PBT NBA Draft Preview: Top 10 shooting guards

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If you can shoot the rock, there is a place for you in the NBA.

This year’s shooting guard class has some guys who can shoot the rock. It also has some guys that blur the lines for the position. PBT’s NBA draft expert Ed Isaacson of NBADraftBlog.com and Rotoworld — the man who put together this list for us — thinks Dante Exum will end up as more of a two than point guard and includes him in this list (in reality he likely ends up a combo guard). Some people think Andrew Wiggins is a two, Isaacson sees him more as a three. Really, the lines are fairly moot in most modern offenses, which are moving toward more positionless play to match the varied skill sets coming into the league now.

However you divide it up, there are some flat out good players here. Here is PBT’s Top 10 shooting guards (you can see the top 10 point guards right here).

1. Gary Harris, Sophomore, Michigan State, 6’4, 205
Put aside concerns about Harris’ size, which some seemed to have when he was measured at the combine. He is a versatile offensive threat, who at times seemed to be handcuffed by Michigan State’s rigid offense. Harris is a better three-point shooter than the numbers (35% on 235 attempts) suggest, and he was often forced to create opportunities late in the shot clock which forced some bad attempts. Harris is also a very strong slasher to the basket, capable of finishing in a variety of ways. On top of his offense, Harris is a very good on-ball defender, capable of defending either guard spot, and he is very strong in transition.

2. Nik Stauskas, Sophomore, Michigan, 6’6, 207
Stauskas stepped up in a big way this past season with Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. in the NBA. He has very good size at 6’6, and he has consistent range well beyond the NBA three-point line. Stauskas even showed that he can be a playmaker with the ball in his hands, especially in pick-and-roll situations, where he was able to make some very good reads and attack the basket or find open teammates. His defensive ability may be a concern, but he should eventually become at least an average NBA defender.

3. Dante Exum, 18 years old, Australia, 6’6, 196
Yes, there are some who believe Exum will be able to play point guard at the NBA level. I am not one of them. Also, Exum will likely be the first one picked out of this group based on what some see as his potential, but he still has a lot of developing to do and adjustments to make before he is close to many others on this list. Exum is long and athletic, with a strong ability to create shots for himself off the dribble. His perimeter shooting isn’t bad, but he needs to become more consistent, and he will need to work on getting open better off the ball. His size and athletic ability should allow him to become a good NBA defender, but again, there’s a lot of work still to do before he is ready.

4. James Young, Freshman, Kentucky, 6’7, 213
Young is another young, athletic wing, though he is not as skilled as many of the others on this list. He had a reputation coming into school as a strong perimeter shooter, but he was inconsistent all season (35%) and could only be relied upon if he was wide open and had time to get set. Young can get to the basket off the dribble but only to his left, so defenders can easily overplay him. With his length and athleticism, you would think that Young could be a good defender, but he has a long way to go before he can guard NBA players. Still, there is a lot of raw talent here which can flourish in the right circumstances.

5. PJ Hairston, 21 years old, Texas Legends, 6’5, 229
Hairston recovered well in the D-League after seeing his NCAA career come to an abrupt end when North Carolina wouldn’t restore his eligibility after some off-court incidents. Hairston is a good perimeter shooter with NBA three-point range, though the pace of the D-League game forced him into many bad decisions. He showed that his offensive game was more versatile than was seen in college and that he can be an effective scorer off the dribble. Hairston is also an average defender already, though he still has some adjusting to do to get to pro-level speed. He has faced some good competition in the D-League and should be ready to help a team immediately.

6. Jordan Adams, Sophomore, UCLA, 6’5, 209
Adams is a talented scorer with a good knack for finding holes in the defense and taking high-percentage shots. Long-range shooting is actually the weakest part of his offensive game right now, but the tools are there for him to improve quickly. Adams is also a very good on- and off-ball defender, and he has a talent for creating turnovers by always being in good position. Adams may not seem to have the upside of many other prospects his age, but he is more ready than most to earn good playing time.

7. CJ Wilcox, Senior, Washington, 6’5, 201
Wilcox built a solid college career as a three-point shooter, but he can be a versatile offensive threat when give certain opportunities to create off the dribble. Still, his NBA role will likely be as a three-point threat, but he will need to work harder on the defensive end to ensure he gets on the floor.

8. Jabari Brown, Junior, Missouri, 6’4, 202
Brown is a strong scorer, both off the dribble in the halfcourt and as a perimeter shooter, though he has trouble going to his left. He thrives when he gets out in the open floor, and he can be a very creative finisher around the basket. Brown just isn’t a very good defender. If he was, and combined with his scoring ability, he would probably be higher on the list. Still, he will give a team the kind of player who can score quickly in limited minutes.

9. Bogdan Bogdanovic, 21 years old, Serbia, 6’6, 200
Bogdanovic has very good size on the wing, is very comfortable with the ball in his hands, and with a little more consistency, he can be a strong perimeter shooter. He sees the floor well when he has the ball, and he does a good job finding open teammates when the defense is drawn to him. Bogdanovic wasn’t a bad defender over in Europe, but he may have a tough time adjusting to the speed of NBA wings. A team may be better off having him stay in Europe a bit longer and build his all-around game before coming to the NBA.

10. Spencer Dinwiddie, Junior, Colorado, 6’6, 205
Before tearing his ACL this past season, Dinwiddie played more of the point guard position for the Buffaloes, but I think his long-term future is at the shooting guard position. Dinwiddie is at his best when he looks to attack the basket, using long strides to beat defenders. He has the size to finish well around the rim, and he is very good at drawing contact (he went to the free throw line 119 times in just 17 games this year.) He is a smart passer, but he is more of a facilitator than a playmaker, so he can be moved off the ball to give a team some versatility. Dinwiddie’s length helps him on defense, though he isn’t exceptionally quick with his feet. He could be a solid role player in a few years.

Watch LeBron James score 39 to lead comeback win over Clippers

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CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James knows about the narrative bouncing around the NBA that Cleveland can be dethroned in the East.

He’s ignoring it, and slowly changing it.

“You know I could care less what people say,” James said. “I’m so far beyond that. I don’t care what people say.”

Just to make sure everyone understood him, James asked his two sons waiting for him in Cleveland’s locker room to chime in on whether he was concerned about outside voices.

The boys had dad’s back.

James had another of those games that he only seems capable of, scoring 39 points with 14 rebounds in 46 minutes as the Cavaliers continued to improve from a shaky start with their fourth straight win, 118-113 in overtime on Friday night over the skidding Los Angeles Clippers, who dropped their seventh in a row.

Kevin Love scored 25 and drained a pair of 3-pointers in OT, when the Cavs, who didn’t take the lead until the first minute of the extra session, outscored the Clippers 13-8.

Dwyane Wade gave Cleveland a huge spark, scoring 23 points with 11 rebounds in 37 minutes. The Cavs’ win wasn’t eye-pleasing, but it was another step in the right direction for the three-time defending conference champions, who went 3-1 on a just-completed road trip.

On Thursday night, James said he watched Boston beat Golden State to improve to 14-2, a stunning start that has prompted discussion about Cleveland’s vulnerability.

James dismissed any concern about the Celtics’ early burst.

“I’ve got too much to worry about around here right now trying to get our ship going in the right direction,” he said.

The Clippers’ ship is taking on water fast. Los Angeles has lost nine of 10 since a 4-0 start.

Blake Griffin scored 23 and DeAndre Jordan had 20 points and 22 rebounds for Los Angeles, which didn’t give up the lead until the first minute of overtime. The Clippers had chances to put the Cavs away in regulation, but they didn’t execute down the stretch and then had defensive breakdowns in overtime.

“They made some big 3s,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “You have to give them credit. That’s why they’ve been in a lot of Finals.”

The Cavs spent all night chasing the Clippers and caught them at 105-all when Love grabbed an offensive rebound and fed James, who dropped an uncontested 3-pointer with 47 seconds left.

Griffin missed tough shots on consecutive possessions, giving Cleveland one last chance in regulation but James missed an off-balance left-hander just before the horn.

James made a free throw to open OT – he went 1 of 5 at the line – and give Cleveland its first lead. Then, after Love made his two 3s, James sealed the Cavs’ fifth win in six games with a jumper.

“Well defended,” Rivers said. “It’s LeBron James.”

 

Anthony Davis leaves game with concussion, likely to miss time

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Anthony Davis has had a couple concussions during his NBA career, one of the several ailments that have kept him off the court for stretches the past few seasons.

Now Davis has suffered his third concussion since being in the league. Davis left the Pelicans’ game against the Nuggets in the third quarter after getting a concussion when trying to guard Nikola Jokic. There is no timetable for his return, he will enter the league’s concussion protocol and need to be cleared by a league neurologist before he can return to the court. After the game New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry didn’t have any details.

The play itself looked fairly innocent — there was no intent by Jokic.

Davis spent a couple of minutes on the ground after the play, his hands over his face, before going to the locker room.

Davis is averaging 25.6 points, 11.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game this season.

Carmelo Anthony’s foot on line on game-tying shot, Spurs comeback to beat Thunder

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — LaMarcus Aldridge had 26 points and the San Antonio Spurs overcame a 23-point deficit to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 104-101 on Friday night.

An Aldridge putback of Danny Green‘s missed 3-pointer gave the Spurs a 102-99 lead with 24.2 seconds remaining.

The Thunder missed two 3-pointers on the ensuing possession, but Carmelo Anthony tracked down a second offensive rebound and made a 25-footer with his foot on the 3-point line to cut the lead to 102-101.

Gasol made two free throws, and Russell Westbrook stumbled to the court and threw up an airball on a 3-point attempt.

Danny Green added 17 points, and Pau Gasol had 14 points to help San Antonio end Oklahoma City’s three-game winning streak.

Anthony had 20 points to lead the Thunder. Westbrook was held to 15 points after scoring 10 in the opening period. He was 5 for 22 from the field.

The Spurs rallied behind their usual formula of hounding defense and 3-point shooting.

Davis Bertans hit three consecutive 3-pointers in the third quarter, tying it at 78 with 38 seconds remaining with his final 3 of the run. The 3-pointer also closed a 58-35 run after the Spurs trailed 43-20.

The Thunder closed the first quarter on an 18-2 run. The Spurs had a season-low 15 points in the opening period.

 

Thompson’s playmaking a steadying force for defending champs

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Klay Thompson danced unabashedly in China after winning another NBA championship, and it got shared all over social media. He smoked a stogie on the rooftop, letting loose to reveal another side of himself.

“I didn’t plan for that video to go viral,” Thompson said matter-of-factly. “I was just having fun. I’ve always been myself and having fun while doing it and learning to enjoy every day, because it goes by so fast.”

Coming to that mindset, however, has been a process for the seventh-year Golden State guard, who acknowledges for so long he put extreme pressure on himself to be the best.

The quiet, more under-the-radar Warriors All-Star of the bunch, Thompson has provided a steadying hand early on for the reigning NBA champions who are favored to capture a third title in four years.

“I used to stress a lot more at the beginning of my career about my performance,” Thompson recalled. “Now, it’s not like I don’t stress, but I play more carefree and I’m more able, if I play as hard as I can I’m satisfied with the results. … I used to compare myself with all players and want to be the best so badly, but now it’s all about winning and having fun and realizing basketball is more of a team sport than anything.”

After a recent practice, Thompson dazzled right alongside a couple of visiting Harlem Globetrotters, spinning the ball on his finger, rolling it up and down his arms, off his knee and then a foot soccer-style before swishing a short jumper.

“I should’ve been a Globetrotter!” he yelled.

It’s a new look for this hang-loose, beach-loving Splash Brother.

The approach is working for the Warriors.

“He still carries the threat. You have to honor him,” Orlando coach Frank Vogel said. “He’s great at making the right play. Their whole team is. I think he’s trying to fit in with their whole buy-in that ball movement and passing is greater than any one man carrying the bulk of it.”

Still, his numbers are stellar. Thompson has had a fast start this season, which previously hasn’t been the case.

Thompson credits the familiarity with teammates and a comfort in coach Steve Kerr’s offense.

“He’s taken another step in his game. Just the experience that he’s had in his career, every year he’s gotten better and I think this year he’s shown how at the end of the season he carried it over to the beginning of this year,” backcourt mate Stephen Curry said. “Historically he hadn’t started seasons well but this year he’s locked in. He’s obviously shooting the ball well and playing great defense, but I think the biggest thing is his playmaking in situations where he’s drawing a crowd. He’s making great decisions setting guys up and just playing under control for the most part this entire season.”

Life off the court is great for Thompson, too, and that helps him be stress-free on it.

Look closely, and it’s easy to see he has come out of his shell.

On a day off last week, he golfed a popular public course close to Oracle Arena. Thompson signed someone’s toaster last spring, and it became a superstition.

In July, he threw out the ceremonial first pitch at an Oakland Athletics game, then drove an IndyCar in September while serving as Grand Marshal of a series stop in Sonoma.

Thompson shares his training tricks on social media and posts photos with his bulldog, Rocco.

He recently donated $75,000 to relief efforts in the aftermath of the devastating Northern California wildfires, committing $1,000 per point for a three-game stretch during which he scored 69 points – but added to that total.

He is a spokesman for chocolate milk and an obscure – in the U.S. anyway – Chinese shoe company. He signed an $80 million, 10-year extension to wear the sneakers.

“Life’s good,” Thompson said. “I never thought I’d get paid millions of dollars to wear shoes and apparel. I’m very proud to be a part of Anta. … It’s so cool that I’m big in China. I never thought I’d be on billboards and posters in China.”

Thompson has found a balance during the offseason to stay sharp, mixing up his workouts with outdoor activities he enjoys.

“It took years for me to figure out how to prepare the best I can for the season. I finally learned in my sixth year,” he said. “You’ve got to stay in shape almost year-round because as you get older it’s harder to get back into shape. It’s easier to get out of shape than it is to get back into shape. I do other things besides basketball to stay in shape in the offseason. I think that just keeps my mind fresh.”

He hopes to do a formal swim from Alcatraz, or even a triathlon. He swims in the ocean – “my favorite place in the world” – whenever he can. Freestyle is his strength, butterfly not so much. He plays hours of beach volleyball or just throws the football around and runs routes through the sand.

At work, he has been a model of consistency. Thompson is determined to be a better passer, creating for teammates whenever possible. He also usually guards the opponent’s top perimeter scorer.

Thompson is off to his best shooting season ever, with career highs of 49.4 percent shooting from the field and 45.6 percent on 3-pointers.

“I think his playmaking has been the best it’s been in his career,” Kerr said. “He’s really doing a good job of putting the ball on the floor and moving it on, drive and kick game, finding the centers in the pocket for little floaters. … It’s been his best passing season so far.”

Thompson used to get teased for his lack of assists, and it remains a running joke.

“I got thick skin,” Thompson quipped, “honestly I don’t really care.”

That carefree approach has taken time, and the Warriors are better for it.