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.

Russell Westbrook outduels Damian Lillard, Thunder pick up win to get back in series

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Russell Westbrook called his play in Game 2 “unacceptable.”

It was more than acceptable in Game 3. He had 33 points and 11 assists and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Portland Trail Blazers 120-108 on Friday night to cut their series deficit to 2-1.

Paul George added 22 points, Jerami Grant had 18 and Dennis Schroder 17 for the Thunder. They will host Game 4 on Sunday night.

Damian Lillard scored 32 points, but he had just three in the fourth quarter after scoring 25 in the third.

C.J. McCollum had 21 and Enes Kanter added 19.

Oklahoma City closed the second quarter on a 10-1 run to take a 49-39 lead. Lillard was held to four points on 2 -or-6 shooting and the Trail Blazers shot 37.5% in the half.

George hit a 3-pointer, was fouled and made the free throw in the opening minutes of the second half to push Oklahoma City’s lead to 55-43. Westbrook backed down Lillard, hit a bank shot and was fouled. Westbrook brought out his “rock the baby” celebration, then made the free throw to put Oklahoma City up by 15.

Lillard scored 23 points the rest of the quarter to help cut Oklahoma City’s lead to 86-82 at the end of the period. McCollum hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 89 early in the fourth.

Oklahoma City regained control, then kept it. Westbrook’s jumper with just over two minutes remaining put the Thunder up 10.

 

Celtics beat Pacers 104-96 to take 3-0 series lead

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Jaylen Brown scored 23 points and Kyrie Irving added 19 to help the Boston Celtics beat the Indiana Pacers 104-96 on Friday night for a 3-0 lead in the first-round series.

The Celtics can close out the Eastern Conference series Sunday in Indianapolis.

Irving also had 10 assists and five rebounds.

Tyreke Evans matched his career playoff high with 19 points for the Pacers. Bojan Bogdanovic had 15, not enough to prevent Indiana from losing its sixth straight to Boston in the regular season and playoff.

Indiana desperately needed a win to avoid facing its second sweep in three years, but Boston started fast and closed it with a 10-4 spurt late in the fourth quarter.

And once again, Boston’s defense turned the game by allowing just 12 points in the third quarter.

It’s been that kind of series for Indiana, which erased a 15-point first half deficit to take a 61-59 halftime lead. Myles Turner opened the third with a 3-pointer to make it a five-point game.

But Boston charged back with eight straight points to retake the lead, closed the quarter on a 9-2 run to make it 80-73 and pulled away late.

The Celtics took control quickly by going 8 of 10 on 3s in the first quarter to build a 37-22 lead.

Evans finally got the Pacers righted with 12 second-quarter points including bookend 3s to start and finish the 17-3 spurt that allowed Indiana to tie it at 52. The Pacers closed the half on a 9-2 run to take the lead.

 

Pascal Siakam scores 30, leads Raptors past Magic for 2-1 series lead

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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The Toronto Raptors think Pascal Siakam should be selected the NBA’s Most Improved Player.

He was their MVP on Friday night.

And the East’s No. 2 seed has the home-court edge back again.

Siakam had 30 points and 11 rebounds, hitting a floater with 1:33 left to help snuff out a big Orlando rally and the Raptors held off the Magic 98-93 to take a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference first-round series.

“He’s unbelievable,” Raptors guard Kyle Lowry said. “He’s the most improved basketball player in the NBA this year and he’s only going to get better.”

Siakam was 13 for 20 from the floor and the Raptors held Orlando to 36% shooting.

“It’s just taking what a defense gives us and going with it,” Siakam said.

Kawhi Leonard — battling illness this week — had 16 points and 10 rebounds. Danny Green had 13 points and Lowry finished with 12 points and 10 assists, plus ran down a huge offensive rebound with about 15 seconds left to extend a critical possession and spoil Orlando’s first home playoff game since 2012.

“It was really what I thought it was going to be tonight,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “I really thought this was going to be a tough atmosphere to play in.”

Terrence Ross led Orlando with 24 points, and Nikola Vucevic shook off a slow start to finish with 22 points and 14 rebounds.

Game 4 is Sunday night in Orlando.

“Our turnovers hurt us again,” Vucevic said, lamenting Orlando’s 16 giveaways. “We had too many of those. Empty possessions for us and against a team like that you can’t have that.”

The Raptors trailed 61-60 midway through the third after a brief Orlando spurt, then went on a 16-0 run over the next four minutes to take the lead for good. Siakam and Green were both 3 for 3 during the run, the Magic missed 10 consecutive shots over a span of 6 1/2 minutes and had to play uphill the rest of the way.

That being said, they went down swinging.

Lowry’s 3-pointer with 7:48 left gave Toronto its biggest lead at 86-69. The Magic came flying back, and Ross’ 3-pointer with 41 seconds left got Orlando to 96-93.

Leonard was short with a jumper on the next possession — but the Magic couldn’t control the rebound, Lowry ran it down and Leonard made a pair of free throws with 12.9 seconds remaining to clinch the win.

“Critical,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said.

Orlando, which finished the regular season by winning 13 of its final 14 home games, was 13 of 44 from 3-point range.

Toronto scored the first 10 points — the last five by Siakam, who was a problem from the outset for the Magic — and led by as many as 11 in the first half. The Magic got within 48-45 at the break after Ross beat the clock from midcourt at the buzzer.

The Magic got the lead twice in the second half, once by one point, the other by two points. And both leads lasted exactly 15 seconds, getting taken away on 3-pointers by Siakam and Green.

And now it’s up to Orlando to regroup, the same way Toronto did after dropping Game 1.

“It’s 2-1,” Clifford said. “It’s not like it’s 3-0. It’s 2-1…. Handling disappointment is a huge part of NBA basketball and it’s a bigger part of playoff basketball.”

Watch Orlando’s Terrence Ross drain halfcourt buzzer beater just before half

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Back on their home court, the Orlando Magic are hanging right with the Toronto Raptors in Game 3 of the 1-1 series.

This helped.

It looked like the Magic would go into halftime down by at least six, and then Terrence Ross did this.

Ross’ name came up a lot just before the trade deadline when other teams thought the Magic would decide to tank and move on from their players who could bring back assets to help the rebuild. The Magic were 10 games below .500 and four games out of the eight seed. Orlando decided instead to push for the postseason, and they made their first playoffs since the Dwight Howard era, climbing all the way to the seven seed. That would not have happened without Ross.

Now they are making the most of their opportunity.