The Cavs got a nice flashback to the 1996-1997 season with this tweet about Terrell Brandon being the best point guard in the NBA, but was he?
Past, present, and future, we cover all Cleveland sports content here. While the 2020-2021 NBA season is in full swing, it’s fun to touch base with the past. Especially when it comes to point guard play, because, well, the current crop of point guard play for the Cavs isn’t great. That’s why when Today In Sports tweeted out the cover of the February 10th, 1997 edition of Sports Illustrated, which proclaimed then-Cavs guard as the best point guard in the NBA, we knew we had to comment on it.
Because he absolutely wasn’t.
First, let’s look at what Brandon put up in the 1996-97 season. He averaged 19.6 PPG, 6.3 APG while shooting 43% from the floor, 37% from three, and 90% from the free-throw line. Pretty good numbers, even today. Probably why he made his second All-Star game that season.
Brandon wasn’t the best point guard in that year, he wasn’t great defensively, and at a time when the point generated much of the offense, only averaging six assists a game wasn’t great. To be fair, he was in the discussion as a top-five point guard that year, however.
While names like Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, and others were starting to emerge at the time, it wasn’t any of them that really gets to take claim to the crown of the best point guard that year. The four names with a real claim to the crown that year were Kenny Anderson (17.5 PPG/7.1 APG), John Stockton (14.4 PPG/10.5 APG), Damon Stoudamire (20 PPG/8.8 APG), and Gary Payton (21.8 PPG/7.1 APG).
Stoudamire was young and never had another season of that caliber again, Anderson wasn’t young, and also didn’t have a season of that caliber again. Payton was the only one that got better. Stockton was the oldest but only he and Payton made the NBA All-Defensive team that year, with Payton as a first-teamer, and Stockton as a second-teamer.
So it really comes down to those two. Who was better? Well, Stockon was a better passer, but Payton was slightly better defensively. While Payton has better per-game numbers, Stockton has better splits and better offensive efficiency than Payton.
If we’re picking, and we are, the best point guard in 1996-1997 still belonged to Stockon but by an oh so very close margin.
While Brandon had a few good years in Cleveland, he wasn’t the best the league had to offer that year, nor was he the player he should’ve been. Brandon was dealt away for Shawn Kemp the following year, with Brevin Knight taking over as the team’s starting point guard. Kemp would go to one more All-Star game as a Cav, while Brandon’s career fell apart due to injury.
A sad end to a talent with such potential.