The point guard position is arguably the most important position to any one team’s success. It seems like a fairly obvious statement, but a team’s point guard is like the quarterback of the offense in the NBA. How they perform is often indicative of how that player’s team performs on any given night. Over the past couple of seasons the league has seen young players really flourish at the point guard position. Players like Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving, John Wall and Stephen Curry come to mind as players that have led their respective teams well. While those players have stepped into their roles, there are certainly other players who could follow in similar footsteps.
The recipe for players that make the jump from a mid-tier type of player to a premier player in the league often includes a bit of luck to aid in their rise. Often times that luck includes a guy who had a great summer league, training camp or preseason, while other times it might be a guy that changes teams or even a veteran who lands in a perfect situation.
Here are five point guards who could be on the rise for the 2014-15 season:
Jrue Holiday, New Orleans Pelicans – Last year went about as bad as it could have gone for the Pelicans. The team was decimated by injuries and wasn’t quite bad enough to hold on to their first-round draft pick, which was top-five protected. Key players Eric Gordon, Holiday, Ryan Anderson and even Anthony Davis all missed significant time last season, with Holiday playing in just 34 games and Anderson in just 22 games. That was last season; this season is completely different as all of those players are said to finally be healthy. With a healthy starting lineup of Gordon, Holiday, Evans, Davis and newly-acquired Omer Asik from the Houston rockets, the Pelicans are a team to watch in the Western Conference. That starting lineup should give Holiday the tools to be successful and return to the type of player he was when he was healthy two seasons ago with the 76ers when he averaged 17.7 points, eight assists and 4.2 rebounds per game in an All-Star campaign.
George Hill, Indiana Pacers – While Hill may not fit the traditional criteria as a “player on the rise” as he is set to enter his seventh year in the league, Hill has a tremendous opportunity to really step up as the leader of the Pacers. In recent years in Indianapolis, talk has been dominated by Paul George’s outstanding play, Lance Stephenson and his antics and even the inconsistent play of Roy Hibbert – there hasn’t been much talk about Hill. The talk could now be centered on Hill as George will miss most of, if not all of, next season after suffering a horrific leg injury with Team USA. Stephenson is gone and Hibbert remains inconsistent and trade rumors are flying that team is shopping him. It seems Hill has grasped the opportunity to be a leader as Hill is said to be having a great summer. Pacers head coach Frank Vogel has noticed his workouts and thinks he will have a “big year.”
Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets– Listen to any conversation about the league’s top young point guards and one name that is likely left out is Walker. Most of those conversations are dominated by Curry, Lillard, Irving and Wall, but Walker has the chance to claw his way into that conversation. While Walker has posted 17.7 point per game in each of his last two seasons, he ranks outside of the top 10 in assists per game with just 6.1 a game. However, in each of his three seasons in the league, Walker has increased his assists per game and that trend should continue next season. Times have changed in the NBA as the Hornets are on the rise with a new head coach in Steve Clifford, a veteran in Al Jefferson and the addition of Lance Stephenson. The arrival of Stephenson means Walker will be able to distribute the ball more and not be forced to take nearly 16 shots a game again, of which he is making just under 40 percent of.
Elfrid Payton, Orlando Magic – After a great showing in the Orlando Summer League, Payton has Magic fans excited for the future. Payton should be a player to keep an eye on this year and could find himself starting immediately for the Magic. Stats from summer league are often taken with a grain of salt but Payton’s shouldn’t be overlooked. Payton averaged 9.2 points, seven assists, 5.2 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game and has earned comparisons to Rajon Rondo. Both Payton and Rondo struggle with shooting the ball, but benefit by their quickness and ability to score in transition. On a team looking for a leading scorer after trading away Arron Afflalo and letting Jameer Nelson go, Payton will have the green light to score at will and keep the offense moving.
Jeff Teague, Atlanta Hawks – Without their best player last season in Al Horford, the Hawks were able to make a run at the playoffs led by first-year head coach Mike Budenhozler. His system of ball movement fits precisely into maximizing Teague’s potential. The eighth-seeded Hawks pushed the top-seeded Pacers to the brink of elimination last season and Teague was key in the Hawks’ approach. Teague led the Hawks in scoring in three games by scoring 28, 22 and 29 during those games and averaged 19.3 points during the seven-game series. With Horford returning next season for the Hawks, Teague’s efficiency should only improve and his assists should increase from 6.7 as well.
Who do you think is going to breakout at the point guard position next year? Leave your thoughts below!
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