Siegel's Take: 2008 Point Guard Analysis

    
May 12th, 2008
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This is the first of five upcoming articles analyzing the 2008 NBA Draft prospects. Today I'll focus on the point guards, followed by shooting guards and so on.

 

As I say every year, its important to note that I'm not as kind as most Draft analysts out there. The reality of the NBA Draft is that only a few guys will be stars, a handful more will be starters, a dozen guys will be career reserves, and the rest will all fizzle into nothingness within a couple of seasons.

 

On with the fun. Players are ranked by their NBA potential:

 

1) OJ Mayo - USC - This is a little misleading.. because Mayo is technically not a "true" point guard like Rose, and is really more of a combo guard. However, Mayo will end up being a lead guard in the NBA, a Gilbert Arenas-type who scores the ball, but is also called on to get the rock up the court. On the offensive end, OJ is dangerous because he can handle like a point when going one on one, can shoot the long ball like the two, and is strong like a three. He gets a knock for lacking leadership, but the reality is that he's not a bad kid, he shows up to play every night, and works harder than most. People can criticize him for USC's early tournament exit compared to Rose, but the difference in talent between USC and Memphis is much greater than people realize. Similarly, people can dog him for being a one-man team, but that's basically what Tim Floyd asked him to do.

 

2) Derrick Rose - Memphis - Everybody jumped on the Derrick Rose love train during the NCAA Tournament, as he went from being a Top 5 pick to the probable #1 pick. But my guess is that if he's taken ahead of Michael Beasley, it will be seen as a blunder down the line. Not that Rose is bad by any means, he projects to be a B+ long-time point guard in the NBA.. its just that I don't see the uberstar potential as compared to Beasley (or even Mayo). Rose excels in the open-court, but his half-court game has serious flaws. First off, he's not a great or even good jump-shooter, and his outside shot is flawed. It will take a few years, if ever, for him to become an effective NBA 3-point shooter. More importantly, despite his speed, he's not great at breaking defenders down off the dribble, and his passing in the half-court is solid but not spectacular. In college, he was able to mask these flaws by being physically bigger, stronger, and faster than opposing PG's and by being on a great team full of pro athletes (CDR, Dorsey, etc). In the pros, while he still will have good size and quickness, these natural gifts wont go quite as far.

 

3) Jerryd Bayless - Arizona - Bayless is similar to Mayo in that he's not really a natural point guard, but he's just so good with the ball that he'll gravitate towards that position. In fact, going back to the Mayo comparison, the criticisms of the two are somewhat similar. Both dominated the ball all season, sometimes took bad shots, and didn't make their teammates any better. But even more so than Mayo, Bayless was called upon to single-handily win games. Chase Budinger, U of A's only other real offensive option, couldn't create shots for himself and faded away in clutch time. This left Bayless to go 1 on 5 down the stretch. Perhaps it was all this pressure and all the mid-season minutes (he barely sat for weeks) that led to Jerryd's weak finish. While Rose was exploding, Bayless was crawling to the end of his freshman season. In terms of PG skills, he's still somewhat of a project, but with his size, speed, natural scoring ability (from outside, mid-range, and at the rim), as well as ball-handling skills.. there's no reason he can't be a successful NBA player.

 

4) DJ Augustin - Texas - Its amazing how much better this year's guard crop is compared to last year. Augustin doesn't get half the love as Rose or Bayless, but he probably would have been the top PG prospect last year. The biggest issue holding DJ back is something he can't really control.. his lack of size. Listed at 5'11", Augustin simply lacks the body to be a great PG, and though he has solid quickness, its nothing exceptional by NBA standards. Because of this, Augustin projects to be a solid career-reserve and occasional fringe starter. He's actually a better shooter than last year's numbers indicate, as he endured a brutal slump in February, and faded a bit in March. Despite those inconsistencies, he has one of the best natural strokes of any prospect in the Draft. Similarly, he probably his court-vision and creativity is as good as any PG prospect, but the body simply holds him back.

 

5) Ty Lawson - UNC - Statistically, Lawson's sophomore season was a carbon-copy of his rookie year. But the numbers are misleading because of the string of injuries that plagued his season. At no time after he returned in March was he playing 100%. As noted with Augustin, its hard to make it as a sub 6'0" point guard.. and its even tougher when you're not a great outside shooting threat. But Lawson's a tough kid that can get into the lane and push the ball with his great speed. Defensively, while he was more than serviceable in college, he projects to be mediocre at best in the pros. Lawson is one of the few true point guards in the Draft, and should play his way into the end of somebody's bench.

 

6) Russell Westbrook - UCLA - After limited minutes his freshman season, Westbrook really came on in year two. His season got off to a good start when he held his own in Darren Collison's absence, and in the Bruins ugly loss to Memphis in the Final Four, Westbrook was the lone brightspot with 22 points on 10 of 19 shooting. When you put aside the hype and the occasional high-flying dunk, his pro potential isn't nearly as exciting. At best, you're looking at a solid NBA reserve that can give you 10 minutes a night, and who can hold his own on the defensive end. At worst, you're looking at a true combo-guard that is subpar in the half-court offense, and is relegated to the D-League.

 

7) Mario Chalmers - Kansas - Due to the big shot he hit in the NCAA Tournament, a lot of average fans know Chalmer's name. But he's still nothing more than a fringe NBA player. His size, athleticism, quickness, and ball-handling skills are completely mediocre for a pro point guard.. and he's a bit on the old end (21) of the new-age Draft. With that saide, Chalmers does have some plusses like an ever-improving three-point shot and a great knack for picking up steals and causing problems on the defensive end. Further, on a team that lacked a true go-to player, I give Chalmers credit for trying to make big plays down the stretch.

 

8) Goran Dragic - Union Olimpijia - Here, I'm going purely by scouting reports, specs, and YouTube clips. Dragic is the anti-Augustin. A poor (or bad) shooter, with a lack of natural point guard skills and offensive creativity. But at 6-4, he's got a good NBA body, and when you see his clips, he carries himself like a pro athlete.

 

9) Jamont Gordon - Mississippi St - After putting up big-time numbers in all three main statistical categories in his sophomore year, Gordon got hyped as perhaps the best PG in the class. But his game seemed to stagnate last year, and MSU's disappointing start made him a forgotten man. Outside of his height and rebounding prowess, there's little to make scouts got overly excited about. He's considered somewhat of a ball-stopper and his solid scoring average has more to do with volume than precision or a great ability to drive to the rim. Gordon seems destined to bounce around between the Show and the minor leagues.

 

10) Kyle Weaver - Washington St - Weaver's an odd player to project. With the Cougars, not only was he not really the PG (Rochestie), but he wasn't even the two (Low).. he was actually the third man in a three-guard offense. Still, since he's not a particularly good shooter and plays smaller than his 6-6 size suggests, he will only make it in the pros if he can handle the point. Right now, defense is his biggest plus skill as he uses his length and foot-speed to cause problems for college point and shooting guards. Especially now that NBA teams are utilizing more zone defenses, Weaver can be effective on the perimeter. Offensively, I just don't ever see him contributing. Though his handle and vision is actually pretty solid, his productivity will never even surpass Renaldo Balkman's.

 

Summary: Bayless, Mayo, and Rose are serious NBA prospects with superstar potential. Rose is the biggest lock of the bunch and should fit into the 15 point, 6 assist range for years. Mayo and Bayless have the ability to score 20+ a game as pros, but come with more flaws and risk. After that, Augustin and Lawson seem like solid career reserves, while Westbrook, Chalmers, and Dragic will just try and squeak out spots on the end of someone's bench. This isn't a bad crop considering only three or four guys last year even seemed good enough to make it as reserves.

 

Last Year's Siegel's Take - PG Ranking

1) Mike Conley - Ohio State

2) Javaris Crittenton - Georgia Tech

3) Acie Law - Texas A&M

4) Dominic James - Marquette (withdrew)

5) Sean Singletary - Virginia

6) Petteri Koponen - Honka Espoo

7) Gabe Pruitt - USC

8) Zabian Dowdell - Virginia Tech

9) Jared Jordan - Marist

10) Aaron Brooks - Oregon