Great Point Guards Collect Assists, Not Rings

If you check out the NBA standings today, you might notice that the Boston Celtics are the second seed in the Eastern Conference currently. Despite the numerous injuries the team has faced, they have still managed to flirt with the league’s best record and take care of business against some of the NBA’s best teams. And although we view their performance as a product of their play as a unit, it would be hard for them to achieve this much success this year without the emergence of Rajon Rondo.

The former Kentucky point guard has been absolutely brilliant so far this season with the way he has been able to direct and set up the four future Hall of Fame players on the team. Indeed, it might seem relatively easy, but the greats are not always willing to take a backseat to the new guy even when he shows that his way is the way to go. We can look at Shaquille O’Neal’s refusal to turn over the reigns of the team to Kobe Bryant as our first example and also Kobe Bryant’s apparent unwillingness to do the same with Pau Gasol as our second example. Granted, the Celtics players are wired differently than the alpha males mentioned before but it is still an accomplishment in itself.

Rajon Rondo now possesses the keys to the Green Bentley because he masterfully runs the plays that get his guys open and then he delivers them the ball right where they need to get it to score. Rondo might very well be the best passer in the state of Massachussets; which just happens to have Tom Brady as its quarterback (for the New England Patriots). 

Here is the interesting thing though: if the Celtics make the Finals this year and win it, Rondo may end up being the best point guard of the past 20 years to lead his team to a title. Admit it, that sounds ridiculous right? That’s almost like saying that How I Met Your Mother is the best sitcom of these last two decades just because of its recent success. But if we actually dig through NBA history and look at the championship teams and the players that started at point guard for them during the playoffs, you might actually end up being surprised. Take a quick look:

NBA Champion
Starting PG
Los Angeles Lakers
Derek Fisher
Los Angeles Lakers
Derek Fisher
Boston Celtics
Rajon Rondo
San Antonio Spurs
Tony Parker
Miami Heat
Jason Williams
San Antonio Spurs
Tony Parker
Detroit Pistons
Chauncy Billups
San Antonio Spurs
Tony Parker
Los Angeles Lakers
Derek Fisher
Los Angeles Lakers
Derek Fisher
Los Angeles Lakers
Ron Harper
San Antonio Spurs
Avery Johnson
Chicago Bulls
Ron Harper
Chicago Bulls
Ron Harper
Chicago Bulls
Ron Harper
Houston Rockets
Kenny Smith
Houston Rockets
Kenny Smith
Chicago Bulls
B.J. Armstrong
Chicago Bulls
John Paxson
Chicago Bulls
John Paxson

Go figure right? Rajon Rondo owns the second best playoff assist per game average in a postseason for a championship team, trailing only Avery Johnson. Yes, that would be the same Avery Johnson that is the coach of the New Jersey Nets and that is repeatedly forced to tell his players on a daily basis: “Noooo do nat worry about dem trade talks. We don’t even want Carmelo…”.

By the way, I know Chauncy Billups had a terrific NBA Finals performance against the Lakers in 2004, but one would have thought that his cumulative performance throughout the playoffs that season was far greater than what his numbers indicate. Nonetheless, it does point to a theme that seems to have been fairly evident in the past few decades but that we have all failed to realize: you do not need a great point guard to win an NBA title, you need a good one.

Before we all lose our collective minds here, I am not saying that a great point guard cannot win a championship (Magic Johnson or Isiah Thomas anyone?) but rather that great teams are not necessarily hindered by the lack of a superstar point guard.

Heck, only two players (Billups and Parker) out of the 20 that are displayed in the graphic have a legitimate shot at making the Hall of Fame one day. Mind you, Rondo might be the wildcard this season. If this great Celtics team makes it back to the Finals and wins the NBA championship, whether we agree with the comparisons or not, he will probably be the best point guard since Magic Johnson (it’s funny how we just can never seem to escape the Lakers-Celtics dynamic) to lead his team a title. But on the other hand, the league’s history is also telling us something else. Have a look at the list of players below:

  • ·      Steve Nash
  • ·      Jason Kidd
  • ·      John Stockton
  • ·      Gary Payton

These four players are arguably the greatest point guards of this past generation, and collectively they have combined for 36 All-Star appearances, 11 All-NBA 1st team selections, seven NBA Finals appearances and one NBA championship. The lone championship came from Gary Payton who won a title as a back up point guard for the Miami Heat in 2006. Although the past is not always a great way to foretell the future, it does help us have an idea of how things will develop to a certain extent. Have a quick look at some of the best NBA guards we have today:

  • ·      Chris Paul
  • ·      Deron Williams
  • ·      Derrick Rose
  • ·      Russell Westbrook

These four players will probably make numerous All-Star teams, be at the center of MVP talks at some point in time and even possibly be considered the best players in the NBA; however recent data suggests that none of them will ever win an NBA title.  Brace yourself: have we been fooling ourselves all these years by saying that the point guard position is the second most important position in basketball (next to center)? It would certainly seem so….

Questions or comments? Feel free to leave them in the comments section or you can contact me by email at You can also find me on Twitter with the handle name ShyneIV.


All Day E'ry Day Sportz said...

Would be interested to see how Rondo would do on a less talented team. Like what would happen if Rondo and Steve Nash traded places? Would the Suns be better or worse? Better yet, would the Celtics be as good or better with Nash?

J.M. Poulard said...

Funny thing is I had that debate with one of my friends and I think the Celtics would be unstoppable offensively, but my friend said he thinks the drop off defensively would be too big and would ultimately make the Cs take a step back.

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