The point guard position is deep this year, with a chance of at least six players going in the first round this season. It is a highly skilled group, for the most part, with a lot of scoring and passing ability, and as is the trend in NBA, good size and length for the position.
A handful of these players could make an immediate impact, though adjusting to the NBA as a point guard can be rough for many.
The players are listed in order of where they will go in my mock draft, though it doesn’t necessarily reflect how I see these players ranked in ability and long-term NBA potential.
Here are links to all of the draft rankings:
1. D’Angelo Russell, Freshman, Ohio State, 6’5, 193
Russell made a big impact as a freshman, leading Ohio State in scoring and rebounds, while finishing second in assists and steals. The Buckeyes didn’t have many offensive options, and Russell had no problem trying to pick up the slack. He shot 41 percent from three-point range, and his quick release allowed him to find shots where many others may not have one. Russell is a ball-dominant guard, and while he has an ability to make plays, he also will spend a lot of time dribbling around until he finds an opening. He has great vision and is a creative passer, though he has a tendency to force passes into spots that aren’t great options. Ohio State played a lot of zone last year, which accounts for his inflated rebounding numbers, but he still has a nose for the ball and always seems to find himself in position to grab a rebound or make a play on defense. His on-ball defense needs a lot of work and he doesn’t have the quickness to defend many NBA-level point guards, but his ability to score should balance things out. Russell also has the ability to slide over and play the shooting guard position, which gives coaches some options, though he isn’t as effective if he doesn’t have the ball often. Russell will put up numbers, though it will be interesting to watch when he is no longer the main option on offense, and how it affects his play. He’ll be one of the first two point guards taken in the draft, and should start immediately.
2. Emmanuel Mudiay, International, Guangdong Southern (China), 6’5, 190
Mudiay is not the mystery many make him out to be, as he was one of the top high school basketball players in the United States before choosing to play in China last season. He played only eleven games due to an ankle injury, but he did start to show improvement in some key areas, though the defense in China made things a bit easier. Mudiay’s game is all about using his size to try and get to the rim, either in transition or before the defense gets a chance to get set. He is a creative finisher around the basket, though he has trouble finishing against long defenders and doesn’t like to draw contact. Mudiay has a nice ability to draw defenders off penetration and find open teammates, and he started to show a better understanding of making reads in the pick-and-roll while in China. His long-range shooting isn’t great, but it has improved, though finding consistency will be important. Defensively, Mudiay has the tools to be a good defender, but he can be slow to react and seems to take plays off. Mudiay will be a lottery pick, and will start sooner rather than later in the NBA. I’m just not sure he’s a point guard that will really improve a team, though he’ll put up numbers.
3. Cameron Payne, Sophomore, Murray State, 6’2, 182
As a sophomore, Payne was one of the top scorers and passers in the country, at times almost single-handedly carrying Murray State’s offense. He doesn’t have great size, but his speed and ability to create space with his dribble gives him all the room he needs for his shot. Payne shot 38 percent from three-point range, with the ability to hit the shot off the catch or dribble. While his shot selection was spotty at times, when he gets hot, he is an exciting player to watch. He is very good as a pick-and-roll ballhandler, and though he still needs to learn to make his reads quicker, his ability to score forces defenses to guard him closely. Payne is an above-average defender and his 6’7” wingspan allows him to affect shots and passes on the perimeter. He is very good in the open floor, showing good speed and decision-making with the ball. Payne will need to develop more physically, but his game is ready for the NBA right now, at least as a back-up. Long-term, I consider Payne the best point guard prospect in this draft.
4. Jerian Grant, Senior, Notre Dame, 6’4, 198
Grant’s return for his senior season after missing a season-and-a-half due to academic reasons was one of college basketball’s best stories last year, almost leading the Irish to the Final Four. Grant has good size for the point guard position and the length to be disruptive on the perimeter. He is very good at using his ballhandling skills and size to get to the rim and finish, and with his ability to draw defenders, he’s very good at finding open teammates on the perimeter or a dump-off around the basket. Grant ran a lot of pick-and-roll at Notre Dame, and he has done a good job learning to make quick reads and hitting teammates in spots where they get a good shot. He was just a career 35 percent three-point shooter in college, but he is a better shooter than that, and many of his misses were poor shot choices. Grant is strong in transition, and his ability to make plays on the defensive end leads to easy baskets on offense. Grant will be one of the few players on this list who will make an instant impact at the NBA level, and he should become a starter in a few seasons.
5. Tyus Jones, Freshman, Duke, 6’2, 185
There’s not much more that can be said about Jones’ one year in college, which ended with him helping lead Duke to a national title. Jones doesn’t have the size or speed of most NBA point guards, but he has great control of the court and his offense, makes great reads and is a strong passer. He’s not a great shooter, but showed in the tournament that he can get it done in big moments, and he’s a good enough long-range shooter that he’ll make you pay if you don’t come out and defend him. His 2.9-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio was among the best in the country, and while not a great defender, Jones has a knack for being in the right place to make plays on the ball. Once Jones matures physically, his skill and ability to run a team should give him a shot to start at the NBA level.
6. Delon Wright, Senior, Utah, 6’5 ½ , 181
Wright was a huge part of Utah’s rise to the top of the Pac-12 these past two seasons, and he has the size and athleticism to affect the game in many ways. Wright uses his size well to get into the lane, using a good first step and long strides to create separation. He has excellent vision and is able to find teammates in good spots for an easy shot. Wright is a strong finisher at the basket, and has a great ability to draw fouls, even before he gets to the rim. His jumper has improved, but he is still a below-average shooter from mid- and long-range, though he is a good free throw shooter. Defensively, Wright isn’t a great on-ball defender, though his length can cause some problems. He is very good away from the ball though, showing an ability to jump passing lanes well and to make plays as a help defender. In the right spot, he could eventually be an NBA starter, though being able to knock down shots consistently may be important for him.
7. Terry Rozier, Sophomore, Louisville, 6’2,190
Rozier spent most of his two seasons at Louisville playing off the ball, and he was the Cardinals’ top scoring option this past season. He took over the point guard position when Chris Jones was dismissed from the team, and he eventually settled into the position well. He’s still more of a scorer than distributor, and though he doesn’t have great size, he has an ability to find scoring opportunities anywhere. Rozier is tough for a single defender to keep in front of him, though he has trouble finishing at the basket against length. He has a tendency to force bad shots, especially from long-range, but some of that may have been a function of Louisville not having more options. Defensively, his speed and activity can make him a pest, and it’s not smart to get lazy with the ball around him. Rozier could give a team a spark as a back-up early on in his career, and if his development as a distributor continues, he could be a solid starter in a few years.
8. George (Lucas) de Paula, International, Pinheiros (Brazil), 6’5 ½ , 197
The 19-year old de Paula has great size and length (7-foot wingspan), even though his game is nowhere near ready for the NBA level. He is a good ballhandler and he uses his size well to create shots for himself and teammates. He isn’t a great finisher at the basket, and it will take him a while to adjust to NBA length, but he shows some creativity in finding shots in the lane. De Paula is not a reliable perimeter shooter, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he never becomes one. His decision making is spotty, and he forces a lot of plays, even at a lower level of competition. Defensively, he can cause some problems with his length, disrupting passes and shots, though his technique needs work. De Paula is a project, but worth a second-round pick for a team with a good developmental system.
9. Andrew Harrison, Sophomore, Kentucky, 6’5 ½, 213
Harrison is an odd case to me. Nominally, he’s a point guard, but he’s not on the same level of ballhandling or passing as most others on this list. Harrison’s strength is using his size and strength to get to the basket or draw a foul, with the occasional dump-off pass or lob for an easy assist. I’m not sold on his ability to run many NBA offenses, but he’s good in transition, and he could work in limited minutes. Harrison is an average perimeter shooter, and his size can allow him to get some good looks. Combined with his ability to get to the basket, Harrison may end up being better if he plays more off the ball. Defensively, he showed improvement last season, but he’ll likely have problems with the speed of NBA-level point guards. I’ll be interested to see how an NBA team decides to develop Harrison, though it will likely involve a lot of time in the D-League.
10. Quinn Cook, Senior, Duke, 6’2, 179
Cook moved over to the shooting guard position to accommodate Tyus Jones last season, and he put together a very good season as a scorer, averaging over 15 points and shooting 40 percent from three-point range. As a point guard, Cook shows good patience and passing ability, and his ability to shoot will force defenders to play him honestly. He doesn’t have great size or speed, but has the potential to eventually guard the position well at the NBA level, and could be a solid long-term back-up.
Others to Watch: Ryan Boatright, Connecticut; TJ McConnell, Arizona; Keifer Sykes, Green Bay; Marcus Thornton, William & Mary; Chasson Randle, Stanford; Nikola Radicevic, Sevilla (Spain)