NBA Report NBA won’t have another Stockton
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: email@example.com or @chrisadempsey
The rules for an NBA point guard have changed since John Stockton retired in 2003. Lisa Blumenfeld, Getty Images file