NBA Position Battles: Point Guards

Jose Calderon

March 10, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Detroit Pistons point guard Jose Calderon (8) moves the ball up court against the Los Angeles Clippers during the first half at Staples Center. Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Three weeks separate us from the relative boredom of the preseason and the opening salvo of our favorite pastime—sorry MLB. For the most part, coaches know by now who has secured a job as a member of the starting five. But plenty of intrigue is still possible.

A second-stringer can make quite a splash in the coming weeks, a positional battle can shift gears as the season progresses, or coaches can divvy up minutes in a way that makes starters out of two guys per position. Don’t be surprised if the latter happens in a place like Denver.

Injury, of course, can also change the course of a positional barometer. But where’s the drama in that?

Team enthusiasts and fantasy league owners alike have stake in which player ends up being a squad’s go-to guy. Therefore, we’ve broken down which teams will see some nice face-offs at the point.

DALLAS

Jose Calderon vs. Devin Harris

For as many reasons as there are graybeards on the Mavs, Jose Calderon should be their starting point. He can space the floor for them, as he’s a career 39.9% from deep, and knows how to rack up assists while playing to his teammates’ varying styles. There’s plenty of those on the Dallas frontline.

But then you get stuck with a Monta-Ellis-Jose Calderon combo that is going to be the Panama Canal of the Southwest Division. In high-pressure situations, such as in close late games, there’s no reason why you would have both on the floor while also accounting for an aged Dirk Nowitzki and an aging Shawn Marion.

Devin Harris isn’t a defensive specialist but he can end up seeing good minutes under those matchups instead. With the Ellis and Calderon tag team, there will many of them.

DETROIT

Chauncey Billups vs. Brandon Jennings

Preseason has shown that Detroit is sticking to their Billups at the 2, Jennings at the 1 experiment. Good for them, bad for Pistons fans. The unit has enough talent to make a push for a playoff spot but the Drummond-Monroe-Smith-Billups-Jennings starting lineup spells too many worries. As a seasoned veteran, floor leader, and former NBA Finals MVP, Billups will eventually tire of his role as an out-of-position shooting guard. When that happens, there’s going to be an interesting swap-and-forth of guard positioning between the two Pistons. It won’t exactly be a highway robbery of playing time but Jennings won’t get supreme reign as floor manager, either.

HOUSTON

Jeremy Lin vs. Patrick Beverley

Lin is adequate enough to keep some breathing space between himself and Beverly for the moment. How long that moment will be remains unclear.

In the preseason showing against the Pelicans, Beverley made Jrue Holiday look like a European League castaway. That’s something.

Luckily for Lin, Beverley still has much improving to do. Unluckily for Lin, Lin also has much improving to do. He has space to improve as a spot-up shooter, can improve considerably on his handles, and has to (repeat: has to) improve on the defensive side. This Houston team can climb high quickly and they won’t meddle around waiting for him to catch up. If Beverley can prove his worth at a quicker step than Lin, Linsanity might never get off the ground again.

MIAMI

Mario Chalmers vs. Norris Cole

First rumors had Cole being traded. Now, word is that Miami has exercised their team option on the youngster. The pick-and-roll situation between Chalmers and LeBron proved deadly in the Finals but with anyone any more competent than Chalmers, it could be the stuff of nightmares. Though streaky, Cole could shape up to be the kind of weapon the Heat truly need in their backcourt. This could be the year Chalmers understands that.

MILWAUKEE

Luke Ridnour vs. Brandon Knight

The Milwaukee organization believes in tanking as much as deer believe in the sanctity of road rules. Not going to happen.

Because of that reality, there’s an interesting choice they’ll have to make between Ridnour and Knight. Ridnour is best suited to help them get going early enough to try to land a playoff spot. Knight, who doesn’t seem to be a natural fit at the point anyway, is their point guard of the future but might struggle off the get-go.

That would be fine if the Bucks believed in tanking. Instead, they might turn to Ridnour in precarious situations to try to make it to another failed postseason.

ORLANDO

Jameer Nelson vs. Victor Oladipo

Magic management, whether by playing their hand deftly or just being overly lucky, have set up a bright future for themselves. Oladipo could be a part of that future but you get the sense that they could still do with another young conqueror of the court. What better way to tank, without having to call it tanking, than to have Oladipo steal some minutes from Nelson at the 1? Nelson also didn’t help his own case shooting 39% from the field last season.

Orlando brass have been transparent about this tryout. So the 35 minutes-per Nelson was used to might look more like 30 this turn around.

SACRAMENTO

Greivis Vasquez vs. Isaiah Thomas

These are their projected stats for 2013-14, courtesy of Basketball-Reference.

NAME

PF

FT%

FG%

3PM

TO

BLKPG

STLPG

RPG

APG

PPG

Vasquez

2.6

80.6

43.4

1.1

3.2

0.1

1.0

4.4

8.7

14.0

Thomas

2.7

86.8

45.0

1.9

2.3

0.1

1.2

3.2

5.4

18.1

This table shows their per-36 minutes from last year.

NAME

PF

FT%

FG%

3PM

TO

BLKPG

STLPG

RPG

APG

PPG

Vasquez

2.5

80.5

43.3

1.1

3.3

0.1

0.9

4.5

9.4

14.5

Thomas

2.4

88.2

44.0

2.0

2.4

0.1

1.1

2.7

5.4

18.7

As you can see, it’s going to be tough for any coaching staff to decide who their marquee point guard is. Vasquez is the truer point with a high emphasis on assists and who offers a size advantage over the opposition. Thomas is the better scorer/shooter, turns the ball over less and spaces the floor better for your team.

Given their team makeup, Vasquez might be the better fit. But you can also make a similarly convincing argument on why Thomas should start.

Let the games begin.

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Bogar Alonso is a dedicated student of the hardwood, soccer pitch, boxing ring, and tennis court. He is a regular NBA contributor to XN Sports. His work, involving more than just sports, has appeared on The Creators Project, A&E Networks, XXL Magazine, and others. Follow Bogar on Twitter @blacktiles
5 comments
nich obert
nich obert

Chalmers plays good D and hits 3s. He's all they need there. Guarding NBA 2s ain't what it used to be. Whole lot of spot up shooters and/or defensive specialists. There's only 6-7 teams with legit SG threats.. Still. That Detroit lineup is going to be an utter enigma.

Tom Laverty
Tom Laverty

And now Jennings out for 3 weeks due to some faulty dental work. Incredible.

Tom Laverty
Tom Laverty

I hope you're right about Jennings and Billups, but I also hope you're right a lot sooner than you think you'll be. This is Joe D's last straw.

Bogar Alonso
Bogar Alonso

Agreed. Obviously Chalmers has worked out for the Heat quite alright but I've heard much banter about what the pick-and-roll between LeBron and a more capable dribbler/scorer in a point guard could be. I don't think Cole is too far away from stealing himself some more minutes as a result. Yeah, time will tell how Billups works out but I just don't see it happening. I always thought that shifting Brandon Knight over to shooting guard with Billups guiding the youth for a year at point could help Detroit in the long term. Oh well.

Bogar Alonso
Bogar Alonso

Just don't see Billups playing shooting guard for too long or for long stretches. He's up there in years and is still making his way back from an Achilles's heel injury. Limited mobility isn't going to work out well for him at the 2.