It seems that once a generation the pivotal position on a basketball team shifts. In the league's early days big men like George Mikan, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were dominant players of their generation. There simply weren't enough big men on opposite teams to stop them. Then came the 80s, when Magic Johnson and Isaiah Thomas made the point guard position popular again and led their teams to championships. Admittedly, Bird dominated at small forward, but he played more of a "point forward" as we would call it these days. Then all of a sudden, the man Larry Bird called "God playing basketball" entered the L and everything changed.
The shooting guard went from a fairly insignificant part of the team to the glamour position in the NBA. Jordan revolutionised the position and all of a sudden, players were being drafted to counter the threat posed by Jordan and a generation of brilliant 2-guards followed. Clyde Drexler, Reggie Miller, Joe Dumars, Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter to name just a few. The lines between generations clearly aren't clear cut and some of the remnants of the 2-guard generation still play.
But a change has been coming, and these days, the small forward position is gaining increasing prominence, if LBJ was two inches shorter things might be different, but some of the best players in the league are in this position. James currently sits at the top of the small forward pool but he is joined by Kevin Durant, Paul Pierce, and Carmelo Anthony as some of the best players in the League. Take a look at this year's draft prospects, a four-year college player with only one remarkable season under his belt in small forward Wesley Johnson is considered a top-five pick, whereas the best shooting guard in the draft Xavier Henry, who has shown promise in his only year at Kansas has dropped to 10. This year's ROY Tyreke Evans is the perfect height for a shooting guard at 6'6" but instead he's playing PG. With his driving ability, he should be moved to the 2-guard while a less talented offensive player creates for others. But go back even further and look at OJ Mayo. The kid is good. And in the 90s he would have been handed the keys to the team, but instead is playing second fiddle to small forward Rudy Gay and settling for being a low-volume jump shooter. While the Grizzlies have had a better season, I keep waiting for Mayo to step up and prove why he has been compared to current SG king Kobe Bryant. Maybe when the Grizzlies lose Gay to free agency Mayo can step up and be the star he was made out to be.
However, Kobe, arguably the second greatest SG of all time is still around, and playing close to his peak - if anything he has gotten even more clutch. He isn't going to let the 2-guard generation end without a fight, and while the "King" (of what exactly?) has yet to win a title Kobe has those four delicious cookies and is in contention for the fifth (though I think the Celtics will prove too much for him). The battle between KB24 and LeBron can be seen as a generational battle, just like that fought by Jordan and Magic Johnson; only when they meet in the Finals will the small forward position be proven the one to win championships. As it stands, Kobe is clearly winning, and with that killer mentality, it looks to stay that way for some time to come. Team success is what matters, and clearly, the best SG is doing better than the best SF - regular season aside that is.
Just a heads up that now I've got a bit of a backlog for new readers the rate of posting will likely drop. Eventually I'll be updating roughly 3 times a week and probably closer to once a week during the offseason.
So that's me out for the time being.