This is a follow up to yesterday's analysis of the point guard prospects. Tomorrow will be the small forwards. Shooting guard has some uncertainty as guys like Cook or Afflalo could (and I'd say should) return to school.
1) Brandon Rush - Kansas - Yesterday, I wrote how Mike Conley blew through my weak expectations of him. Rush is basically just the opposite. I thought this kid was going to be a superstar. Yet, here I am putting him atop the shooting guard list.. am I just being suckered in again? Perhaps. I know a pair of seasons around 14 ppg wont blow anybody away, and the fact he slightly dropped in fg, 3-pt, and ft %'s wont help either. But there's still something about this kid's game that oozes quality. At 6-6, he's got an ideal body for an off guard, has a consistent and good looking jumper, and range from downtown. I know he has flaws.. not the best defender (though I think he'll be fine in this respect), a lack of ability to create shots and get into the lane, and has never proven to be a go-to clutch player. But I'm only comparing him to the other guys on this list. Rush is no NBA all-star, but he's one of only two guys (along with Brewer) who could be a consistent NBA starter. It will come down to work-ethic and motivation.
(Edit May 26: Rush is returning to Kansas for his junior year.)
2) Corey Brewer - Florida - You'll see Brewer atop most shooting guard lists, and he's admittedly a better "all-around" player than Rush. He's got the crazy height, the length, better ball-handling skills (barely better than Rush), and can be a defensive stopper. I guess ultimately though I'm a scorer at heart, and his ability to score/shoot the ball for a shooting guard is severely lacking. He can't create shots, his outside shot is inconsistent at best (dont be fooled by the final 2 games of his career), and he lacks strength to finish down low in the NBA. NBADraft.net compares Brewer to Stacey Augmon. This isn't too bad in terms of the quality you should expect. A fringe starter who can scorer 10-12 ppg for awhile or be a quality first reserve.
3) Marco Belinelli - Fortitudo Bologna - As usual, I'll put the disclaimer that I'm no expert on European players. I'd check the profile on CHN done by Jeff Fox for better info on this guy. But, unlike the other guys on this list, Belinelli has already proved himself against quality pro competition. Scoring 13 ppg in the Euroleague might not sound amazing, but that's because people falsely compare those numbers to other kid's college stats.
4) Daequan Cook - Ohio State - If the NBA Draft were last Christmas, Cook would have been a Top 10 lock. Before Oden got there, Ohio State was a different team, an up-tempo free team that enabled guys like Cook and Ron Lewis to thrive. Once they became a slow-down, half-court team against better competition, Cook faded into the background. Still, he has all the tools to be a quality NBA player. Mainly he can do the three things NBA teams love: run, jump, and shoot. The problem is that he's not ready yet, and too much of a risk to take above the 20th pick (at best). Cook simply needs a season to prove himself in game situations. He has more upside than any of the guys below him on this list, but he's also a much bigger risk, and a couple years away from contributing. (Another thing to note: Even though he was only a freshman, Cook is already 20.. so you need to think of him as a year above Conley and Oden).
5) Nick Young - USC - Putting Young at 5th seems harsh considering Chad Ford has him as the 14th best overall prospect. But there's not too much difference between #'s 3 through 6 on this list. They could all be shuffled around, because I see them all as bench contributors and not potential stars or starters. Like Brandon Rush above, he's a tools guy, great size (6-6 as well), a nice 3-pt stroke, great athleticism. But from watching Young throughout the year (even though he shot a highly impressive 52% from the floor averaging 17 ppg), he tended to waver between undisciplined play and getting lost in the background. He's basically more of a wing player than anything else, he doesn't handle the ball or pass it that well. I see him playing 12 to 18 minutes a game for the next few NBA seasons.
6) Rudy Fernandez - DKV Joventut - I feel like I've been hearing about this kid for four years now. Its time for him to come over and strut his stuff in the NBA. NBA GM's feel like he's a lock to contribute in the NBA, but they don't see a great upside either. If he comes over, he seems destined to be an 8th man.
7) Arron Afflalo - UCLA - My gut tells me that I should put Afflalo higher on this list. But there's a lot of uncertainty surrounding his game. I've seen him projected as the 20th pick, and as far down as the 40th or 50th pick. He doesn't have the height, length, and athleticism that scouts love.. ie, he's not Corey Brewer. But unlike Brewer, Young or even Rush, Afflalo has been the main option on two final four teams. With that said, some will be disappointed by his scoring average. But UCLA is not Kansas or Florida. You have to look at his numbers in terms of the offense he's in. His 16.9 ppg is 24% of UCLA's overall 71.4 ppg. Brewer, for example, was only worth 16% of Florida's O. Afflalo doesn't have the body to be a star in this league, but he has the mid-range offense, three-point shot, and quality basketball IQ to be a long-time reserve.
8) Rodney Stuckey - EWU - I get the sense that major outlets like ESPN have fallen in love with Stuckey just because he's a mid-major guy, and thus makes analysts look like they're being smart (ie, Chad Ford putting him as the 17th best overall prospect). Regardless of where he plays, Stuckey is still just a combo guard. A 6-3/4 kid who can slash and score and play "bigger than his size", but who ultimately is not a great shooter, not a great ball-handler, and who does not project to be a quality NBA starter. Still, you just can't teach Stuckey's speed or athleticism.
9) Morris Almond - Rice - The fact that Almond is 9th shows the depth of the shooting guard position. Even though none of the guys on this list project to be all-stars, just about all of them project to be NBA players. Almond's 26.4 ppg is impressive enough, but then you realize he averaged almost 3 times the next highest player on his team. Such a differential is unheard of. He lacks the "wow" explosiveness and athleticism that guys like Young, Stuckey or Brewer have. But whether in game situations, workouts, or camps, the guy has consistently exceeded expectations. Along with Rush at the top, Almond is the other guy on the ranking who might make me look silly in the future.
10) DJ Strawberry - Maryland - Amazingly, the top 9 shooting guards all have a chance of being taken in the first round. Strawberry on the other hand, is just hoping to get picked. You'll see some rankings where guys like JamesOn Curry, Trey Johnson, JR Reynolds, or even a Russell Carter are ranked higher. But to my eyes, Strawberry is most ready to come in and contribute at the end of some team's bench. Like Stuckey above, he's a "combo guard": not a knock-down shooter, not good enough to play point, not big enough to be a wing. But he also doesn't have any huge flaws.. he just does a bit of everything. Also, he will get hurt by the fact he's a senior as compared to so many juniors and sophomores on this list. But he's only 21 now, which is the same age as Rush, Brewer, Stuckey, etc. Look at him like a sophomore, and suddenly 14 ppg, 4 apg, and 48% shooting look pretty darn good. For my money, one of the most underrated prospects in the Draft.
Summary: In yesterday's point guard article, I suggested there was one potential star (Crittenton), one lock starter (Conley), and a handful of bench players. At this position, I dont see any future stars. I just see two potential quality starters (Rush & Brewer), one fringe starter (Belinelli), and a whole bench of bench contributors.