Kentucky - Point Guard U

John Calipari

Point Guard U

Saying Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari has detractors is like saying the Final Four is kind of a big deal. New ground is not being broken. However, all the Calipari-haters cannot deny one thing: the man can recruit (legally or illegally) his butt off.

Delving into whether Calipari toes too far over the line when it comes to getting the best high schoolers to come play for him is an issue, but an issue for another column. The issue being tackled here is one of basketball substance, one of historic consequence. Are John Cal-coached point guards the best the NBA has to offer?

The representatives are a literal listing of some of the best freshmen point guards college basketball has seen in quite some time. First, first, fourth and eighth: those are when each of these men was drafted in the first round of their respective drafts.

It started with Derrick Rose from Memphis. He played one year for the coach and led his team to the National Championship game. Although that season was technically vacated and Memphis did not lose that game according to record books, we all saw Rose play in it. After leaving school, he was drafted first overall by the Chicago Bulls. Just a few years later, he is now one of the best players in all the NBA and the reigning league MVP.

Following Rose at Memphis was a physical force of a guard named Tyreke Evans. Following in his predecessor’s footsteps, Evans also left Memphis after his freshman season and was also selected in the top five of his draft, going fourth to Sacramento. He made a name for himself in his first year in the NBA but tailed off a bit in his sophomore campaign. Nevertheless, opponents and peers around the league can see what Tyreke is capable of.

Calipari’s next number one overall point guard was John Wall. Cal’s first big name upon his arrival at Kentucky, Wall took the NCAA by storm his freshman season. Many close watchers actually attributed Wall’s numbers being a bit low to the fact that his teammates were, perhaps, not good enough to play with him. And that may have had a shred of truth to it. Once making the NBA, Wall had a spectacular rookie season, nearly averaging a double-double. Although he was prone to the turnover, that is something that can be said about nearly every young guard to enter the league.

Last in the discussion is Calipari’s Kentucky point guard from this past season which saw the Wildcats make it all the way to the Final Four. Brandon Knight was drafted eighth overall by the Detroit Pistons, dropping a bit more than some predicted. He has the size and ability NBA insiders look for from a point guard.

One point guard after another heard the wisdom of John Calipari, learned all they desired, listened as long as they saw fit (namely one year) and left for brighter pastures in the professional ranks. Now they are all young and athletic, ready to take over the NBA. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses, yet compared to their peers, they can all arguably be deemed the best the NBA has to offer.

Derrick Rose is the best scoring point guard in the NBA.

Although others will argue Chris Paul still holds the crown as the best all-around PG in the league, Rose is the better scorer. He cannot be stopped heading to the rim. He worked on his outside shot so much it may begin to rival Paul’s. And as a floor general and team leader, Rose has no superior. With an MVP already under his belt, the youngest player ever to win, Derrick Rose is the present and future of the league from the point guard position.

Tyreke Evans is the best shooting guard playing point guard in the NBA.

His size and force-of-nature demeanor are too much for other point guards around the league to handle. He is most comfortable with the ball and having an offense run through him, which is why he plays the point, and yet he is probably more of a two. There are other PGs who people will deem are more suited to play shooting guard. Some feel this way about Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry. However, when it comes to being a one in a two’s body, no one is a better specimen than Evans.

John Wall is the best young point guard in the NBA.

Of course the term young is an area of contention. Out of players who are not rookies yet have not played more than a couple professional seasons, John Wall is the cream of the crop. His speed is unparalleled. His defensive instincts are superb for a second year player. He finished seventh in the league in assists a season ago. There is much said about the progression of young guards such as Jrue Holiday, Ty Lawson and Mike Conley. Wall’s competition is great yet I would take him to run a team over any of the alternatives.

Brandon Knight is the best rookie point guard in the NBA.

Albeit a small sample size, Brandon Knight has shown he has the outside shooting to rival number one pick Kyrie Irving. He also has a higher ceiling, the ability to be a better player than Irving can become. Of course the floor is also lower and the risks higher, yet Knight may turn out to be the steal of the 2011 draft. Falling to eighth may serve as extra motivation after some thought he was worthy of a top three selection. It may also serve to motivate Knight that he is the lowest drafted Calipari point guard on the list, a fact not to be overlooked when the comparisons come.

There are certainly better coaches around the nation than John Calipari. There are men who have won more games, made more Final Fours and sent more players to the NBA. However, there is not a better recruiter in the college game today for my money. No pun intended.

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