Phoenix Suns fans are used to seeing their point guards dish the ball to their teammates. Players like Kevin Johnson, Steve Nash and even Jason Kidd’s stint in orange and purple come to mind, piling up assists as NBA point guards are expected to.
But the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook is a different breed of point guard, one that’s becoming more prominent in today’s NBA.
Westbrook posted 43 points in Game 4 of the NBA Finals; two points shy of tying his career high for points in a game.
But despite his extraordinary day shooting the rock, the 23-year-old left Miami’s American Airlines Arena with a 104-98 loss at the hands of the Heat, who are 48 minutes away from grabbing their second NBA Championship.
Westbrook also totaled five assists in the game, a statistic that is surprising given point guards are expected to play a more support-styled role rather than score points on their own.
Westbrook’s playing style, a ‘shoot first, and ask questions later’ mentality is being heralded as the “death of the point guard” by many, including Suns shooting guard Jared Dudley.
Dudley joined Arizona Sports 620’s Doug and Wolf show on Tuesday to discuss the changing of the point guard position, citing Westbrook as proof of the transformation.
“I think he’s had a mentality of never being a pure point guard,” said Dudley. “Through the course of the game, [Westbrook] will pass the ball to give you touches but [he’s] looking to score and attack nonstop.”
Standing in for Wolf, Fox Sports Arizona basketball broadcaster Eddie Johnson believes this transition started when Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose won the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award for the 2010-2011 season.
“[The point guard position] died when Derrick Rose won MVP,” explains Johnson. “It showed that a guy can just be a scorer and not a huge facilitator. When you give a point guard like that the MVP, then you’re saying that position can be a top-notch scorer.”
Let’s take out the calculator and compare Rose’s statistics with the last point guard to win the award, Steve Nash of the Suns. Rose averaged 25 points and 7 assists in his MVP season, while Nash’s totals for his 2004-05 (15.5 points, 11.5 assists) and 2005-06 MVP seasons (18.8 points, 10.5 assists) show more emphasis on passing the rock. Given these numbers, Johnson may be on to something.
“The point guard position is set up with the [new] NBA rules to average in the 20s, close to 30 points,” said Dudley. “The rules are now setup to take away the post-up because you can get that flop charge. You can barely touch guys.
“[Teams] are looking for point guards [to be] aggressive and shoot the ball.”