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Jamel Artis: Pros & Cons of Playing Point Guard

The Pittsburgh Panthers are still searching for answers at point guard. What are the pros and cons of giving Jamel Artis the keys to the offense?

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

There is plenty of buzz around new head coach Kevin Stallings taking over the program after 17 successful years under Jamie Dixon. Still, the departure of former point guard James Robinson has perhaps generated even more discussion. It’s somewhat unfortunate that the conversation isn’t about how great Robinson was for the Pittsburgh Panthers. Instead, there’s a glaring hole at the floor general position that everyone seems to have an opinion on who’s going to fill it.

The up-tempo style of play that Stallings is trying to install would seem to favor all three of the "traditional" point guards on the roster. Sophomore Damon Wilson is very much unproven, but Dixon once lauded Wilson for how dynamic he was in transition in high school. Junior Jonathan Milligan has the type of suddenness that tends to shine at a faster pace. Perhaps newcomer Justice Kithcart can carry over his stellar play from the Pittsburgh Pro-Am (virtually impossible against actual defenses). With all that said if Tuesday’s workout was any indication, senior "forward" Jamel Artis seemingly has the edge. He even told the media, "I’m the point guard."

While the first official practice begins today, let’s quickly go over the pros and cons of Artis playing point guard.


Artis is probably the best passer currently on the roster. Couple that with the fact he has a developed chemistry with everyone that he’ll log major minutes with, presumably, and it’s easy to see why this is a somewhat logical choice.

Going up-tempo should allow Artis to make passes in transition and against defenses that aren’t set. In those situations, there is less creation involved and more about just naturally playing to his abilities. I’d imagine that another capable ball handler will be on the court with Artis, which will also alleviate some of the ball handling duties.

At a listed 6’7", his size presents a lot of problems to smaller players who try to defend him. Artis will enjoy unobscured vision against the smaller players, and maintain a quickness advantage against most opposing frontcourt players. Teams will definitely have to create a unique game plan against Pitt, which will is a nice subtle advantage, potentially.


Personally, it’s not exactly ideal that Artis is the team’s best passer, because he’s also their most natural scorer. Striking a balance between when to pass and when to score isn’t an easy one to find for a lot of players. There were times last season that it appeared as those he was still adjusting to being the top player listed on opposing scouting reports, as well as being out on the perimeter even more. This season, he’ll have to be even more comfortable in that role along with setting up his teammates.

Half-court offense will still account for a majority of the points that the Panthers score. How accustom will Artis be at resetting plays? Will he naturally get his teammates to stay active, and swing the ball to open players based off their movement? How patient will Artis be for players who are denied a first look for an open pass, but then fight for a second one? Basically, this feeds into my first point, but to a greater degree.

If you go with Artis at the point, does this shatter the confidence of Wilson and Kithcart? I think Milligan is best suited as a rotation player who can provide a lot of energy off the bench. However, there’s been a lot of speculation as to whether Wilson should move off the ball. True point guards don’t want to give up the ball or the leadership role. As an incumbent player who probably knows the history of recent point guards who’ve been handed the keys to the car once the player in front of them graduates, this could really damage him mentally. Kithcart is a true freshman, but seems like a hungry player who should push for playing time right away. Are you stunting his growth by pushing him further down the depth chart by starting Artis?

Of course there are several other pros and cons, and that’s what’s so fascinating about the prospect of Artis being the starting point guard this season. Pitt could easily start any of the aforementioned point guards, but simply put the ball in his hands more than anyone else. Still, it would be a somewhat flashy move by Stallings that shows everyone he isn’t afraid to think outside the box and utilize his players to their fullest.

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