You will often hear a basketball coach refer to their point guard as a “coach on the floor” or the “quarterback” of the team. You will also hear coaches’ talk about their basketball point guard play being the reason their team was so successful. Point guards have more responsibility than any other player on the floor. A good point guard should account for many jobs that statistics just do not cover.
Away from the obligatory basketball skills that point guards must perfect, there are a number of other skills that are pertinent for this position. Pace and recognition of time and score, compliment each other and are two of the most important mental qualities a good point guard can have.
A good point guard plays at a steady pace, never getting out-of-control. They know when to turn up the pace and run as well as slow things down. The pace is generally dictated by the time and score of the game as well as that particular coach’s basketball philosophy. As simple as this sounds to many times you will see a guy push the basketball and run when it is simply not needed or get out of control and make a bad decisions because they don’t have a proper feel for the pace of the game.
It is as equally important for a point guard to always know the time and score of the game. There is two minutes left in the game and your team is down ten, the point guard must recognize this and push the pace looking to get quicker scores. What if your team is up 4 with two minutes to go? The point guard must recognize this and set up a play to burn some clock and get the shot your team needs. Too many times young point guards lose track of this.
On offense a point guard should know every spot of every play within the team’s offense. A play cannot be initiated or ran correctly if every player is not in the correct spot. Point guards have to recognize this and get their teammates in the correct spots. They should also know where their teammates, who the play is ran for, prefer to receive the ball.
Does my center feel more comfortable from the left or right block? Does my shooting guard shoot the ball better coming off screens going right or going left? The point should also have a feel for of the opposing players foul trouble or where there are defensive mismatches and be able to exploit them without the coach having to say that.
Leadership is another quality that is a must for a good point guard. Between plays are you huddling your teammates up to let them know what defense you’re in or what play your coach wants to run? Are you encouraging your teammates or reprimanding them? If your big guy has been running the floor, but yet to receive the ball in the post, keep encouraging him and let him know you will be getting him the ball. Are you telling guys who they need to be matched up with or are you confused yourself? Through scouting do you know tendencies for all the opposing players or just the guys you are guarding? To truly be a “coach on the floor” you must know the intricacies of your team and the opponent.
Decision making is another component that a point guard cannot overlook. Turnovers can be a detriment to a team’s success. The point guard has the ball in his hands more than anyone and is looked upon to make sound decisions. A good point guard must value the ball and each possession for their team to succeed. It goes deeper than turnovers, but into shot selection and knowing personnel. Know the difference between a good shot and bad shot. Not knowing the difference can essentially be the same as a turnover as can not knowing your own personnel.
Many of these traits come with experience through playing the game, but many can also come through film and studying. A good point guard or basketball player in general can never study too much. You can never know all of your basketball plays too much or find enough instances through film where you did not lead like you should. Invest in being the best point guard you can be both mentally and physically and your team will benefit greatly because of it.