In an era of positionless basketball, the point guard continues to evolve.
We went from floor generals to dull marksmen, and now we enter a new generation: the great guards.
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In the 2021 NBA Draft, two players included in the top six picks in Cade Cunningham (No. 1) and Josh Giddey (No. 6) represent the new school of playmakers, with size, scoring and rebounding at a distance. very high price.
Both at 6ft 8in, the young playmakers share similar abilities in their ability to see over defenses, generate opportunities to score at the pick-and-roll, and allow for greater switching ability on the defensive side with their length and wingspan, allowing them to basically protect anyone other than a center.
It’s no coincidence that Giddey (7.2) and Cunningham (6.3) rank third and fourth in rebounding among all rookies, behind only Scottie Barnes and Evan Mobley.
While the volume 3-point shooters in Steph Curry, Damian Lillard and company have dominated recent seasons, the emerging trend in the NBA has been to big Guard.
From Luka Doncic (6 “7 ‘) winning NBA First Team Honors, to LaMelo Ball Winning Rookie of the Year (6” 7’), Ben Simmons (6 “10 ‘) three-time All-Star, Lonzo Ball (6 “7 ‘) establishing himself as one of the league’s most versatile two-way players and Dejounte Murray (6” 5’) making a run for Most Improved Player of the Year – with a playmaker the size of a small forward is more than just a trend, it is the way of the future.
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Giddey has formed a lethal partnership in the Thunder’s backcourt with Shai-Gilgeous-Alexander (6 “6 ‘) with both players dividing the ball-handling and shot-making tasks, making adverse courts sweat on the defensive side. Not to mention, OKC is in the top 10 in the NBA for rebounding, with its two guards regularly breaking the glass.
“His size and the ability to process the game and watch the game. I think he’s a basketball player more than anything,” Thunder general manager Sam Presti said of Giddey.
“I think it’s a credit to Shai too, because of the way he approaches the game, you know, it makes it possible for us to imagine the ability to play a really team-based game where the ball is moving and there are multiple people making decisions, you know, simultaneously with or without the ball. So I think it fits perfectly. “
While Cunningham is less of a traditional point guard and more of a Swiss Army knife guard, he has been entrusted with leading the Pistons offense this season.
The 20-year-old entered the league with strong comparisons to Luka Doncic and while he hasn’t lit things up the way the Slovenian did in his rookie season, it’s easy to see the parallels between the two.
From the deft pick-and-roll game to the change of pace and the ability to get to their places on the court, Cunningham has all the tools to be the focal point of the team’s offense, in the same way that Doncic does. does with the Dallas Mavericks.
Add in his 7-foot wingspan and Cunningham has all the physical tools to be a versatile defender at the NBA level. So much so, he’s earned some accolades from another positionless unicorn in Kevin Durant after they faced each other earlier this season.
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“I love Cade’s game,” Durant said. “I think he’s going to be a tough and tough player for a long, long time. I met him when he was in high school so we were able to build a little relationship. Playing against him in the NBA is sweet.
“We had a lot of conversations about being at this level and what was needed. Seeing him here fighting some injuries early on, but coming here and playing aggressive tonight and hitting him some big shots; I am happy for him and I look forward to seeing his career ”.
Cunningham and Giddey are leading the way among the youngest brigade of great guards and there is every reason to believe that this is just the beginning of a new wave in the NBA. The 2022 NBA Draft will feature several major playmakers expected to enter the first round in Johnny Juzang (UCLA), Dyson Daniels (G League Ignite) and Hunter Sallis (Gonzaga).
In a knockoff league, expect to see more guards in the Giddey / Cunningham mold find their way onto the NBA charts.