Robert Thompson

January 19, 2006

Delonte West has made a strong case to start at the point for this year's Sophomore team in the 2006 Rookie Challenge. West's adaptation to the point guard position, along with his silky-smooth jumper should make him a virtual lock for the team.

This year's sophomore class is stacked with talented guards such as Chris Duhon, T.J Ford, and last years Sixth Man Award winner Ben Gordon. While learning arguably the toughest position on the floor, West has done more than hold his own.

With the departure of Gary Payton this summer, many questioned if Delonte was the so-called "point guard of the future." He immediately proved his doubters wrong on opening night, coming one assist and one rebound shy of a triple-double. He has continued to silence his critics all season long, especially as of late. Since December 1, he has been the hottest shooter in the league, leading the NBA in field goal percentage (57.8%), and he is also 11th in three-point field goal percentage (42.2%).

Top Sophomore Guards in the NBA
As of January 18, 2006
Player Games FG % (Rank) 3FG% (Rank) REB (Rank) AST (Rank) PTS (Rank)
DELONTE WEST 35 52.5 (1) 42.2 (2) 4.2 (1) 4.1 (3) 11.5 (3)
Ben Gordon 36 40.7 (6) 41.3 (3) 2.1 (7) 2.6 (6) 14.8 (1)
Devin Harris 39 46.9 (3) 27.8 (8) 2.5 (T5) 3.3 (5) 11.1 (4)
Sebastian Telfair 26 37.8 (8) 39.0 (4) 1.9 (8) 3.9 (4) 10.0 (5)
J.R. Smith 32 38.3 (7) 39.3 (5) 2.5 (T5) 1.5 (7) 9.5 (7)
Jameer Nelson 36 47.5 (2) 44.6 (1) 3.0 (4) 4.4 (2) 13.9 (2)
Chris Duhon 37 41.8 (5) 38.2 (6) 3.2 (3) 5.5 (1) 9.8 (6)
Kevin Martin 32 45.5 (4) 32.0 (7) 3.4 (2) 1.3 (8) 8.3 (8)

Coach Doc Rivers, a former point guard himself, understands the difficulty of the position.

Delonte West Delonte West has been a deadly marksman from three-point range this season, and has learned when to make his own offense.

"With a point guard who's converted, the toughest part for him is to take an open shot," he explained. "If you're a good shooter you lose your shot for a while. When you're a bad shooter it becomes worst, because whenever you shoot you think about passing. You think about running the team."

West has always thought his game ran deeper than his shot. "I think I have an overall game," he explained. "I'm the type of guy who takes what the defense gives them. Give me a fifteen footer I'll take that. Give me a three pointer I'll take that. Give me the lane and I'll take that."

West is getting it done on the defensive end of the floor, and is ranked second among guards in the NBA in blocks. Rivers, when recently asked if he expected West to be able to run the point this smoothly after playing shooting guard throughout his college career, admitted he was impressed.

"I'm honestly surprised that it has come this quickly," said Rivers. "It usually takes a lot longer, a couple years longer."

And Rivers is not the only one surprised. Just two years ago, Delonte was passed over by 18 teams in the NBA Draft (Atlanta, Portland and Utah all had multiple picks before #24) because they questioned his ability to play the point guard position. Right now, he's showing Danny Ainge and the Celtics that not only was he was a steal as the 24th player selected, but also that the Celtics finally have that young point guard with unlimited potential to run their young team.