There's been a visible difference in the NBA in the last 20 years. The game has gotten more athletic, less physical and faster all since Michael's first ring. Earvin 'Magic' Johnson broke the mold in the early 80's: a 6'9 point with undeniable flare and remarkable passing ability. Then there was Isaiah Thomas, the gritty kid city kid with a pit bull's toughness and a knack for big moments. There was Gary Payton, John Stockton, Tim Hardaway, 'Penny', Jason Kidd and Mark Price. They were the consummate point guard, some with a penchant for setting up their stars, others with potential for a galaxy of their own.
Then there was Stephon Marbury; a heady, athletic guard who excelled at putting the ball in the basket and had more dishes than a busboy on a Friday night. Starbury was as likely to dunk on an opposing big as he was to wrap a nifty dime around his back to a cutting teammate. But while Marbury was paying his own way into the Garden (a beef with Zeke nonetheless) the college ranks were nurturing the new breed of NBA point guard.
Enter Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook. Need game? They have it. Speed, strength, remarkable athletic ability? They have it sewed up. How about a little clutch and cojones in that Frankenstein beaker you're holding? Yeah, pour a little more in there for good measure. Take Rose for instance, the Chicago product has boasted dope stats since his inception, topping 20 points and 6 dimes every year after his rookie season.
While currently sidelined recovering from a torn ACL in last years playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers, Rose has more than enough highlights to fill the void his absence left. Just ask Goran Dragic, the victim of Rose's lightning quick bounce and animal athleticism. With improved stats across the board every year, Rose's climb from rookie sensation to NBA MVP was shorter than skeptics anticipated. With his return from ACL surgery right around the corner, we'll be seeing more electrifying dunks, crisp passes and puzzled defenders in no time.
A little more than 11 hours away in Oklahoma City, Russell Westbrook has transitioned into a point guard ironman of sorts. Partnered with Kevin Durant and James Harden, Westbrook took the newly elite Thunder to the Finals against The Big Three's Miami Heat last season. Although they fell short in five games, one thing was for certain; Westbrook is and will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come. The speedy, strong, score-first point guard from UCLA has averaged 19.5 per with 7 assist to match since he first shook Mr. Stern's hand. He also hasn't missed a game in that time either. And if you know anything about his game, he's no catch and shoot guard.
Westbrook is aggressive; sometimes too much . He steadily attacks the rim with a "dunk or die" mentality, sometimes settling for a strong lay-up complete with the chest pump to finish it off. While obviously more comfortable scoring, Westbrook pitches the rock to the tune of 7-assists for his career. Not bad for the kid who didn't play point until his jersey said Thunder.
Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose aren't the only two "new breed" NBA guards. Cleveland houses the remarkable Kyrie Irving (or Uncle Drew if you'd prefer) and the Trailblazers drafted a kid named Damian Lillard who has proved he deserves top billing this year. The Wizards returning star John Wall has shown he has great bounce back potential after a stress injury to his kneecap over the summer. These players represent the new class of point guard. Pick and rolls are now more electrifying than ever before and fast breaks don't end so well for brave trailing defenders. Seems like the game is in good hands.
All hail the new KIngs of Point.
Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook.
Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard.