NBA Report NBA won’t have another Stock­ton

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Christo­pher Dempsey, The Den­ver Post

The sub­ject of Hall of Famer John Stock­ton came up this past week. Well, not specif­i­cally. But the sub­ject of point guards did. The story starts in Philly. It was there, near the court, on Mon­day, that three men stood af­ter the Nuggets and Six­ers had fin­ished play­ing and were talk­ing about dy­namic point guards. Namely, how Philadel­phia was in need of one of those, and, even­tu­ally break­ing down Nuggets rookie Ja­mal Mur­ray’s chances of de­vel­op­ing into one. That brings us to T.J. McCon­nell. He’s de­scribed by his head coach, Bret Brown, like this: “He’s tough. He’s team. … He’s blue col­lar, all over the place. And so he wears his heart on his sleeve. He does those things that rep­re­sent en­ergy and hus­tle and tough­ness and team­mate-ship. I think he’s be­come a lot more ma­ture point guard.”

And that brings us to John Stock­ton. No, McCon­nell is no Stock­ton. About the only things they have in com­mon is size and a pass-first men­tal­ity. Stock­ton is in the Hall of Fame, he’s one of the 50 great­est play­ers in league his­tory, he’s the NBA’s all-time as­sists leader — and he’d never get a mean­ing­ful chance to do any of those things if he came out of col­lege now and played in to­day’s NBA.

The rules for the type of point guard even con­sid­ered has changed.

• Six-foot-11 Gian­nis An­te­tok­oun­mpo is a point guard.

• Former shoot­ing guard James Har­den is a point guard.

• Three-point shooter ex­traor­di­naire Stephen Curry is a point guard.

• Hyper-ath­letic Rus­sell Westbrook is a point guard.

• Tough guy Dray­mond Green brings the ball up the court and plays point guard in big chunks of games.

Point guards come in all shapes and sizes now. But they don’t come like Stock­ton, who stood all of 6-foot-1 and weighed 175 pounds.

Those di­men­sions barely get any­one play­ing the po­si­tion in the door th­ese days. They def­i­nitely don’t get you the keys to a team. Ask Demetrius Jack­son. Ask Isa­iah Caanan. Ask T.J. McCon­nell, who, no mat­ter what he does in a cou­ple of months, will be the Six­ers’ third point guard at best when they hand the ball to ver­sa­tile 6-10 rookie Ben Sim­mons, the top pick in this year’s draft, to be the point guard.

“The league has changed so much with point guards be­ing able to go for 30 (points) any given night, or av­er­age 30, through­out the league now,” said Wizards coach Scott Brooks, who was a point guard him­self in the league. “It’s a guard-ori­ented league and you have to be able to guard your man. It’s hard.”

Po­si­tional size is the buzz phrase now. Dy­namic is the new heady. Pick-and-roll wiz­ard? Grit? Tough­ness? They’re not out of style, but they have been pushed down the list. Way down, depend­ing on which gen­eral man­ager is call­ing the shots.

When the next gen­er­a­tion of play­ers ar­rives there is in­evitably a ques­tion com­par­ing them to a great of the past. But with rare ex­cep­tions, the time of the small point guard is gen­er­ally over. No one will ever be com­pared to the best passer of all time be­cause they’ll be tossed aside be­fore their ca­reer even truly starts. Even­tu­ally that’s go­ing to mean a player who could have blos­somed into some­thing special won’t get that chance.

And that’s a shame. Christo­pher Dempsey: cdempsey@den­ver­post.com or @chrisadempsey

The rules for an NBA point guard have changed since John Stock­ton re­tired in 2003. Lisa Blumenfeld, Getty Im­ages file

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