I remember when I was about five or six years old and just starting to play summer league basketball. The first day, we were assigned to our positions that we would play that summer, and it turned out that these positions would later become the ones that we would play throughout our entire elementary, middle school and high school years. Basketball is changing in so many ways today, and one of those changes is how players play certain positions.
If you would have asked me a few years ago if I would ever see a seven-footer taking the ball coast to coast like a point guard, I would have said that you have been watching too much “Space Jam.” That’s not the case today. Anthony Davis is a 6’11” center for the New Orleans Pelicans. Being a center is something that doesn’t matter to this man. In a game last season, Davis got a defensive rebound and took the ball all the way to the other end of the court in traffic and slammed it. Now to the casual basketball fan, this may have just been seen as a “cool” moment, but to people who watch the game for something other than casual enjoyment – it was seen as the start of a new era.
Historically, centers have had two main jobs. The first was to get defensive rebounds and pass it to the point guard to set up the fast break, and secondly, they were supposed to get offensive rebounds and put up a shot to either make it or draw the foul in the process. Of course, they had other things to do on the court, like set up screens and prevent shots from happening in the paint, but these were the two most important things they had to do. Now, look at how today’s centers play. You have some of the tallest men in the world dribbling the ball up and down the court like a 6’1″ point guard would. Honestly, it has me excited to say how the game will evolve from here.
Speaking of point guards, let’s talk about just how different the position is being played today compared to how it used to be played. I was on Twitter the other day, and a video came across my feed that Bleacher Report retweeted. It showed clips of NBA point guards from the 1940s-’50s compared to clips from today’s NBA point guards. There are a vast number of differences between the players. The largest is how the older players would dribble in half circles and shoot hook shots from 10-15 feet away.
Today, there are two different types of point guards: the more traditional ones, like Steph Curry, and the point guards with the mindset of a center, like Russell Westbrook. Now, when I say “more traditional,” I don’t mean that they play like the players in the ’40s, because they don’t, not even a little bit. What I mean is they are not an “in your face” type of player.
Westbrook is a center stuck inside a point guard’s body. He is arguably one of the most explosive players in NBA history, and most of his points come from high intensity dunks, usually over players that are taller than he is. Over the last 20 years, points guards have gained a reputation for dribbling and driving to the goal, usually for a layup or to make the defense come on and then pass the ball out to an open 3-pointer. Westbrook is different. Everyone knows what he is going to do when he starts driving in, but they can’t stop him. He plays like a center but is an explosive point guard, and he is one of the main reasons I see true positions becoming something of the past in basketball.
By Cody Poe, guest writer