#FIBAAsia2015: The top five FIBA Asia point guards right now
Less than two months remain before the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship in Changsha, China. As of this writing, most of the perceived title contenders have already begun training for the all-important competition that will reward just one country with an outright berth in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
As a run-up to that tournament, I will be posting a series of articles focusing on key players with whom we need to be familiar. These range from the newcomers, the breakout ballers, the tried-and-tested veterans, the local stars, the naturalized players and the top cagers per position.
In this post, we will focus our attention on the primary playmakers – the best ones that is – in our corner of this big blue planet. We will look at a position that pretty much dictates the tempo of a game – a position on which the fortunes of a team usually hinge.
I present to you my top five FIBA Asia point guards right now:
*These rankings are based solely on my observations and analyses. I’ve only included those who have played in the 2014 FIBA World Cup or at least one of the last three major continental tournaments (2013 FIBA Asia Championship, 2014 FIBA Asia Cup, and 2014 Asian Games).
Jerry Johnson – Kazakhstan, 33 years old, 6’0
Current club & stats: BC Astana (Kazakhstan Div. 1, VTB United League, Eurochallenge): 15.4ppg, 2.0rpg, 7.0apg, 2.1 triples per game, 41.9 3pt%, 45.6 FG%, 82.8 FT%
2013 FIBA Asia Championship: 12.3ppg, 3.1rpg, 5.0apg, 1.1 triples per game, 40.0 FG%, 80.8 FT%
- When Johnson, nicknamed Triple J, played in Manila in 2013, he was nursing a shoulder injury which hampered him a little bit. Still, he played well enough to lead Kazakhstan to the quarterfinals. Johnson didn’t play in last year’s Asian Games, where the Kazakhs barged into the top four, and his presence this time around should bolster their charge even more. Together with Anton Ponomarev, Dimitriy Gavrilov, Anatoliy Kolesnikov, and Pavel Ilin, Johnson will form a solid strong five for coach Vitaliy Strebkov.
Mahdi Kamrani – Iran, 33 years old, 5’11
Current club & stats: Chongqing Soaring Dragons (CBA): newly signed
2014 Asian Games: 8.3ppg, 3.3rpg, 4.0apg, 1.6spg, 1.1 triples per game, 34.8 3pt%, 38.6 FG%, 72.7 FT%
- Iran’s former coach Memi Becirovic once quipped that Mahdi Kamrani should have been named to the 2013 All-Star Five instead of Gilas Pilipinas guard Jayson Castro. Obviously, I disagree with that, but I also know that Kamrani deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as The Blur. Kamrani has been consistently awesome for Team Melli since he started playing for the senior team way back in 2003, and, judging by how well he played in the previous CBA season (16.4ppg, 3.5rpg, 5.2apg, 2.8spg), there’s no sign that he’ll slow down.
Sam Daghles – Jordan, 35 years old, 6’5
Current club & stats: Talk N Text (PBA): 10.5ppg, 5.6rpg, 4.3apg, 1.7 triples per game, 41.3 3pt%
2012 Olympic Qualifying Tournament: 13.0ppg, 3.5rpg, 2.5apg, 2.0spg, 42.9 3pt%
- Daghles had a bit of an underwhelming stint in the PBA, but don’t let that fool you into thinking he no longer has what it takes to be a superb impact player at the continental level. On the contrary, Daghles can still hack it, and it’s reasonable to expect that he will play much better as a member of Al Nashama with the likes of Ahmad Al Dwairi, Wesam Al Sous, the comebacking Zaid Abbas, and naturalized player Alex Legion. As always, Daghles will cause a ton of match-up and change-of-pace problems for the opposition.
Yang Dong-Geun – South Korea, 33 years old, 5’11
Current club & stats: Ulsan Mobis Phoebus (KBL): 12.8ppg, 3.0rpg, 4.8apg, 1.6spg, 1.3 triples per game, 34.0 3pt%, 46.0 FG%
2014 Asian Games: 6.1ppg, 1.4rpg, 3.1apg, 1.0 triple per game, 33.3 3pt%, 45.7 FG%
- You don’t see Yang’s impact in his numbers. Instead, it’s his stabilizing presence and his experience that make him such a valuable asset to Korea. Korea’s other PGs, Kim Sun-Hyung and Kim Tae-Sul, have wider scoring repertoires, but nobody can run the Koreans’ fluid offensive patterns like Yang. He will be extra motivated to play well this year, too, given his relatively advanced age and the fact that other up-and-coming Korean playmakers are lining up to take over (e.g. Kim Si-Rae, Cheon Gi-Beom, Heo Ho-On).
Jayson Castro – Philippines, 29 years old, 5’11
Current club & stats: Talk N Text (PBA): 18.2ppg, 4.1rpg, 5.2apg, 1.2spg, 2.8 triples per game, 41.6 3pt%, 44.2 FG%, 72.6 FT%
2014 FIBA World Cup: 6.5ppg, 1.3apg, 1.3 triples per game, 35.7 3pt%
- An ankle injury severely limited Castro in the 2014 World Cup, but he bounced back really strong in the 2014-2015 PBA season and helped lead TNT in claiming the 2015 Commissioner’s Cup crown. Much will be expected from him in the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship, especially since his two main running mates from the past two years — LA Tenorio and Paul Lee — have both begged off from national duty. Needless to say, even with Andray Blatche in tow for Gilas Pilipinas, Castro will need to be in peak form for the Filipinos to have even a sliver of a chance to book that elusive Olympic berth.
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