N.B. This interview is about a year old, but the info in it still rings true.
The Utah Jazz have been pretty lucky with their ball handlers over the year. They've been blessed with a number of guys who have made it to the All-Star game (at least, if not All-NBA team or the Hall of Fame) in Pete Maravich, Rickey Green, John Stockton, and Deron Williams. Not all of them were technically called point guards, but all were floor generals. The game, when those players played, was systematic and linear. Today the game has continued to evolve and there are so many over-lapping skill sets that it's no wonder why the idea of positions today look like nothing from previous eras. Heck, today the trend is for your power forward to be a spot up shooter from the outside, so that your guards can have more room to operate on their way to the paint. How crazy is that? Can you imagine Buck Williams or Terry Cummings taking the number of three pointers that Kevin Love of Chris Bosh take?
It's a different game right now.
And this point was hammered home to me as I was taking a trip through YouTube and re-saw the ESPN First Take clip where John Stockton is expected to give an answer about the dynamic changes in the point guard role in today's NBA. He was a pass first point guard who played with a great finisher in Karl Malone. It only made sense for him to get The Mailman the ball. Today there are a lot of talented point guards who are clearly not pass-first in their offensive mentality.
Sometimes writing a book means going on a book tour. This is torture for John.
John breaks it all down beyond the knee-jerk reactionism of stating that someone like Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook play point guard "the wrong way." And frankly, this just shows how smart and classy John is.
Utah has a number of young point guards on deck in Trey Burke and Dante Exum. There's yet another in Raul Neto who is an ocean away. All three are pass first or at least pick and roll schooled point guards. While we always wish that our young points turn out like our Hall of Famer, this couldn't be true enough when you look at how much of a class act, and how smart John Stockton was.
Sure, I want them to set hard screens, hit clutch shots, and make their teammates better. But I also want them to understand the game at his level. John was the master of understanding that his role on the team was to give each 5 man line-up he was in precisely what they 5 man line-up needed of him. He didn't play the same way no matter who was on the court. He was brilliant enough to know that being the point guard, the coach on the floor, the leader of this team, meant more than just being dismissive with his shot taking.
When the team needed a basket you could argue that John hit as many clutch shots as Karl did, and Karl has the 2nd most points All-Time. When the team needed a defensive stop, John did that too. Heck, we've seen John out-rebound trees to make sure that the team got the ball back. Stockton was able to identify what was missing, and then adjust his play-style to be the missing piece of the puzzle.
More than averaging a double double, or shooting over 50 fg% this is what I want from our young point guards. They are the two youngest players on the team. And they are going to be the lead guys with the ball in their hands most of the game. (Yes, Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, and Rodney Hood will have the ball too -- but Quin Snyder is a point guard and knows who should have the ball in their hands.)
John makes the excuse, or argument here that it's okay for point guards to be shoot first. But the greater truth here is that he is pleading for the point guard's of today to be more than just one dimensional players. He wants these point guards to continue advancing the fates of their teams by being the element of control and compensation.
I'd settle for our guards growing up a little over the next few years to be so composed and measured on and off the court. Nothing rattled John. Not even "gotcha" questions on ESPN. And that's just another thing that made John Stockton the best point guard of all-time.