Pass first point guards make basketball teams enjoyable to watch, Jason Williams diming on the fast break, Magic Johnson with no-look passes from the top of the key, they could be found on sports centers top ten highlights since the segment began. However, when analyzing NBA championship rosters from the past one thing becomes apparent, pass-first point guards are becoming less and less important.
The best shooting guards since the 1990s: Jordan (6 Titles), Kobe (5 Rings), Reggie (0), Wade (3 titles), and Drexler (1 Title). The best small forwards LBJ (3 Titles), Bird (3 Titles) , Wilkins (1 Title), Durant (2 Titles) and Pippen (6 titles).
What pass-first point guards come to mind when you think of championship games? Steve Nash got zilch, CP3 hasn’t done it (yet) and in the 1990s the best point guard of the decade John Stockton put-up eye-popping numbers without the big prize. Magic Johnson (4 titles) absolutely dominated averaging easily over 10 assists a game with a star studded roster. Players like Oscar Robertson and Cousy who averaged over 10 assists in a season and won championships, played in a different era where traditional lineups were the status quo. Since Magic Johnson, only two true pass first point guards have won NBA finals. Jason Kidd was in his twilight years riding a generational performance from Dirk and a 2nd year Rondo helping Pierce and KG.
An arbitrary number, but we will define pass-first as averaging double figures for more than two NBA seasons. Sorry Steph, and Kyrie!
The breakdown of their championship seasons:
Jason Kidd 2011- 7.9 PPG and 8.2 Assists
Rajon Rondo 2008- 10.6 PPG and 5.1 Assists
Neither of these lines jump out at you. Rondo was in the second season with the Celtics and relied on a veteran heavy roster with Paul Pierce, KG and Allen. Rondo is truly a pass-first guy because you don’t need to guard him behind the 3-point line. He was definitely a catalyst for the Celtics and helped the Celtics win the championship, but his orchestration of the offense did not define the series.
Jason Kidd was 37 and had molded his game to the modern NBA, mostly revamping his 3-point shot. 8.2 assists are impressive feat in the grind it out pace of the NBA playoffs, and he did have the ball in his hands during most Maverick possessions. But Dirk had a playoff run in 2011 that is hard to put into words. He made JJ Barea look good. Jason Kidds importance can’t be discounted in this series by he by no measure won it. Jason Kidd put the Nets on his back and was the best player on a team that made it to finals, but never could get it done.
While these pass-first PGs contributed to the championships of the 2008 Celts and the 2011 Mavs, they by no measure were they the best player on the roster.
Pass-first point guards can dominate in space when defenses are more lax in the regular season, but the defensive effort ramps up during post season play and the pass first PG importance dwindles. Lebron James is a point-forward, not a true point guard. In modern NBA, the offensive loads have been spread across all positions including passing. Ben Simmons is built in the same mold as LeBron James as a point forward/offense initiator, but he isn’t a traditional pass-first point guard.
The traditional pass-first point guard is a dying breed, Steph Curry, Russ Westbrook ( when you think Westbrook you don’t think passing) and Damian Lilliard are ball dominate shooters disguised as a point guards. Tony Parker was more deadly with his midrange jumper instead of passing dimes to Duncan. It is an era of shoot first point guards. Even players that could really take pass-first to the next level with there athleticism and ability to get anywhere on the floor John Wall and Mike Conley seem to want to be scorers more than facilitators as of late. A young point guard to keep an eye on is Lonzo because of the roster he is on and his style of play. Lonzo is reminiscent of more throw back PGs because he would rather pass than shoot.
Can a pass-first point guard be the best player on a championship team ever again?
The Point God might be our last hope!