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Tall point guards are the future of basketball

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Class of 2016 high school stars De'Aaron Fox and Troy Brown are the latest in an emerging line of oversized playmakers that will soon take over the highest levels of the game.

Troy Brown posing at Adidas Nations in Houston
Troy Brown posing at Adidas Nations in Houston
Kelly Kline/Getty Images

The tall point guard has long been one of the NBA's great outliers. From Oscar Robertson in the 1960s to Magic Johnson in the 80s, floor generals with the size of a wing but the feel of a lead guard have always felt ahead of their time. Players like Penny Hardaway and Shaun Livingston carried the archetype into the modern era, but they were consistently more of an exception than the rule.

That's not the case anymore. Four of the seven point guards taken in the first round of the 2015 draft measured at least 6'5. While the rest of the league seems to be downsizing, point guards keep growing bigger and bigger.

De'Aaron Fox and Troy Brown have noticed the trend. As two of the top point guard recruits in the country, both were invited to Chicago this weekend to compete at the Nike Global Challenge. Along with five-star class of 2016 recruits Kobi Simmons and Lonzo Ball, Fox and Brown are part of a pack of young players making tall point guards the new normal.

"I started off as a (power forward) because I'm used to being a lot taller than most kids," said Brown. "Growing up in Vegas there's not a lot of height, so I would play center, too. But as I grew up, I had more ball handling skills than most players so I kind of grew into the position. Eventually coaches started trusting what I can do with the ball."

Don't let Brown fool you with the past tense when he talks about growing up. The 6'6 point guard won't even turn 16 years old until the end of the month. Playing for the Las Vegas Prospects on Nike's EYBL tour, he averaged 14.6 points and 3.6 assists per game as one of the youngest players on the circuit.  Right now, he's a consensus top 10 recruit in the class of 2017.

As Mike Krzyzewski, Tom Izzo and just about every other high-profile college basketball coach in the country looked on, Brown flashed his long-term potential on Thursday afternoon. He finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists in the win over the Dominican Republic. Brown has a long way to go just like anyone his age (first order: developing a consistent jump shot), but his combination of size and feel for the game already has him on DraftExpress' radar.

Reminder: this is a 15-year-old point guard standing next to DeAndre Jordan:

TB&DJ ..... @deandrejordan6

A photo posted by Troy Brown (@troybrown.jr) on


Fox is a year older and has been spending his summer proving he belongs among the elite talents at the top of the class of 2016. After a dominant effort last weekend at Peach Jam, the only question is how high he should move up the rankings.

Fox is currently sitting on the fringe of the top 10 in his class according to most recruiting services, but he looks like the total package for a point guard. At 6'4, he's blessed with both great speed in the open floor and tremendous vision. Playing for Houston Hoops on the Nike circuit, Fox led the EYBL in assists at 5.4 per game and averaged 20 points over six games at Peach Jam.

Fox and Brown represent different ends of the point guard spectrum offensively. While Brown is a classic pass-first point guard who prefers getting his teammates involved early and often, Fox isn't shy about looking for his own offense.

"I'm always in attack mode," Fox said. "Playmaking comes from me attacking. Once I'm attacking and scoring a lot, teams start to focus in on me and then I can distribute more."

Fox said he patterns his game after Russell Westbrook (a more accurate comparison might be Jrue Holiday), while Brown compared himself to Penny Hardaway, a player who was drafted six years after he was born. At this point, Livingston or Michael Carter-Williams might be a more realistic comp, but don't take that as a slight to his upside.

The one thing Fox and Brown do have in common: both take enormous pride in their defense. As tall point guards, Brown and Fox have been coached to use their size to their advantage.

"I guard the 1-2-3 in high school, and probably college, too." Fox said. "NBA wise, I'll be able to guard the two guard spots and maybe some (small forwards). Being tall and quick, you can still guard a smaller point guard or a bigger wing."

Neither player has released a final list of college choices yet, but Fox's biggest suitors are reportedly Texas, Kansas and Louisville, while Brown is drawing interest from Duke, Kentucky, Kansas and UNLV. It might sound presumptuous for an incoming high school senior like Fox to already be talking about how many positions he'll be able to defend in the NBA, but you can't blame the kid for paying attention to the way the league is trending.

With more teams looking for size in the backcourt and all of the new money flowing into the NBA, one thing is for sure: there's never been a better time to be a tall, talented point guard.

★★★

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