Jeremy Lin’s four year, $28.8 million deal has officially marked the Guilded Age of NBA point guards.
Alongside Deron Williams (five years, $100 million) and Steve Nash (three years, $27 million), the increased market value for elite point guards has hotshot ball handlers in AAU locker rooms across the country salivating.
However, with a mandatory layover at a university near you, are the next crop of top floor generals ushering in a point guard driven game like the NBA or does the college game still value its big men?
If judging by the draft alone, the answer is obvious. Since 2008, point guards have gone in the lottery 16 times, including three number ones (Derrick Rose, John Wall, Kyrie Irving). Most have proven to be valuable, if not superstar, players, with Rose, Irving and Tyreke Evans winning league Rookie of the Year in their respective seasons.
On the college level, however, the point guard revolution was overshadowed by big men last season, with front court players dominating both Player of the Year (the top six were forwards) and first team All-American honors.
Also, this increased attention for point guards has not translated in recent recruiting classes either. According to the ESPNU 100, Marquis Teague was the only true point to crack the top ten in the 2011 and 2012 recruiting classes. Next year’s class has just two in the top 20.
Multiple factors could affect these somewhat-arbitrary (especially with recruiting) rankings, but it does reflect the reluctance of those in college hoops to completely embrace the point guard emphasis style of play.
During Austin Rivers' lone year at Duke, his play (which closely resembles Russell Westbrook's and Derrick Rose's “attack first” style) was routinely criticized for being too selfish. Forced into the point position out of need (he was recruited as a shooting guard), he was also described as better suited for the NBA.
This difference in philosophy could be a key reason why the NBA is enjoying a wealth of elite talent at the point guard position while the college game is not. Since 2008, 14 point guards selected in the first round have been one-and-done players (including the aforementioned number one picks). It seems that Rivers wasn’t the only player better suited for the pros.
College basketball has its share of preseason hype devoted to point guards (i.e. Peyton Siva), but don’t expect the 2012-13 season to be much different than the previous one. The college game may catch up with the pros with more lightning-quick guards driving the lane, but it won’t be this season. Cody Zeller and Nerlens Noel are already stealing the early headlines.