Playmaker By Definition

Eric Rodas
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We hear the term “playmaker” thrown around today with regards to describing a player’s creative attributes. It has become a generic definition used with seemingly no true understanding of what this phrase completely entails. In this article, I will attempt to give you a quick structural breakdown of what to look for when utilizing the moniker “playmaker” from the lens of an analytical, old-school eye.

Playmaker– one who has the ability to create within the structure of the offense, or outside of it, in order to provide specific scoring opportunities for his/her teammates as well as himself/herself when the opponent’s defense has disrupted the natural tendencies of said offensive system or design.

When specifically describing the point guard position in basketball, this idea gets actualized by way of creating scoring opportunities, controlling the pace of the game and ball distribution in its simplicity. The details of these actions are what separates true playmakers from overhyped ball hogs, floor generals from control freaks and lastly but most importantly, wins from losses.

Creating scoring opportunities is a true art form in the able hands of a genuine playmaker. First, they have to wrap their mind around the difference between scoring and shooting. Scoring would imply accumulating points while shooting denotes attempts at collecting points.

In this state of mind, the objective becomes crystal clear as to who needs the ball, where they need the ball and by what means this should occur. Knowing their teammates specific skill-sets is a major factor in their decision making process.

Utilizing this knowledge to produce genuine scoring opportunities by way of timely pass fakes, intelligent use of the dribble and visualizing multiple passing angles is paramount. This thought process allows for the ability to establish set principles in order to develop continuity of scoring. Consistent scoring leads to wins.

The term “pace of the game” refers to the ever-changing momentum of the contest that facilitates scoring opportunities for either team. A playmaker can always identify this situation and will assert whatever circumstances favors their current lineup.

This comes by virtue of knowing when to push the pace, slow down the tempo, force one-on-one action or initiate more ball movement. It should always be a given that the genuine playmaker continues to probe their opponent’s defense for weaknesses to exploit.

Time management, especially in the waning moments of the game, should be dictated by rock solid decision making and not these contrived hero ball antics of late.

Although ball distribution should be a given when it comes to playmaking, it’s really the mantra behind why you are distributing the ball that should count.This detail becomes skewed by the stat line in the box score.

Ball distribution has a way of empowering teammates by keeping them involved in the offensive part of the competition. To quote Mike D’Antoni, “The ball has energy.” Whether you’re making the extra pass that leads to the assist, initiating the offense, or recognizing a mismatch, these exchanges play a big role when it comes to developing a level of trust towards the playmaker.

In today’s league that’s saturated with a variation of shoot first and dribbling exhibitionists, it becomes very difficult to identify any of the aforementioned attributes. Stat lines have become the bottom line when it comes to defining the playmaker role.

When did achieving a triple-double stat line in the box score become more important than the win? How is a player’s turnover-to-assist ratio better than a team victory?

One would argue that these statistical feats should contribute to winning. It should be a by-product of chasing the victory.

During the “Golden Era” of the 1980’s, one thing remained perfectly clear, whether you made the winning play or not, the intentions behind your efforts where absolutely apparent and discernible. Stay woke my people.

Eric Rodas

Los Angeles, California

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