Emmanuel Mudiay, Guangdong Southern Tigers (China)/Grace Prep (Texas)
At about this time last year, point guard phenom Emmanuel Mudiay was the consensus projected #1 pick for this year’s draft. In the past year, he has undergone a bizarre saga in which he committed to play at Southern Methodist, then chose to play professionally in China for a year, instead. In China, he fell off the radar a bit as fellow graduating class members Towns and Okafor excelled stateside at their respective universities. Mudiay played only 12 games in China due to injury, but posted solid numbers, particularly for an 18-year-old playing overseas.
The fact that Mudiay fell off the radar a bit does not change who he is as a player. His combination of size, athleticism, quickness, strength, and innate point guard abilities (his vision and leadership are superb) make him into a point guard prospect the likes of which haven’t been seen since John Wall in 2010. Mudiay gets all sorts of comparisons to Wall, but, if you say that wall falls in the #5-#10 range among NBA point guards, you could argue that Mudiay has the potential to be even better. His weaknesses are incredibly few and far between and mostly deal with his shooting percentages and mechanics (which can be corrected) and his over-aggressiveness (which will likely continue to diminish with experience and maturity). Point guard isn’t the biggest need for the Timberwolves, but if a team in need of a point guard possessed the first pick (and their GM was smart), there’s no doubt in my mind that Mudiay would be the first player off the board. He has the physical and mental tools to be a once-in-a-decade-caliber point guard, and in the right situation, he will probably prove that he should’ve gone in the top two, at least, should a combination of Towns and Okafor and Russell go ahead of him.
Delon Wright, Utah
Delon Wright is an incredibly talented player who seems to have flown incredibly low under the radar this past year, which is one of the disadvantages of playing for a West Coast (sort of) school that’s not one of the perennial powerhouses (like UCLA or Gonzaga or even another one of the California-based Pac 12 schools). At first glance, Wright may appear to be an undersized shooting guard with some point guard skills, but if you really look at the kind of player he is, you see that he’s actually a legitimate point guard prospect who also has good size and shot-creating ability. His numbers were stellar across the board last season, compiling 14.5 PPG on 51% shooting, with 36% shooting from behind the arc and 84% shooting from the free throw stripe. Additionally, he posted 5.1 APG versus a mere 1.9 TOPG and 4.9RPG (which was an even more impressive 6.8 RPG two years ago). And all of this was against a pretty solid schedule all year long.
Wright isn’t the best distributor or the quickest point guard in this draft, but his size and his shot creation ability and his underrated feel for the game make him very intriguing. He stuffs the stat sheet, controls tempo, and plays solid defense, aided by the strength and size advantage he has over most point guards. We currently have him projected as the 25th pick, but he could turn out to be the #2 or #3 point guard in a class with a decent array of point guards. He could be a steal in the late first rounds.
Montrezl Harrell, Louisville
After profiling a pair of tall point guards, we take a look at a short power forward in 6’8” Montrezl Harrell. But Harrell hardly plays short. On the contrary, he has a massive 7’3” wingspan and is a devastating rebounder and dunker. He plays with a ferocity that is unique among this draft class, and it will surely allow him to be successful at the next level. His jumper has also come long way over the course of his Louisville career, turning him into more than a putback machine. But he can certainly carve out a niche for himself as a tenacious rebounder and post defender. The main selling point here is Harrell’s ridiculous wingspan, which is an extremely uncommon length for a power forward. He likely won’t sneak into the lottery, but I could see him having more longevity in the league than a lot of players in this draft.
Terry Rozier, Louisville
And here’s another of Rick Pitino’s Cardinals flying under the radar. It’s easy to write Rozier off as a somewhat inefficient undersized shooting guard. But he brings to the table a solid combination of athleticism, handles, and shooting, and his point guard skills are developing, too. His turnovers increased last season, but he still did a good job running the Cardinals offense and proved that he’s an excellent rebounding guard thanks to his elite athleticism and aggressiveness. His wingspan (6’6.5”) negates his lack of height, so he can really hold his own on defense. He’ll probably never be a star or even a long-term solution at starting point guard, but he could very well provide a spark off the bench at point guard a la Lou Williams because he can really create his own looks and also create for those around him and bring energy to the game. He’ll provide decent value in the late stages of the first round.
Travis Trice, Michigan State
This one’s a deep sleeper, and there’s a lot of flaws for critics to point out, but Travis Trice can really play. In the tournament, he absolutely balled out, carrying his team through their dry spells, all the way to the Final Four. The Spartans were one of the lower-seeded teams in the past decade to make the Final Four, and a huge part of that is owed to Travis Trice. He is listed at a Lilliputian 6’0” and 170 lbs., so right away, he sounds like a guy that could really get bullied at the next level. But Trice is such a crafty scorer and distributor that every time he stepped on the floor, the dynamic of his team’s offense changed dramatically. He can create off the dribble, he’s a great shooter, he’s a solid distributor, and all the best intangibles are there, whether it’s his basketball IQ or his leadership or his will to win. He certainly looked like the most confident player in the tournament during MSU’s Final Four run, but despite all his confidence, he doesn’t generally try to do too much. Maybe the second round is a perfect range for his skillset, but he could very well be one of the most productive and long-lasting players picked in the second round. The 6-foot listing is likely selling Trice short in a literal sense. When matching up to other prospective NBA point guards, he can certainly hold his own from a physical standpoint. But after not even receiving a combine invitation, Trice is facing an uphill battle, but for a team that wants a proven winner late in the draft, rather than European draft-and-stash player who could very well never see meaningful NBA minutes, Trice could be a great pickup. Isaiah Thomas wrote the blueprint on how to earn a place in the NBA as an undersized point guard picked late in the draft; best-case scenario for Trice: he follows a similar path and battles his way into a steady backup point guard role.