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Assessing the Rockets' 2009-2010 Point Guard Situation


Daryl Morey saw it coming - who knows when, but he saw it coming.  He forfeited a 2009 draft pick.  He forfeited his starting point guard of four seasons.  His experiment was in no way as experimental as it was a calculated innovation.  

Though I hesitate to blindly label Daryl as a football fan, it's difficult to ignore the roots of the by-committee system.  Does Morey have Mike Shanahan on his speed-dial? Or does he watch enough football to know the recent success stories of Williams/Stewart, Jones-Drew/Taylor, McGahee/McClain, or any two unknowns that the Denver Broncos have decided to pair together?   Whatever the case may be, and whether or not Morey gained knowledge from the Fantasy Devil himself, he has silently brought the latest fantasy football nightmare onto the hardwood.

Prepare yourselves.  

"The Point Guard By Committee" era has arrived in Houston.  And though the Rockets may be one of the first teams to endorse the actual "committee", aspect of it, squads across the NBA have already caught onto its selling point: you don't need an elite point guard to contend for a championship.

A common misconception is that the point guard absolutely must be the floor general; that he must be the leader, because, amongst all other reasons much more important, he dribbles the ball from the baseline to the opposing three-point line. Does the limo driver decide the destination over the VIP in the backseat? No - he merely places the client in his desired position. The same goes for the point guard in basketball.  Teams that sport capable wing players or post players need the point guard to "manage" the game, much like a quarterback in football.

However, the difference between having an average quarterback and an average point guard is a matter of control. Dwyane Wade is in control of his own destiny upon receiving a pass from Mario Chalmers. If Mario is having a bad game, Dwyane has the ability to, in a sense, make up for Mario's shortcomings by himself.  Larry Fitzgerald, as good as he is, can't be an elite receiver without help from Kurt Warner.  If Warner can't put the ball near Fitz, he's not going to do much.  When the quarterback fails, an NFL team can fail.  But, in basketball, if Rafer Alston fails, Hedo Turkoglu can take the ball from him and hit clutch shots down the stretch.  It's all about control.

Take a look at your 2009 NBA Champions.  Or, if you prefer, take a glance at who finished second.  Or third/fourth.  Out of the top four teams in the NBA this past season, only one featured a point guard who played the role of "floor general" on his respective team: the Denver Nuggets.  Otherwise, you're looking at Derek Fisher, Mo Williams and Alston; three very good point guards who didn't dare touch the ball in the final minutes of an important game.  That job belonged to Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Turkoglu.  They're the true floor generals.

Keep scrolling down the standings if you wish.  As far as no-brainers go, Portland, Houston, Miami, Atlanta, and Boston show up.  For clarification, this is not to diminish the impact of Mike Bibby and Rajon Rondo on their respective teams.  But whom do you turn to first in Boston?  Rajon or Kevin Garnett?  Paul Pierce? Ray Allen?  Bibby's situation is a little cloudier, as Atlanta, aside from Joe Johnson, really lacks that go-to guy on the wing who demands the defensive attention that aforementioned all-stars require.  But I think you get the point.

After passing by these teams, you see what lies beneath.  New Orleans, Phoenix, San Antonio, Utah, and Chicago. Point guards run the show here, which is perfectly fine - from CP3 to Derrick Rose, each player was worth the draft pick.  All of these teams wanted a stud point guard, and they all got one.

Nobody is going to question taking Chris Paul or Deron Williams ahead of Martell Webster in 2005.  My point is not to avoid talented point guards.  Rather, I am asserting that teams can address other roster positions before looking to improve the point guard position.  It's not hard to find a capable point guard these days, though I realize they don't grow on trees.  Economically, paying less for a point guard pays huge dividends. It allows you to focus what limited money you have elsewhere.

Speaking of the NBA Draft, the Class of 2009 offers a sudden influx of point guard talent.  It may be one of the deepest PG drafts in years.  And yet, the 2009 bunch is being billed as one of the weakest draft classes since 2001.  Why?  It's because he majority of talent lies in a position that is not as essential to winning as others.  Not to say that Steph Curry, Ricky Rubio, or Brandon Jennings won't turn out to be great point guards, but...well, I've exercised this to the point of exhaustion.

* * *

With a weak draft on the horizon, Daryl Morey decided that it was perfectly reasonable to give up that first rounder in order to get Ron Artest.  He didn't need a point guard, which is basically all that this draft has to offer.  Currently, with Kyle Lowry and Aaron Brooks in his arsenal, Morey and the Rockets are sitting pretty.  Combine that with Yao Ming, Ron Artest, and potentially Tracy McGrady, and you've got yourself a team devoid of any need for elite production from the point guard position.  Yet, as a best case scenario, we may get that production anyway.

No other team has a point guard situation like Houston.  No two guards are as competent and yet vastly overlooked as Brooks and Lowry.  Though well-known in Houston, ABZ and The Bulldog are not stars.  They would not be the stars on any team. However, each could start for a handful of NBA teams (Brooks more so than Lowry).  And, in true Boy Genius fashion, each is efficient, especially Lowry - so much so that Morey gave up Alston for the chance to pair Lowry with Brooks.  It's a match made in heaven.

Since the deadline-deal with Orlando and Memphis, Morey has appeared to favor the idea of using a point guard by committee.  Instead of shopping one of them in order to crown the other and receive help at another position, he wants to use both.  While a casual fan may tag the point guard position as a need for the Rockets, it's quite the opposite.

The clear advantage of the PG-by-committee strategy is constant production.  The Rockets are unique in that they have the luxury of employing a more than capable PG on the court at all times.  They lose no talent by taking the starter out. Combined, Brooks and Lowry should produce as much as any other tandem.  By the end of next season, the first full season for the Brooks/Lowry duo, our positional PER should be in the top fifteen in the league - I'll be surprised if it's any higher.  Then again, based off what we've seen transpire, the Rockets may not need top fifteen production from their point guards in order to advance in the playoffs.

In the coming years, most teams won't be as fortunate as the Rockets.  They won't be able to usher in a solid contributor at the 1-guard at all times.  But the general strategy is sure to become popular. It seems to be too economically and, for that matter, generally sound for the majority of teams to not abide by the following course of action: lose individual talent at the point; save money and gain talent elsewhere.

It's the PGBC, people: point guard by committee.  If all goes according to plan, you'll witness its potential first-hand next season from your own Houston Rockets.