NBA Roundtable

Ben Gordon and the Point

In General NBA on October 14, 2009 at 11:19 pm

Ben Gordon as a point guard … is he able to play at the position or not?

Yes, I think he can.

Ben Gordon, The Point Guard

I think Ben Gordon is as much of a point guard as Mo Williams is. This means that he can succeed as a point guard so long as his duties as a creative playmaker are minimized.

This can be done in a couple of ways:

Option One – Key Passers/Playmakers

The easiest way to make this work is to put a Mo Williams or a Ben Gordon alongside a playmaking wing like a LeBron James or a Brandon Roy. Someone who can help with the ball handling and playmaking duties in a major way, a player who can be a lead playmaker for a team.

The last time I counted, there was about ten of these types of players in the league. LeBron and Roy are obviously two of the best non-PG playmakers in the league. A list of the others would be Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Tracy McGrady, Manu Ginobili, Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson, Andre Iguodala, Hedo Turkoglu and Stephen Jackson.

Another method to reduce the creative responsibilities on the point guard is to run the offense through the big man. A high post offense like the Kings used earlier in the decade with Chris Webber and Vlade Divac would be ideal. A low post inside-outside offense could also work well (not as well as the other two options) … but there’s no low post threat in the NBA like that currently anyway, so it’s pretty much irrelevant for now.

Option Two – Sixth Man Role

Mo Williams struggled mightily as a starter for the Milwaukee Bucks. He struggled because the team lacked high quality passers in the starting lineup (LeBron vs Redd as a playmaker), which increased the need for their point guard to be a pass first player. This pass first point guard needed to be a good decision maker, a good floor general and a good playmaker. To be responsible for involving all of his teammates and keeping good ball and player movement within the offense. None of which are strengths for Mo Williams relative to a starting point guard.

While Mo Williams struggled as a starter in Milwaukee, he flourished when he was allowed to come off the bench behind TJ Ford. Playing in the second unit allowed Mo to focus on his explosive scoring ability which was his best strength. It also allowed him to matchup against bench players (for a good chunk of his minutes, not all of his minutes) who weren’t as talented as the opposition he faced as a starter.

So … scoring point guards with deficient floor general + playmaking skills can be utilized to great effect as a sixth man in a role where they can concentrate more on their strengths and less on their weaknesses.

Note: This is why Ben Gordon can be successful as a backup point guard on the Detroit Pistons this season. Prince and Rip can reduce some of the responsibilities if Gordon was a starter, but neither is a good enough playmaker to make it an excellent fit. However, Gordon is an excellent fit in the sixth man role as the backup combo guard who’ll play the backup point guard minutes. He can do what he does best there while avoiding the negative impact he has a rebounder/defender as two guard (allowing someone else to fill that role).

Option Three – Offensive System

Run an offense like the Triangle offense where the duties of the point guard are minimized.

Ben Gordon

While I’ve compared Ben Gordon to Mo Williams in the above passages … I just wanted to take a moment to say that I think that’s Ben Gordon’s floor as a point guard.

I think Gordon’s ceiling as a point guard, in terms of point guard skills alone (also overall play since Gordon is a better scorer and defender), is actually a lot higher. If given the opportunity, I think he could become a good decision maker and a solid floor general relative to other point guards.  I think he could turn those two areas into solid assets versus the weaknesses that they are for Mo Williams. This isn’t a certainty, but I think Gordon has a good chance at it.

I also love Gordon’s composure and ability to handle pressure, two characteristics which can help learn the point guard position.

Tangent — Portland Trailblazers

I would have loved to have seen the Portland Trailblazers sign Ben Gordon to play alongside Brandon Roy.

I mentioned this a couple of times prior and during free agency on Blazers Edge, and some liked the idea, but it was mostly based with skepticism. I think it would have worked out extremely well though.

I felt that Brandon Roy and Ben Gordon would have been a very successful combination alongside one another, and believe(d) that the acquisition would have immediately made the Blazers a legitimate contender for the title this season.

Some other bonuses from the move for Portland:

  • The Blazers could have put Blake into the second unit and gone 10 deep if they wished.
    • Starters = Ben Gordon + Brandon Roy + Nicolas Batum + LaMarcus Aldridge + Joel Przybilla (or Oden)
    • Bench Rotation Players = Steve Blake + Rudy Fernandez + Martell Webster + Travis Outlaw + Greg Oden (or Przybilla)
    • Depth = Bayless + Cunningham + Pendergraph
  • That would have allowed the Blazers to field all sorts of combinations and lineups … or go with a two distinct units that can play different styles.
  • Ben Gordon would have given the Blazers the third scoring threat that they badly needed come playoff time. Their offense is still too easy to flummox when playing against a top defensive team as shown by the Rockets last season. Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge need someone to provide this help which Gordon could have done for them.
  • The decreased scoring burden would also have allowed Greg Oden to come along at his own pace and instead would have put the onus on him to improve defensively (stop the foolish fouls!).
  • Ben Gordon is still only 26 years old so he could have stuck with the Blazers for the next 5-8 years. He also has good experience – five seasons, four playoff appearances, almost 30 playoff games, a career 20ppg scorer in the playoffs – He’s been around long enough to help the Blazers move to the next phase of their development, and he’s young enough to be apart of that next phase over the long term.

Anyway, I think Ben Gordon and the Blazers would have been an extremely successful match for one another.

Ah, I’ve been off on a tangent for long enough … let’s round this up.

Summary

In the worst possible scenarios, Ben Gordon can be successful point guard as long as he’s put in situations that minimize his responsibilities as a creative playmaker and floor general. And, Gordon is currently in one of those situations with the Detroit Pistons (sixth man behind Stuckey and Rip).

Also, I think Ben Gordon has good potential to improve his game in some of those point guard areas (decision making and floor leadership) and that there’s a good chance that he will become more successful (than what he has previously shown) as a point guard if given the opportunity.

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  1. Dave,

    Amen. 🙂

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