Five traditional playmakers in the 2016 NBA Draft
BOSTON – The NBA is moving more and more towards becoming a position-less league where big men initiate the offense and pass-first and playmaking guards of the past continue to see their stock in the eyes of NBA teams plummet like Enron stock in the 1990s.
That said, there is still a role for traditional playmakers in the NBA.
Here’s a look at five NBA hopefuls who rank among this draft’s best playmakers.
5. Fred VanVleet, PG, Wichita State
You hear all the time about players being an extension of the head coach on the floor, but few execute that role as well as VanVleet. His greatest strength for the Shockers was his ability to execute the pick-and-roll to near perfection, a great talent when you’re talking about being an NBA point guard.
However, VanVleet doesn’t have great size (6-foot-1), length (6-2), athleticism or any of the measurables that speak to a playmaker’s upside at the next level. There’s a decent chance that he won’t be drafted. But VanVleet is a winner and excels at a phase of the game (pick and roll) that every NBA team has as part of their playbook.
He looks the part of a late second-round pick or potentially undrafted prospect. But he has done enough in college to where he’ll wind up in someone’s training camp if he doesn’t choose to take his talents overseas.
4. Demetrius Jackson, PG, Notre Dame
Jackson made a nice transition last season from playing off the ball, to being a primary ball-handler for the Fighting Irish where he averaged 4.7 assists with 2.2 turnovers per game. He has elite athleticism and can change speeds off the dribble effectively which makes him a player who should thrive in pick-and-roll sets in the NBA. A 38 percent career 3-point shooter, Jackson also has the ability to be effective playing off the ball as well. He could very well sneak into the latter stages of the lottery (top-14), but is more likely to be selected in the mid-to-late teens, but no further than the early 20s.
3. Kay Felder, PG, Oakland (Mich.) University
Standing just 5-9 ½, Felder is very much in the mold of most undersized guards in terms of having a high aptitude for scoring the ball. Felder has a good wingspan (6-2 ½) for his height and a strong, muscular build which makes him less of a liability defensively which is one of the biggest knocks against most small guards. But what makes Felder so special is his playmaking ability. Last season he led the nation with 9.3 assists per game while scoring an impressive 24.4 points per game which ranked fourth nationally. The concerns about him are similar to the ones NBA teams had when Celtics all-star Isaiah Thomas came into the NBA as the 60th and final pick of the 2011 NBA draft. Thomas’ success since then will likely provide a boost to Felder’s stock in the eyes of NBA teams that should result in him being taken in the middle-to-late stages of the second round.
2. Tyler Ulis, PG, Kentucky
Ulis was the guiding force behind one of the most talented offenses in college basketball last season, doing well enough to earn SEC Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year as well as being named a First Team All-American. He excels at pushing the ball up the floor as well as generating offense in half-court sets. And he doesn’t make many mistakes which is apparent by his 3.5-to-1 assists-to-turnover ratio. But Ulis is generously listed at 5-10 and weighs just 149 pounds, raising lots of concerns as to how well his body will hold up against bigger, stronger, more physical players in the NBA. Ulis has lottery pick (top-14) talent but will likely be taken somewhere in the late teens or early 20s of the first round.
Tyler Ulis 2016 NBA Draft scouting report
1. Kris Dunn, PG, Providence
While Tyler Ulis may be the best playmaking point guard in this draft, there is no point guard with a more complete skillset than Dunn. First you start with his 6-9 wingspan on a 6-4 frame which is well-suited for today’s NBA. And unlike a lot of guards in this draft, Dunn comes in with an NBA-ready frame and the kind of defensive mindset that will allow him to see action immediately. Truthfully, that is what sets him apart from most of this draft’s playmaking point guards. This past season, he improved his scoring (16.2 from 15.6 last year) and 3-point shooting (37.2 from 35.1 last year) while cutting back on his turnovers (3.5 from 4.2). His jumper is still somewhat suspect and while he looks and plays the part most of the time of a great defender, Dunn does tend to gamble more than most which puts him at times out of position defensively. But because of his length and overall athleticism, Dunn is able to mask those miscues. The 22-year-old Dunn is a top-10 pick for sure who could be off the board as early as No. 3 to Boston.