Little guards with big games

Updated: February 3, 2010, 12:24 PM ET
By Fran Fraschilla

Small guards in the NBA are like third-down backs or punt returners in football, they can help you break a game open but they will fumble a few, as well. But, at 6-foot-1 or shorter, they had better have very special basketball abilities to contribute in the land of NBA giants.

When the NBA outlawed hand-checking away from the foul lane, it allowed smaller guards to use their speed and quickness to the point that some, like superstars Chris Paul and Tony Parker, are nearly impossible to keep out of the lane. In addition, small guards can be very effective in pick-and-roll/pop situations, can create easy baskets in transition and, often, are a nuisance defensively. They can be great second-unit "tempo changers."

While nobody as good as Paul or Parker is on the horizon, there are a number of outstanding college guards who will get their chance to make teams. I'd be lying if said I knew who will. But, like the Rockets' Aaron Brooks or the Knicks' Nate Robinson, these guys play with big hearts and because of that a few of them will make NBA teams where one or two could surprise.

Here are small capsules on some small, but very talented, guards: