Thursday, May 26, 2011
Draft lookahead: Rating the point guards
By Jared Zwerling
This past season, the Nets tied the Sacramento Kings for the fifth-worst record in the league, but they don't have a top-five selection in next month's NBA draft like most bottom-of-the-barrel teams do. That changed when they traded for arguably the best point guard in the game, Deron Williams, and now the Utah Jazz have the third pick. Instead, the Nets have the 27th pick, acquired in a trade with the Los Angeles Lakers for Sasha Vujacic.
While the Nets should not have to worry about upgrading at the one, they enter the draft with some uncertainty at the position. There's no concern surrounding backup point Jordan Farmar; he's signed through 2013. But D-Will hasn't given the team a definite that he'll resign with them. Although he's previously stated that he's happy to be a Net and has hinted several times he wants to stay long term, especially by showing his excitement over the upcoming Barclays Center in Brooklyn, he wants to see how the labor negotiations play out. Only problem with that is, July 1, the first day a new CBA can be signed, comes after the draft on June 23. So the Nets have some thinking to do.
We'll be looking at the draft position by position in this blog over the next few weeks as June 23 approaches, beginning today with the point guard spot. Considering Kyrie Irving, Brandon Knight, Kemba Walker and Jimmer Fredette will be long gone by the time New Jersey picks, here are the top five point guards who have a decent or better-than-decent shot at being available to the Nets on draft night:
1. Josh Selby (Kansas; 6'2", 183) -- The Knicks covet the Baltimore native (hint hint: Carmelo Anthony is also from the area), but if they pass on him for another point guard or defensive/rebounding specialist, the Kansas freshman could slip to the Nets at No. 27 for really one reason: his character issues. According to some, he comes off as a selfish player who cares more about himself than the team. But he can be that good. I first saw Selby play at the 2008 Iolani Classic in Honolulu, and he was spectacular. Every time he caught the ball he looked to attack, and he was so explosive off the dribble that every time he got in the lane, he looked to posterize those standing in his way. He's also a one-man fastbreak, which is music to head coach Avery Johnson's ears. "After a missed shot by the opponents, with the ball in our possession, we want to go," he wrote in his book, "Avery Johnson: Attacking Man-to-Man Defenses, Part I & II." That week during the Hawaii tournament, he became an instant fan favorite with his dunks and celebratory antics. He's a player with a lot of confidence and passion for the game, and being that the Nets were a flat team last year, they could use some rah-rah now and when they move to Brooklyn. Selby has that New York swagger. Some people say he'll take some time to make an impact in the NBA, but let's not forget in his first college game after being suspended for the first nine of the season for taking improper benefits, he scored 21 points, hitting five 3-pointers. NBA comparison: A more athletic Jason Terry
2. Reggie Jackson (Boston College; 6'3", 208) -- The Eagles star made huge improvements as a junior, not only with with his scoring (18.2 points per game). He upped his field goal and 3-point shooting from 43.0 and 29.1 percent his sophomore year, respectively, to 50.3 and 42.0 percent this past season. At the NBA pre-draft combine this past weekend in Chicago, he measured a ridiculous 7-foot wingspan and scouts love his athleticism. While Selby has more All-Star potential because of his extra step and threatening finishing ability, Jackson is better equipped to handle point guard duties right off the bat (he averaged 4.5 assists). By the way, you've also got to respect his rebounding (4.3 per game), so you know he's going to be aggressive even without the ball in his hands. He's the complete package. NBA comparison: A better rebounding Devin Harris
3. Charles Jenkins (Hofstra; 6'3", 220) -- While Jenkins' schedule at Hofstra wasn't as challenging as Selby's or Jenkins', he consistently lit it up this past season, averaging 22.6 points. And for that reason alone, considering the Nets were third-worst in the league in scoring (94.2 points per game), the Pride senior is in the three spot on this list. He can flat-out put the ball in the basket, especially because he's built really well, and he doesn't shy away from double teams and extra pressure, which he saw all season being the star player. And that's what Johnson likes. From his book, he said, "The system I wanted to implement sprang from my overall philosophy of being the aggressor, not a reactor, on the basketball court." What you also have to like about Jenkins is his patience on the court; he's not an Allen Iverson-like volume shooter. He averaged his high point total shooting 51.7 percent from the field and 42.0 percent from three. NBA comparison: A better shooting Rodney Stuckey
4. Nolan Smith (Duke; 6'2", 185) -- Not many people have Smith ranked ahead of Michigan point guard Darius Morris (see below), but there are two major things that make me give the nod to Smith as the better prospect: 1) He played four years at Duke under legendary head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who knows the NBA game very well; and 2) he averaged 20.6 points, 5.1 assists and 4.5 rebounds this past season. Smith is not a head-turner like the three more athletic point guards mentioned above, but he has a high basketball IQ (did I mention he went to Duke?), and he's a solid outside shooter and finisher. His midrange and pull-up game needs work, as well as his change-of-pace moves to the basket, but he's a guy who knows how to improve. He entered his freshman year averaging 5.9 points and left averaging 20.6. NBA comparison: A more athletic Kirk Hinrich
5. Darius Morris (Michigan; 6'4", 190) -- There was some surprise when the unheralded sophomore declared early for the draft, and I may have to agree. Although his ability to penetrate and find open teammates was a key part of coach John Beilein's offense, I see him as more of a distributor than a scorer. True, he averaged 15 points per game, but his high scoring games were infrequent. Most of the time he hovered around 10 points, but his assist numbers were always strong. To me, he plays too patient and the NBA's fast-paced game could be a rude awakening for him. I think he can benefit from one more year of college to work on his scoring. Also, he'll get to play alongside up-and-comer Tim Hardaway Jr. and together they'll have a better chance to advance further in the NCAA Tournament. NBA comparison: A poor man's Jrue Holiday
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