Know Your Role
‘What is a point guard?’
by Travis Bledsoe
With less than a week left before the D-League tryout in Chicago, it’s obvious that players will need to showcase specific areas of their game in order to be successful.
Many players will draw attention to their scoring ability (shooting, ball handling, ability to drive to the basket). Some will try to impress with their defensive prowess (defensive rebounding, shot blocking and steals). A select few will attempt to do both (scoring a basket and then picking up their man full court).
Either way you go about it, the fact is that each person, no matter their position, has the opportunity to leave their own distinct mark on the game of basketball. But the problem is that not everyone knows what role to play on the court, or is willing to accept a role when it’s given.
Going into this summer, my goal was to study the point guard and enhance my knowledge of the position. For some, the words “study” and “basketball” rarely are mentioned in the same breath, but basketball junkies like myself know basketball IQ is one of the most underrated skills measured.
For example, let’s say you have a two-on-one fast break opportunity, and you have the ball in the middle of the floor. Your buddy is running on the left of you and the defender is retreating toward the basket. Sounds simple enough, but what adjustment do you need to make? So many times, a play that should end up in with an easy layup is reduced to a harder, less effective shot and maybe even a turnover.
What is the proper floor spacing needed in a two-on-one? If the defender doesn’t stop the ball, what’s your read? If the defender stops the ball, what’s your next read? If you know the answers to these simple questions, then congratulations—you have passed the first of my basketball IQ tests (if you don’t know, I will teach you). Now, this two-on-one situation is an easy example, but remember some basketball decisions have to be made in a split second. And the wrong choice can lead to a turnover or worse—a loss.
After watching tons of NBA games and spending hours and hours on YouTube studying some of the greats like John Stockton (the NBA’s all-time leader in assists and steals), Magic Johnson (five-time NBA Champion with the Showtime Lakers) and Nate “Tiny” Archibald (the only player in NBA history to lead the League in scoring and assists), it’s obvious that next to the head coach, the point guard has been the team’s traditional decision maker and floor general.
The coach, in my opinion, is paid to think the game through. He must know the time and score, and what tempo or pace to play at. He should know when to feed the hot hand, or when to call a play for a struggling player to get him going with an easy basket. So if the point guard is considered the “coach on the floor,” then shouldn’t we be responsible for the same duties as the coach and then some?
A point guard has to be much like a chameleon: You have to be able to blend almost flawlessly into whatever system a coach/team is running. You have to be able to learn and understand the coach’s philosophy and implement it while still using your own unique abilities and skills that got you the job (more so than any other position). The reason why this position is considered so difficult is because (well, let’s face it) it’s a lot of responsibility.
As a point guard, when it comes to running a team, it is not enough to just know your position. You must know where everyone is on the court (and where everyone is supposed to be). You must know where your teammates like to get ball (and where they have no business catching it). You need to know where the mismatch is and the best way to exploit it (within the coach’s philosophy). You must have an idea of when to push the ball in transition and when to run clock to make sure your team gets a good possession.
But most importantly, you must know when to pass and when to shoot. Now, it sounds easy enough but you would be surprised at how many point guards struggle with this issue.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m not perfect. Coming out of college, I was the second leading scorer in the Great West Conference (21.2 ppg), while shooting 50 percent from the field and over 48 percent from three. Some would say passing wasn’t my number one strength. But as I grew wiser in the game of basketball, I realized scoring isn’t everything. I can affect the energy and the outcome of the game simply with my leadership, passing and defensive intensity.
The ability to create your own shot as a point guard is a bonus (except in the NBA, it might be necessity). But the ability to create for others and make the people around you better is priceless.
With that said, I wish everyone attending the Boost Mobile NBA D-League National Tryouts good luck. Play your game and have fun because at the end of the day, that’s what it is all about.