Thursday, June 11, 2009

NBA Draft 2009 Preview: Point Guards

This article can also be found here.

With the NBA moving more and more towards faster basketball by rewarding the drive-and-kick style of offense, point guards are more important than ever in the NBA. Looking at the impact of guys like Chris Paul, Deron Williams, and even Derrick Rose this year, having a good PG can completely turn around a franchise. In the 2009 NBA Draft, point guard looks like the strongest position, both in terms of talent and the top and depth throughout the first round.

The first point guard off the board will almost certainly be Ricky Rubio, the youngster from Spain. He showed his talent and potential in the 2008 Olympics, where as a 17-year old the Spaniard more than held his own against the best competition in the world. There is definitely a lot to like about Rubio. He is a true PG, with innate ability to lead an offense, get others involved, and take charge and score when his team needs it. He is creative offensively, and can find passing lanes and create plays seemingly out of nothing. He is not a great shooter yet, but he has very good form, and his great FT shooting (80%) suggests he will grow into a very good shooter. To top it all off, he is very charismatic on and off the court, which is perfect in the business in the NBA. He's the best PG in the draft, and he could go as high as 2 to Memphis and no lower than 4 to Sacramento.

After that, things get a little more interesting. The next wave of guys to go look like hybrid PG/SG rather than true point guards. First, there is Stephen Curry from Davidson. He played mostly SG in college (though did transition to PG his junior year), but will likely be too small to play SG in the NBA. But he is the best shooter in the draft, a prolific scorer who can create his own shot or get one off quickly off of a screen, and he will be a potent offensive threat in the NBA. There are some concerns about whether he can effectively run an offense or be a solid defender at the next level, but he did help alleviate some of thos with his play this season.

Next there's Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans, two highly touted one-and-dones with loads of talent. Evans played PG at Memphis last season as a freshman, but the 2 guard might be his more natural position. He can score and defend, but there are certainly some questions about how well he can an offense. Jrue Holiday has all the tools to be a very good NBA player, but his production did not jump out at anyone in his one year at UCLA. He has the tools to be a great defender, but he is not a very natural scorer right now. Also, though he played PG and that looks like his natural position, he didn't play it full-time last year with the Bruins, as they had Darren Collison to help carry that load.

Perhaps the biggest unknown in the whole draft is Brandon Jennings. He was a high prospect before last season, and had committed to Arizona before deciding to spend the year playing in Europe. However, his playing time was sporadic, and scouts really did not get a great chance to watch him play. In addition, they haven't been able to see him in very many workouts either. The talent certainly appears to be there, but there are a lot of unknowns surrounding him, which could cause his stock to drop.

The class is rounded off with guys who produced a lot at the college level, but who have questions about how their game will translate at the NBA level. First is Johnny Flynn from Syracuse. He has all of the physical tools of strength and quickness that you look for, but there are concerns about his height and shooting ability from the outside. Then there is Ty Lawson from North Carolina, who might be the quickest and fastest player in the draft, but again, there are concerns about his height and shooting ability. Eric Maynor was a great college player for VCU, and he is certainly remembered for his game-winner against Duke in the NCAA Tournament. He is an opportunistic defender and good leader offensively, but he doesn't really stand out in any one area. Last, there is Darren Collison, who may have been a lottery pick if he had come out after his sophomore year, but now might struggle to get picked in the first round. You know what you are getting with him... great shooter and great on-the-ball defender. There are some questions about his size, but he should be a productive NBA player.

So the point guard position looks to be the deepest in this year's NBA Draft. With star power of Rubio at the top, and depth throughout the first round, look for many point guards to be taken in this year's NBA Draft. There might not be any future MVP's within the group, but there will be a lot of solid NBA players.

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