Guard Play And Its Importance

Ramfanatic Note: This is another in a series of posts made by Mikeness30 on uncbasketball.com. This particular one was done at the request of a viewer who wanted to know more about the importance of guard play.

I think, first of all, if you look at almost any team that has achieved a certain level of success, you will find that, outside of the NBA, guard play is of the utmost importance on that team. Duke has had the success it has had because of the long line of, if not solid point and two guards, a line of spectacular guards a'la Jason Willams. If you can not get the ball across half court, it does not matter how sturdy your wings and centers are.

I think when dissecting and understanding the importance of both guard positions, first I think you have to take a look at what kind of system the coach you are watching is trying to employ.

Dean Smith long had good if not great point guards because he always depended upon them in his four corners and in directing his motion offense. He felt, as do most coaches, that you want your point guard guard to be an extension of you on the court. I think Dean early on though, got himself into trouble when the chips were down because he also derived a large part of his scoring from the likes of Phil Ford and when you have a guy who not only has to defend the other team's point guard but handle the ball against what ever the other team might throw at you and then score, well come tournament time with games so close together, this can catch up with you because his legs can get very fatigued. You look at his two teams that won, they did not have scoring point guards.

Rick Pitino, on the other hand, does not have the need for such strong point play because his press is not only his defense but also his offense. He often would take guys that really were two guards, like the kid Ford, and make them serviceable points with shooting range.

The point guard, in my estimation, is a guy like Mr. Phelps who thought pass way before shot. He is a guy whom you want on the court to be the vocal leader as well, in a perfect world. A kid who can grab other guys and tell them to play harder and pick them up when something goes wrong. Your point needs to realize what the other team is doing defensively and should be a conduit of information from the court through and to the coaches. It is nice when you get a point who can score as well, but I will take the Phelps and Mateen Cleaves of the world any day as my point guard. Tough kids with good leadership skills.

The two guard is your outside assassin, but also, I want my two guard to be able to handle the ball a bit and compliment my point guard to help relieve the point of some of the ball handling duties. I think the thought for much of the 70's and 80's was that two guards were really only shooters a'la Gannon from N.C. State for example.

Another key factor is having a 2nd guard who understands how to come off the picks and read the defender. Of course you need to have a point guard who can deliver the pass where the shooter needs the ball. I think this is something that many overlook. It is not the spectacular pass that I marvel at, but instead it is the delivery of six passes in a row right into the shooting pocket or the target hand of a big man posting by a point guard that I get excited about. I see a lot of points at all levels these days that have a hard time delivering consistently "shootable" passes to their teammates. They can get it across half court, but they can not get the ball to places that the guys like to shoot from. A great point guard knows where each one of his guys likes the ball. He does not, for example, give the ball to a dinosaur running the lane on the break when he knows he can not handle the ball there and will most likely turn the ball over.

A great point also knows who is hot and who is not and gets the ball to that guy, somehow, who has just hit two in a row. To me, I suppose, the thought that really sums up what I want out of my point guard is this. He finds a way to get it done no matter what. The other team has a guy scoring from the outside, he shuts him down. The other team has a big man scoring. he finds a way to double down and/or come from behind and steal the ball.

Your point guard is your quarterback and your 2 guard is his favorite receiver, to use a football analogy.