Sham's unnecessarily great big draft board: Shooting Guards
June 23rd, 2011

(Listed in no order other than the order they were thought of.)

I want to see this afro grown out, Marshon. It has as much upside as you do.

Marshon Brooks – Brooks was the second highest scorer in the nation, although this was largely ignored until a 52 point outburst against Notre Dame (in a game that his Providence team still lost). That, the subsequent scrutiny, and the final workout cycle, has seem his stock continue to grow.

It is self-evident that Brooks is a highly talented scorer, although he is not flawless. Brooks’s 24.6 points per game came on a very tidy 48.3% shooting, but the pace of play that the Friars played was a factor in that, and that pace also biases his 7.0 rebounds per game average. He’s mainly a scorer from the mid-range area (mainly via pull-ups or turnaround jumpers) and the free throw line (due to his aggression), as even though he takes more than six three pointers per game, he is not especially good at them right now, hitting only 34% of them. Brooks can defend with the best of them when he wants to, as evidenced by his 1.5 steals and 1.2 blocks per game averages, but he doesn’t always want to, only sometimes applying himself in that end. And the common theme amongst all this is discipline – Brooks takes bad shots, makes bad decisions, doesn’t always play hard, complains, and gives sometimes intermittent defensive effort.

Nevertheless, an apologist could blame that on the wider struggles and ill-discipline of the rest of his team, and the apologist may well be right. You could say that Brooks was emblematic of the team’s chucking, defensively-disinterested ways, or you could say he was held back by them and a coaching staff that didn’t instill enough discipline. Whichever it is, Marshon has enough size and athleticism for the pro game, and he has the best statline of the class. And the flaws behind the production don’t disguise quite how much of it there is – in addition to the rebounding, defence and scoring efficiency, Brooks is the second leading scorer in the nation. From the Big East, no less. He’s a talent.

[Brooks also has the occasional desire to post up from 23 feet away. Shades of Rodney Green. Like it.]

Alec Burks – Burks has played his way up the draft board throughout the course of the season, to the point where he is now near the very top. He may be the best in yet another weakened shooting guard draft class – where did all the good shooting guards go? – and is a wanted prospect because of his combination of aggression and skill.

Burks is a big if somewhat thin guard, a slender 6’6 with a 6’10 wing span, who, save for a lack of a three point stroke, boasts a pretty strong all-around game. He’s a 20ppg scorer and interested rebounder, an aggressive and tireless slasher who runs the court well, and barrels his way to the basket in the halfcourt to take the contact and finish, moreso than anyone else listed below. He also hits floaters and some mid-range twos, although given the inefficiency of these shots, this is not necessarily to his credit. At this point in his curve, Burks is not a particularly good defender, but he has the size and the effort to become one. And importantly, as of the time of the draft, he will still only be 19. Long way to go.

Klay Thompson – Thompson is zinging up draft boards at the moment, and may go as high as the top 10. In a draft short of wing shooters with size – as we’ll soon see – Thompson is one of the best, and one of the few with an all-around game. He has very good size for the position, and is a smooth, sufficient if not explosive athlete. Thompson can realistically function as the secondary ball-handler, and even if his own halfcourt shot creation abilities are rather mediocre outside of the basic pick-and-roll set, he has good passing vision and skill. He can make all kinds of jump shots – spotting up, pulling up, contested and coming off of screens, not yet an elite shooter, but certainly a good one.

Defensively, his underwhelming athleticism and aversion to contact are problems, but at least he offers the size. Depending on how this plays out, Klay Thompson might have Kyle Korver potential, or he may have Rip Hamilton potential. The truth, inevitably, may be somewhere in between. It rather depends on where he lands and who he lands with.

Josh Selby – In college, Josh Selby has proven to be little more than an undersized streak shooter. For whatever reason, he can’t make a layup right now, and while his small stature would be more beneficial of a point guard, he isn’t one. His decision making is pretty poor, perhaps due to inexperience, perhaps due to an innate poor feel for the game – time will tell on that one. Instead, Selby is an out-and-out scorer, specifically a shooter, who can hit off the dribble or off the bounce and create his own shot. In theory, he’s a good isolation scorer, and pesky if undersized defender. It appears that he is doing enough of this in workouts to make his way up the draft board, because the whole college thing didn’t really work out for him.

Except for his very first game.

Travis Leslie – Leslie is one of the best athletes in this field. That innocuous sentence serves as sufficient reason to post this video.

In terms of his style of play, Leslie is not too similar to DeMar Derozan. He employs a mid-range-and-in slashing game, lacking an outside jump shot yet being somewhat effective on forays to the basket, deadly in transition, disruptive on defence, and incredibly helpful on the rebounding glass. Even though he’s only 6’4, the athleticism and the outrageous 6’10 make that figure rather unimportant, and while Leslie’s transition to the perimeter has not been without its hiccups, it’s gone rather well. As a rebounder, defender, and sheer athlete, he truly intrigues.

The differentiation from Derozan comes from DD’s better height and vastly superior feel for the game. And those are big factors. Leslie isn’t going to score in the half court like DeMar. Doesn’t have that.

Malcolm Lee – Take most of what was previously said about Travis Leslie, and apply it to Malcolm Lee. He’s not as athletic, but he has basically the same build, and the same defensive potential. And what he lacks as an athlete and explosive finisher, he makes up for with a better handle, even being able to masquerade as a point guard at times (albeit not especially well). Lee needs to improve his rather erratic jumper in order to be a regular two way player, but he can make it as a defender first, as can Leslie.

Jon Diebler – Diebler is the best shooter in this draft, at any position. He will spot up, catch, and hit, anything, from pretty much anywhere. This might be enough to get him drafted. It’s going to have to be, because Diebler sports little else. The effort is good, but the off-the-dribble game is sparse, the athleticism and/or strength lacking, the handle absent, the defence rather unimpactful. You can never have too many shooters, though, particularly in this strangely weak period for the shooting guard position. So Threebler has a chance.

E’Twaun Moore – Undersized for the position, Moore made a mark through a quirky inside-the-arc game, built around craft and skill rather than physical tools. And then inevitably, once he got better as a three point shooter, he started casting them up instead. Nevertheless, his offensive versatiliy is complimented by his defensive intensity, and that too has been further complimented by his combine measurements – Moore may only be 6’4, but his wingspan is an impressive 6’9. That will be enough to get him in, because while he may have no one specialist niche, he does enough of everything, and is just simply a good player. And even if he doesn’t last long, a strong European career awaits, as it has done for Romain Sato.

This picture breaks up the monotony of the words.

Jeremy Hazell – Like Diebler, Hazell is another one of the better shooters out there, with roughly 28 feet of consistent range at his disposal, and without needing to have his feet set to hit it. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of other stuff to consider. Hazell never passes, and pretty much shoots as soon as he catches it. He improved slightly upon this as a senior, yet he is still that most scary of things – a chucker. It is the shot selection, not the shot calibre, that seems him consistently shoot only about 34% from three point range. Furthermore, Hazell is not a talented ball handler, and his rare forays at attempting so are often misguided. He did record 2.4 steals per game, but it was the Larry Hughes kind of 2.4 steals per game, not the John Stockton type. [He gambles.] Hazell is also already 25, got shot at Christmas time, and has had academic issues in the past, none of which is insurmountable but which all counts against a prospect anyway. And moreover, he’s too streaky of a shooter to be considered an out-and-out shooter. Diebler is bigger, a better shooter, and far smarter. Given the choice, there’s no choice.

Nevertheless, he’s a 20ppg scorer in the Big East, so that counts for something. Unnecessarily early prediction that relies upon the belief that he’ll wind up playing there, a belief that has no basis in fact that I know of – Hazell will be a D-League all-star next season.

LaceDarius Dunn – Dunn was set to be one of the best shooting guards in a draft with few shooting guards in it, but he submarined himself with a bad rookie season. On a Baylor team with poor point guard play, and small forwards who can’t dribble, Dunn was asked to take on a role as a primary playmaker. And he was really rather poor at it. Undersized and not especially athletic, Dunn turned it over at an amazing rate in trying to force the action, recording 3.6 turnovers per game, tied for 18th worst in the nation. Dunn is a scorer rather than a creator, and boasts a good quality jump shot with 28 feet of range, as well as a knack for getting to the free throw line. But because he is undersized and not very athletic, the former is not likely to translate. The latter might not, either; Dunn’s best quality from an NBA perspective is his jump shot, but he’s 6’4 and doesn’t jump to shoot. He also managed to get arrested. Put more contritely, Dunn played his way out of the draft last season.

DeAndre Liggins – During the John Calipari era, Liggins has made a transition for big, talented, mistake-prone point guard to defensive wing specialist. He retains the passing vision and solid ball-handling from his point guard days, but he is now little utilised offensively, save for some transition, ball movement, and open jump shots (at which he has improved).

Taking the ball out of his hands was the best thing to do, because despite his billing out of high school, he wasn’t that good with it, with an uncanny knack for making the wrong decision. Instead, Liggins is now a defensive lynchpin, and a disruptive wing presence at that. With fine shooting guard size and good enough athleticism, Liggins (if he further improves his catch-and-shoot jumper) could perhaps have an NBA career similar to that of fellow ex-Kentucky player, Keith Bogans. Considering the incredibly different paths they took, this would be a very strange occurrence.

(Note: since few manage to emulate Keith’s amazingly resilient career path, perhaps Quinton Ross is a better aim. This career path comes with the benefit of never needing to develop consistent three point range.)

Will Graves – After being forcefully evicted from North Carolina, Graves began a professional career last season in Japan. Playing for the Akita Happinets in the BJ League, Graves averaged 21.3 points and 11.2 rebounds per game, shooting 39% from the field and 36% from three. (Those numbers may put into some context those of Jeremy Tyler, mentioned in the post about centres.)

These numbers rather confirm what we already knew about Graves. He can shoot, and he can rebound. Graves’s three point range is streaky, and his shot selection often over-confident, but he’s a decent shooter, particularly from one specific spot on the left wing. He is also a powerful and well built wing man, with some athleticism to boot, who took four years to get anywhere but who eventually sprouted into a vital contributor. (Until he got kicked out.)

However, Graves can’t dribble, is inconsistent on and off the court, and doesn’t defend as well as one of such a body type really ought. He could do, but he doesn’t, due to an apparent lack of effort. Graves is strong and should be an imposing presence on the defensive end, particularly with his rebounding prowess. But he isn’t, because he doesn’t seem to want to be. He doesn’t seem to want to learn to drive the ball, either. He’d rather just cast up the threes, and is, frankly, a bit of a chucker. There’s talent there, but it certainly isn’t maximized talent.

Chris Wright (left) was not in the point guard list simply because I forgot. And yet somehow Jared Stohl was.

Austin Freeman – Over the last two years, Freeman made himself into one of the most efficient guards in the nation, never shooting below 47.6% from the field and becoming a scary if streaky outside shooter. But for all his great strength, Freeman is slow, and cannot create his own shot. He is no point guard, either, which would be fine were he not 6’3 and slow. Freeman won’t be able to compete physically at the NBA level, and he’s not good enough of a shooter to plug the gap.

David Lighty – Fifth year senior Lighty developed into a good all-around player from once being largely a defensive specialist. Defense remains his forte, and the fact that he measured out to be bigger than expected at the combine (6’6 with a 6’8 wingspan) means he will probably get the call to become one at the NBA level too. He certainly has the athleticism and the interest in doing so. Lighty is less talented offensively, but he nonetheless contributes – a good passer, transition finisher, occasional slasher, and improved jump shooter. He makes few mistakes and fitted in seamlessly as a role player. His body type translates to the NBA, and thus so should the rest of his game.

Cory Higgins – Higgins was once a one man band at Colorado before Burks rose up and seized the team. This definitely factored in Higgins’s senior season production – he averaged 16.1 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.0 steals per game, shooting 43% from the field and 34% from three, but all of those numbers were down from the previous season. He lost more than 7% off his field goal percentage, and the steals numbers halved. Higgins scores in isolation, often with a pull-up jumper (on which he barely jumps), and has a very good mid range game, but he had to dominate the ball to do it. When Burks’s growth meant Higgins couldn’t do this as much, his production suffered. He is not a very good catch-and-shoot player, lacks consistent three point range, and is neither big nor athletic for a next level wing, hindering him defensively and around the basket. He’s talented, but not NBA talented.

Demonte Harper – Harper was the “other guy” on the two man Morehead State. Kenneth Faried did everything in the front court, while Harper did everything in the backcourt, and no one else did anything much of anything. (Now that both have graduated at the same time, it’s surely going to be ugly there next season.) Being such an important cog against such weak opposition allowed Harper to put up good numbers – 15.5 points per game, 5.0 rebounds per game (the few that Faried missed) and 3.4 assists per game, shooting 43%, 67% and 36%. Harper also made his name with his performance in the NCAA tournament first round upset of Louisville – he didn’t play well overall, struggling to find anything against the size and athleticism of the Louisville defence, but he did win the game for them:

Onions is right. There’s certainly a good quantity of onions. Unfortunately, Harper averages more turnovers than onions: 3.9 per game, in addition to his mediocre jump shooting (previous shot excepted). Indeed, there is nothing standout about Harper, except for that one shot and his statline. And his statline came from the weak competition rather than his talent level. To put it into some context, former NBA draft pick Ricky Minard averaged 21.8ppg, 7.3rpg and 5.1apg in his final season at Morehead State, and he never played in the NBA. Nor will Harper.

(Verne Lundquist choked so badly on that sequence.)

Blake Hoffarber – Every white guy cliche possible can be applied to Hoffarber. He is a decent sized, unathletic shooting guard, called upon to play point guard last season, and doing so well. He is a very good shooter and high IQ player, a good passer with very low turnover numbers, a solid handle, and no plus physical tools. He is this draft’s Jon Scheyer. Jon Scheyer did not get drafted.

A multi-tasking Dwight Hardy, making a layup while doing a simultaneous Jerry Sloan impression.

Dwight Hardy – A terrific run of scoring down the stretch of his senior season saw Hardy play his way into contention for the late second round of the draft. The 6’1 junior college transfer is unashamedly a small scorer, not a point guard, yet he was called upon as both a primary ball-handler and backcourt scorer, and responded well. On the year, Hardy returned a 18.3 scoring average, but alongside only 1.9 assists, with a negative assist/turnover ratio. Nevertheless, after a medicore first season and a half with the Red Storm, Dwight played the entire game against the #1 ranked Duke team, and scored 26 points in the huge upset win. This opened the floodgates, and Hardy went on to average 23.4 points per game over the team’s final 18 contests, combining regular season Big East play with the Big East Tournament, as well as their one NCAA tournament game. He made himself, and his team, relevant.

However, moreso than most other undersized scorers (hence his inclusion on the shooting guard list, rather than the point guard one), Hardy is a scorer. If called upon to run any offence, he can’t. He can get his – he’s an improved and decent outside shooter, deadly in transition, and fearless at attacking the rim, with the ability to find his own shot and relentless aggression. But for whatever reason, said aggression disappears on the defensive end, where he is already hugely disadvantaged by his size. That then leaves a small scorer, who can’t run an offence, who won’t defend, and who may be hampered once he regularly faces bigger defences.

Clutch as hell, though.

Paris Horne – Horne graduates alongside Hardy as one of St. John’s senior class. By the end of the year, the two were starting together in an amusingly named Hardy/Horne backcourt. (Would have been better if was Harde/Horny. Alas.) Horne isn’t any more of a point guard than Hardy, despite them both being point guard size, but the two of them had to suffice.

Horne may have been St. John’s best athlete, and was certainly their best perimeter defender. That said, he was no stopper, merely a decent defender. Horne may also have been St. John’s best shooter, too. That said, he was no Diebler, merely a decent shooter. Transition finishes, occasional catch-and-shoot play and decent defence is all nice, but it’s a tough sell at 6’3.

Adrian Oliver – Washington transfer Oliver spent the last two and a half years at San Jose State, where he became one of the leading scorers in the nation, a one man band on an otherwise irrelevant team. Oliver averaged 24.0 points per game last season, good for third in the nation, behind only Jimmer Fridette and Marson Brooks, both of whom are going to be first-round picks. Oliver had to go to a small program to achieve this, though, and for good reason. He is ball dominant, streaky, turnover prone, rarely seen passing, and interested in little else but scoring, always looking for his own and paying little attention to defence. That said, he is aggressive and explosive going to the basket, has made himself into a good three point shooter, and regularly came through in the clutch. He may only do one thing, but at least he does one thing.

Cade Davis – Davis likes to take jumpers, and likes to try and hit the roof of the arena while doing so. He can spot up and get open without the ball, and he is much better at these than when shooting off the dribble. A lonely upperclassman persevering through the wreckage of the Sooners program, the weakened Oklahoma roster gave Davis the chance to assume a larger share of the offensive load, given the chance to handle the ball and drive and dictate and “make plays” – all he proved was that he couldn’t do these things. Davis was rugged, played hard, was fairly effective defensively and rebounds well for an average sized wing, but he’s a shooting specialist that is merely an average shooter. His 35.8% three point shooting as a senior was his highest in any season, but it isn’t great.

Marcus Simmons – USC’s Simmons has thoroughly underwhelming statistics. Barely playing in his first three seasons, he played a lot as a senior due to the graduations of Dwight Lewis and Marcus Johnson, and averaged 5.1 points, 3.2 fouls, 2.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 26 minutes per game, shooting 42% from the field, 60% from the line, and hitting 11 three pointers all season. He played because of his defence – decently athletic in a 6’6 200lb frame, Simmons’s defensive intensity and hustle is magnetic, and he is an incredibly disruptive force on that end. He deflects, contests, disrupts, and is permanently in the way, which is the best attribute you can have as a defender. Fouls be damned.

The fact that he can’t dribble or shoot, is a rather enormous hurdle, but enough players make it big while playing only one end of the court when that one end is offence. Is it impossible to make it while playing only on the defensive end?


Posted by at 6:56 AM