2015 NBA Draft: Analyzing the Top 5 point guards


2015 NBA Draft: Analyzing the Top 5 point guards

In the days leading up to the NBA Draft, College Basketball Talk's Scott Phillips and Bulls Talk contributor Mark Strotman are analyzing the top 5 players at each position.

Today the pair look at point guards. In today's NBA the position has seen a surge of elite talent, with the likes of Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, John Wall, Russell Westbrook and Kyrie Irving leading the way. Past them, players such as Damian Lillard, Derrick Rose, Mike Conley, Jeff Teague and Kyle Lowry all have made All-Star appearances, making it an important position for NBA teams to shore up to have a chance of competing.

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This year's class should add two more potential superstars to that crop, with solid mid-first round value to be had with a handful of other players. Here's a look at who Phillips and Strotman both rank in the top 5 of this year's point guard group.

Also, make sure to check out our top 5 shooting guard analysis, top 5 small forward analysis, and our top 5 power forward analysis.

Scott Phillips

1. Emmanuel Mudiay, China: After opting to play in the Chinese Basketball Association instead of SMU, the 6-foot-5 former McDonald's All-American showed well playing with professionals overseas and has great measurables to be a potential long-time starter.

2. D'Angelo Russell, Ohio State: The Ohio State star freshman burst on the scene last season thanks to his shooting and incredible court vision and those both should translate well to the NBA game. The big questions becomes whether his lack of a great first step or explosiveness at the rim will hold him back.

3. Cameron Payne, Murray State: Not many nationally will know much about the Murray State sophomore, but he has a chance to be a very good NBA player thanks to his ability to run a team or score. With a 6-foot-7 wingspan, Payne also could become a solid defender.

4. Jerian Grant, Notre Dame: The son of Harvey Grant (and nephew of Horace), Grant has good bloodlines and had a tremendous senior year at Notre Dame. He's athletic and intelligent enough to play in the NBA, but is his perimeter jumper steady enough to see the floor with a lot of minutes?

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5. Tyus Jones, Duke: Jones is an accomplished point guard who won a national championship at Duke as the freshman starting point guard. He might have limited upside and Jones is shaky on the defensive end, but he runs pick-and-rolls, shoots it well from all over and has a cool and calm demeanor.

Mark Strotman

1. D'Angelo Russell, Ohio State: One of college basketball's elite point guards last season, Russell plays with phenomenal poise, wastes no steps, has an improving perimeter game and touts superb court vision. At 6-foot-5 he can defend both guard positions, and while he isn't ultra-quick he's always in the right spot and has a stellar basketball IQ. He has superstar potential.

2. Emmanuel Mudiay, China: It's difficult not to think of John Wall when watching the lightning-quick Mudiay play in transition, and having already played professional basketball for a year he should step in from Day 1 and contribute. His perimeter shot is still a question mark, but he's a potential foundation for a franchise when he puts it all together.

3. Jerian Grant, Notre Dame: A fifth-year senior who put Notre Dame on his back last season, Grant has excellent measurables, can handle the ball well for his size (6-foot-5) and defends. His perimeter numbers declined steeply in his final season, but some of that can be attributed to how much was asked of him by the Irish.

4. Cameron Payne, Murray State: The best defensive point guard in the class, Payne has great length, is a tough competitor and has great 3-point range. Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum have bucked the notion that a mid-major point guard can't hang with the best of the best. Payne has serious potential down the road.

5. Tyus Jones, Duke: The Final Four's Most Outstanding Player in 2015, Jones is a blur in transition, ran the offense to a T in classic Duke point guard fashion and has an improving mid-range and perimeter game. Size may be an issue, as he tended to get swallowed up at times when driving to the basket.

There are 600,000 reasons you won't hear Gar, Pax or Hoiberg discuss losing


There are 600,000 reasons you won't hear Gar, Pax or Hoiberg discuss losing

The Bulls made headlines on Tuesday when VP John Paxson announced that David Nwaba, Cristiano Felicio and Cameron Payne would be entering the rotation, thus continuing the youth movement in Chicago.

On the surface the moves make sense. The 24-year-old Nwaba, the 25-year-old Felicio and the 23-year-old Cameron Payne will be replacing 28-year-old Justin Holiday, 29-year-old Robin Lopez and 25-year-old Jerian Grant. The Bulls want to see what they have in these younger players who haven't played much; they already know what they have in Lopez and Holiday, and Grant (like the other two) is under contract through next year.

OK, got that? Here's why they're making the move: they're sitting 8th in the NBA Lottery standings and really want to move into the top-5 to give themselves a chance at what should be a loaded front-end of the draft class. It's pretty obvious, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either named Gar Forman, John Paxson or Fred Hoiberg.

And here's why: On Wednesday Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was fined a whopping $600,000 by the NBA for comments he made on a podcast regarding tanking. The Mavericks are currently 18-40, the third worst record in the NBA. This comes a season after they finished 33-49, netting them the No. 9 pick that turned into talented point guard Dennis Smith Jr.

So when Cuban was asked about the best interests of his Dallas team, which touts young talent but clearly isn't headed for the postseason in 2018, he said this on the House Call with Dr. J Podcast:

"I'm probably not supposed to say this, but, like, I just had dinner with a bunch of our guys the other night, and here we are, you know, we weren't competing for the playoffs. I was like, 'Look, losing is our best option. [Commissioner] Adam [Silver] would hate hearing that, but I at least sat down and I explained it to them. And I explained what our plans were going to be this summer, that we're not going to tank again. This was, like, a year-and-a-half tanking, and that was too brutal for me. But being transparent, I think that's the key to being kind of a players owner and having stability."

Cuban isn't wrong, and the Mavericks sure as hell aren't the only team tanking. But to come right now and admit that losing is the team's best option wasn't, as Cuban predicted, going to sit well with the league office.

Commissioner Adam Silver sent out a memo with the fine that said Cuban's comments "which concerned his perspective on the team's competitive success this season" were "detrimental to the NBA."

So while the Bulls are going about their business in trying to lose as many games down the stretch as possible, don't expect anyone to admit it's the reason behind their personnel moves. There are 600,000 reasons why.

NBA Draft Tracker: Michigan State's Miles Bridges


NBA Draft Tracker: Michigan State's Miles Bridges

NBA general managers were fully expecting to see Miles Bridges declare for the 2017 draft after a solid, but unspectacular freshman season at Michigan State. Bridges arrived in East Lansing as one of the nation’s top prospects, and his impressive leaping ability led to a number of highlight reel plays for Tom Izzo’s Spartans.

Problem is, Bridges didn’t show much versatility to his offensive game because of an inconsistent outside shot and inability to create shots off the dribble. Bridges probably would have been a late lottery pick last year on athletic talent alone, but to his credit, he decided to go back to Michigan State for his sophomore season and work on some of his weaknesses.

Unfortunately for Bridges, he really hasn’t shown much improvement year to year. Yes, he’s leading the Big Ten in free throw shooting at 89%, but his other numbers are basically flat from season to season. Bridges averaged 16.9 points a year ago, 17.1 this season. He shot .486 from the field in 2016-17, .477 this year. Even with all the work he put in on his 3 point shooting, his percentage has dropped slightly this season, from .389 to .376. Rebounding is also down slightly, from 8.3 to 6.8. 

Bottom line, Bridges is once again projected as a late lottery pick.

How does he fit for the Bulls? It’s no secret small forward and center are the two positions of need heading into the 2018 draft, and the 6-7 Bridges would give the Bulls another athletic frontcourt player who fits the pace and space game Fred Hoiberg prefers. Bridges could be a real weapon running the floor with Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine for alley-oop dunks, and he should continue to improve as a 3 point shooter.

The Bulls are hoping to land a top 5 pick to add one of the elite players in this draft, and unless the Pelicans drop into the late lottery, Bridges will probably be gone by the time that selection comes up. He’s probably a bit of a reach in the 6 to 10 range, but if positional need and athletic potential are the most important factors for the Bulls, Miles Bridges could be the choice if they don’t improve their position in the current lottery watch standings.

Personally, I would prefer either Kentucky’s Kevin Knox or Villanova’s Mikal Bridges (no relation) over Miles Bridges as a small forward prospect, but all 3 players offer different skill sets that could be helpful to a young, developing team like the Bulls.

The dream scenario would be drafting a young center like Deandre Ayton, Jaren Jackson Jr. or Mo Bamba with a top 5 pick, then coming back to add one of those 3 small forward prospects with the 1st rounder they acquired in the Niko Mirotic trade with New Orleans. We’ll all have to wait until the lottery is held on May 15th to see if the Bulls are in position to add two more foundation pieces to their rebuilding project.