Tuesday , Aug , 19 , 2008 J.N.

Death to Combo Guards

Death to Combo Guards
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/sports/bask … 2892.story

Sorry Pat. You’re a great coach, but I disagree. The draft was not full of point guards.

The 2008 NBA Draft provided an influx of combo guards from OJ Mayo (who thinks he’s Deron Williams) to Jerryd Bayless. This has quickly become a trend. From as far back as I can remember when I started watching pro basketball in 1989, the first combo guard of the modern era who I ever saw was Chris Jackson also known as Mahmoud Abdul Rauf. He was famous for not saluting the national anthem, but I remember him as this little guy who shot lights out with a little jerk to his steps. He’s the perfect prototypical little man with the mindset of a shooting guard and the skills of a point guard. While this sounds great in theory, it doesn’t work well in reality.

After years of watching (and playing) since then, combo guards do not work well in the long run for any franchise.

This article by Kristi Chartrand tries to define a combo tweener guard. While it does have some good definitions and explanations, it did not zero in on it until Bill Self tried to explain it. Even then, it gets foggy because there are too many definitions. I disagree with Self’s statement, “I guarantee you any coach would excel playing three combo guards on the perimeter — guys that can all pass, dribble, and shoot.”

Sorry. Not in the NBA. If you’re going to have a tweener in the backcourt, make sure there’s only one.

This is the definition of a combo guard: An undersized shooting guard stuck in a point guard’s body.

By this definition, Allen Iverson is the greatest combo guard we’ve ever witnessed. He played point guard in college, but he’s not a true point and this glaring weakness was addressed when Philadelphia acquired Eric Snow and even evident today when Denver is scrambling for anything that resembles a true point guard to pair up with him. Usually teams try to find a guy who can distribute the ball and can play solid defense against taller shooting guards to accommodate. Where ever Iverson goes, that team better have, at the very least, a 6-4 point guard who can defend SGs.

This is what I mean by saying that combo guys do not work well in the long run. There are matchup problems. The perfect case scenario used to be in New York with a Marbury/Crawford backcourt. Upon further inspection, the better case lies in Chicago before they drafted Derrick Rose. They used to run a Hinrich/Gordon backcourt and while that was mildly successful, it wasn’t an ideal pairing because both men are undersized and not prototypical at their positions. They’re redundant and everyone should learn by now that two combo guards together just doesn’t work. It’s a fact of basketball. No debate.

Not only that but these combo guys get discriminated even more by calling them “tweeners.” It sounds too much like “wiener.” With that said, “Tweener” is automatically a derogatory term.

Brandon Roy was touted as another tweener. The thing is he is a legit 6-6 player. It’s great that he has point guard skills, but that should only be looked as a bonus. Doug Collins used to play Michael Jordan at the point guard position and while MJ proved that he can be a very good playmaker (just like Roy has), you know that he was a true shooting guard.

The rule should be as followed: if the guard is 6-4 or shorter in height, he should be a point guard. If he’s at least 6-5 then he’s a shooting guard. This depends on the player’s abilities however. What about Jason Kidd, Magic Johnson and Penny Hardaway? They’re all 6-4 or taller. So going by this rule, they are shooting guards?


Again, it depends on the player’s mindset. If they think, “I gotta get shots and my points first, pass later” then they’re scorers, which is what shooting guards do. If they think, “I’d rather set up teammates, look for the open man, and reward the big man running the floor” then they’re true playmakers. The 3 players I mentioned above can play shooting guard, but due to something called scouting and their train of thought, they’re true “pass first” point guards. Cases vary, but the height rule should be the rule of thumb.

Wait a minute. Am I just nitpicking over a difference of an inch or two? Well, the NBA is a height driven league. Plain and simple. GMs and coaches nitpick over this all the time. Fans nitpick over this all the time across message boards. There’s a stereotype that if a player is 6-4 then he can guard opposing SGs.

Not true.

Would you take Redd over AI? Redd over OJ Mayo? Or even Ben Gordon? I wouldn’t take Redd over either because he doesn’t play any shred of defense on anyone so his height is in the garbage. No disrespect to Redd, but he clearly doesn’t make entire use of the God given length. The same goes for Rashad McCants, Ray Allen, and JR Smith. Just because they’re at least 6-4 doesn’t mean they can guard opposing big guards. In general, people just like to believe that height is a good indicator of defense simply because they can match up well.

But even with that said, I propose “death to combo guards.” They have to become extinct. I would not even consider a combo guard unless he’s explosive and fast like Iverson, but that’s rare. That means Westbrook, Eric Gordon, Bayless and past first round selections such as Foye, B. Gordon, Hinrich, Jason Terry, and Devin Harris should never be taken within top 10.

Gilbert Arenas, Monta Ellis and Leandro Barbosa were drafted right where they should be within mid-late first round through second round. Fans will say “Well look at them now! They should have been taken within the first 5 picks.”


I’m taking into account their value BEFORE the draft. Then what about Mayo? He was drafted high! Look, he’s a true 6-5 SG (well almost 6-5) with Arenas’ explosive vision for scoring, not Deron Williams’ type vision of threading the needle. If you seen him during his high school and college days, you’ll know he’s a true scorer.

And please do not use: a combo guard who can play point guard because he has some point guard skills. Please. They used that for Terry, Harris, and Hinrich.

Save it.

The only person in recent times who came in as a combo guard, but completely transformed his game to become a true pass-first point guard to be successful is Chauncey Billups. Kirk Hinrich is another one, but he didn’t work hence the arrival of Derrick Rose. Arenas, even at 6-4, was always a true SG who has the ability to pass, but the same can be said for MJ, Dwayne Wade, Kobe, and Iverson. Billups is the perfect example of a guy who changed his mind set of undersized scorer to distributor at the professional ranks. Again, this is very rare and no one should be banking on this happening to future combos coming into the league.

This combo guard business has to change within the high school to college level. Either the guy is a SG or PG. That’s it. Teach him that defined role. Stop trying to convert the guy into a point guard unless the kid is in high school or college. These guys make perfect shooting guards, but the only thing limiting them is their height, which is something they cannot control. He can’t be a jack of all trades but the master of none.

He just can’t be both a scorer and playmaker while being small.

And no, Chris Paul, Steve Nash, the young Stephon Marbury, Andre Miller, and Deron Williams do not count. Although all 3 men are capable of scoring 20-30, they can notch 10 assists fairly quickly. Besides, they prefer to pass first. Just observe a true point guard at work and any other combo guard play. You’ll see a major difference in playing styles.

A tweener does not work in the long run when he steps foot into the association because of matchup problems and lack of defined role.

I say death to combo guards.