With respect to the Kobe/LeBron (and Wade) hype and North Carolina returning to the top of the college game, 2009 has really been the year of the point guard.
Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Tony Parker and Chauncey Billups are all at the top of their game. Steve Nash is still a threat to drop 25 points or 15 dimes on any given night, while Jason Kidd is still a threat to rack up a triple-double. Devin Harris had his breakthrough season. Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose had their breakthrough postseason. Gilbert Arenas (briefly) came back. Derek Fisher, Mike Bibby and Andre Miller reminded everybody they’ve still got something left. Mo Williams and Jameer Nelson became All-Stars. And Mario Chalmers, Aaron Brooks, Russell Westbrook and Rodney Stuckey laid the foundation for what could be All-Star careers. In tomorrow’s NBA Draft, up to a dozen point guards could be taken in the first round, and if incoming University of Kentucky freshman John Wall fulfills expectations and is taken No. 1 overall in 2010, it’ll be the second time in three years that a PG was chosen with the top pick.
In a league that rewards and protects players who can penetrate the lane and create offense, point guards are becoming more and more important. And with the boom in talent on the floor, on any random night on NBA League Pass you can catch at least two or three elite matchups. The NBA point guard has always been loosely compared to the NFL quarterback, but now it’s really becoming just as crucial for NBA teams to shore up the PG position as it is for NFL teams to get a solid QB on the roster.
And just like this year’s draft, the ’09 free agent class is full of opportunities for teams to upgrade their PG situation. Kidd, Bibby, Miller and Allen Iverson (if you want to call him a point guard) are unrestricted, while Jarrett Jack, Ramon Sessions, Shannon Brown, C.J. Watson and Nate Robinson are among the restricted free agent group.
But the one who stands out as the best long-term option — and yet the one no one’s really talking about — is Ray Felton.
A restricted free agent, Felton averaged 14.2 points, 6.7 assists and 1.5 steals for the Bobcats, and he turns 25 years old this week. While he still can’t shoot threes (28% this season) and turns the ball over too often, Felton also has a knack for hitting big shots and has performed consistently well despite a rotating cast of three head coaches in his four-year career. CP and Deron constantly (and rightfully) overshadow their ’05 draft classmate, and the Bobcats have next to no mainstream profile, allowing Felton to fly under the radar as one of the best young PG’s in the League.
After the draft we’ll know which teams are still in the market for a point guard, and those that are would be smart to give Felton a long look. At worst, he’s a solid starter for a lot of teams or a very good backup for a championship contender. At best, he’s got enough game to crack an All-Star roster someday.