Best Point Guard

Michigan's Trey Burke might be the Wooden Award favorite, but is he the top point guard prospect in college basketball? Chad Ford and Eamonn Brennan don't think so, but what do you say? Join the debate here:

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Which of these point guards skills will best translate to the NBA?

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    44%
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    33%
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    23%

Discuss (Total votes: 7,007)

MARCUS SMART
MCW

A freshman shall lead them

Ford By Chad Ford
ESPN.com
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Michigan's Trey Burke might be the best point guard in college basketball. He's also turning into a very good NBA prospect. He is ranked No. 14 in our Top 100 and still has room to grow. But as good as Burke has been this season, he's not the best pro point guard prospect in college hoops.

That honor goes to Oklahoma State freshman Marcus Smart, who has virtually everything a pro scout is looking for in a NBA guard. Size? Check. Elite athletic ability? Check. NBA body? Check. High basketball IQ? Check. A leader? Check. Two-way player? Double-check.

Smart's draft stock has been on the rise since he led USA Basketball's under-18 team this summer. Coaches raved about his leadership, work ethic and ability to fit in when others were playing well and step up and take over when they needed him. His stock has continued to evolve this year with a terrific all-around debut season at Oklahoma State and standout performances against NC State and, more recently, at Kansas on Saturday.

Smart had 25 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists and 5 steals in a huge win against the Jayhawks in Lawrence. Once again, it was Smart's clutch play down the stretch that wowed scouts -- 9 points, 3 boards, 2 steals and an assist on the game-sealing bucket in the final two minutes.

The Dallas-area native currently ranks at No. 6 on our Top 100. If the draft were held today, I believe Smart would be the first point guard off the board and a potential top-five pick.

Hey, Smart has areas that need improvement. He's a streaky outside shooter. He can be turnover prone. He's still learning the nuances of playing the point.

He also has competition for that top point guard spot from Burke, Syracuse's Michael Carter-Williams and Lehigh's C.J. McCollum. Stastically, Burke outperforms everyone on measures such as John Hollinger's PER or Ken Pomeroy's Offensive Rating. However, Burke's lack of size and elite athletic ability are working against him. MCW has incredible size for his position, but his shooting woes (36 percent from the field) and a rash of recent turnovers have scouts worried. McCollum is the best scorer of the group, but scouts question whether he's really a point guard and a season-ending injury work against him.

Add all of that up and you get Oklahoma State's dynamite freshman as the top point guard prospect in college basketball.

A true pass-first point guard

Brennan By Eamonn Brennan
ESPN.com
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If you're interested in discussing which college point guard is having the best 2012-13 season, well, what discussion? That's Trey Burke, who is having a season worthy of the copious player of the year plaudits he has already received. No other player in the country so deftly manages his talented offense while also knowing when to command the game on his own. His sheer hoops intelligence is a joy to behold.

That said, as good as Burke has been, when we're talking about the best NBA prospect at the point, I think you have to go with Syracuse sophomore Michael Carter-Williams.

Carter-Williams is that rarest of breeds: a pass-first point guard in a shooting guard's frame. When you see him play for the first time, you assume his lanky 6-foot-6 body is best used toward the purposes of scoring, and he can do some of that, too.

But MCW really is a point guard. His best ability is his passing: He's averaged 8.6 assists per game this season and he records an assist on 44.7 percent of his available possessions, fifth-best in the country this season. He is also an excellent defender, particularly when he plays passing lanes in Syracuse's 2-3 zone. He records 5.1 steals per 100 possessions.

I also think you have to be impressed by the general trajectory of his career thus far. Carter-Williams was listed as a top-five shooting guard prospect in the class of 2012, but because Syracuse's backcourt was so loaded -- senior Scoop Jardine was still in town, as was sophomore super-sub and future top-five pick Dion Waiters -- he only rarely cracked the rotation, forget the starting lineup. A year later, the guy has assumed the mantle of point guard and team leader, and he's done so despite essentially starting from scratch.

Carter-Williams has to get stronger, he could be a slightly better ball handler, and his shooting has to improve. These are weaknesses, but they are the kinds of weaknesses players often iron out with practice and development within an NBA franchise. What matters most to MCW's NBA prospects are the things you can't teach -- his size and his intuitive feel for the game.

At worst, the kid can play regular minutes in the league. At best, he's Shaun Livingston before the knee injury. If I'm an NBA general manager, that potential is too tantalizing to pass up.