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08-10-2004, 11:33 AM
Nash, Francis on the move

By Terry Brown
NBA Insider
Monday, August 9
Updated: August 9
11:09 AM ET

It is two months before the start of the regular season. Gary Payton is in Boston, Steve Francis is in Orlando, Derek Fisher has moved to Golden State and Steve Nash is back in Phoenix?

"This has been one wacky off season" said an Eastern Conference scout. "But there is nothing wrong with the point guard position. Teams are just trying to find the right combination."

Does the average fan even know where his favorite point guard is playing? Nick Van Exel is in Portland, Jason Terry is in Dallas, Eric Snow is in Cleveland and Jamal Crawford has finally arrived in New York

"Sometimes coaches don't have a high tolerance level," said a Western Conference scout. "They can't stomach wild play. Sometimes the contract doesn't fit or the offense doesn't fit or they're too young or too old. There are a number of reasons why so many point guards have switched teams this year.

"But the point guard position is still important."

Remarkably, 11 point guards with starting credentials have changed teams this offseason and we still have no idea who's starting at that position in Charlotte, or if Jason Kidd will begin the next season in New Jersey.

# Who will be running the offense in Chicago?
# Who will be bringing the ball upcourt in Atlanta?
# Who will be passing the ball in Philadelphia?

The final eight teams in the playoffs last season had point guards who handed out a combined average of only 5.9 assists per game in the postseason. The oft-shooting Kobe Bryant averaged 5.5 and Kevin Garnett averaged 5.1. Paul Pierce, who scored more than twice as many points as any other Celtic last season, averaged 5.1 during the regular season.

Assists per game for point guards are going down. Baron Davis, LeBron James, Stephon Marbury and Jamal Crawford led their respective teams in scoring last season. Sam Cassell averaged 19.8 points per game.

"They're scoring more because they're trying to score more," said the Eastern Conference scout. "It's a natural development of the game where teams are trying to increase offensive production and where else but with the guy who's got the ball in his hands most of the time. And let's be honest, the guy who puts the ball in the hole gets paid."

Rafer Alston, who started for Toronto in 2003 on a 10-day contract, averaged 4.1 assists per game to go along with 7.8 points per game. The very next year, he led the Heat with 4.5 assists per game. But his boost to 10.2 points per game earned him a $28 million contract and a plane ticket back to Toronto.

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Rookie Dwayne Wade, who averaged 18 points per game in the playoffs last year, is now the starting point guard for the Heat.

"Maybe what we're seeing is a change back to the old days when there were no point guards and no shooting guards," said the Western Conference scout. "There were just two guards who were interchangeable."

Teams are building their rosters with players who can play multiple positions while performing various tasks.

"That's the other part of the evolution," said the Eastern Conference scout. "Everybody is doing everything. For all intents and purposes, Tracy McGrady was the point guard in Orlando last year and he led the league in scoring for the second year in a row."

# Will power forward Kevin Garnett lead the Timberwolves in assists next year as he did in the playoffs?
# Will small forward Lamar Odom lead the Lakers in assists?
# Will point guard Baron Davis lead the Hornets and the league in scoring?

"The point guard is going to be the guy with the ball in his hands," said the Eastern Conference scout. "Whether he's scoring or passing, he's still the point guard wherever he is."