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Point forward position gains traction in NBA matchups

[dropcap]P[/dropcap]rofessional basketball has always been dominated by tall players, largely because they’re closer to the net. They make both rebounds and shots with more ease than their colleagues who are a bit lower to the ground. A player in the National Basketball Association (NBA) has an average height of 6-foot-7, a large leap over the average height of a healthy male, which is 5-foot-9. In theory, the taller you are, the better you should be at basketball.

As basketball evolved into a faster-paced game more reliant on athleticism, point forwards become more and more common.

However, being taller does not come without drawbacks. Shorter players often have greater balance, agility and dexterity due to their proximity to the ground. The height difference between these two archetypes results in a split between the roles these players are expected to execute. Shorter players typically play the guard position, while taller players are put at either the forward or center positions.

Yet during the 1984 NBA playoffs, Don Nelson, coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, broke the mold, playing small forward Paul Pressey at the point despite Pressey’s below-average height and strength. Nelson’s gamble was ultimately a success: his outsized, makeshift point guard averaged 7.6 assists and 2.3 steals during the playoffs and the Bucks eventually progressed to the third round. The success of this playoff run engendered the idea of the “point forward,” a shuffled set up where offenses are run by a forward rather than a traditional guard. As basketball evolved into a faster-paced game more reliant on athleticism, point forwards become more and more common. Here is a glimpse of some of the best guards today.

Lebron James:

Perhaps the most famous point forward of all time, James is regarded as one of the best players of this generation. The Cleveland-born behemoth’s strength rivals that of even his most formidable counterparts; his agility and dexterity are more often found in a guard than a forward. Due to this unique combination of of skills, James stomps on his competition. Over the course of his 13-year career, he has reached the NBA Finals seven times and earned the title of Most Valuable Player four times. He is also what Don Nelson would consider the perfect point forward due to his pure athleticism with a hint of finesse. Over his career, James has amassed a statline of 27.1 points, 7.2 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 1.7 steals and 0.8 blocks.

Jimmy Butler:

Over the past five years, Butler, a small forward for the Chicago Bulls, has transformed himself from a lukewarm draft pick to a household name. Like James, Butler uses his unique athleticism to make waves on both ends of the court, with a deadly cocktail of strength, height and speed guaranteed to crush the opposition. Butler has begun to handle the point guard position in crunch-time situations, utilizing his ability to attack the rim in tandem with his above-average playmaking capabilities. He could see a more permanent expansion to the point position due to lack of viable point guards for the Bulls, although there are concerns over his health and longevity ­— he plays 37 minutes per game, the fifth most in the NBA. Despite this, Butler has notified his coach that he would be eager to play the point guard position, as he would feel more comfortable running the offense for his team.

Giannis Antetokounmpo:

Almost from nowhere, the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo has quickly ascended to the league’s best, earning an All-Star starting berth and a reputation as an unstoppable force of nature. Nicknamed the “Greek Freak,” Antetokounmpo, standing at 6-foot-11, has been the Bucks’ primary playmaker for much of this year. While other players who are as tall as Antetokounmpo use their height to snag rebounds or get easy layups, Antetokounmpo uses his height to make accurate passes and survey the court. Currently, the young player not only leads his team in assists and steals —categories typically attributed to the “point” position, but also leads the Bucks in every major category, wielding a statline of 23.8 points, 8.9 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 2.0 blocks and 2.0 steals.

Draymond Green:

Although playing with one of the league’s best backcourt, the Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green is able to distinguish himself as one of the best playmakers in the entire league. In spite of the fact that he rarely carries the ball up the court, Green is a key facilitator of the Golden State Warriors offense — he is currently the second best passing forward in the league and averaging a team leading 7.6 assists per game.

Furthermore, Draymond Green is no slouch at generating turnovers for the opposing team due to his agility and dexterity, both of which are talents normally found in a guard, frequently guarding quick guards like James Harden and Russell Westbrook.

Due to his heavy rebounding load on the relatively small Warriors team, Green is often tasked with pushing the ball into transition, especially with famed shooters Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant setting up on the wing.

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