If you could pinpoint the one position in the NBA that supersedes all others in terms of importance, it would likely be the point guard.
Point guards have taken on expanded responsibilities in recent years and a case could be made that the exceptional play of floor generals across the league has contributed to the league's boom in popularity.
The Philadelphia 76ers have a young, skilled point guard in Jrue Holiday, but he's not the complete package, as many have observed. Holiday's skill set is comparable to that of a shooting guard, but he's simply too small to play the 2.
With Royal Ivey the only true point guard on the roster behind Holiday, the Sixers may have to explore a trade at some point to acquire a more traditional point man. The logic and some potential options follow.
The Sixers did a great job of replenishing their roster with shooters and quality bigs this offseason, but what they failed to do was add a savvy ball-handler who could help the offense flow.
While we should see some new configurations in Doug Collins' offense this season, there's been a noticeable absence of what many would call a "true" point guard in the backcourt over the last two years.
Jrue Holiday has the tools to be a complete point guard, but we simply haven't seen a consistent willingness to pass. Holiday's propensity to take up large chunks of the shot clock while weaving in and out of defenses is worrisome and the offense is in need of a facilitator who can get the offense started early in the shot clock.
His career-high in assists per game occurred in 2010-11, when he dished out 6.5 per night, but that number dropped considerably to a lackluster 4.5 last season.
Holiday also posted an assist-to-turnover ratio last year of 2.15, which barely cracked the league's top 40.
The prototypical Sixers' offense over the past few years has meant poor shot clock management, a good dose of off-balanced jumpers and contested shots in traffic. For too long, Doug Collins' bunch has been dependent on incredibly precise off-ball movement which has either failed or been mildly successful.
Now, with an upgraded roster that boasts Jason Richardson, Nick Young, Dorell Wright and Andrew Bynum, the Sixers offense should resemble a more conventional one that values the three-point shot, while pounding the ball into the post for easy looks and presumably more trips to the free-throw line.
This new-look offense will only be so successful, though, if the team secures a ball-handler and facilitator to help move the offense at the appropriate pace.
After the Toronto Raptors went out and acquired Kyle Lowry this summer, Jose Calderon's role became one of the bigger question marks north of the border.
An unrestricted free-agent after this season, Calderon is a pass-first point guard who led the NBA last season with a 4.50 assist-to-turnover ratio. Should Calderon grow unhappy with his downsized role, there's always the chance Raptors could be open to dealing him at the trade deadline.
Calderon would be a low-risk acquisition for the Sixers, and could be a key contributor should the team be fortunate enough to make a deep playoff run.
One potential obstacle to acquiring Calderon: the Sixers would likely have to eat a good portion of the $10.5 million he's owed this season.
When you look around the NBA, there's an increasing number of teams who are stacked at point guard. The Sacramento Kings are certainly one of them.
The Kings thought they were striking gold in the 2011 NBA draft with Jimmer Fredette, but it turned out that it was second-round pick Isaiah Thomas who took the league by storm with his impressive rookie season.
On a team that's replete with shooters and ball-handlers in the backcourt, there remains a chance that the Kings could unload either Fredette or Brooks. While Fredette is a more prototypical shooter, Brooks offers more versatility, especially for a team like the Sixers that's set with shooters on the wings.
Brooks' assist numbers spiked in 2009-10, when he averaged 5.3 per game, and have since fallen and stabilized somewhere in the range of about four per night. As things get underway, keep an eye on the Kings' fluid backcourt situation.
If you hadn't noticed by now, the availability of point guards across the league is fairly limited. Teams have put a premium on acquiring point guards, even if it means stockpiling them.
The Sixers haven't exactly loaded up at the point, but they may have another option in mind. Evan Turner is going to enter the season as the starting small forward, but according to Dei Lynam of CSNPhilly.com, head coach Doug Collins has a second role in mind for Turner, saying:
"With losing Lou, we are going to have to have a guy who can handle the ball with that second unit. I mean we did sign Royal Ivey but depending who comes off the bench it could be based on matchups. I could sub for Jrue early in the game with another perimeter guy and let Evan play out the quarter and then come back with Jrue as the point guard with our second unit and let Evan rest. I think what you will see is Jrue and Evan playing point guard with the second unit based on night to night."
With all due respect to Holiday, Turner has proven to be a more competent point guard and has shown the ability to facilitate the offense with relative ease.
Is Turner a "true" point guard? Absolutely not. He's 6'7'' and will pile up more rebounds than assists, but he's shown that he's a more assertive force with the ball in his hands than Holiday is. While Holiday refines his shooting stroke, Turner could end up being the missing piece at the point as he enters a critical stretch of his career.
The bottom line: Jrue Holiday is a great young talent, but this revised roster requires a more conventional point guard who can effectively manage the game.
Holiday has always been a more natural scorer than passer, so he figures to play off the ball a fair amount, just as we saw down the stretch last season.
Is a trade likely? To this point, there have been no indications that the Sixers are aggressively targeting more depth at point guard. In fact, they seem more interested in adding depth at small forward, with recent reports stating that they've been working out veteran Josh Howard.
Projection: Doug Collins blurred the lines between positions last year, so you can expect Holiday's listed position as the point guard to mean very little, especially when Evan Turner is on the floor.
Turner figures to bring the ball up on more than a few occasions and it will be really interesting to see how Collins pieces together his lineups around his revised backcourt.