That’s what Hall of Famer Gary Payton believes anyway. Or something close to it.
Leading up to his Hall of Fame nuptials, Payton made plenty of headlines for the opinions he offered on the Association, and its past and present players. Over the weekend, he was at it again.
While speaking with reporters, Payton said he believes there are only three true point guards in the NBA right now–Chris Paul, Tony Parker and Rajon Rondo.
“We don’t really have point guards in the NBA now,” he explained, as quoted by the Tom King of The Republican. “We really have (shooting) guards – and that’s a fact. I think there’s only three true point guards that play like point guards. I think Chris Paul is one, I think (Rajon) Rondo is one, and I think Tony Parker is the other.”
Interesting. The point guard position has changed a great deal since Payton was in his heyday. Floor generals aren’t merely expected to be playmakers, but scorers too. Some of them, like Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose and Brandon Jennings, even look to score first. Point men didn’t do that in the 1990s.
But only three? In the whole league there are only three “true” point guards? Surely he’s kidding. And mistaken. And out of his damn mind.
Off the top of my head, however, I can’t rattle off the names of players who would disprove his argument. I do think he should include Steve Nash in that assessment. He’s a true point guard in every sense of the word. Though he can score, he’s a setup man first and foremost. If Payton was taking defense into account, then yeah, he deserves to be excluded.
No other slight springs to mind. Except wait—Ricky Rubio. The Spaniard isn’t a star nor an he shoot jumpers, but neither could Payton. The jump shot part of it, I mean. He connected on just 31.7 percent of his three-point attempts for his career.
Rubio may not be the most dangerous of shooters, and he doesn’t stack up to Payton defensively (who does?), but I’d say he’s a true point guard. Facilitate first, facilitate second, facilitate third, maybe, quite possibly, score fourth—that’s Rubio’s order of priorities. I may have even left out one “facilitate.”
Other than him, I’m struggling to come up with anyone else. Most of the big names don’t stand out. Neither Rose, Westbrook, Damian Lillard, Stephen Curry, John Wall, Kyrie Irving or Deron Williams, among others, fit the “true” bill. One could make a case for a guy like Jose Calderon, that’s for sure. But who else?
Stylistic interpretations are subjective of course. First we have to define what makes a true point guard a true point guard. Loosely put, I’d say someone who looks to pass before they score. That’s my rough definition. And in that sense Payton is right—the NBA doesn’t play home to as many pass-first floor generals. Still, there are certainly more than three. Far fewer than when Payton played, but still more than three.
What say you?
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.