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2015 NBA Draft: Analyzing the Top 5 point guards

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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.

Trust the Rookie: Wendell Carter Jr. draws Opening Night start against Joel Embiid, Sixers

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Trust the Rookie: Wendell Carter Jr. draws Opening Night start against Joel Embiid, Sixers

In a five-game span Wendell Carter Jr. saw preseason action against Anthony Davis, Nikola Jokic and Myles Turner. The 19-year-old rookie had his share of expected ups and downs but performed well enough that Fred Hoiberg officially announced him a starter for the team’s season opener tomorrow night.

His reward for all that hard work? A matchup against All-Pro center Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers.

It’ll be an eye-opening experience for the Duke product, who just a year ago was readying himself for his first season of college basketball and a season-opening matchup against Elon. It’s safe to assume Embiid will pose a few more problems than did Phoenix center Tyler Seibring.

“Joel Embiid was one of my role models growing up,” Embiid said before practice Wednesday. “He was someone I always wanted to pattern my game after. Just to go up against him is a remarkable feeling. He’s a very physical player. He’s a very talented player. I’m going to be able to stack up and see what all I need to work on to last in this league.”

While it’s no easy task against a talent like Embiid, who was named All-NBA Second Team last season, Carter’s most important job will be staying out of foul trouble. Carter piggy-backed an impressive Summer League with a preseason that included averages of 7.0 points and 5.6 rebounds in 21.1 minutes. But those numbers also included 7.7 fouls per 48 minutes. He racked up 17 fouls in five games, and had at least three in each.

Embiid only went to the line five times in Tuesday’s season-opening loss to the Celtics, but that was primarily against Defensive Player of the Year candidate Al Horford. Embiid won’t face as much resistance against Carter, putting the pressure on the rookie to stay on the floor.

“He’s going to have to navigate that without using his hands,” Fred Hoiberg said. “We have to be all five aware. It’s just not a one-man problem with Embiid. We have to have great awareness of him and try and mix up coverages and hopefully make him take tough shots, knowing that he’s going to hit some of those. You just can’t get deflated when he does.’’

The decision was a mere formality – Bobby Portis will start at power forward – after the frontcourt combination played considerably better in the Bulls’ final two preseason games. Though Jabari Parker was initially slotted in at power forward following Lauri Markkanen’s elbow sprain, Portis’ impressive preseason forced Hoiberg’s hand. Portis averaged 17.0 points and 5.8 rebounds and shot 55 percent from the field in just 22.4 minutes.

“It’s all about combinations out there and we felt like Bobby gave us a great start with the way he was playing,” Hoiberg said. “And then we kind of changed things up with that second unit and put the ball in Jabari’s hands, so it was more that in trying to get guys out there with the right combinations.”

Lopez may have an expanded role if Carter gets into foul trouble early, while Parker will be the facilitator on a second unit that doesn’t have much in the way of a point guard. It’s anyone’s guess as to how the frontcourt will play out once Markkanen returns in roughly a month; if Portis and Carter continue playing well, Hoiberg could opt to keep them together on the second unit and put Lopez back in the starting lineup.

But for at least Opening Night – the Bulls also get Andre Drummond and the Pistons on Saturday – it’ll be the seventh overall pick getting his NBA feet wet with a matchup against arguably the best center in basketball. But’s it a role he’s earned, and on a Bulls defense looking for any sort of improvement, Carter is the player who can anchor it.

“His defense is always going to be important for us. He’s the guy that’s the anchor in that starting unit at the rim,” Hoiberg said, “and he’s done a really solid job of making perimeter guys taking contested shots when he gets switched off, or staying vertical at the rim and trying to make a big finish over the top of him, so yeah, again it’s a great challenge, great opportunity for Wendell.”

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

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Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski sits down with Kendall Gill and Will Perdue to discuss all the need-to-know topics to get you ready for the season opener. The guys analyze how Lauri’s injury will make its mark on the early season rotation, whether Jabari will return to the starting unit or embrace the 6th-man role and why Portis betting on himself is the right move. Plus, Kendall has the key to unlock a “6th Man of the Year” award for Portis this season.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below: