If there was a year to desperately seek out backcourt help, or exclusively a point guard, this is the one. This year’s class has plenty of dynamic ball-handlers, defenders, shooters, and playmakers, or all of the above, who can play the point and play it well. We could see as many as nine first round point guard selections and at least three of them will go in the lottery, including a consensus number one overall selection in Cade Cunningham. Here, we will break down our top 10 point guards for this year’s class and delve into the strengths, weaknesses, and potential fits for each of the ten draft hopefuls who will hear their name called in two short weeks.
1. Cade Cunningham, 6-8 220 Oklahoma State Cowboys
Cunningham is a consensus number-one pick for a reason, and he showed why throughout the entire college basketball season as he carried the Cowboys to a Big-12 Championship and a #4 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The 6’8 standout boasts length, physicality, creativity, and most impressively, shooting at the young age of 19. He also proved again and again that he has that killer instinct as the game is winding down. That’s something you cannot teach and an underrated trait to have in a young prospect who will become the face of your franchise.
Unless Detroit trades out of the top spot, with heavy interest coming from the two teams below them, Cunningham will become the new face of the Pistons looking to turn around a franchise desperate to relive the glory days of the late 80s and mid 2000s. The emergence of Jerami Grant, as well as the impressive debut seasons for Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart, should surround him with some young weapons who could bring Detroit to the playoffs as early as next season. To unlock everything that Cunningham can be, now and in the future, Troy Weaver still has plenty of more work to do, but the addition of the former Cowboy is a huge step in the right direction for Dwayne Casey and the Pistons.
2. Jalen Suggs, 6-4 205 Gonzaga Bulldogs
The two-sport high school sensation looks to have selected the right sport as he is almost guaranteed to fall within the top five selections when the NBA Draft comes around. The half-court shot to send Gonzaga to the National Championship ensured everyone in the country would know his name, but his status of a top-five pick was secured far before that. Suggs drives with tremendous speed and ferocity, but he is even better at finding the open man when he does so. He shot the ball decently well from distance, but touch and consistency are slightly concerning. What he loses with this inconsistent shot making, he makes up for with his competitiveness and creativity with the ball in his hands.
The ideal fit in the top-five in my opinion would be the Toronto Raptors. The city would rally around him and there are plenty of players around him who he could make look that much better. There is a lot of pressure on the shoulders of Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet, but Suggs could take control of the offense and allow these two to play their own styles rather than being forced to take over on their own, which they found themselves doing quite often last season.
3. Davion Mitchell, 6-1 200 Baylor Bears
One of my favorite prospects to watch throughout the college basketball season was Davion Mitchell. The Bears had a three-headed monster in the backcourt, but Mitchell always stood out the most to me. He was able to disrupt and shut down every single player he was matched up against and also impact the game on offense on any given possession. His quickness and interior finishing set him apart from the other two guards in his backcourt, and he also has the ability to knock down threes from any spot on the floor.
Mitchell is likely to fall inside the top 10, but he is essentially a lock to be drafted inside the lottery if he drops outside this range. Given this projection, I think Mitchell would flourish with the New Orleans Pelicans. They are a team that is desperately in need of a lockdown defender and adding another explosive slasher alongside Zion Williamson will create matchup nightmares for on ball defenders across the league. With Lonzo Ball potentially on the way out the door, Mitchell will fill an immediate need and could be the missing piece who could lift the Pelicans to the playoffs for the first time since 2018.
4. Nah'Shon Hyland, 6-3 170 VCU Rams
One of the biggest winners of the NBA Draft Combine was Nah’Shon Hyland due to his massive 6’9 measured wingspan and impressive display during the first scrimmage. Hyland looks to provide instant impact off the bench for a contending team, whether it is on the offensive or defensive end. He is skilled enough and disruptive enough to earn a living on either end of the floor and provide a boost in the backcourt for a team who desperately needs it.
With Spencer Dinwiddie out the door in Brooklyn and few pieces that are built for the future, I love the idea of Hyland stepping into a Nets uniform and providing influential minutes off the bench while being groomed for a larger role when their Big Three heads their separate ways. The former Rams star is fully capable of taking on any role, whether it is a spot-up shooter, a pesky defender, or a shot-creator for the superstars around him. Hyland has raised his status to a first-round projection in recent weeks and has all of the tools to be a star in this league at some point in his career.
5. Miles McBride, 6-2 195 West Virginia Mountaineers
Another player who is seeing their stock rise recently is another sophomore standout in Miles McBride. His role expanded from impact bench player to starting point guard and leading scorer from his freshman year to his sophomore year and he looks to be a first-round pick because of it. McBride is a pure shooter who averaged over 15 points per game in a competitive Big-12 conference while shooting over 41% from distance and 81% from the free-throw line.
“Deuce” is only 6’2, but a near 6’9 wingspan turned some heads at the NBA Combine and many believe that this length, combined with his fierce competitiveness and motor, will cause fits for opposing guards trying to hang with him on both ends of the floor. McBride could have a similar impact to Immanuel Quickley coming into the league and if he is placed on a competitive team like the Lakers who could use some backcourt depth, McBride could find himself on the All-Rookie team when all is said and done a year from now.
6. Joel Ayayi, Gonzaga Bulldogs
Ayayi is the second Bulldog on this list and while he is nowhere near the same player as Jalen Suggs, he found a way to impact the game just as much in his Gonzaga uniform. Ayayi shoots more naturally than Suggs and benefited quite often from his playmaking ability by finding himself wide-open for long-range jumpers. At 6’5, Ayayi is more of a combo guard than a natural point guard, but he is more than up to the task of creating shots for others considering he averaged nearly three assists per game in an offense where he was rarely asked to initiate.
The Jazz have a dynamic backcourt with scorers and shooters, but they lack the type of defensive nastiness that Ayayi could bring off the bench. Mitchell and Clarkson are far from great defenders and with Mike Conley heading towards free agency, Quin Snyder needs somebody to fit his defensive style in the backcourt, even if it is just a player like Ayayi who fights and disrupts for 15 minutes per game off the bench.
7. Jared Butler, Baylor Bears
We now have our second Baylor Bear on this list as well. Do you see why these two teams were in the National Championship now? The argument for Butler is simple. He is a winner. The two-way star lifted Baylor to a 54-6 record the last two seasons with a National Championship coming in the second year. Butler shoots the lights out, leads with tenacity, shuts down opposing stars, and creates for the guys around him. He can play with any style of guard in the backcourt alongside him and find a way to separate himself from the guys around him and do so while playing unselfishly. He is just one of those guys you want in your locker room and leading your team.
I love the fit of this guy playing in a huge market like Philadelphia and winning over the fans with his gutsy performances and microwave shooting. They already have a boatload of point guards on the roster, but Butler is one of those guys who is impossible to pass up on when you are an organization who desperately wants to win and cannot find a way to do so. I could see Butler turning this team around from day 1 and the Philly faithful will welcome a national champion with open arms and a smile.
8. Tre Mann, 6-4 180 Florida Gators
Similar to Hyland and McBride, Tre Mann needed a second season to prove what he can do, and it certainly worked out for the best. The Florida star shot 46/40/83 splits while averaging 16 points per game with five rebounds and three assists per game. Mann simply knows how to run an offense and do it effectively in a variety of ways. He is capable of taking over on his own and drilling threes over tight defense, dribbling around defenders and making the correct read to spot-up shooters, or attacking the basket on his own and getting to the line.
The former Gator translates as a spark plug initiator and could flourish in a role with the Clippers who shoot the lights out from beyond the arc. Mann could come right off the bench and create opportunities for the sharpshooters around him while also keeping defenders honest enough where they have to recognize his own threat of attacking the hoop or creating enough separation to take a three of his own.
9. Sharife Cooper, 6-1 180 Auburn Tigers
Everyone loves to use the term sparkplug to define a lot of the late first-round or second-round picks to assess their immediate value, but Cooper is the definition of a sparkplug by every definition of the word. The short, energetic ball of energy for the Auburn Tigers started the season late but roared onto the scene in the 12 games he was able to play in the Orange and Blue. A 20-point scorer and even better facilitator and passer, Cooper earned all-SEC Freshman honors and catapulted himself into first-round discussion in such a short time. The criticisms of his game are his size, inability to shoot threes and his tendency to turn the ball over, but he has plenty of time to develop and his radiating energy and impact is undeniable.
Cooper is built for the role of a star and will need the time to develop to prove so. This is why I see him being drafted by a rebuilding team who can allow him to make mistakes and grow in a low-pressure situation early in his career. The Rockets, Thunder, and Magic could all take a chance on this kid because he is one of the biggest boom-or-bust prospects in this year’s class and these teams could see him as a shot worth taking. Regardless of his immediate success, Cooper should find a role with a team, at minimum as a back up, perhaps similar to what Jalen Brunson brings the Mavericks.
10. Daishen Nix, 6-4 225 G-League Ignite
Nix is a tall, facilitating guard who took his talents as a five-star recruit to the G-League Ignite along with Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga. Nix stands at 6’5 and is mostly known for his playmaking ability and final pass. He boasted an impressive AST/TO ratio and final pass. He boasted an impressive AST/TO ratio at the professional level with over 5 assists compared to only 2.9 turnovers in just 26 minutes per game against stiff G-League competition.
Nix would do well to find himself on a team with good players around him as he would bring out the best in those around him. He is able to lift players up due to his creative playmaking ability, but the best situation for him is on a contending team that will not skip a beat with a change at point guard as long as there are other players surrounding him who can execute on opportunities created by Nix.