Drafting a Lottery Point Guard Ensures No Championship

Many pundits are negative on tomorrow’s 2009 NBA draft saying it is one of the worst in recent memory. However, I think it is one of the most intriguing. There is little discrepancy between, say, the 6th pick and the 20th. Therefore, mock drafts have been all over the place as far as which player is going to which team. This unpredictability is fun.

One rumor has the Suns drafting a point guard with the 14th pick. Call me crazy, but if the ultimate objective is to win a championship, then I offer one rule for any self-respecting NBA GM:

Do not draft a point guard in the lottery!

You want proof? Let’s look at the teams that have recently won the title and who they actually had at PG.

1999, San Antonio Spurs: Avery Johnson, free agent

2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, Los Angeles Lakers: Derek Fisher, 24th pick

2003, 2005, 2007, Spurs: Tony Parker, 28th pick

2004, Detroit Pistons: Chauncey Billups, free agent

2006, Miami Heat: Jason Williams, free agent

2008, Boston Celtics: Rajon Rondo, 21st pick (courtesy of your Phoenix Suns)

I know that Billups and Williams were, in fact, lottery picks. However, neither won the championship with the team that drafted them. Billups was picked 3rd by the Celtics but was traded or signed as a free agent by four teams until he signed as a free agent by Detroit. Williams was drafted 7th by the Sacramento Kings. He was traded a few seasons later to the Memphis Grizzlies and then a few seasons later to the Heat. Williams had declined to the point where he was a role player on the Heat’s championship squad, not a focal point.

The simple fact is teams that draft a PG in the lottery do not go on to win the championship with said PG.

Furthermore, merely finding a lottery PG with staying power is a difficult proposition. For every Derrick Rose there are a slew of flameouts such as Randy Foye (just traded), Acie Law (just traded), Jerryd Bayless (traded right after he was drafted), and Mike Conley (probably will be traded). There is also Russell Westbrook, who had a great rookie year as a PG, but is now being considered in a move to shooting guard by the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Intelligent, competitive guards with skill and court vision can develop into great point guards. Late draft picks and free agents fit the bill. Tony Parker is one example. Avery Johnson is another. For the Suns, I wouldn’t put Goran Dragic in that category at the moment. But the fact is he has skill and court vision for an uptempo game. He is also smart and competitive. When looking at team needs and intelligently rebuilding the franchise, Dragic will be “good enough” at point guard for the Suns future.

Another thing to remember is teams that win in the playoffs usually have size. Teams are much better off drafting a non-PG in the lottery, someone with height and all-around skills.

We all know that the Suns are severely lacking depth in taller players. They must consider tall skilled players such as the ones they brought in for a follow up workout last weekend: Earl Clark, James Johnson, and Austin Daye. Not only do all three players have a nice upside, but as decent ball handlers, any one of these three could develop into a mismatch dream for the Suns. Also any one of these three will do more towards pushing the Suns towards greater achievements than a point guard would.

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