Top 25 Toughest Players to Guard in the NBA: 10-6

Kevin Love

Today, I am doing players 10-6. There might be some surprising names in today’s list, but you shouldn’t be that surprised. These are guys are the best for a reason. Here we go!

[Read more…]

Top 25 Toughest Players to Guard in the NBA: 20-16

Steve Nash

This is the second installment of “25 Toughest Players to Guard in the NBA“. Here are players 20-16. Take a look and feel free to leave a comment!

[Read more…]

Top 25 Toughest Players to Guard in the NBA: 25-21

Deron Williams

I am little bored right now, so I thought I would create a list of the 25 Toughest Players to Guard in the NBA. Here are players 25-21. Feel free to leave a comment!  

[Read more…]

Illini Basketball MVP Thus Far: Sam Maniscalco


Where would the Illlini be without Sam Maniscalco? What would become of their point guard situation if the three time team captain at Bradley, All-Missouri Valley second team pick wasn’t eligible after his transfer this season? Illinois didn’t play very well, but they did make it three straight wins in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, and snapped a three-game skid vs. Maryland in the event. It also makes it two in a row versus the Terrapins as Illinois beat them in Madison Square Garden in the Coaches vs. Cancer classic.

The illini won 71-62, largely because of Maniscalco who scored a game high 24 on 6-11 shooting, 5-8 from three. But what the stat book doesn’t show is how critical Sma’s buckets really were. One triple gave them their first lead since the opening minute 42-41 down the stretch. Another trey stretched the lead to 7 inside 8 minutes to go giving Illinois their first semblance of breathing room in the game. And when the Terps cut the lead to 5 with under a minute left, Maniscalco drove to the whole and got a huge bucket.

[Read more…]

How’s the Illini Point Guard Situation Coming Along?


Heading into this season, the Illinois Fighting Illini had some questions to answer at “the one.” Two games in, they still do.  Demetri McCamey, as inconsistent and polarizing as he was, provided minutes and some sense of stability.

The situation was helped this offseason when Bradley transfer Sam Maniscalco became eligible. He provides a steady veteran hand while PG of the future Tracy Abrams gets his feet wet. Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson can bring the ball up in times of need as well.

And looking ahead in recruiting, the Illini recently added Michael Orris.

[Read more…]

Difference Between Point Guard and Floor General


By Paul M. Banks

In recent years, we have seen how drafting a point guard can help change the face of an NBA franchise. Think of the impact Chris Paul has had on the Hornets, Deron Williams in Utah, Rajon Rando with the Celtics, or just this past year, what Derrick Rose brought to the Bulls. And the crop of point guard prospects in this past draft was the deepest of this decade, possibly of all time, and could produce a couple players who may have the impact of the aforementioned young NBA floor leaders.

In a society so obsessed with celebrating and glorifying the military (and warfare in general), being labeled with the term “floor general” makes you more than just a star basketball player- it places you on a pedestal few even dream of reaching. That’s why the position is called the “one,” because you come first, top of the food chain, numero uno. Or maybe it’s “the one,” like “the chosen one,” the savior. All in all, there’s more poeticism in playing the point guard than  any position. I asked a lot of star collegiate point guards what the term means to them.

UConn alum and Pacers’ draft pick A.J. Price

“How effective you can make the team run? How efficient can your team be while you’re out there at the one? It’s about having leadership, being a vocal leader, small things telling people where they need to go, where they need to be and delivering the basketball.”

“I’m a big Chauncey Billups fan, I’m trying to get my body to where his is at, so I can perform like him. He’s able to guard twos, he’s able to stay in front of ones and everywhere he’s gone, the team has gotten better. He shows floor generalship,”

It’s the most important position on the court. It’s like the quarterback in football, you’re making the calls, it’s up to you to execute. You got to be headstrong to play the one, no room for error, to be shaken up or rattled- because the team’s going to follow you. Teams understand the need to have a steady guy at the one, who is always under control, a la Chauncey Billups or someone like that.

Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry:

“The one that when things are tight, you can look to, to tell you where to go, what play to run, handle the pressure at all times, being the most solid guy on the court at all times.”

“You have to execute plays, and the play starts with you most of the time, so if you don’t do your job, then you have to be mentally tough.”

Maryland’s Greivis Vasquez

“You gotta be a leader you got to make sure everybody around you is happy.”

76ers’ Jrue Holiday

“Captain. Point guard, but it doesn’t always have to be a point guard, just a guy that runs the floor, who knows the team, knows the coaches and communicates in a way that runs the team.”kalinlucas1

Marquette alumnus Jerel McNeal

“Whenever you come into the game as a point guard, you have added responsibilities of getting everyone involved, knowing your offense inside and out and having great leadership at all times.”

“It’s something like you said, it’s not only about physical toughness, but also mental toughness, but also being able to know different guys and know where they’re most effective and the different spots they need to be throughout the course of a game.”

Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas

“Every point guard does need to be the Floor General. He has to run the offense. He has to tell people where to go. He has to stay calm and he has to keep his composure…I try to keep it under one turnover a game, but mostly I just try to play solid at all times. It does get to me if I am turning the ball over, then I know I just need to clam down and make the easy pass.”

UCLA Pair Part of Point Guard Heavy Draft


By Paul M. Banks and David Kay

In recent years, we have seen how drafting a point guard can help change the face of an NBA franchise.  Think of the impact Chris Paul has had on the Hornets, Deron Williams in Utah, Rajon Rando with the Celtics, or just this past year, what Derrick Rose brought to the Bulls.  If you are a team in need of a point guard this year, the crop of point guard prospects is deeper than any draft this decade, possibly of all time, and could produce a couple players who may have the impact of the aforementioned young NBA floor leaders.  Two prospects who play “the one” Jrue Holiday and Darren Collison played their college ball at perhaps the most storied of all programs, UCLA.

Ricky Rubio, Brandon Jennings, Jonny Flynn, and Stephen Curry join Holiday in a group of players that could be picked in the lottery to run the point at the next level.  That list doesn’t include Tyreke Evans who ran the point at Memphis, but figures to be a two guard in the NBA.  Add in the likes of Eric Maynor, Ty Lawson, Jeff Teague, Nick Calathes, and Patrick Mills, and I have ten point guards being taken in the first round in my latest mock draft.  It’s possible that number could grow to as high as 12 if Holiday’s teammate Collison or Florida State’s Toney Douglas sneaks into the first round.

Jrue Holiday

Despite grossly underachieving in his freshman year at UCLA, Holiday is catching the eye of many NBA teams.  Holiday was highly recruited coming out of high school, but played out of position with the Bruins, spending more time at the off-guard than the point since Darren Collison was already the squad’s established leader.  He struggled in Ben Howland’s offense which is more a grind-it-out style rather than an up-tempo system which would better fit Holiday’s game.  Still, based on his potential and athleticism, Holiday decided to declare for the draft and could possibly go as high as #4 to Sacramento. Playing at possibly the most high profile program of all may give Holiday an advantage over other rookies in adjusting to the bright lights of the NBA. “At UCLA you’re definitely an icon at school, around campus and pretty much everywhere you go because of the stature that UCLA has built, and it definitely prepares you for NBA life,” Holiday told me at the NBA Draft Combine.

Darren Collisoncollison

As for Collison, he would have been better off declaring for the draft after his sophomore or junior season when he was considered a possible lottery pick.  Returning to UCLA and putting together a less than stellar senior season really hurt his stock as he will most likely be taken early in the second round.  There is a chance that due to his experience, quickness, and shooting ability, he could end up being selected in the latter part of the first round. “I’m an unselfish teammate, I’ve never been on a team where it’s ‘I’ and we have to work around an individual. A team that takes me will get a great point guard because I’ve been in school for four years so I know what it takes to win at the second highest level and I’ve been to the final four three out of the four years,” Collison said at the NBA Draft combine.

Truly, this is the NBA’s Golden Age of point guards. Older veterans like Steve Nash, Tony Parker and Chauncey Billups are still in their prime or just slightly dropping off it. They’ll be remembered among the games’ all-time greats because they played in a era where young star floor generals like Deron Williams, Chris Paul and Derrick Rose also emerged. The Association’s talent level at the point will only increase with the ’09 draft class.

“This is the draft you want to be in right now if you’re a point guard. Everyone’s getting so much credit, from Jonny Flynn, to me, to Eric Maynor right on down the list because everyone knows they need point guards to win ballgames, to take that next step. And teams need a first string and a second string the whole game to be solid, and all the point guards in this draft have the potential to do that,” Collison said.

Rating the Draft’s Point Guards


Point guard is the deepest position in the 2009 NBA Draft with eight players likely being taken in the first round, and that number possibly could jump to as high as 11. Depending on a team’s need, there are a few different directions it can go if it’s looking to draft a point guard. Experience versus potential will likely determine which team takes which point guard based on the direction of their franchise.

To read the full list click here

1. Ricky Rubio, Spain
Height: 6-3. Weight: 180. Year: 1990
Projected Selection: Top 4 Pick.

A true play-maker with the basketball in his hands… Completely unselfish and looks to pass rather than shoot… Despite being 18 years old, has already played a few years professionally in one of the toughest Euro leagues… If he can adapt to the NBA game by becoming more physical and a better shooter, he could be a special player.

2. Jonny Flynn, Syracuse
Height: 6-0.75. Weight: 195. Year: So.
Projected Selection: 4-13.
He just gets it… Knows when to put a game in his hands and score for his team, but also is a great floor leader and distributor… As shown by his six overtime performance against UConn in the Big East Tournament, his toughness and heart cannot be questioned… Explosive in transition with great leaping ability… Not afraid to attack the rim… Probably the safest of the top point guard prospects.

3.  Brandon Jennings, Italy
Height: 6-1. Weight: 170. Year: 1989
Projected Selection: 4-10.

Learned a big-time lesson and matured in his one year as a pro in Italy when he didn’t see a lot of playing time… Excels in transition because of his great athleticism and is a great creator… Lacks consistency with his jumper and tends to force his shots too often… May need a year or two before he becomes a real contributor.
To read the full list click here

Deron Williams Exclusive Part I Illini

Paul M. Banks’ exclusive with D. Will

One of the best moments of my life, (at least from a biochemical standpoint) was when Deron Williams hit the game tying three-pointer against Arizona (notice the look on Bill Murray and Ron Zook’s faces when this happened) to cap the unthinkable comeback (Illinois was down by 15 points with just 4 minutes to go) in the 2005 Chicago Regional Final game.

The shot heard round Illination tied the game at 80 in the closing seconds. It was the pinnacle moment of the program’s signature season- the “Champaign Campaign” of 2004-05.

Last night, in the come from behind win at Northwestern, Illinois made up a remarkably similar deficit in about the same amount of time in a Chicago suburban venue…obviously the stakes where not as high this time, but Bruce Weber did make the comparison in the post game press conference at Welsh-Ryan.

Basically, the Utah Jazz point guard is to Illinois graduates what Jason Kidd is to Cal-Berkley alums or what Dwyane Wade is to Marquette people. I’ve made a case that D. Will, the highest NBA lottery pick in school history is the best Illini pro player of the modern era.

I recently had an exclusive with him on the night before Christmas Eve. I was proud to be the first to alert D. Will that Illinois won that night, trouncing #25 Mizzou in the “Braggin Rights” game. He asked “Is it over? Did we win?” and when I told him he just said “awesome.” I asked Deron if he’s able to follow the Illini much this season, “A little bit I know we’re 10-1, I haven’t had a chance to catch any games.”

Earlier this year I covered a game where Illini sophomore point guard Demetri McCamey made a sick dribble-drive move and penetrated to the whole, Cames described it as…“that was just something Deron taught me this summer, to get them on your help and when you feel them try to reach, spin right off. Tisdale did a good job of selling and I came right in for a lay-up.”

I told D-Will about this: “I like Demetri a lot as a player. I think he has a chance to be a great point guard and do some special things there, I’m really excited about the next two classes we have coming in, I think we’ll be back at the top of the Big Ten and hopefully be back in the tournament this year.” I then followed up by asking him if shows any more of the players a thing or two when he can. “I try to, it’s tough for me to get back, especially the past couple summers when I’ve been paying with Team USA, I’m gonna try to go back this summer and visit with them- hopefully work on my degree a little bit and finish up, I’m not too far from that, should be fun.”

And on the final Illini-related topic I asked him about was the late September “Illini: Night of Legends.” Deron responded: “I had my dinner the night in Chicago before for my foundation, and had the scholarship endowed in my name.  A great weekend in general, a great experience and capped it all off with the game.”

Part two of this exclusive interview, discussing Chicago 2016 and more, will run tomorrow