• Gregory Alcala

Top 5 Point Guards in the NBA Draft

D Russell UST.jpg

*Photo via USA Today

It’s that time of the year again. It’s that time of the year again when it’s time for the NBA to award the franchises that showcase the best of the most inept: Draft Time. And it starts tonight with the NBA’s Draft Lottery, brought to you by ESPN.

Every year’s crop is different. In 2014, two dynamic small-forwards in Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker occupied the headlines as one projected as a project while the other provided a ready-now all-around game. Fast-forward, Wiggins won the NBA’s rookie of the year while Parker tore his ACL in December, ending his rookie season, very early. Bottom line, no one knows what will become of these young hopefuls of Basketballs tomorrow but it sure is necessary for teams to analyze and do their homework up until June 25th (NBA Draft held at Barclays Center), to prepare to hit a home-run opposed to a strikeout.

This year, two big’s in Jahlil Okafor and Karl Anthony-Towns, formerly of Duke University and the University of Kentucky, respectively, are the center of attention (no pun intended), expected to go one and two, however you want to flip them. But there are two guards near the top of the draft boards that also command the respect of Okafor and Towns. Although there are giants in the NBA today that are worth influencing the league (Anthony Davis, Demarcus Cousins, Marc Gasol…etc), that job belongs to the floor generals. It will always be the most important position on the floor and in this year’s draft, there are five prospects at the point that teams lacking a pg, will want to get their hands on.

1.PG/SG - D’Angelo Russell – Ohio State

“I’m the best player in the Draft,” Russell said at the NBA Draft Combine over the weekend, when asked by a reporter,” Why Should an NBA Team Draft You?” Can you imagine how many times this social media moment created by Russell will be replayed if he indeed becomes the player the Draft experts believe he will be in the future? According to an in-depth scouting report courtesy of SB Nation, Russell is being compared to the likes of Manu Ginobili, Steph Curry and James Harden. I’ll take those odds. Russell entered his freshman year at the Ohio State University as the 13th best prospect in all of college basketball.

Now he’s entering the NBA, one-year later as a top-5 draft pick. And Russell did it all by leading the Buckeyes, as a freshman, in points (19.3) and rebounds (5.7). But the reason why scouts are gushing about Russell going forward is his elite ability as a playmaker, more than capable of playing the one. Russell averaged (5.0) assists during his freshman season, and due to his also elite ball-handling, stole the pg duties away from senior pg, Shannon Scott on most nights.

I don’t think you understand, you need to see these passes for yourself to understand: https://vine.co/v/OIDjZtqhvzl,

, If you need more proof, look at what he was able to do, distributing the ball here against Rutgers

. In addition, Russell is 6’5, having the NBA size that qualifies for a pg nowadays and could provide many advantages, height wise against most of the NBA pg’s. And we can’t forget about the sweet shooting stroke as a lefty.

Russell’s shot is Curry like, in the fact that he gets rid of the ball quickly with a high-release point-and a textbook follow-through. If there was any weakness to Russell’s game it would be that same size. At 6’5, Russell weighs only 180 pounds, and in the pros, it will do Russell’s body good to add 20-30 pounds of muscle to finish inside with the contact he will most definitely endure when attacking the basket. I can talk about Russell all day long, and I will conclude with one more statement: Russell accepted being the man at Ohio State as a freshmen and led that team to a 24-11 record, making the big dance, handling it with tremendous poise. It says a lot about his maturity, then just an 18-year old.

2.PG – Emmanuel Mudiay – China

Emmanuel Mudiay was in the same HS hoops class with Russell, and instead of playing for former NBA head coach, Larry Brown at SMU, Mudiay chose the Brandon Jennings route. Due to family personal obligations, Mudiay took his talents to China, playing in the CBA for the Guangdong Southern Tigers, where he signed a one-year $1.2 million dollar contract. “I was tired of seeing my mom struggle,” Mudiay said regarding his decision to forgo college.

“After sitting down with my coach, coach Brown, and my family, we decided that the best way for me to provide for my mom is to forgo college and pursue professional basketball opportunities.” And that’s the mind of a then 18-year old. Once upon a time, Mudiay was the 5th rated prospect in the ESPN recruiting nation while Russell was ranked 13th.

Forgoing a College career has limited the amount of criticism aimed at Mudiay and even still is recognized as a top-5 pick. That means something. In China, Mudiay averaged 18.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists in 12 games total, limited due to injuries. If I were to profile Mudiay’s game, I’d say he’s out of the John Wall, Russell Westbrook School of basketball.

He can push the pace and go end to end while dazzling the crowd. He has the athleticism to get you out of your seats. He has the ball-handling and create-off-the-dribble skills that will qualify for social media play. And he has the size (6’5) and weight (200) that will translate well at the next level, open for development.

What he doesn’t have is the jump-shot. Mudiay shot 57% from the free throw line for the season which doesn’t translate to the best shooter at all. Mudiay also has to master the half-court offense like he’s mastered the fast-break and improve his offensive awareness-when to attack and when to dish. And of course, be committed to the other side of the ball, defense. Mudiay is raw but has the physical makeup and skills of a star at the next level. It will take time just like it took Wall and Russell, but once he’s there, he will be box office material.

3.PG – Tyus Jones – Duke

Not many 18-year-olds can step into “The Triangle” of what is NC State, Duke University and the University of North Carolina and have immediate success, but that’s what Tyus Jones did during his one year as a blue devil. He defied the odds, won the national championship as the starter, making the fab five and Kentucky’s 2012 team proud in proving once again that freshmen can still get it done. And Jones did it as a floor general, in the true definition of the word.

Jones can control a game and do everything that you would need a PG to do. Despite his miniature 6’1 stature, Jones plays big. In all honesty, Jones is probably the best pure point guard in the draft. For Coach K, Jones let it all hangout, averaging 11.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 5.6 assists, but the stats don’t do Jones justice.

Jones play forced a senior, Quinn Cook to play the two guard, wrap your head around that. And in the tournament Jones value escalated to a first-rounder. Big-shot after big-shot, clutch free-throw shooting Jones executed and saved his best performance for last.

In the national title game against a goliath in Wisconsin, the no.1 seed, Jones scored 23 points on 7-13 shooting, connecting on all seven free throw attempts and grabbing five rebounds. Yes, Jones had a Justise Winslow to pass the ball, the projected no.1 overall pick in Okafor to throw the ball to down-low and a Grayson Allen who made a name for himself on the biggest stage possible, but Jones led this group to the promise land. Not only did Jones excel at the collegiate level, but he showed me something that you can’t teach or coach and that is heart, while also possessing the toughness to withstand the blows that come and calm his troops.

If Jones had a weakness, it would be his height and size. At 6’1 and only 190, Jones will have to fill out his frame to hold his own with some of the bigger stronger guards in the league, and the athletes that occupy the one position in the association could spell trouble for Jones defensively. Jones reminds me of Mike Conley, the pg for the Memphis Grizzlies so, in other words, you’re getting a player that will do the right thing, always.

4.PG-Jerian Grant-Notre Dame.

Leading the Irish’s resurgence, presents Jerian Grant. Grant is one of four brothers who all play basketball, either professionally or at the college ranks. Sources report that the youngest Grant, Jaelin, who is currently playing for DeMatha Catholic High School in Maryland might be the best of all three brothers, but it will be difficult to top what Jerian accomplished this year for the Irish.

In possibly the best Notre Dame team ever assembled including Zach Auguste, Demetrius Jackson, Pat Connaughton and Steve Vasturia, who all had their moments, Jerian starred and flourished under head coach Mike Brey, spearheading an offensive attack that won the ACC Tournament and made it to the Elite 8 of the big dance, losing to the Wildcats in a matchup for the ages. In that game Grant scored 15 points along with 6 assists, near his regular-season average of 16.5 ppg and 6.7 assists, but unfortunately, it was not enough to derail an unbeaten Kentucky team at the time. Like Russell and Mudiay, Grant is a big guard at 6’5 and 202 pounds.

Grant can see over defenses which gives him an edge passing wise and finishing at the rim when he elevates. Grant is crafty as a ball-handler, attacks the rim with consistency and has a knack for converting ridiculous shots and big shots when his team needs it the most. In other words, Grant rises to the occasion.

Against ranked opponents last year, Grant averaged 15 points and seven assists and in three over-time games versus-Michigan State, Georgia Tech and NC State-Grant scored 27, 24 and 25, respectively, all wins. Grant is lanky, wiry which gives him the ability to slip through the cracks and penetrate the lane which can result in a double-digit scorer as a rookie with the trips to the line he will receive. And on defense, Grant has the long arms to get into the passing lanes to disrupt offenses, rack up steals and take it the other way.

As far as weaknesses go, Grant needs to improve his three-point shot. This past year, Grant hit 31 percent of his treys and will have to develop a consistent jump-shot at the next level. If he can do that and add some muscle, Grant, in-time can develop into one of the best two-way players in the league.

5.PG-Quinn Cook-Duke

Jones wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the success he had without the guidance of Quinn Cook. Cook is a four-year player and ended his career at Duke on an incredible high, leaving as a champion. And he earned it.

Cook will be undervalued in this draft because he played in Jones’s shadow or have the explosiveness of a Mudiay or the flashy-ness of a Russell, but what he does have is the brains of a steady and solid floor general. The stats won’t jump out at you, but Cook played his role to the best of his ability and came up huge when his number was called. In the 39-game season, Cook scored 15+ points in 24 of those games which includes an 8-1 record against ranked opponents. Cook has the leadership qualities that a front office would want in its point guard and I believe that Cook’s stats although solid don’t nearly illustrate the kind of impact he can have on a young franchise moving forward.

Cameron Payne out of Murray State is beginning to shoot up the draft boards who could be the Damian Lillard of this draft. Andrew Harrison’s game I believe is better suited for the pros alleviating the subpar two years he enjoyed at Kentucky. Delon Wright (Utah) and Terry Rozier (Louisville) are also intriguing pg prospects. But you never know who will emerge and separate themselves until the 2015-16 NBA season begins. Until then, the NBA Draft, scheduled to arrive June 25th is the first order of business and for now, let’s all enjoy the final four of what is the 2015 NBA Playoffs.

#NBA #NBADraft #Prospect