Blazersedge Mailbag, Thursday June 10th: All About Point Guards

Would Nate really hate having this guy?

I'm back in the saddle enough to have a go at an abbreviated mailbag.  This one encompasses various point guard questions. 

What do you think of the Blazers going after Goran Dragic?

In theory I can see this kind of move being productive for the Blazers.  In the last mailbag we talked about getting someone else's reserve or borderline-starting point guard that they didn't have room for and we thought would blossom.  I like Dragic's shooting, his energy, and mostly his court sense.  But in this case I don't see why or how Phoenix gives him up unless the Blazers are willing to make a sweetheart deal.  They know Nash is getting older and if he really is that good they'll want Dragic as their point guard of the future.

We won't reach the top without a point guard. What's wrong with Miller?  We all know that Andre doesn't have quick feet or the engaging personality that fans prefer.  He also seems like a "nice guy" that usually beats (up on) his match up.  Furthermore, why question his longevity when he's a proven ironman?  He could have a lot left in the tank and he seems to be unfairly judged.  What are the odds of Bayless ever developing a strong left hand?  In contrast to Miller, fans just love Jerryd and he's crippled by his hands.  This prevents him from being a successful PG.  I really like Jerryd and wish his scowl would rub off on the rest of (particularly LMA) the team.  Would it be wise to make minutes for him at another position or let him go?    

There's nothing wrong with Miller for now.  In another earlier mailbag I claimed that he was a great bar-setter for the Blazers, allowing them to function comfortably for the next year or so without feeling forced to make a move.  They certainly don't need to bring in anyone worse than he.  But there are better fits long-term.  Iron Man or not the guy is 34 and has played almost 900 games and 31000 minutes in the league.  Maybe he's a John Stockton type who can play until he's 40 but the Blazers probably won't want to bet their future on that if (as you have asserted) we can't reach the top without a point guard.  Keep in mind his game is physical, which tends to get harder with age.  Also remember his contract runs either one or two more years at the team's discretion and they'll be looking to save money.   I can't imagine how any of the foregoing could be considered "unfair judging".  It's hard to argue with Father Time.

Your assertion that fans love Bayless is odd, since I've found plenty of fans love Miller as much or more.  I think Jerryd is a hard worker.  I believe he can develop certain aspects of his game that have been lacking, his outside shot being one example of recent improvement and his defense going somewhere on the "to do" list.  I don't think you get the full Jerryd when asking him to play outside of his comfort zone though.  The brilliant Jerryd isn't the facilitator or the shooter, it's that guy who pounds the opponent's skull for 15 free throws and 40 points.  If I had to guess (always a perilous process) I'd say he'll not become just a point guard in this league and may never start as a traditional point.  But he has plenty of potential as a reserve for Portland right now.  It depends on which way they want to go.  They shouldn't be averse to trading him for a more targeted player but they shouldn't feel bad at all keeping him either, as he does provide that punch they need off the bench.

Throwing out everything except basketball skill (salary, likeliness of acquisition, etc.) who do you think is the perfect PG for our starting lineup?    

Throwing out everything, give me Terry Porter in his prime.  But if you mean in the league and I have to pick one player, how could you not salivate over the prospect of having Chris Paul in the lineup?  He, Batum, and Aldridge key the running game.  If that's slowed down the ball goes to Roy and/or Oden.  You have the distance shooting, the passing, another major scorer, reasonable defense, the whole package.  Plus he and Roy reportedly like each other.  There are tons of other guys I could mention (and I'm sure people will champion their own in the comment section) but if you're going to just give me one point guard free with no strings attached I'll go for Paul.  Unless, of course, you'd consider LeBron a point guard.

As far as I'm concerned, and as far as I can gauge, the only position on the floor that we can improve using this summer's free agency is the point.  It pains to say it because I, like many Portlanders, fell in love with Dre's play last season and are cautiously optimistic about Bayless; but what about Wade?  Is there a way or reason why a Wade, Roy, L.A., Oden, Batum line-up isn't a possibility?    

Because Portland can't afford him?  Also wade gets a ton of shots.  In this case it'd probably be a Wade OR Roy and everybody else offense.  But you know if the Blazers got Wade everybody would faint away anyway.  I'm sure it's an experiment the Blazers wouldn't mind trying...except for the price.

Is there any reason why Brandon Roy is not the Blazers starting point guard? He could start with Webster, Batum, Aldridge and Oden. It provides the Blazers with two three point shooters and Webster is starting where he has proven he is effective. This allows the Blazers to send Miller, Fernandez and Pryzbillia anywhere to get a good sixth man (perferably a wing player with Jeryd, Cunnigham and Camby adding the extra punch off the bench.

There are shades of possibility in the suggestion.  For instance if Roy and Bayless play together then Brandon becomes the de facto point guard in many of the halfcourt sets even when Jerryd brings the ball up the floor.  However the big question in any lineup that pins Brandon as the official point guard is "Who defends the opposing PG?"  In the case of the Roy, Webster, Batum lineup you actually have to ask who defends the shooting guard as well.  The best permutation would probably be Batum taking the point, Roy defending the off-guard, and Webster defending the small forward regardless of their relative positions on offense.  However Martell may not make as sweet of a shooting guard as you think as he has trouble with the dribble.  As the players around Brandon have developed (or not) the better question has been "Is there anybody on this team worth pushing Brandon to PG for?"  I don't see a permutation at this point that would be better than the Miller-Roy combination.

The other issue here is Brandon's desire.  I don't believe he wants to play point full-time.  He seems to like to step into and out of the offense, to sometimes facilitate and sometimes dominate.  That's the M.O. of many modern point guards to be sure, but Portland's crying out for a guy who will take the responsibility of getting all of this young talent touches and points.  Brandon's not going to want to be that guy.  His strength is as one of those young, talented players getting his points who is also great at involving others when necessary.

A loose comparison here would be an actor who sings versus an actual singer.  John Goodman can belt out a tune.  A lot of the people on Saturday Night Live sound great doing impressions of real singers.  But if you were to transfer any of those people to a concert setting and make them perform for two hours you'd soon see the difference between them and professional singers.  Maybe with training and practice they could become pros in that field as well but is that really the best utilization of their talent?

If Brandon ever becomes the point guard it'll be as part of a multi-purpose lineup that, in essence, has no point guard because all three players at the small positions serve that function.  I could see Batum becoming a player like that someday but Webster never will.  Bayless would count as an official point guard if you put him in.  Fernandez might be able to do it but he creates more defensive issues.  If it happens, it'll be because of some unforeseen (and at this point seemingly unlikely) acquisition.

Last season I remember Andre Miller commenting that Nate wanted to point guard position to have zero turnovers (probably a slight exaggeration). To me that means that Mills, Sergio, and even Steve Nash will (would) never work out in Nate's high efficiency offense.  What point guards in the league play the same way as Nate played?  And once we have a point guard like that, how will we fare against teams who play fast and quick?    

The quote probably wasn't a reliable basis for judging the offense.  You have to remember that Nate has been trying to coax wins out of a young and inherently unreliable team for the last few years.  The young part mandated teaching the basics first.  I once saw poker star Daniel Negreanu talk about teaching a novice to play the game.  The first thing he said was ignore almost everything you see on TV.  If you try to make those kind of moves right out of the gate you're going to get annihilated.   Learn the odds, make the basic plays first, get to know the game before you get fancy.  That's been Nate's approach as well.  Low turnovers are part of that fundamental structure of the game.  You and some buddies can go out and try to play like the Golden State Warriors in a game at the "Y" but any decent, coherent team is going to beat you.  Heck, the Golden State Warriors mostly get beat while playing like the Golden State Warriors.   Naturally Miller has been around longer and knows more tricks than the younger guys.  His game is going to chafe a little against Nate's progression.  They seem to have resolved most of that, or at least come to a truce.

The "unreliable" part of "young and unreliable" meant that even if the point guard and coach had a bunch of whiz-bang ideas everyone else might not have been able to follow along.  Speeding up the game means speeding up decision-making.  Everyone thinks of more opportunities for shots and points but there are also more opportunities for mistakes.  Until a season or so ago the Blazers were having trouble keeping it together at the pace they were playing.  Limiting possessions made sense.  This season they didn't have enough bodies to implement changes in strategy...they were forced back into the basics by circumstance.  Life won't always be this way.  You're going to see LaMarcus Aldridge out more and more on the break.  You're going to see Nicolas Batum green-lighted for more early shots.  In the call for more progress, more wins, more entertainment we sometimes forget how little time this team has had to settle in...not in terms of years, certainly, but in terms of having healthy, experienced, and cohesive key players on the floor together.

Sergio Rodriguez didn't work out here.  The book is still open on Mills.  But I'm comfortably sure that if you were to hand the Blazers Steve Nash on a platter Nate would be overjoyed.

More soon.  You can send your questions to blazersub@yahoo.com.  Please put "Mailbag" somewhere in the subject line.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com) 

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