It's hard to pinpoint exactly when, why and by whom the five positions on a basketball court came to be represented numerically. But it's worth noting, nevertheless, that the point guard spot was designated as number one. If that's not a nod to the importance of the position, then I don't know what would be. It is the point guard that drives the engine of an NBA team, bringing the ball down the floor and setting things into motion on most possessions. There has been a strong historic correlation with floor generals being inordinately linked to high basketball IQs, with the likes of Chris Paul, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash and Tony Parker serving as prime examples.
So when building a roster, even though size can be a hot commodity, a good point guard can lay the foundation of a winner. It's fair to wonder whether recent champions like the Warriors, Cavaliers and Spurs would have enjoyed the success they had if not for the presence of Steph Curry, Kyrie Irving and Parker, respectively. The significance of the position goes without saying in an era loaded with great point guards, so much so that laying down the second and third seasons of averaging a triple-double in NBA history over the past two years only netted Russell Westbrook a third-place ranking in Bleacher Report's preseason positional rankings.
This point guard golden age has really underscored the need to have elite ball-handling talent anchoring your team in order to entertain any thoughts of contention. But for all the great players that highlight this boom period for point guards, there aren't enough to go around. And so we find ourselves with some mismatches where things aren't meshing between the team and their floor general. And because of the emphasis on getting production at the position in the modern NBA, there are some teams that probably need to act fast to fix their point guard situation.
20 Needs New Team: Reggie Jackson
For a brief stretch at the beginning of the season, the Detroit Pistons may have fooled a few people. A 4-0 start brought some sense that maybe Dwane Casey can win with this team and maybe Blake Griffin can be a true franchise star. The shine, however, wore off pretty quickly, leaving the same old frustrations over Andre Drummond's competitiveness and Reggie Jackson's selfishness.
For Jackson, Detroit has probably seen enough to know that this is simply who he is. Ish Smith seems capable of taking over the starting role and shedding the shoot-first ball handler might well be a case of addition by subtraction.
19 Best Fit: Memphis Grizzlies
There's no denying, that Jackson is a gifted and dynamic scorer. Provided he would accept it, the 28-year-old could be a revelation as a scorer off the bench, much like in his early days with the Thunder before he forced his way out from under Russell Westbrook's shadow. With $35 million left on his contract through next season, Jackson would be an expensive backup. But he could also be one that might spark an otherwise stagnant offense, such as that of the Grizzlies, who never really replaced Tyreke Evans.
Given the litany of injuries currently plaguing the Grizzlies guard rotation and the fact that - let's face it - they're a pretty underwhelming group to begin with, Jackson could prove to be a much-needed fit here.
18 Needs New Team: Patty Mills
Following the mass exodus this past offseason in San Antonio, there remained only one holdover player who had stuck with the team since their 2014 championship (Marco Belinelli left and came back). Patty Mills has never carried the cache of a Tim Duncan or any of those aforementioned stars (except for Green), but he played an integral role on that championship team and on every Spurs team since. If, however, San Antonio continues its reconstruction, then Mills may be the next player out the door.
Their point guard position certainly seems to be going young, with Dejounte Murray and Derrick White in place, so it remains to be seen how Mills and his $25 million over the following two seasons fits into the mix.
17 Best Fit: Sacramento Kings
In other years, moving from the San Antonio Spurs to the Sacramento Kings would be viewed as an unspeakable demotion, and the Kings still have a ways to go if they want to become a first-class organization like the Spurs. But things seem to be going well with the latest youth movement in Sacramento, with De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and rookie Marvin Bagley III helping turn them into a downright respectable outfit. What they don't have is much veteran know-how, especially in support of Fox at the point. That's where Mills could come in handy, bolstering a still-thin second unit.
16 Needs New Team: Markelle Fultz
Markelle Fultz hasn't come close to playing a full season's worth of games yet, and even still, it just seems like it's getting harder to believe in the 2017 first overall pick's future in Philly. For all of the patience the Sixers have has shown the 21-year-old, Fultz has yet to overcome what seems to be a mental hurdle associated with his shot. And Philadelphia can't just put everything on hold for the former Washington Huskies star, either. Ben Simmons isn't going anywhere and the addition of Jimmy Butler cut short opportunities at the two-guard spot.
It seems entirely unfair to suggest Fultz's Philly tenure has been a flop after such a short window. Yet, there does remain the very real possibility that it just won't work for him in Philly and that a new address is in order.
15 Best Fit: Phoenix Suns
There would be no shortage of suitors for a guy with the limitless potential of Fultz, but it is the Suns who check all the boxes. Point guard-needy? Absolutely. Willingness to patiently navigate through a learning curve? Definitely. In Phoenix, Fultz would be offered the chance to grow as part of a nucleus with Devin Booker and fellow No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton, all while doing so with free range over playing time. Unlike the Sixers, the Suns don't see themselves as contenders now, so he would be afforded the opportunity to develop at his own pace.
Philadelphia showed through the Butler deal that they are currently against including Fultz in any trade talks, but that perspective could change depending on how the youngster fares over the next little while alongside Butler.
14 Needs New Team: Lonzo Ball
Though they may sneak into the playoffs, this Lakers team hardly stands as a finished product. When LeBron agreed to join LA, you have to figure it wasn't for the chance to play alongside Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee and Lance Stephenson. Even in the early stages of this season, there's been speculation over phase two of the James plan with the Lake Show and whether that might involve another max-salaried star or two. Another question for Magic Johnson, Rob Pelinka and the organization to consider is whether phase two involves Lonzo Ball.
The young point guard has made some strides in his second pro season, improving on his shooting, defense and ball protection. But the club may no longer have the patience to wait on Ball, particularly if the skilled passer could headline an attractive trade package for an established star.
13 Best Fit: San Antonio Spurs
Many will be quick to point out that there's little chance that Gregg Popovich would have the stomach to put up with LaVar Ball, and rightfully so. But leaving dad out of the equation, there's a lot that makes sense about Lonzo plying his trade in San Antonio. For starters, the trade fit works. Assuming DeMar DeRozan is part of the Spurs' long-term plan, a package that features LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Patty Mills and/or a young point guard might at least start the conversation. For San Antonio, Ball represents more upside than either Dejounte Murray or Derrick White and could bring about a quick rebuild alongside DeRozan.
12 Needs New Team: Kemba Walker
Starting last season and lasting into the summer, the Hornets' star point guard was rumored to be headed out of town on numerous occasions, only to remain in the fold. If Walker really was unhappy at some point in time - and usually, where there's smoke, there's at least a flicker of a flame - then back-to-back 36-win seasons probably haven't helped solidify his desire to remain in Charlotte.
Long underrated, the former UConn star is producing at an MVP rate in what is a contract year as his team continues to flit aimlessly, mired in mediocrity. Walker may be on the move this summer anyway, so it might behoove Charlotte to get something for the 28-year-old now while they can.
11 Best Fit: Detroit Pistons
While Charlotte has done little to shake itself out of irrelevance, the Pistons seem to at least be trying to change their fate. Last season's Blake Griffin gamble, coupled with the hiring of Dwane Casey, seem to have infused Motown with at least some renewed hope in the team's direction. Maybe, then, it's time to double down and add a point guard to complete a proverbial 'Big Three' with Griffin and Andre Drummond. We already discussed the potential exit of Reggie Jackson, which would leave room both positionally and in terms of payroll flexibility.
A group anchored by Griffin, Drummond and Walker, who seems like much more of a Casey guy than Jackson is, could be enough to reign among the top contenders in the East.
10 Needs New Team: John Wall
If it wasn't apparent before, then surely it's now with a poor start to the season: change is needed in Washington. The expensive trio of John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter is sucking up $70 million in cap space while failing to put forth results worthy of such an investment. And those numbers will only balloon further once Wall's astounding $207 million contract extension kicks in next year. Even though it's Porter who is clearly producing the least of the three, Wall is the one that has to go - if Washington can find any takers for his contract.
Even though Wall hardly comes cheap, the 28-year-old has established himself as a bona fide star and carries the dynamic offensive game that could spark the right team.
9 Best Fit: Chicago Bulls
The Bulls currently have just over $50 million committed to nine players for next season, making them uniquely equipped to take on Wall's mega-deal. Even if they pick up Jabari Parker's $20 million team option and retain restricted free agent Bobby Portis, they should be able to absorb Wall with room to spare. Contract aside, Chicago would offer the chance for the five-time All-Star to stand above the marquee as he leads a group built to play fast. His distinctly up tempo style of play could gel nicely with the likes of Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr. and Parker, depending upon who they'd have to surrender in a trade.
8 Needs New Team: Kyrie Irving
He'd surely deny it, but problems for Kyrie Irving in Boston almost certainly started when the Celtics still advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals in his absence on the backs of young, inexpensive point guards Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier. That success introduced the thought of how essential Irving really was to the club, one that was only furthered when GM Danny Ainge reportedly entertained Irving-for-Kawhi-Leonard trade talks this summer.
If the Celts aren't too sure about their franchise point guard at $20 million per year, they'll likely be even more loathe to commit to a max contract for the 26-year-old when he almost certainly opts out of his deal this off-season. Boston has more pressing things to worry about, like their underwhelming play to date in a season where they reign as the Eastern Conference favorites, but it's entirely possible that a split is looming.
7 Best Fit: Los Angeles Clippers
All the talk of the Lakers' free agency plans this offseason has overshadowed their Staples Center co-tenants, but the offseason plans of the Clippers will also bear watching. Currently without a big name star, the Clips will have cap space this summer, an owner in Steve Ballmer who likely wants to make a splash and needs all throughout the lineup. While they have often been mentioned as a potential landing spot for Kawhi Leonard, maybe Irving would work here as well.
He certainly represents the type of superstar that would get people talking about LA's red-headed stepchild franchise and the Lakers/Clippers rivalry would most certainly receive a jolt if it were to suddenly include LeBron vs Kyrie. One thing seems certain - the Clips probably aren't going into 2019-20 with Patrick Beverley as their starting PG.
6 Needs New Team: Damian Lillard
Yes, the Trail Blazers are off to another excellent start that will surely see them extend their run of regular season excellence. And yes, that will probably come to an end in April or May, when they are bested by the Golden State Warriors - if they get that far. The long-standing regular season success and postseason struggles that prompted the Toronto Raptors to shake things up last summer continue to plague the Blazers, prompting some to wonder if it's time to break up the All-Star back court of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.
As one of the league's best point guards and one with a contract that lasts through 2021, Lillard would surely bring about the better return and could really jump start a rebuild in Rip City.
5 Best Fit: Los Angeles Lakers
If the speculated Lakers' plan is to be believed, then expect them, led by central recruiter LeBron James, to pursue Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson and any free agent with name value (well, probably except for Kyrie Irving). Of course, the trade market could bring other interesting names into the mix, like Lillard. While he was still with Cleveland, James blatantly campaigned for the long-time Blazers' floor general, saying, "Give me Damian Lillard. I’ll show you how appreciated he’ll be.”
Not only would James be the best player that Lillard ever had the chance to play with, but 'Big Game Dame' would also probably rank as the best point guard 'Bron has even played with (sorry, Kyrie). That LA would still have space for some more max guy after that is just plain scary.
4 Needs New Team: Brandon Knight
To be clear, a trade should be the last thing on the mind of sidelined Houston Rockets point guard Brandon Knight right now. Knight has a long way still to go in recovering from some serious knee issues that have kept him from playing one minute of basketball since February of 2017.
Encouragingly, he has been increasingly involved in practice drills and on-court activities as he pursues a comeback. And when he is ready to return to the court, the former eighth overall pick probably won't be anxious to assume third-string status in Houston. Even if he moves ahead of Michael Carter-Williams on the depth chart, minutes will be hard to come by with Chris Paul in the starter's role.
3 Best Fit: Orlando Magic
For any team interested in Knight once he gets healthy again, the cost likely wouldn't be prohibitive - apart from cap space, of course. The former Kentucky star is still owed $30 million between this season and next, so the Rockets, who acquired him in a swap of bad contracts, probably wouldn't demand much of a return for the chance to unload him. The Orlando Magic, for one, may be willing to take a gamble on him. Not only do they have some cap space and a need at the point, but their GM John Hammond was at the helm of the Milwaukee Bucks when they acquired him via trade back in 2013.
2 Needs New Team: George Hill
The LeBron James-less Cleveland Cavaliers tried to run it back and see if they could compete in the East with, essentially, the King's supporting crew from last season, but the writing is now clearly on the wall. Ty Lue has been fired, J.R. Smith wants out and the ship appears to be sinking pretty quickly. It's only a matter of time before exits loom for the other Cleveland veterans, and that group may start with George Hill. Brought in as part of a shakeup that helped the stagnant Cavs round into Finals-bound form last year, Hill now impedes developing youngster Collin Sexton and probably wouldn't mind a new address, himself.
1 Best Fit: Atlanta Hawks
A move to Atlanta wouldn't necessarily bring the 32-year-old any closer to the postseason this year, nor would it keep him from jockeying for playing time with a rookie (Trae Young). It would, however, connect Hill with a franchise with a clear focus and provide him with a defined role. And some veteran presence would help the rebuilding Hawks.
For the Hawks, the defensive-minded Hill would be a boon to a rotation that has allowed the second-most points per game in the NBA this season, something that the porous tandem of Young and Jeremy Lin has done little to help.