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2015 NBA Draft: Analyzing the Top 5 shooting guards

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2015 NBA Draft: Analyzing the Top 5 shooting 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 shooting guards. It's arguably the weakest position in this year's class, with no real standout performer who can play both guard positions in addition to his ability to shoot. Still, there's shooting aplenty at the position, and the consensus top three players at the position all are 19 years young.

Here's a look at who Phillips and Strotman both rank in the top 5 of this year's shooting guard group.

Be sure to take a look back at their top 5 point guards analysis, top 5 small forwards, and top 5 power forwards too.

Scott Phillips

1. Mario Hezonja, Barcelona: Playing some of the best competition in the world outside of the NBA, the 6-foot-8, 200-pound Hezonja has all of the tools to be a high-level shooting guard. His jumper is workable but a bit inconsistent and he's very athletic as well.

2. Devin Booker, Kentucky: Playing on a loaded Kentucky team that sent seven players to the NBA Draft, Booker was at-times the go-to scorer for the Wildcats this season. His ability to shoot (41 percent 3-point) and score off the dribble should help NBA teams immediately.

3. Rashad Vaughn, UNLV: Vaughn had an incomplete freshman season at UNLV thanks to a knee injury, but he's a potential two-way guard who can put up points if he's given plenty of shots. With an ability to shoot or attack the basket, Vaughn could be a solid scorer in this league with some refined skillwork.

4. R.J. Hunter, Georgia State: Many label Hunter as a good shooter -- although his 29 percent from 3-point range doesn't show it. But the Georgia State product is a good floor spacer who is also great at sharing the ball and he's very long with a 6-foot-10 wingspan.

5. J.P. Tokoto, North Carolina: The North Carolina product struggled with his jumper during college, but he's an elite athlete and a very good passer for a guard. With his ability to move laterally and leap, Tokoto could become a good defender in the right system.

[REPORT: Jimmy Butler could go after shorter deal in free agency]

Mark Strotman

1. Devin Booker, Kentucky: The youngest player in this year's draft, Booker is a sharpshooter with plenty of upside. If he can improve defensively he could wind up being one of the top three players in his class.

2. Mario Hezonja, Barcelona: From the little I've seen, Hezonja is going to thrive in an up-tempo system where his versatility can be utilized best. His jump shooting will improve over time, as will his 200-pound frame. A top-10 talent.

3. R.J. Hunter, Georgia State: Hunter is known for his clutch 3-pointer in the NCAA Tournament, but he's much more of a playmaker who will provide a nice scoring touch on a team's second unit.

4. Rashad Vaughn, UNLV: A talented pure scorer and just 19 years old, Vaughn has elite two-way potential. His body is NBA-ready, but he'll need to be a better decision maker at the next level.

5. J.P. Tokoto, North Carolina: The best defensive prospect at his position, Tokoto could wind up being a defensive stopper on a team's second unit. If his jumper ever improves, he could be the steal of the draft.

Wendell Carter Jr. gets early 'learning experience' against Embiid, Sixers

Wendell Carter Jr. gets early 'learning experience' against Embiid, Sixers

PHILADELPHIA – Picture yourself at 19 years old.

Maybe you were in college. Maybe you hit the job market early.

What you likely weren’t doing was guarding one the NBA’s best centers in your first professional game.

That was the task charged to Wendell Carter Jr. in the Bulls’ 127-108 loss to the 76ers in the season opener at the Wells Fargo Center Thursday.

Carter Jr. was the seventh overall pick in the NBA draft after just one season at Duke. He earned the start in his NBA debut after an impressive preseason, but nothing could’ve prepared him for going up against Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid.

“Oh yeah, for sure,” Carter Jr. said when asked if Embiid was as impressive as he thought he’d be. “He’s a phenomenal player. He’s one of, or the best, big man in the league. Very skilled, very poised. He knows his spots on the court.

“I didn’t go out there with my best effort. It’s just a learning experience for me.”

Carter Jr. had eight points, three rebounds, three assists and a block in 20 minutes. He also picked up four fouls, which the rookie attributed to the physicality and craftiness of Embiid.

But he did flash the impressive and varied skill set that made him a high pick and such a coveted prospect. He was also able to garner the praise of the Bulls’ veterans.

“Even though Wendell got in foul trouble he was still playing (Embiid) solid,” Zach LaVine, who scored a team-high 30 points, said. “That’s a tough first game right there. But he didn’t lack for confidence. Made him take some tough shots, but he’s going to make them. He’s that type of player.”

To his credit, Carter Jr. was candid about his performance. He admitted that his emotions ran the gamut from nervous to excited to happy.

In a season that will have its ups and downs as the young Bulls develop and learn, there will likely be more games like this against other elite NBA competition. It’ll be how Carter Jr. responds that will define his career.

“It’s the first game so I don’t want to put too much on myself,” Carter Jr. said. “It would be different if it was like the 50th game or 60th game. It’s the first game. We’re just going to move on from it. We’ve got our home opener on Saturday (vs. the Pistons). That’s where my mind is right now.”

See, he’s learning already.

Could Ryan Arcidiacono be in line for more minutes?

Could Ryan Arcidiacono be in line for more minutes?

The Bulls backup point guard situation will be in dire straits all season, with no established veteran behind Kris Dunn. And although the front office has seemingly committed to Cameron Payne as the backup PG (for at least this season), Ryan Arcidiacono showed enough in the season opener to justify giving him meaningful plying time in the rotation. 

Here are the stat lines of Arcidiacono and Cameron Payne from the season opener in Philadelphia:

Arcidiacono: 8 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds, 2-for-3 from the 3-point line

Payne:           0 points, 5 assists, 1 rebound, 0-for-1 from the 3-point line

With so many capable ball handlers and score-first players on the Bulls, point and assist totals aren’t as important as the rebounds and 3-point attempts. To provide the necessary space needed for driving lanes, there has to be openings in the defense caused by defenders sticking close to player they believe are a threat to shoot.

And that is where the problem lies with Payne.

Ryan Arcidiacono—while by no means a dominant scorer—showed a willingness to attack off of the pick-and-roll, even showing off an impressive ball-fake:


Payne, despite coming into the league with the reputation of a scorer, has yet to be aggressive enough to make teams think twice about leaving him wide-open on the perimeter. And he is not one to attack the basket with purpose, averaging less than half a free throw per game for his career. Payne's general lack of aggressiveness when on the floor is often times made worse by his occasional poor post entry passes that seem predetermined:

Even if the above play was designed to get the ball to LaVine in the mid-post, Payne chooses a terrible time to make the pass. When he starts the motion to give the ball to LaVine, Ben Simmons is positioned in front of LaVine to force a tougher pass, as rookie Landry Shamet gambles over the backside to get the steal.

Had Payne chose to swing the ball around the perimeter, or give it to Bobby Ports and then get it back, he could have created an opening for the LaVine pass.

Obviously, the Bulls 19-point loss can’t be blamed on solely on Payne, the terrible defense was a group effort, as was the sometimes questionable shot selection. But with the defense already appearing to be perhaps one of the league's worst units, Fred Hoiberg would be wise to put Arcidiacono in more.

Hoiberg is in a crucial year where he needs to show that he can be the head coach of this team when they finally become competitive.

And for Hoiberg to show that type of growth as a coach, he needs to set the tone that minutes are earned not given, something he has already started with his moving of Jabari Parker to the bench. Payne only received 22 minutes, compared to 28 minutes for Arcidiacono, and it is tough to see that changing if things continue on like they did on Thursday night.