Brian Patrick

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NBA Draft Point Guard Rankings

Friday, June 9, 2017


This year’s point guard class is stacked compared to most years, and the potential is big with five point guards expected to be picked in the lottery alone, and a handful of solid options throughout the rest of the draft.

 

While big on potential, I wouldn’t expect anyone of the list, other than potential top pick Fultz, to make an immediate impact.

 

The players are listed in order of how I see these players ranked in ability and long-term NBA potential, though much of it will end up mirroring my next mock draft coming soon. The player breakdowns are far from complete, but a quick glance at the top pluses and minuses affecting each player. 

 

 

Markelle Fultz, Freshman, Washington, 6’4, 195 – It’s tough to argue with the numbers Fultz put up as a freshman, averaging over 23 points, plus 6 rebounds and 6 assists per game, along with over a steal and a block per game. Like Ben Simmons the year before, Fultz looked for a situation where he would be the dominant player, and also like Simmons, the team was awful. The story of Fultz’s late rise in high school is well-known by now, which makes the polish on many parts of his game so impressive. He may not be the classic definition of a point guard, but Fultz’s ability to shoot (41-percent from three), penetrate, and either find an open teammate or finish at the rim, fit well in today’s NBA. He’s competent in the pick-and-roll, and his assist number would have been higher if he had the teammates of some of the others on this list. Defensively, Fultz was often missing-in-action, but he also was capable of some spectacular plays, whether jumping passing lanes or chasing down what looked like easy two points for blocks. This list may have a lot of talent on it, but Fultz is a level above everyone on it, and it would be stunning to see him not go number one in the draft.

 

De’Aaron Fox, Freshman, Kentucky, 6’3, 171 – Another year, another Kentucky point guard going to be drafted in the first round, though Fox may as much potential as any of them since John Wall. The lefty may not have a strong build, but he uses his speed and footwork to get to the rim, where almost half of his shots last season came. Fox is at his best in the open floor, where his speed allows him to force defenders to make quick, often wrong, choices, but he has shown enough control to run the offense well in the half-court, even if he doesn’t have the pick-and-roll skill that others on this list have already. He uses a great first step and speed burst to beat defenders without screens, showing good body control, even if he can find himself stuck by not seeing what’s ahead of him. The one major knock you’ll keep hearing about Fox is his jumper, which was a mess last season, hitting less than 25-percent from three-point range. He showed a bit more ability off the dribble in mid-range, but still not very good. Where Fox will make an impact immediately is on the defensive end, showing great fundamentals and awareness to go with his speed and movements. Don’t be surprised if you see Fox go as high as number two in the draft, with his defensive ability making a major difference.

 

Lonzo Ball, Freshman, UCLA, 6’6, 190 – Every season tends to bring a player or two who divide the experts on their abilities and potential, but rarely do we see a player who has also caused a rift based on the bizarre rantings of his father. For now, we won’t worry about the damage LaVar might do to how teams view Lonzo. While given a lot of credit for UCLA’s explosive offense this year, coach Steve Alford also gave him the perfect system for his strengths. At 6’6, Ball has great size for the position, and his vision and passing ability is unmatched in this year’s group. He is very good pushing the ball in the open floor, showing tremendous touch on all kinds of passes. UCLA didn’t run much pick-and-roll last year, and his decisions were not always great when he tried, though I’d expect him to eventually do well there. Ball’s jump shot will also be the most talked about in this draft, with a motion that looks like he will hurt himself every time he shoots, but he still hit over 41-percent from three, though he does need time and space to get his funky delivery off. Ball’s length is a benefit on the defensive end, and he will try to make plays when he can, but he just doesn’t have the foot speed to cover college point guards, let alone guys like Steph Curry and Russell Westbrook. Many expect Ball to go number two to the Lakers in this draft, but don’t be surprised if he drops to three or further, partly because of his game, and partly because of his father.

 

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Dennis Smith, Jr., Freshman, North Carolina State, 6’3, 195 – There may be no more explosive player in this draft than Smith, who can be almost violent as he streaks towards the basket. Like Fultz, Smith suffered from playing on a pretty bad team, though Smith certainly had more talent around him. Smith is able to score in a variety of ways, though he can have a bit of a hero-complex, thinking he needs to do everything himself. He has very good strength for his size, allowing him to finish at the rim consistently, but he often settled for poor jumpers. Smith isn’t a bad shooter, 36-percent from three-point range, but he can be impatient and force shots. He has very good speed in the open floor, and the vision seems to be there, even if the decision-making isn’t really great right now. The same goes as a distributor in the halfcourt, where he could be a second slow to see open teammates. Defensively, he has a lot of potential with his quick hands and feet, but the effort isn’t always consistent, and he is often more concerned about making plays rather than fitting into a team’s defensive scheme. Smith is another player to watch out for as we get closer to the draft, as strong workouts can move him up a spot or two on this list.

 

Frank Ntilikina, 18 years old, France, 6’5, 170 – Not yet 19 years old, Ntilikina made big strides in the past season, even if he is a level down skill-wise from the rest of the players on this list. At 6’5, with long arms, Ntilikina has the ability to play either guard spot. He continually improves as a ballhandler, though he can struggle with pressure, and could already be better as a pick-and-roll ballhandler and passer than his American counterparts on this list, though he still has some work to do with decision-making and trying to force the action, and the adjustment to the speed of NBA defenders will be fairly large. Ntilikina has improved as a long-range shooter, even if it isn’t a big part of his game, though he will need to be stronger to shoot consistently from the NBA three-point line. He has a lot of potential on the defensive side with his length and fundamental skills, including good lateral movement. With so much promise, it’s easy to see why Ntilikina could be a top-ten pick, though he does carry more risk than most of the others on this list.

 

Jawun Evans, Sophomore, Oklahoma State, 5’11 1/2, 185 – There are a lot of big names at the point guard position in this draft, but one name that you shouldn’t overlook is Evans’. Dominant this season in the Big 12, Evans showed that he as good as any of the other players on this list when it comes to skill, but his size is likely what has people down on him. His shooting numbers were down a bit this past season, though he had more than double the number of shot attempts. Solidly built, with good speed, Evans is at his best when looking to get into the defense, showing very good explosiveness off the dribble. He isn’t always a great finisher around the basket, though he did a better job this year looking to draw contact. Evans also showed a better ability to knock down mid-range jumpers off the dribble. Evans’ 38-percent from three-point range is strong, and he does a good job creating his own shots from long-range. Evans’ biggest improvement came with his vision and passing, showing a great willingness to get teammates involved. Evans can be a good defender for his size, though bigger guards can overpower him to the basket. With the spacing in today’s NBA, along with his growing skill set, don’t be surprised if Evans makes his way into the first round by draft day.

 

Edmond Sumner, Sophomore, Xavier, 6’6, 176 – Sumner missed the second half of last season due to a knee injury, but he was well on his way to having the kind of season that many hoped after a strong debut season. Sumner has great size for the position, and he uses that size well to get into the lane with his long strides. He is a strong ballhandler, and can finish in a variety of ways around the basket. Sumner’s control of the Xavier offense was much improved this year, and you could see him making reads quicker with the ball in his hands.  While a decent mid-range shooter, Sumner has yet to show he can be a consistent long-range shooter, though his shot never looked like there was much wrong with it. Sumner’s 6’9 wingspan helps him on the defensive end, and though he can struggle with speed, at times, he was making strides as an on-ball defender before his injury. He could be a great value pick in the second round, with some time in the G-League helping him continue to develop.

 

Frank Mason, Senior, Kansas, 5’11, 189 – College basketball’s Player of the Year according to many, Mason’s development over four years has been one of game’s great joys. Mason may be just 5’11, but he plays much bigger, and is probably the toughest player on this list. A very good long-range shooter, with a knack for hitting big shots, Mason has already shown NBA range from three, and his quick motion and release allows him to get his shot off against bigger players. He isn’t going to wow you with speed, but he makes plays, relying on patience and vision to find teammates. Mason can be a decent finisher in the lane for his size, and his improving floater will help him at the next level. Mason is also a bulldog on defense, showing all of the physical and mental skills needed to defend bigger players in the NBA. He is a winner, and any team will be lucky to draft him, and he should build a long career at the NBA level.

 

 

Others to Watch: Monte Morris, Iowa State; Frank Jackson, Duke; Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga; Kobi Simmons, Arizona




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