January 22, 2012 in Sports

Cavaliers’ Irving, Pistons’ Knight are new breed of point guard

Ira Winderman Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel
 

No one has to tell the Miami Heat about the NBA’s influx of rookie riches at point guard.

They already have witnessed it against the Minnesota Timberwolves, when Ricky Rubio so deftly guided his team’s offense with 12 points and 12 assists that the Heat needed a final-seconds Dwyane Wade layup to escape.

They’ve also dealt with it against the Charlotte Bobcats’ Kemba Walker and his recent double-digit efforts off the bench in the first two games of that season series, with 31 points on 12-of-22 shooting from the former UConn standout.

They also see it almost every day in practice, with Norris Cole continually pushing Mario Chalmers for playing time.

And they’ll see it this week, since No. 1 NBA draft pick Kyrie Irving visits Tuesday with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and then Wednesday when they visit the Detroit Pistons and take on No. 8 overall pick Brandon Knight.

In fact, six rookie point guards went into the weekend averaging at least 20 minutes a game, including the Heat’s Cole.

While Rubio hardly is a typical rookie, with his extensive professional background in Europe, the rest of the kids are all right and putting up quite the early fight.

Instead of writing off the neophyte playmakers, scouts have found themselves taking note. One such scout was at AmericanAirlines Arena this past week raving about the rookie class at the point, including Cole.

“I think Kyrie Irving is a sure thing, I really do,” the veteran of more than two decades of scouting said of the point guard out of Duke. “Brandon? He’s playing a lot of minutes, so that’s really going to quicken his development. But I see Kyrie Irving as a sure thing, I really do. I think that he’s going to be the foundation of their franchise.”

The list doesn’t stop there. The Sacramento Kings’ Jimmer Fredette, the Utah Jazz’s Alec Burks and the Golden State Warriors’ Charles Jenkins all are getting considerable minutes despite the lack of offseason mentorship because of the lockout.

While Irving has excelled with the Cavaliers, Knight has been somewhat uneven in Detroit.

“I think he’s got to adjust to being a point guard in the NBA, a true distributor of the ball and running a team,” the veteran scout said. “And it’s going to take time. I just don’t think he’s as far ahead as Kyrie is.”

And then there’s Cole, an afterthought in a first round loaded with point guards.

“He’s really aggressive. I really was impressed by his ability,” the scout said. “He’s not afraid and will attack the rim. He can play on the big stage with Miami. For me, I was impressed with his poise.”

Cole said he relishes opportunities such as this coming week’s, to go against the best in his class, just as he did during his pre-draft workouts.

“Every chance I got to go against another top guard, I went at ’em,” he said.

The difference is Irving and Knight, as well as Rubio, Walker and Fredette, likely will be watching the playoffs from their couches. Such is the benefit of going later in the first round and therefore to a contender.

“Everyone wants to be with a winner, especially with a championship-contending team,” Cole said. “So I’m blessed to be where I am, and I’m taking advantage of it.”

The opportunities this coming week for Cole could be limited against Irving and Knight, with those two starting. But just to be in the discussion after going No. 28 overall last June speaks volumes.

As do scouts passing through AmericanAirlines Arena.

“With his skill work,” the scout said of Cole, “I don’t think he’s as good as some of the others, like Kryie Irving and some of those other guys. But as far as toughness and poise, I like him. I like him a lot.”

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