The era of the point guard is officially upon us. The NBA has been experiencing a shift in recent years and that shift is best encapsulated by the noticeable lack of pure centers coupled with the deep pool of talented, explosive guards. Size and power in the middle is currently out valued by having a guard who can help create offense while wielding the ability to get to the rim or drain jumpers. Early in the NBA offseason it’s already clear that the position has become the hot ticket for both free agency and trades. Every story that doesn’t focus on Dwight Howard’s continuing descent into immaturity and indecision focuses on the scramble to secure an offensive quarterback capable of elevating any NBA roster. The position is so unique because a team with a lot of talent can suddenly jump from average to great with the right table setter. No other position in basketball has as large of an effect on the other positions. Let’s look at the point guards in question and what their signings, trades and decisions mean for the 2012/13 season.
You find me someone who saw the Lakers sign and trade for two-time MVP, Steve Nash, coming and I’ll find you a liar. Just as it seemed Toronto might be able to muscle their way into an all-star point guard by writing a blank check, LA swooped in and made what is likely going to be the most significant upgrade of the offseason. Assuming the Lakers don’t try and turn Bynum into Dwight Howard or Gasol into any number of assets/cap room the Lakers starting five will look like this: Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum. That’s a lot of All-Stars in one lineup and World Peace can round things out with his perfect elbow throwing technique. This move leaves the Raptors high and dry, lead to the Knicks/Kidd signing and restores the Lakers position as a serious threat in the West. If Kobe is willing to give up the ball to his long time rival and let him create offense, the Lakers should be much more efficient. Kobe willed himself to high scoring totals last year but his play was inefficient and LA relied too heavily on isolation sets. Nash should get Kobe easier buckets (extending the amount of time he can be an elite player) and, perhaps most importantly, figure out the proper balance between the Lakers’ two seven footers. Nash is a master of the pick and roll and will have two huge weapons to work with. Both Bynum and Gasol stand to gain a lot from having a PG of Nash’s caliber on the roster and the rest of the West should be very afraid of this sudden super team.
Things were looking very bleak for the New Jersey Nets. They had failed to land Dwight Howard after one of the most bizarre sagas in 2012 sports and as a result were at risk of losing their star point guard, Deron Williams, to his home town Mavericks. What’s more, they were about to open a new building in Brooklyn without any stars lined up to sell tickets and attract interest.
Then Billy King orchestrated a brilliant trade for one of the most overpaid players in sports, Joe Johnson. The Hawks received a bunch of expiring contracts and cleared Johnson’s massive $90 million remaining dollars and the Nets received a Robin to pair with Williams’ Batman. The Nets had the money to spend and, though they likely removed themselves from the Howard sweepstakes, acquired a talented (though overpaid) player who seems far better suited as a second best player on a team. The Nets fans may grow to dislike Johnson like Hawks fans did but the change of scenery might make a big difference and it gives the Nets a dominant backcourt to pair with Gerald Wallace, Marshon Brooks, Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez. That blend of youth and age may actually wind up being a pretty competitive lineup with a lot of room to grow. Or who knows, maybe they can flip their remaining players for D12 and become another version of the shallow (yet ring toting) Heat.
Jason Kidd/Jeremy Lin
These two deals (which are tentative but confirmed by sources) are linked to each other. The Kidd signing doesn’t make much sense if not for the resigning of a promising young point guard for him to mentor. Jeremy Lin, Linsanity aside, was essentially a rookie last year and, while he showed the world that he’s the real deal, he has a lot of developing to do. A wily and talented veteran like Kidd is a great fit in that he can make an impact on the court while teaching Lin to be the PG of the future.
The problem with Lin’s deal, assuming it goes through, is the 3rd year poison pill (over $10 million in the third year) attached to Houston’s offer sheet. For a million non basketball reasons Lin is worth the money but as a player the contract comes with expectations. New York fans, and the world, were enchanted by Lin’s magical run (and as a Knicks fan I can attest that it was surreal) but serious development will be expected. If Lin turns out to be an average NBA starter or solid backup, the contract will trap the Knicks with a team that likely can’t win a championship as they are already financially limited by Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and a seemingly declining Amar’e Stoudemire. As a fan I like these two signings but it’s not a clear win like the Lakers and Nets. There is also the question of how much gas the 39-year-old Kidd has left in the tank. It comes with a lot of “ifs.”
The Nuggets resigned Andre Miller to a three year deal bringing his veteran presence to a team that he reportedly enjoyed playing for. George Karl was prone to gushing about Miller and the signing makes sense and is a blow to teams who were hoping they could secure Miller as a backcourt anchor. Beyond that, it seems important to note some of the major losers in all this. All this PG insanity has likely made losers out of the Rockets, Mavericks, and the Raptors.
The Rockets have swung and missed on many of their plans and they traded away all of their point guards and followed it up by offering Lin an offer sheet that the Knicks can match. The Raptors offered Landry Fields way too much money in an effort to financially bully the Knicks out the Steve Nash sweepstakes…and then Nash went to the Lakers. The Mavericks failed in their large scale efforts to recruit Deron Williams and Dwight Howard and lost Jason Kidd. Following their pathetic title defense their roster is looking shakier than ever.
It’s hard not to love this period the NBA offseason when franchises can get turned around in an instant, and hope springs eternal.