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.

Spurs GM still optimistic relationship with Kawhi Leonard can be salvaged

Associated Press
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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — General manager R.C. Buford acknowledges star forward Kawhi Leonard is unhappy with the Spurs.

He remains optimistic the relationship can be salvaged.

Leonard has requested a trade from San Antonio because he is unhappy after missing most of last season with a right quadriceps injury. Buford would not comment on “speculation” of a trade demand, but agreed there is a fractured relationship between Leonard and the only franchise he has played for.

“Kawhi and his family mean a lot to the organization and to the community and while none of wish we are where we are, we’re going to do what we can to build the best relationship we can with him,” Buford said Thursday night as the Spurs made two late picks in the NBA Draft. “We’ll explore all of our options, but the first one would be to do what we can to keep Kawhi as part of our group.”

Leonard missed the first 27 games of the season but returned to play in nine games. He complained of discomfort and pain in the leg in his final game. Leonard sought an outside opinion after the Spurs cleared him to play, working with his own medical team in New York in an attempt to return to the court. The 6-foot-7 forward reportedly grew upset that the Spurs had questioned his rehabilitation process.

The Spurs listed him as out on their injury reports for much of the year citing “injury management.” While San Antonio was in the playoffs, losing in the first round to eventual repeat champion Golden State, Leonard was rehabbing in New York – which meant that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, when asked for the situation, deferred all comment to “Kawhi and his group.”

“I think all of us would wish that things would have gone differently,” Buford said.

The Spurs held a team meeting late in the season where veterans, led by Tony Parker, implored Leonard to return. Leonard said he was unable to due to the injury.

In the 2016-17 season, Leonard averaged a career-best 25.5 points and was third in the MVP voting. The 2014 NBA Finals MVP and two-time NBA defensive player of the year is due just over $20 million next season, and can become a free agent in the summer of 2019. He is eligible to sign a $220 million extension with San Antonio.

He is reportedly willing to walk away from that to play elsewhere, possibly in Los Angeles.

“I don’t know that timing is a factor in this from today … he’s under contract for another year, our goal is to keep him as part of our program for a long time,” Buford said.

 

NBA Draft Winners, Losers: Big nights for Phoenix, Dallas

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Let’s start with the obvious — this whole story is a fool’s errand. It really takes about three years to accurately assess who are the winners and losers in the NBA draft. Guys we thought were locks will turn out to be pretty pedestrian, guys we wrote off as projects down the board will impress. In three years, we’ll have a real sense of which teams read this draft well and nailed it.

But we don’t live in that world.

So here are my projections on the real winners and losers Thursday night in Brooklyn, starting with the guys who didn’t screw up the No. 1 pick.

 

Suns small icon Winner: Phoenix Suns.

It isn’t just that they didn’t screw up the top pick and landed in DeAndre Ayton, the guy most likely to be a franchise cornerstone star in this class. Although they did that. Also, it was their move later to trade their pick at No. 16 (Texas Tech’s Zhaire Smith) for Mikal Bridges — most likely the best “3&D” prospect in this draft (it cost them a future first via Miami). By the time everyone was trying to get an Uber outside Barclays Center the Suns had put together a starting lineup of Devin Booker, Bridges, Josh Jackson, and Ayton (plus a point guard to be named later). That’s a group worth watching — and they hired Igor Kokoskov as their new coach this summer because he’s strong on player development. It’s the start of something.

Phoenix also drafted French point guard Elie Okobo at 31 in the second round when a lot of teams thought of him as a first-round talent. Another smart move.

Loser: Michael Porter Jr.

A couple of weeks ago, Porter was mentioned as a potential No. 2 selection to the Kings. But after teams got a look at his medical reports from last Friday’s workout — remember, he missed all but three games at Missouri following back surgery — they backed off. Reports about his attitude didn’t help. Porter slid all the way down to Denver at 14. What that means to him besides getting to play at altitude in Denver: The No. 2 pick is slotted for a $7.3 million salary next season, the No. 14 makes less than $3 million. We’ll see if Porter can use this as motivation — and stay healthy.

One winner in this: The Denver Nuggets for grabbing him at 14. That is a good team (they just missed the playoffs) with strong players already where Porter can be brought along slowly without unreasonable expectations.

Mavericks small icon Winner: Dallas Mavericks.

Mark Cuban and company traded up from No. 5 to No. 3 and landed Luka Doncic — the player they had highest rated on the board. This is a win for the Mavs and for Doncic because he lands with a brilliant Xs and Os coach in Rick Carlisle who will put him in positions to succeed, plus Doncic gets mentored by Dirk Nowitzki. This pick also is a strong move because he should pair well with young point guard Dennis Smith Jr. — Doncic can run the pick-and-roll at times with Smith cutting and moving off the ball, and in the reverse Doncic has a good catch-and-shoot game. Dallas has options for playmaking now.

Also, nice second-round pickup of Villanova point guard Jalen Brunson. That’s a high IQ player who can step in as a reserve and help immediately.

Loser: Robert Williams.

The Texas A&M big man has the talent of a late lottery pick — the Clippers met with him a couple of times — but concerns about his attitude and work ethic saw him plummet all the way down the board to 27. Will he use this as motivation to play with a high motor all the time, or will he continue to coast? If he brings it, he could be the steal of this draft. That brings us to…

Celtics small iconWinner: Boston Celtics (because they got Robert Williams).

This was an Oceans 9 level robbery (that’s the next movie, right?) for Danny Ainge this late in the first round. At No. 27 you’re usually just hoping to get a guy who can develop into a role player in a few years. Williams is much more than that, he has the tools to be an elite NBA defender, and in college he was a defensive and rebounding force. In the NBA he’s going to be a rim running big, ala DeAndre Jordan — except Jordan fulfilled his potential. It’s up to Boston to get that out of Williams (and it’s up to Williams himself to work), but if they do this was another brilliant Ainge pick.

Loser: Golden State Warriors.

They tried to buy into the second round as they did a year ago and pick up someone who fits their style — and this year they had $5.1 million to do it (more than the $3.5 million a year ago). However, other GMs remember how much heat the Bulls front office took for selling their pick to Golden State last year and watching the Warriors draft Jordan Bell — Mr. “cash considerations” was playing a role in the NBA Finals. No GM wanted to repeat that mistake. No early second-round pick for the Warriors this year.

However, their first-round pick of Jacob Evans was a good one, he’s the kind of versatile wing player who fits into their rotation.

Winner: Puma.

The German soccer cleat maker shoe and apparel company wanted to get back into the basketball game, and the did it with a splash — their guys Ayton and Bagley went No. 1 and 2. That’s going to be a lot of free publicity and a lot of eyes on their players starting in Summer League and beyond. The company also landed guys with real potential in Michael Porter Jr. and Zhaire Smith.

Oh, and they hired Jay-Z as well. That’s a good week whatever else happens.

Winner: NBA Twitter

The guys in suits up the executive food chain tried to put an end to Woj bombs this year — ESPN was trying to clamp down on their news breakers Tweeting out the picks before they happened (as had been the case for a few years, with Twitter often two or three picks ahead of Adam Silver and the broadcast). Other major news breakers (such as Yahoo’s Shams Charania) agreed to play along. We all thought we would have to wait around for Adam Silver to saunter up to the table.

But if there is one thing NBA Twitter has taught us it’s that it will not be contained. It breaks free, it expands to new territories and crashes through barriers, painfully, maybe even dangerously. NBA Twitter, uh… finds a way.

Before long Twitter picks were leaking and Twitter was a pick ahead of the broadcast again, and Adrian Wojnarowski was dropping bombs, cleverly not saying who the pick was but….

NBA Twitter is the best.

Lonnie Walker’s Spurs hat appears as if it’s floating above his head (photo)

AP Photo/Kevin Hagen
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Basketball players don’t wear hats.

White Men Can't Jump (1992)

OK, scratch that. NBA players don’t wear hats.

But it has become tradition for draft picks to don a cap of the team that selected him.

So, even though Lonnie Walker‘s hair looks like this (via AP):

Pittsburgh Miami Basketball

…he put on a Spurs hat when they selected him No. 18:

NBA Draft Basketball

Even Elfrid Payton did a much better job cramming his do into his hat on draft night:

Walker, an athletic shooting guard who underperformed at Miami, was a surprising choice by San Antonio. The Spurs generally prioritize basketball intelligence over athleticism (though, to be fair, that’s hardly an absolute).

But no matter how Walker fits in San Antonio goes, it probably won’t be more awkward than this.

Report: 76ers trade Mikal Bridges to Suns for Zhaire Smith, future first-rounder

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Update: Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated:

Again, that is a ton to give up to move up six spots.

 

The 76ers drafting Mikal Bridges No. 10 was a dream come true. He was born in Philadelphia and grew up rooting for the 76ers. He stayed home for college, playing at Villanova. His mom even worked for the 76ers, and she was PUMPED when Adam Silver announced the selection tonight.

But the NBA is cruel.

Philadelphia has already traded Bridges – to the Suns for No. 16 pick Zhaire Smith and a future first-rounder.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

That 2021 Heat pick was unprotected for the Suns and potentially quite valuable. It’s always difficult to forecast that far into the future, but Miami – with an expensive and not-young roster – could drop considerably by then.

Did Phoenix add protections to the selection before flipping it? If not, that is a huge price to move up six spots, and I say that as someone who likes Bridges a lot. DeAndre Ayton and Bridges comprise a heck of a haul for the Suns, who are adding talent around Devin Booker.

But there are complications. Josh Jackson isn’t good enough to stress over, but he and Bridges could be a strange fit. Can either natural small forward play up or down a position?

And that Heat pick looms large. It’s reminiscent of Phoenix trading a future Lakers pick – which, incidentally, became Bridges – for Brandon Knight. That backfired. Perhaps, this works better.

Smith is a solid prospect, but maybe a strange fit in Philadelphia. He has big-man skills in a guard’s body. There’s nothing wrong with betting on the hard worker and athletic marvel developing, but he must to fit with Ben Simmons. Otherwise, the 76ers won’t have enough shooting.

Bridges was an easier fit, but apparently Philadelphia preferred Smith and the extra asset.