A couple of weeks back, Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio brought up an argument on Twitter asking about the last team to win a championship with their star player playing the point guard position. Now, this is an extremely opinion-driven subject, but most fans either pointed to the Tony Parker-led San Antonio Spurs (the argument against that was that Tim Duncan was the driving force on those teams) and Isiah Thomas on the 1990 Detroit Pistons. Agreeing with the Parker counter argument, we would have to go back 23 years to find a team that won a championship with a star point guard. The Chicago Bulls (Michael Jordan) won six times after the 1990 Finals, the Houston Rockets twice (Hakeem Olajuwon), the Spurs (Duncan) three times, the Los Angeles Lakers (Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant) five times, the Pistons (I would argue Chauncey Billups here, but that’s just me) once, the Miami Heat (Dwyane Wade and LeBron James) twice, the Boston Celtics (Paul Pierece) once and the Dallas Mavericks (Dirk Nowitzki) once. So after going over the teams that have won a championship since 1990, I can only argue that Billups was a huge accusition during the offseason that year for the Pistons and that he was the driving force of the offense on a dominant defensive squad. Other than that and two teams dominating (Bulls and Lakers) during that time period, it’s concerning and shocking to me that this phenomenon that Amico brought up is true. In this day an age of “physicality is king,” players like LeBron who muscle their way to the hoop in a dominating fashion are the mold and norm of the modern NBA star. Six-time NBA champion Bob Cousy, who with his flashy passes and minimalist shooting revolutionized the point guard position, seems like a figment of our imagination regarding the way he played in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Although that was almost 50 years ago, the point guard position has changed, and that may be the driving reason that few point guards have emerged as the dominating player on a team that is left standing at the end of the season.
Looking at the NBA today, the Los Angeles Clippers (Chris Paul), Brooklyn Nets (Deron Williams), Golden State Warriors (Stephen Curry), Boston Celtics (Rajon Rondo), Chicago Bulls (Derrick Rose), Milwaukee Bucks (Brandon Jennings), Cleveland Cavaliers (Kyrie Irving), Philadelphia 76ers (Jrue Holiday), Charlotte Bobcats (Kemba Walker) and Washington Wizards (John Wall) all are teams that arguably have their leading star as the point guard. Six of those teams made the playoffs, one of the teams may lose their superstar, one will most definitely lose their superstar, one didn’t play with their superstar all season and three of the teams are at the bottom of the ladder in the NBA. None of those teams are left in the playoffs, as three of them had first-round exits. Now, as Wine and Gold fans, should we be concerned that we are building our team around a superstar point guard who has proven so much, but at the same time has been injured a lot, in such a short amount of time? Even though a comparison is brewing because Byron Scott grooming Kyrie for two years and also coaching Paul when he entered the NBA, Paul will be entering his ninth NBA season and has only made it out of the first round of the playoffs twice. He was traded two offseasons ago to the Clippers from the New Orleans Hornets after spending six seasons with the franchise. Will Kyrie leave town before he leads this team past the second round of the playoffs and beyond?
I don’t think we should give up on building around Kyrie at all. I think he is an exception to this trend. I believe he will win a championship one day (I’ll end that discussion there). Even though I would have liked to have seen Harrison Barnes in Wine and Gold rather than Dion Waiters, Waiters showed vast signs of improvement toward the end of the year, and if we land Otto Porter, our team has a pretty secure starting core. Drafting a big is huge as well, as Anderson Varejao’s time with this team may be limited. Locking up a starting three and five is extremely important in making this team a playoff contender, and no matter what, Kyrie will still be the lead actor on the bill. The bench is starting to fill up, and I hope to see Wayne Ellington, C.J. Miles, Marreese Speights and Tyler Zeller continue to be role players on this team. As we saw last season, especially from a defensive standpoint, these bench guys are extremely important to this team’s success. Free agency and the second round of the draft will help in beefing up that department, but if Cleveland wants to be the team that ironically breaks this point guard “curse,” they need to find their immediate starting small forward and future starting center in this draft. Star players can’t do it all, and with the point guard position being overtaken by quasi threes and fours, Kyrie needs to be the one to set the NBA straight and return it to the glory days when Magic Johnson created “Showtime.” He has the talent and will to do so.