The point guard position is one of the deepest in this year’s draft with two potential top 5 picks and as many as 10 first round hopefuls. While Exum certainly has more upside, he also has more risk. Marcus Smart has proven himself over two years against a high level of competition in NCAA and therefore gets the edge in our rankings.
Top 10 Point Guards
1. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Smart was seen as a sure fire top five pick last season, but elected to return to Oklahoma State because he had unfinished business. It looks as though that decision may have backfired as he had a rough season. Like Exum, he has excellent size for a lead guard and is capable of playing either guard spot. He stands 6-foot-3 with a very strong build that allows him to impose his physicality on opposing guards. Also like Exum, he isn’t a shooter but he will look to improve that as he develops. He always plays hard and is used to putting his team on his shoulders and carrying the load offensively. He is the rare college guard who has experience posting up his defender to utilize his strength. He will have to become a better decision maker in the NBA, as his turnover rate was high, but that’s directly related to the fact that he was asked to do so much for Oklahoma State. He was the top overall prospect in a lot of analtics rankings. One concern is his maturity after the incident last season. Most realize that he shoved a fan and while that is completely unacceptable and there is no excuse for that type of behavior, it appears to be an isolated lapse in judgment and likely won’t lower his stock as draft day approaches. Smart brings a leadership and will to succeed that is rare to find, and gives a lot of optimism about his skill development.
2. Dante Exum, Austrailia
Exum’s combination of size and speed has scouts and NBA front office personnel alike buzzing about his potential. He is 6-6 and is able to get by defenders and into the lane to create for himself and others. There simply isn’t anyone in this draft with his combination of size, strength, and ball handling skills. His first step is explosive and once he gets by the defender, it’s incredibly difficult for a shorter guard to stop him. He is a lock to be one of the top two point guards taken, and is likely going to be a top 5 pick. What makes his situation so unique is that he has all of the tools to be a great player, but NBA teams have had limited opportunities to see him in game situations against top level competition. Adding to the uncertainty about him is the fact that he hasn’t shown the ability to knockdown jump shots from outside. His lack of a consitent jumpshot could be troublesome, but he is a capable scorer and passer offensively anyway. Defensively he is capable of being a lock down defender and is able to slide over to the shooting guard position if that is what the team needs. His versatility and impressive size and skill set give him a lot of promise to fit into any team. HE shares the same agent and has made it well known that he would like to play alongside Kobe Bryant on the Lakers, but it appears pretty unlikely that he will slide to 7.
3. Elfrid Payton, Louisiana Lafayette
Many fans haven’t seen Payton play and thus, he remains almost as mysterious as Exum. Essentially, what you need to know about his game is that he is a terrific athlete that likes to get out in transition and use his athletic ability to punish opposing teams. He is just under 6-4, meaning he has the size to make life difficult for other point guards defensively. It was his responsibility to do the heavy lifting in college and so he will have to adjust his game to be more of a complimentary player, at least to begin his career. That doesn’t seem to be a major issue, though. What may worry some is his inability to shoot at a high level as his shot simply isn’t there at this point. He has patterned his game in a way that limits the amount of jump shots he takes and instead looks to get by defenders off the bounce and create offense that way, so a developing jumpshot shouldn’t cause teams to pass on the electrifying guard. Rajon Rondo had an even worse shooting impediment entering the NBA, and Payton will have shooting specialists working with him. He’s even begun to get mentions as a possible top 10 pick.
4. Kyle Anderson, UCLA
Anderson is as unique a talent as there is in this draft. He is, essentially, a point guard in a small forward’s body. His height allows him to see over defenders and make an impact on virtually all areas of the game. At the same time, he lacks the athleticism (quickness) that NBA teams typically look for. His nickname is "Slow-mo" and there is a good reason for that, he never seems to be in a hurry. Because he is such an intelligent player, he is able to pick and choose his spots where he can get into the paint against smaller, quicker defenders and then use his height to either score over the top or pass out to teammates. The first question he will have to answer in the NBA is what position he will play. At UCLA he started out playing more of a small forward role alongside Larry Drew and struggled to make the impact he expected. This past season he took on point guard responsibilities and averaged 14.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 6.5 assists per game, and his impact was huge. His ability to contribute in any area of the game was a complete game changer for UCLA, but there will be questions about how teams will matchup defensively with him on the court as he lacks the quickness to guard most point guards. His off court behavior has drawn some concern from scouts as he’s known for being a partier, which some scouts quip, "He’ll fit right into the NBA". Regardless, something that could hurt his stock some on draft night. Some NBA teams will see him as a point forward. He would still have the ball in his hands a lot and have freedom to make plays, but it’s clear he is much more comfortable in the point guard role. Anderson, more than probably any other draft prospect this year, will be a feast or famine player based off who drafts him and what kind of role that team has for him.
5. Jordan Clarkson, Missouri
Clarkson is a 6-4 combo guard who excels at getting into the mid range and paint areas and utilizing his body control. His ability to get by defenders and knockdown the mid range jumper can be devastating. One of the best things about Clarkson is that he can contribute in a number of ways, as he averaged 17.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game during his final year in college. His ability to do a number of things should allow him to find court time as a rookie. He will need to refine his jumpshot though, as he struggles to shoot it from distance. At the college level he was able to get by inferior athletes for the shot he wanted. As players play off of him and play him as a driver he will need to keep defenses honest by being able to stroke threes when needed. If he can do that he should be able to contribute. Ultimately, he has combo skills and shows excellent potential for a junior.
6. Shabazz Napier, UConn
Napier pulled his best Kemba Walker impression in leading UConn to a championship last season. Everyone knew about his ability to score the basketball from virtually anywhere on the court, but Napier played some of the best backcourt defense in the NCAA title game, against the Harrison Twins. Napier’s size, to some, could be a hindrance, but defensively he uses his size (or lack thereof) to get under opposing ball handlers, control them, and make them uncomfortable. Napier is able to get his own shot at will and can be electrifying with the ball in his hands. With that being said, he will really need to focus on improving his decision making and skills as a distributor.
7. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
Ennis came in to college a little underrated and he shined at Syracuse. His ability to get teammates involved led to him averaging five and a half assists per contest while only turning the ball over 1.7 times per game. His assist to turnover ratio is one of the things that has NBA teams buzzing about his potential at the next level. He is a cerebral player that is a true point guard capable of running an offense and leading his teammates. He inspires confidence in his team by playing with a lot of confidence regardless of the situation. With that being said, it doesn’t seem as though he has a very high ceiling. The team that drafts Ennis will be getting a true floor general that will get the team into its sets, but it appears to be a what you see is what you get situation. At 6-2, 180 pounds he has a thin frame and will be at an athletic disadvantage on a nightly basis. In addition, it will be a defensive adjustment for him after playing in Syracuse’s zone scheme. He will be a quality ball handler and distributor, but after a very good freshman campaign he may face some expectations that are unrealistic going against NBA level athletes game in and game out.
8. Vasilje Micic, Serbia
Most stateside observers are probably unfamiliar with Micic. He’s a long point guard who stands just under 6-6 and is most comfortable running the pick and roll. With the pick and roll being such a vital part of NBA offenses, this will be a big advantage for Micic. Because he lacks the elite athleticism of some of his peers he looks to work off of ball screens where he can get help to get separation from his defender and use his physicality to muscle opposing guards that can’t match his size. Defenders will likely look to go under the screen as he isn’t a very good shooter at this point in his development and can be baited into turnovers. His passing tends to be on point but because he lacks shooting range he will sometimes get into trouble as he tries to work his way into his scoring zone which results in a higher turnover rate than what you’d like to see from a point guard. With that said, his ability to run an offense at a high level and get others involved more than makes up for his lack of shooting and athleticism.
9. Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado
The most obvious thing about Dinwiddie is the fact that there are questions about how he will come back from his ACL injury. However, at 6-6 and with the ability to man either guard spot, he will get plenty of looks on draft night. He isn’t the most consistent guard in the class but he is a skilled shooter and passer that can be hurt opposing teams in both half court sets and in transition. He isn’t great at any one aspect of the game but contributes across the board and is able to fit into virtually any team or scheme easily. He would benefit from be more assertive/aggressive and looking to impose his will on games though. At Colorado it wasn’t uncommon for him to simply blend in and not be the standout at all times that he is capable of being. His blend of all around play will serve him well, but with all the tools he has you’d like to see him take it to the next level and look to be a true game changer as opposed to somebody that projects as a role player in the NBA.
10. Semaj Christon, Xavier
Christon flew under the radar playing for Xavier but projects to be a very good pro point guard. He is expected to be drafted in the late first round at earliest but could be the sleeper of the draft if he falls into the mid second round. At 6-3, 186 pounds he has a thin frame but that doesn’t stop him from being an impact player defensively. His offensive game is almost as good as he averaged 17 points and 4 assists per contest. His three point percentage of 38.8 percent isn’t bad but the fact that he shoots right around 67% from the free throw line raises some red flags about his shooting ability. In addition, he sometimes struggles to break down defenders off the dribble but will force the issue anyway as he lacks the instincts of a natural point guard. Should he develop those he could become a very good option at the point.
Deonte Burton 34149 6-1 193 PG/SG Nevada Sr., Justin Cobbs 6-2 190 PG California Sr., Bryce Cotton 6-0 165 PG Providence Sr., Aaron Craft 6-2 192 PG Ohio State Sr., Tim Frazier 6-1 165 PG Penn State Sr., Joe Jackson 6-0 170 PG Memphis Sr., DeAndre Kane 6-4 200 PG/SG Iowa St. Sr., Ian Miller 6-3 195 PG/SG Florida St. Sr., Trevor Releford 6-0 195 PG Alabama Sr., Markel Starks 6-2 165 PG Georgetown Sr., Xavier Thames 6-3 187 PG/SG San Diego St. Sr., Kendall Williams 6-3 183 PG New Mexico Sr., Scottie Wilbekin 6-3 170 PG Florida Sr., Leo Westermann 6-6 190 PG/SG KK Partizan 1992, Brandon Young 6-4 200 PG/SG DePaul Sr.