Toni Kukoc was a versatile player, a 6’10” forward who played the three and the four but on the court was often more of a ballhandling guard that Phil Jackson and other coaches could plug into different roles. Whatever needed to be done to beat a team, Kukoc could help do it.
Kukoc likes that versatility in other players, too.
He took part in an AMA on Reddit and was asked who his current favorite playmaker is, and he gave an astute answer.
“Basketball doesn’t require a playmaker anymore, somebody that you always look for that has to bring the ball up the floor. In this era, there’s so many players with multiple skills, that it’s almost a waste of time to look for the playmaker when someone can push the ball and get into the offense.
“Plenty of times LeBron is mistaken as a point guard, which is awesome. Kevin Durant, to me in my personal opinion, is the best player in the NBA. He can easily bring the ball up the floor. That’s a style that the triangle offense allowed that any one of us could run the point or be a post person or fill the corners. It’s not requirement to have a point guard, you can have skill players with 3 or 4 guys on the same team playing multiple positions.”
Kukoc is right.
I would put a slight caveat on that, saying Kevin Durant was the best player in the NBA for a few seasons before he tore his Achilles and missed this past season (don’t expect him back until next season). Whether he will be the best when he returns remains to be seen. However, for the two seasons before that, Durant was the best player on the Warriors and for two straight Junes outplayed LeBron James in the Finals. In critical moments he would guard LeBron and did it well. Durant was the best player on the game’s biggest stages and had earned the title best in the NBA (and world).
For that matter, Kukoc is right about how the game has evolved, the idea of a classic playmaking guard isn’t dead but it’s not critical to an offense anymore. The triangle offense was ahead of its time in that way; it didn’t want or need a pure point guard — Derek Fisher thrived in the system, Gary Payton chaffed against it — it wanted versatile players. Scottie Pippen brought the ball up a lot. So did Kukoc and Jordan. It was situational, and the guards — Ron Harper, John Paxson, Steve Kerr, B.J. Armstrong, or whoever — had to be able to work off the ball.