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How many “real” point guards are there in the NBA? Gary Payton says three.

Sep 17, 2013, 2:59 PM EDT

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The NBA game is different then when Gary Payton was a lock down defender on his way to a Hall of Fame career — in 2000 the NBA took away hand checking and any contact on the perimeter, a year later zone defenses were permitted again in the NBA. Payton told us at PBT earlier this year he’s not sure how he could defend in this era.

The rule changes led to a new kind of attacking, scoring point guard that could be the focal point of the offense. Think Derrick Rose in Chicago or Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City — if you can’t put a hand on them you can’t really stop them without help coming from somewhere. We’ve seen a rise in these kinds of attacking, scoring guards as players adapt to the rules.

Which makes some people long for the old days, the traditional pass-first point guard. You know, “real” point guards.

Payton is one of those. While this is a couple weeks old from the Republican in Massachusetts, Payton said before going in the Hall of Fame there are really only three point guards in the league now.

“We don’t really have point guards in the NBA now. We really have (shooting) guards – and that’s a fact,” Payton said. “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.”

Thing is, tony Parker came into the league as a score-first guy who developed more of an all around game.

Personally, if you want pass first guys I’d throw Steve Nash and Ricky Rubio in the mix. If you want guys who could both pass and score like Payton could there is Deron Williams, Kyrie Irving, Ty Lawson, Raymond Felton and others.

Players adapt to the rules and the NBA altered the rules to make it easier for slashing point guards and guys on the wing to score. You can be nostalgic for the “good ol’ days” all you want, the fact is if Gary Payton were coming out of Oregon State today is game would probably look a lot more like Irving’s. He would have adapted, like all the greats.

  1. money2long - Sep 17, 2013 at 3:14 PM

    how far did mike conley take his team last season? he deserves some recognition.

  2. moseskkim - Sep 17, 2013 at 3:23 PM

    Ray Felton? Eww

    • cb11kb24 - Sep 18, 2013 at 2:10 AM

      if felton belonged on this list, the knicks would’ve went farther in the playoffs…he got dominated by george hill

  3. antistratfordian - Sep 17, 2013 at 3:49 PM

    Top Tip: LeBron James has more career assists than Tony Parker even though he has played 2 less seasons.

    • sportsfan18 - Sep 18, 2013 at 5:34 AM

      Am NOT a LeBron fan, but this is a FACT.

    • kwame410 - May 23, 2014 at 12:06 AM

      Lebron also played more career minutes than Tony Parker. pop doesn’t play anyone more than
      30 min agame

  4. larjones64 - Sep 17, 2013 at 4:07 PM

    Ricky Rubio’s picture is under Real Point Guard in the new dictionary

    • sportsfan18 - Sep 18, 2013 at 5:36 AM

      Ricky could be very good. When Kidd came into the league, he couldn’t shoot either. Each can dish the rock and Kidd learned to shoot later.

      Ricky’s future will be determined by how much he is able to improve, he’s alright now with a lot of potential…

  5. kingwithringz - Sep 17, 2013 at 4:33 PM

    He’s right. There’s not alot of Pure point guards in the league .

    • cambo0019 - Sep 17, 2013 at 7:08 PM

      just because guards used to pass more than shoot doesn’t make them a “pure” point guard. We can’t continue to put players into a box. The point guards from “back in the day” played totally different and weren’t nearly as athletic, had they been on par athletically as the guards of today who’s to say they wouldn’t have play like the current crop of guards? there’s a ton of reason’s as to why the style of play has changed, but to say that they are not pure point guards is ridiculous imho simply because the game evolves. Hell in just 10 years we’ll be saying that a good PG gets 22 & 10 per game.

      • louhudson23 - Sep 18, 2013 at 10:35 AM

        Who says today’s players are more athletic? Where does this narrative come from? Wearing shorter shorts did not make players less athletic….the point of the article was that everyone is more athletic when free to run as you please(relatively speaking)….

  6. ahmedovic8 - Sep 17, 2013 at 4:33 PM

    Calderon should be included when mentioning Rubio and Nash. Obviously not at the same level but very similar playing style between the three.

    • adamsjohn714 - Sep 17, 2013 at 4:54 PM

      I think, at this point, Calderon is better than both those guys. He’s a ridiculously efficient shooter, and turns it over a LOT less than both those guys.

      • borderline1988 - Sep 17, 2013 at 5:28 PM

        At this point, yes, Calderon is better than both.

        But only because Nash is old and Rubio is young.

        I’ve seen him play for many years in Toronto…he’s extremely efficient and is as solid of a PG you can get.

        However, he can be shut down if teams really want to. If you put one of the better defenders in the NBA on him, he literally can’t to anything, because he doesn’t have the footspeed or the moves to beat anyone off the bounce.

        He cannot create offense on his own, which is perhaps the biggest reason why he never turns it over. Nash had plenty of turnovers in his MVP years, because he was attacking defenses on the pick and roll.

        I liked Calderon, but he’s not a PG that’s going to take his team far.

      • bendover09 - Sep 18, 2013 at 4:01 AM

        @borderline
        Rubio has proved he cannot shoot nor stay healthy. Yes, things could change …

        One more thing …. It’s a guy called Dirk and he is fully healthy this year. I doubt other teams will be putting.their best defender on a team that puts Calderon maybe the 4-5th option to shoot. He did not come here to shoot. Pick & roll

  7. innovativethinking87 - Sep 17, 2013 at 4:39 PM

    Ty Lawson? How about Damian Lillard instead

    • innovativethinking87 - Sep 17, 2013 at 4:40 PM

      scratch that not Ty Lawson I meant Raymond Felton and Damian Lillard instead….

      • adamsjohn714 - Sep 17, 2013 at 11:35 PM

        Damion Lillard? Hahaha.

  8. 00maltliquor - Sep 17, 2013 at 6:19 PM

    Gary’s trippin’.

  9. tcclark - Sep 17, 2013 at 7:48 PM

    Andre Miller is the protypical point guard in the NBA. I hope he just meant starting guards.

    • imakcds - Sep 17, 2013 at 11:50 PM

      prototypical?
      Only in the sense that his game relies on smarts rather than quickness and ability.
      Andre’s brain is what keeps him in the league and makes his game valuable.

      • tcclark - Sep 18, 2013 at 8:09 PM

        Point guards are supposed to be smart. They’re the quarterback out there. They need to see how the play develops before it does. Miller is the perfect pure point guard. He is intelligent, has great eyes, plays within his game, is pass first, is a leader, is a teacher, plays physical defense, and uses his body really well.

        And don’t discount his quickness and ability. There is a difference between quickness and speed. He has never been a fast player, but I’ve never seen anyone else be able to drive past a faster defender and get a layup in the basket without really jumping. He has a quick first step, uses his body to shield and absorb contact, and gets a layup off quickly to avoid a shot blocker. That is quickness and ability. He might not be the most talented player out there, but he certainly has skill and ability.

      • imakcds - Sep 25, 2013 at 3:39 PM

        Don’t get me wrong, I love Andre’s game.
        Usually when one thinks of the ‘prototypical’ pg, you think of small and quick, which Miller is not.
        But I’d be very happy if Miller had been on my team.
        now? still capable, but getting up there in age, and skills can vanish rapidly.

    • cb11kb24 - Sep 18, 2013 at 2:09 AM

      hes not even a PG anymore, when he was a 76er this was true.

  10. unsportsmenmic - Sep 17, 2013 at 7:54 PM

    Reblogged this on UnSportsMenMic.

  11. lbroberts123 - Sep 17, 2013 at 11:55 PM

    Gary Payton sure has been talking a lot, lately. Must not have anything better to do.

    • louhudson23 - Sep 18, 2013 at 10:38 AM

      They clearly stated this was from an earlier interview…he went through rounds of interviews in the head up to his HoF induction….how those interviews are parsed is not in his control….content remains at a premium…..

  12. antistratfordian - Sep 18, 2013 at 2:29 AM

    The question of what is a “true” or “real” point guard has been asked at least since the 70s and the definition is constantly changing.

    Is it assist totals? Is Rondo a “true” point guard because he has high assist totals or is he the new Kevin Porter? In 1978 Porter broke Cousy’s and Archibald’s records for most assists and assist average in a season but was called “selfish” and even a “loser” (by Hubie Brown) because he controlled the ball too much and was “assist hungry” i.e. passing up his own high percentage shot to dish to a teammate just so he can tally another assist.

    I’ve seen Rondo on a one man fast break stop and pass the ball back to a trailer just so he could get another assist (Kobe Bryant was caught doing the same thing last year when he took over at point). How should we view these types of plays? This is why assist totals – like any other stat – can be deceiving. But generally the modern NBA fan takes assist average at face value and assumes that a high average = great PG. That isn’t always the case.

    But I think a great point guard should be best described as a “playmaker.” It can be the hockey assist, his own shot or the right pass for the score, etc. He doesn’t necessarily prefer one over the other, he prefers the best play for his team. He should be very Bruce Lee-ian:

    Have no rigid system in you, and you’ll be flexible to change with the ever changing. OPEN yourself and flow, my friend. Flow in the TOTAL OPENNESS OF THE LIVING MOMENT. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Moving, be like water.

    I think this describes playmakers like Tony Parker and LeBron James and certain others.

  13. dcfan999 - Sep 18, 2013 at 3:03 AM

    I would add John wall

  14. wowwowbad - Sep 18, 2013 at 3:08 AM

    TP is always a score-first point guard, in his 12 seasons with the Spurs, he never average more than 7 assists until 2011-13. He average more than 30 minutes every single season despite his rookie year. Many of his assist coming from couldn’t find any shooting space, he’s not a willing passer who can boost his teammates and make them better. The word is a really strange compliment especially coming from Payton’s mouth.

  15. jimsjam33 - Sep 18, 2013 at 5:23 PM

    Better add Eric Bledsole to that list in Phoenix .

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