Point Guard Depth Bolsters Magic

By Noah Sharfman
December 31, 2010

ORLANDO -- There is little argument that a quarterback is the most important member of a football team or that a pilot is the most important crew member on an airplane. Following that logic, there can be little debate that the point guard is the most significant member of a basketball team. After all, the point guard gets a team going, both offensively with the way they distribute the ball and defensively with the way they stop the opponent from running their offensive sets. The Orlando Magic benefit from acquired depth at the point guard position and boast the deepest point guard backcourt in the NBA.

Jameer Nelson, Gilbert Arenas, Chris Duhon and Jason Williams make up the Magic’s four-headed point guard machine. Nelson has been a mainstay in the Magic backcourt since being drafted in 2004 out of Saint Joseph’s and for the past five seasons has started nearly every game he has played in. Simply stated, Nelson makes the Magic go and he delivers for the Magic when the team needs it most.

“Jameer to me willed that game for them tonight,” Celtics’ Head Coach Doc Rivers said following the Magic’s Christmas day victory over Boston. “Jameer Nelson, he’s got the biggest heart on the team. He’s just a warrior, and he does it all the time. Give him the credit, I thought he was phenomenal. I thought he was the guy on that floor, he just kept pushing and you could see it. That’s what he does, and I think a lot of people miss that in him.”

In that Christmas day matchup, Nelson delivered a victory to Magic fans across the world. When the outcome of the game was anyone’s for the taking, Nelson did not blink, scoring 10 of his 12 points in the fourth quarter without even missing a shot. Nelson helped the Magic outscore Boston 29-15 in the fourth quarter and iced the win from the free throw line with only seconds remaining. Finishing games is not something new for Nelson, however. In November, he delivered three Saturday night victories for the Magic as time expired. Against New Jersey, Indiana and Washington, Nelson orchestrated game-winning plays that helped Orlando secure three much-needed road victories.

Joining Nelson is the recently acquired Gilbert Arenas. A true combo guard, Arenas plays at his best when he is a facilitator on the offensive end. A three-time NBA All-Star, Arenas has brought an up-tempo enthusiasm to the Magic’s second unit, sparking the offense with his playmaking ability. It was Arenas who led the Magic to a victory over San Antonio, a team that had won their previous 10 games entering their matchup, as he scored 14 points, dished out a game-high nine assists and collected six rebounds in the 123-101 rout of the Spurs.

“He changed the game in the first half,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of Arenas’ role in the Magic’s win. “We were in the game and things were going back and forth. Gilbert spread it. He hit two or three buckets in a row and he made a big difference.”

The addition of Arenas bolsters what was arguably already the deepest point guard trio in the league. Seemingly lost in the shuffle of two blockbuster trades only weeks old is the offseason acquisition of Chris Duhon. Duhon is a proven point guard who has started nearly 64 percent of his games in the NBA and who still holds the New York Knicks’ single-game assists record, dishing out 22 helpers in 2008 against Golden State. This season, Duhon has provided depth for the Magic, keeping the starting lineup whole when Nelson has missed games.

The same can be said for Jason Williams, who, in his second season with the Magic, provides the team with a veteran presence. Williams has yet to start this season for the Magic, but last year he provided the team with quality production as the team went 14-4 when he was inserted in the starting lineup. Williams also provides the Magic with championship experience, as he helped guide the Miami Heat to an NBA title in 2006.

Night in and night out, the Magic have more depth at the most important position than any other team in the NBA. And should all else fail, Dwight Howard, who claims he was a left-handed point guard in high school, could always count as a fifth.