Vasquez, (Roy) and the Modern Combo Guard

Vasquez, (Roy) and the Modern Combo Guard
Nov 29, 2006, 06:52 pm
Combo guard can mean a lot of different things. At one time it was more of a negative, describing a shooting guard stuck in a point guard’s body. Allen Iverson certainly helped change that perception, but he remained the exception rather than the rule. The success of players like Gilbert Arenas and Dwayne Wade has certainly reversed this stereotype, and now combo guard can be considered a positive. When put in these terms, it may conjure up images of a tough-minded, powerful, physically aggressive, explosive scorer. The bulldog-tough Randy Foye certainly cashed in on the success of his power-combo predecessors.

But with the influence of International Basketball and the success of fast-paced NBA teams (mainly in the Western Conference), a more internationally-molded combo guard is emerging. Manu Ginobili may be the prototype for this mold, but more of these long, crafty, smooth, skilled, intelligent and quite versatile combo guards are popping up in the homeland. Brandon Roy certainly made waves with the way he exploded into the lottery as a senior, and you can bet that NBA types are already on the lookout for a way to emulate Portland’s good fortune. Monta Ellis’ sudden ascent into the upper echelon of the league would be another example of this type of finesse combo guard emerging in a more up-tempo NBA system.

These types of prospects are certainly emerging at the college level as well. Four of this year’s standout freshmen have already begun to stick out from the pack by playing in more of a finesse-combo vein. We are making no projection of professional effectiveness here, but simply noting common ground in terms of play style. After all, these kids have only played a handful of games each, and comparing any of the following youngsters to players like Roy or Ellis in any way would be a stretch at best. But after watching players like Roy and Ellis emerge over the past year, it is easy to see how NBA teams could be more receptive to players such as the following.

6’5 Greivis Vasquez, Maryland

We start out with the headliner from last night’s action, Venezuela native Greivis Vasquez. Vasquez had shown potential from the moment he stepped on the court for the first time, but had yet to put it all together in terms of standout production. Last night this happened, as Vasquez almost single-handedly brought the Terps back from the brink in their well-earned victory over Illinois in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Vasquez scored in about every imaginable way, knocking down a 3-pointer, breaking down Illinois’ previously stingy defense for acrobatic slashing finishes, converting on a low-block post move, and essentially sealing the game for Gary Williams with a anticipation steal and lay-in that put Maryland up by 5 with just over a minute to play.

But for all of Vasquez’s late-game heroics, Williams had to be even happier about the way his freshman stayed aggressive and turned into a leader down the stretch. He handled the ball almost flawlessly against a defense that knows how to exploit an unsteady hand, was a constant threat to dish to a cutter or lead a teammate on the fast break, and completely took charge of the Maryland offense when it was most needed. Vasquez is the type of presence Williams has lacked since the good old days of Blake, Dixon and Baxter, and everybody on the roster looks like a better player when freshman is on the court.

Vasquez isn’t ever going to be a standout athlete in the NBA, but the announcers were already making the Ginobili comparison for me. As he adds strength and continues to polish his perimeter scoring game, it is easy to see Greivis Vasquez becoming an outstanding NCAA-level player and eventually taking his game to the highest level.

6’5 Matt Bouldin, Gonzaga

If consider yourself a college basketball fan and you haven’t heard about Matt Bouldin yet, maybe you should find another hobby. He was hard to miss during Gonzaga’s Preseason NIT win over Baylor in which he dazzled Rick Majerus with a series of highlight reel passes. (Of course, this led everybody's favorite former Utah head man-turned commentantor to gush over Bouldin's passing ability every chance he got and go out of his way to compare him to Williams nearly every time he touched the ball for the rest of the game) Or maybe you just assumed that Mark Few would have another floppy-haired phenom waiting in the wings to take over for Adam Morrison, just like he has been doing since he took over at Gonzaga.

Bouldin’s talent is unmistakable, though I’m not convinced he’s deserving of the Deron Williams comparison just yet. The freshman has truly special court vision, able to see holes in the defense and hit open teammates with remarkable precision. He might deserve the title of combo guard at this moment because he isn’t exactly dictating tempo or running the team, but his ability to create for others is as good as any other guard his size in the entire country. Add on top of the size and vision an almost too good to be true shooting stroke and the quickness to break down almost any defense off the dribble, and it is clear why Bouldin has been getting so much hype.

Bouldin is still very unproven, as his scoring role within the Gonzaga offense is somewhat limited at the moment, and he certainly has the tendency to try and force the spectacular a bit too often. Still, it is easy to see why people have already penciled him in as the next basketball great to come out of Spokane.

6’3 Adrian Oliver, Washington

Oliver is the shortest of the players mentioned here, and will probably have to prove he can play the point full-time in the NBA if he wants to find success there. Nonetheless, Oliver is somewhat of a Roy lookalike and plays so much like his Husky predecessor that his inclusion in this article couldn’t be helped.

While Oliver might be the least heralded of Lorenzo Romar’s freshman fab four, he will likely have the biggest impact on UW Hoops in the long run – especially if elite prospects Spencers Hawes and Quincy Pondexter make the jumper sooner rather than later. Oliver’s frame is quite underdeveloped, but the freshman makes up for it with his versatility and feel for the game. He provides a steadying presence on a young team and the perfect contrast for sophomore speedburner Justin Dentmon as a secondary ballhandler.

Oliver had already worked his way into the regular rotation, but put in his signature breakout performance this past weekend against Rodney Stuckey and Eastern Washington. Stuckey lit up other Husky guards to the tune of 31 points on the night, but it would have been 50 if not for Oliver’s second half defense. He drew two charges on the standout scorer and would have held him scoreless for the final ten minutes of the game if not for a meaningless bucket with just seconds to play. Oliver lead a ferocious Washington rally near the end of the first half, capping off an 11-0 run by connecting on a halfcourt heave at the buzzer. On the night, he finished with career highs of 14 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals.

Adrian Oliver might not be a big name at the moment, but that is going to change as Romar’s burger boys come and go. Expect Oliver to emerge as one of the Pac-10’s best point guards early in his career.

6’6 Derrick Jasper, Kentucky

Although many in Lexington were disappointed with Tubby Smith’s 2006 recruiting effort, they can’t be too up in arms about the arrival of a top 50 guard who has been garnering comparison’s to some of the NBA’s top floor generals for two years already. Of course, those projections were made when Jasper was 6’4.

The now 6’6 Jasper probably hasn’t gotten on the court as much as a prospect of his caliber probably deserves, but this is the Smith way and the talent is still undeniable. Jasper controls the game with an unmistakably calm demeanor, a constant threat to burn a defense with a highlight-inducing bounce pass or lob. Jasper already has a rock-solid frame which makes him capable of defending three positions, and his height allows him to see over defenses in ways which very few true point guards have ever been able to. His ability to throw the post entry pass has already made Randolph Morris look like a better player.

Jasper can certainly make improvements in terms of his first step explosiveness, but he is far from slow and can probably work himself into better physical condition. Jasper will occasionally slash to the basket or take an open jumper, but scoring isn’t what makes this Kentucky sensation special.

Recent articles

Twitter @DraftExpress

DraftExpress Shop