary task is to frustrate opposing stars and provide occasional offense if necessary.
But it doesn't end there. Another tier of shooting guards is reserved for "irrational confidence" players who can come in and score and bunches. Guys who fit this description are Jamal Crawford, Nick Young and Marcus Thornton.
As is the norm with other specialists, "heat-check" players like them are one-dimensional and serve a singular purpose: score the ball. Instead of well-rounded games, today's shooting guards are usually only great at one thing.
3) Underwhelming Underclassmen
Perhaps a main reason why shooting guards are less talented in comparison to other positions, is their lack of polish coming out of college. When most underclassmen enter in the league, they are good at only one trait (ex. scoring, shooting, defending) and prefer making the jump instead of staying in school to develop other areas of their attack.
In part, it is because teams will draft them regardless. The list of shooting guards who either entered the NBA with glaring weaknesses or an underwhelming package is staggering...Daequan Cook, Xavier Henry, O.J. Mayo, Terrence Ross, Austin Rivers and Jared Cunningham to name a few.
In most of these cases, potential has outweighed production and the prospects struggled to develop overall versatility.
There you have it. The above reasons make sense but they do not tell the entire story. It is impossible to exactly pinpoint the sole source of the "problem." Maybe the two guard position will continue to evolve over the course of the next few years, as it has in the past.
10-15 years ago, we were talking about high-scoring guards who could lock down opponents and lead teams. Now, the discussion trends more towards "heat-check" guys and shooting specialists.
With the dawn of more skilled point guards and forwards, true two guards are slowly becoming a dying breed. But, like everything else, don't count out a comeback from these former, captivating players.
It will be interesting to see how the careers of up and comers like Harden, DeRozan, Bradley Beal and Klay Thompson go, otherwise known as the "guys most likely to save shooting guards." But for now, we will have to live with our favorite squads overcompensating and overpaying for average players (no offense, Avery Bradley).
As the game continues to grow, so will the skill level and talent of its competitors. It is not ridiculous to believe another changing of the guard will occur sometime soon.
Irving will be wearing Cleveland across his chest until the age of 28.
In the past 5 days, the Cavaliers have managed two front office home runs. The first home run happened on Thursday, June 26th when the Cavs took Andrew Wiggins #1 overall in the 2014 draft. (No Anthony Bennett type mistakes this year.)
The second home run happened early Tuesday morning when Kyrie Irving shook hands with Dan Gilbert and agreed to a 5-year, $90 million deal that will keep him in Cleveland until mid-2019.
Looking forward to the next 6 years of @KyrieIrving in CLE. Just shook hands &intend to sign on the 10th.Cant be more excited about @cavs...
These two major milestones for the Cleveland management team will surely be a hit for the fans and hopefully translate to some magic on the actual court.
A new cast including Kyrie Irving and Andrew Wiggins boasts promising times for Cleveland fans. The big question is; will Kyrie actually play up to his contract? He had a dip in production compared to his 2012-2013 campaign and has a lot to prove in the upcoming season, especially with his nearly $100 million dollar deal. (Don't pull a Carlos Boozer, Kyrie!)
Also, how will he adjust to the advisement of new coach David Blatt? How will he adjust to the new Canadian sensation in town? There's a lot of questions for Kyrie ahead but at this point he as to provide a lot of answers. $90 million worth.
Kyrie seems up to the task though. Here's his reaction to the verbal agreement:
I'm here for the long haul Cleveland!!! and I'm ecstatic!! Super excited and blessed to be here and apart of something special.#ClevelandKID
What wheeling and dealing will occur tonight? Look no further for your surest best on all the action.
The highly anticipated 2014 Draft is finally upon us. Here is a look at Delay of Game's final mock draft before the tonight's show at 7 ET (ESPN), featuring top-flight prospects like Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, and Dante Exum.
1. Andrew Wiggins (Kansas, SG/SF, Freshman): Though there are conflicting reports on whom Cleveland will take, all signs point to Wiggins as the pick. He fits tremendously with Kyrie Irving and will thrive playing off of an established star from day one.
NBA Comparison: Vince Carter/Rudy Gay
2. Jabari Parker (Duke, SF/PF, Freshman): Jabari Parker will be ecstatic if Cleveland chooses Wiggins. The Bucks are his preferred destination (seriously) and he will be one of the driving forces behind the new regime in Milwaukee.
NBA Comparison: Carmelo Anthony
3. Dante Exum (Australia, PG/SG, International): Exum's stock is skyrocketing in the waning hours before the draft. He is in the conversation to be the number 1 overall pick and is not expected to slide past 3. If paired with Michael Carter-Williams, Philly would have a very exciting backcourt for the future.
NBA Comparison: Penny Hardaway
4. Noah Vonleh (Indiana, PF, Freshman): The Magic can go a number of ways here but will most likely select a point guard or power forward. Vonleh, an versatile offensive threat who can score inside and out, is one of the highest-upside prospects around. He would be a nice complement to Nikola Vucevic and would move Tobias Harris to a more natural sixth man role.
NBA Comparison: Jamal Mashburn
5. Aaron Gordon (Arizona, PF, Freshman): If Vonleh is gone, Utah has plenty of options. They could take a chance on Joel Embiid, reach for guys like Elfrid Payton or Marcus Smart, or select Aaron Gordon. We go with Gordon here since his tremendous upside is too much to overlook. If he ever develops offense, he could end up being a perennial All-Star.
NBA Comparison: Shawn Marion
6. Joel Embiid (Kansas, C, Freshman): Embiid's slide figures to end at number 6. Boston has indicated they will take the talented big despite questions about his long-term longevity in the NBA. However, the C's will field offers for this pick and could make a deal if it nets them a star like Kevin Love.
NBA Comparison: Hakeem Olajuwon
7. Julius Randle (Kentucky, PF, Freshman): The Lakers need talent and Randle has lots of it. A powerful, yet skilled, forward with face up and post-up abilities, Randle projects as an offensive force for years to come.
But, similar to Boston, do not rule out the possibility of a trade. Los Angeles plans to make runs at free agent superstars LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony come July.
NBA Comparison: David Lee
8. Elfrid Payton (Louisiana-Lafayette, PG, Junior): Payton's ascension into a possible top-10 pick is nothing short of remarkable. The defensive minded guard from ULL has impressed in workouts featuring other talented players like Marcus Smart and Tyler Ennis. If Sacramento keeps the pick, they could use a big guard with excellent potential on both ends.
NBA Comparison: Rajon Rondo/John Wall
9. Doug McDermott (Creighton, SF/PF, Senior): Charlotte is a team in desperate need of outside shooting to space the floor for Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson. McDermott is perhaps the most talented long-distance shooter around, is a good athlete, and is a much more versatile player than he gets credit for.
NBA Comparison: Wally Szczerbiak
10. Nik Stauskas (Michigan, SG, Sophomore): The Big 10 Player of the Year shouldn't fall past the Sixers here. A mobile shooter with deep range, Stauskas's offensive game has grown exponentially since his freshman season.
Philly, who deployed players like Hollis Thompson, James Anderson and Tony Wroten at shooting guard, needs three-point shooters to go along with Carter-Williams. Stauskas is an excellent fit and could challenge for All-Rookie honors next season.
NBA Comparison: Klay Thompson (less athletic)
11. Jusuf Nurkic (Bosnia, C, International): Denver is a tough team to gauge since they have moderate depth at virtually every position. They very well could trade out for a veteran player or gather multiple picks for later on. But if they keep it, Nurkic is a big, bruising force (6'11, 280 pounds) who immediately makes someone like Timofey Mozgov expendable.
NBA Comparison: Nikola Pekovic
12. Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State, PG, Sophomore): Orlando will be thrilled if they can grab Smart here. A player with top-10 talent, Smart may fall due to the unpredictability of the draft. His floor vision, defense, and improved shooting are excellent traits that would work well with 2013 first rounder Victor Oladipo.
NBA Comparison: Tyreke Evans
13. Zach LaVine (UCLA, PG/SG, Freshman): Here it is, our first "promise" of the draft! According to reports, LaVine is expected to go to Minnesota here. While he is not ready to play next year, he has the potential to eventually replace Ricky Rubio or start alongside him at shooting guard.
NBA Comparison: Russell Westbrook/Gerald Green
14. James Young (Kentucky, SF, Freshman): Young was very impressive as a freshman with the Kentucky Wildcats last year. He imposed his will almost every night and showed excellent potential as a shooter and slasher.
The Suns' 2014 starting small forward, PJ Tucker, is a free agent, so Young makes a ton of sense here.
NBA Comparison: Michael Redd
15. Dario Saric (Croatia, SF/PF, International): Saric will play two more seasons overseas before making the jump to the league. Once he comes over, Atlanta would get a player with top-5 talent who will be even more polished than he is now. GM Danny Ferry comes from the San Antonio Spurs "mindset," so drafting a young European player is a strong possibility.
NBA Comparison: Boris Diaw/Hedo Turkoglu
16. Gary Harris (Michigan State, SG, Sophomore): It looks like the Bulls will get one of their targets after all. They are rumored to trade up for either Doug McDermott, Nik Stauskas or Harris in hopes of securing a shooter. But if Harris falls here, they get a two-way player, with a winning attitude, who can compete on both ends.
NBA Comparison: Hersey Hawkins
17. TJ Warren (North Carolina State, SF, Sophomore): Boston's second first-round pick is static. If they keep it, Warren would be a nice choice. One of the most pure scorers in college basketball, TJ will find ways to put up buckets for years to come. A coup of Embiid and Warren is a draft that should satisfy most Celtic fans.
NBA Comparison: Caron Butler
18. Adreian Payne (Michigan State, PF, Senior): Channing Frye recently opted out of his contract and is unlikely to return to Phoenix. Payne is an excellent replacement who can stretch the floor and bang in the post. His experience allows him to play right away and have an immediate impact on a young team with playoff aspirations.
NBA Comparison: Robert Horry
19. Clint Capela (Switzerland, PF, International): Chicago is NOT keeping both first round picks...under any circumstances. They need to free up cap space to make a run at Carmelo Anthony, so both picks are up in the air. If they do, indeed, stay here, Capela is a rangy, athletic four who can stay in Europe for a few seasons before coming stateside.
NBA Comparison: Tyrus Thomas
20. Tyler Ennis (Syracuse, PG, Freshman): Ennis just makes way too much sense here for the Raptors to pass on. He is Canadian, has great floor vision, and provides great insurance if either Kyle Lowry or Greivis Vasquez bolts for free agency.
NBA Comparison: Doc Rivers
21. Shabazz Napier (UCONN, PG, Senior): Napier, a talented lead guard with bookend National Championship, has plenty of suitors. He could go as high as 16 to Chicago and definitely would not fall past Miami at 26.
If OKC grabs him, they get a backup point guard who can both cause havoc defensively and create his own shot. Napier is a perfect fit for a contending team.
NBA Comparison: Mike Bibby
22. PJ Hairston (UNC/Texas Legends~NBA D-League, SG, Junior): Hairston is a multi-faceted scorer who impressed at the NBA Combine. Memphis desperately needs more firepower on offense and could use Hairston creatively in the backcourt.
NBA Comparison: J.R. Smith (less athletic)
23. Rodney Hood (Duke, SG/SF, Sophomore): Hood gives Utah a tall shooter (shot 42% from deep last season) with good potential to play inside and get buckets via off-ball movement. He is insurance for Gordon Hayward and should receive plenty of opportunities playing with Trey Burke.
NBA Comparison: Rashard Lewis
24. Kyle Anderson (UCLA, PG/SF, Sophomore): Charlotte can afford to reach here and get a backup "point forward." Anderson has top-15 talent but does not have a defined position amongst NBA athletes.
With Charlotte, however, Anderson and Kemba Walker could confuse teams with their varying styles. Despite an alleged promise to Michigan center Mitch McGary, Anderson could work here.
NBA Comparison: Boris Diaw
25. K.J. McDaniels (Clemson, SF, Junior): The Rockets have plenty of guys who can score; they need a defensive stopper. McDaniels can be that and much more. With good outside range, the Rox can use him as a "utility" player who can both harass top wing players and knock down open jumpers.
NBA Comparison: Jeff Taylor
26. Jarnell Stokes (Tennessee, PF, Junior): With Napier off the board, Miami figures to go with the next best NBA-ready player. Stokes, who averaged a double-double last year, is a big body that would fit nicely with the Heat.
NBA Comparison: DeJuan Blair
27. Bogdan Bogdanovic (Serbia, SG, International): With three first-rounders, the Suns can afford to allow a prospect to develop in Europe before having him come over. Bogdanovic projects as a good shooter and slasher once he reaches the NBA.
NBA Comparison: Zoran Planinic
28. Jordan Clarkson (Missouri, PG/SG, Junior): Clarkson is another workout wonder who has helped himself tremendously in auditions. In fact, he could go even higher than this selection. But if he falls to LA, the Clippers get another shot creator with a developing jumper.
NBA Comparison: Michael Carter-Williams
29. Damien Inglis (France, SF/PF, International): OKC can swing for the fences here with Inglis. An impressive athlete with great size, he can eventually become a Serge Ibaka-lite kind of player.
NBA Comparison: Stromile Swift
30. Jerami Grant (Syracuse, SF/PF, Sophomore): Without a defined position, Grant figures to fall in the draft. San Antonio could scoop him up and unleash him as a defensive stopper down the road.
NBA Comparison: Al-Farouq Aminu
NEXT 10 Prospects: Cleanthony Early (Wichita State), Jordan Adams (UCLA), CJ Wilcox (Washington), Glenn Robinson III (Michigan), Spencer Dinwiddie (Colorado), Mitch McGary (Michigan), Vasilije Micic (Serbia), DeAndre Daniels (UCONN), Walter Tavares (Spain), Nick Johnson (Arizona)