The secrets of playing point guard



One of the bigger storylines for the Magic this year is the experiment with Victor Oladipo playing point guard.

Oladipo was drafted as a guard, as Rob Hennigan continually tells us, and he will see time at both guard positions as the year goes on. Oladipo has largely delivered with some bumps in the road, already pointing fans to go on triple double watch on a nightly basis. In six preseason games, Oladipo is averaging 13.2 points per game, 4.8 assists per game, 6.2 rebounds per game and 1.67 steals per game.

He has looked very good for the most part as he continues to adjust to the speed of the NBA game.

Oladipo's learning process though gives us a good look at what it takes to be a point guard. The Magic have been relatively set at point guard so long they have not really needed to develop one on their own. This year Jacque Vaughn (a former point guard himself) will be helping Oladipo learn the position on his own.

So what does the position take? What goes into a good point guard?

"The point guard position is a challenge," Jameer Nelson said. "You are not just out there passing the ball, you have to look for your own shot as well. But you have to understand when you need to do both. There is a time and a place for both. I think he'll get it. I think it will take some time, just like anything else. But I'm here to help him work at it."

He is certainly part floor general, bringing the ball up and initiating the offense each time down the floor. He is part game manager, distributing the ball to the players that need the ball in their hands while making sure he gets his own. He is a Swiss Army Knife, a guy who has to create for himself to keep defenses honest while also looking to set up others.

A lot goes into the position. And with the way the NBA is going, the point guard's role is even more important as a creator and offensive generator and leader. The point guard is very much the pulse of the team.

This is the role the Magic are trying to have Oladipo step into. It is not an easy position to learn, even for a player with experience at it. It is truly the most difficult position conceptually on the floor.

"[Victor] is playing the guard position for us right now," Jacque Vaughn said. "But when he is playing the point guard position, just like every point guard in this league, it's a true test every single night. And that test is running the ball club, decision making, knowing when to take your shot or when a teammate needs a shot, knowing  situations — a lot of time and score, foul situation. There is a lot that goes into it. When he is at that position, having a comfort level to process all those things and still play with the instinct and the god-given talent that he has."

Oladipo certainly has the talents to fit into this role (with the expected bumps in the road). He is great at attacking the basket and looking for his own points. He is a hounding defender, as has been shown in the team's full-court pressure unveiled in the preseason and most notably in Sunday's win over the Pistons. He is an unselfish player.

He still has to get used to working off the dribble and creating for others on drives. These are things that will take some time and experience to learn.

So too will be in becoming the leader on the floor.

This was something E'Twaun Moore had to learn for the Magic last year. Moore spent all of his college years as a shooting guard at Purdue and he is a more natural scorer than distributor.

He stepped into the role of backup point guard last year, averaging 7.8 points per game and 2.7 assists per game. He still seemed to fit the mold of a shooting guard more as he was adept at creating his own shot. But held serve in that role until Beno Udrih came and took some of those minutes — and some of that pressure — off the second-year player.

"Most thing about being a point guard is being more vocal," Moore said. "You've got to control everything that is going on and put everyone in the right spot. That is probably the [biggest] thing that I've learned."

Moore will see a bit less time at point guard this year. Oladipo and Ronnie Price will take on that role, but we should still see Moore with the ball in his hands orchestrating the team on occasion, especially when Oladipo is on the court with him.

It will take time for Oladipo to learn the position. There will be ups and downs this season. And the experiment is just beginning.

The Magic seem confident that Oladipo will discover all the secrets to the position in the coming months and years. Veterans like Arron Afflalo already see it coming.

"Obviously, he's athletic and young and energetic, but he has a great motor, great lateral quickness on the defensive end of the court," Afflalo said. "He can help us there now. Then he's got the ability to get in the paint. He's got a strong upper body so there will be some more playmaking from him now."