The NBA Draft is so fun, isn't it? I would imagine that scouting the draft as a general manager or scout is in one of the most stressful and exhausting aspects of their job. But I am willing to bet that despite all the long, sleepless hours they spend examining these players, they would agree with folks like you and I that the draft is flat out fun; that's what truly motivates them to work so hard. It's also what makes fans spend so much time learning about these players with the hopes that our favorite team selects them on draft night each and every year.
When I rank and assess players, I try to focus on five broad categories. Click on the 'buttons' to reveal my reasoning for each one.
1. Trey Burke | Michigan
HT: 6'1" | WT: 187 | AGE: 20
Projection: Top 7
2. Dennis Schroeder | Germany
HT: 6'2" | WT: 165 | AGE: 19
Projection: Late Lottery to Late 1st Round
Analysis: Schroeder is silky smooth on both ends of the floor. I believe that Schroeder has the upside to become one of the top perimeter defenders in the league. With a fundamentally sound wide base, he slides his feet extremely quickly, staying in front of the ball handler. His long 6'7" wingspan allows him to bother his opponent, tip passes, and get steals. His biggest problems in the NBA will be his lack of bulk. He might have a hard time fighting through screens and this could lead to him being behind the ball handler, putting stress on the back end of his defense.
This lack of strength also hurts him on the offensive end when it comes to finishing near the rim. Schroeder is not very efficient around the rim, finishing at only 43.6 percent inside the arc, according to Sports Synergy. That statistic will only get worse in the NBA until he develops muscle and can more consistently finish with his left hand. Schroeder's jump shot off the dribble is below average but he is a great spot up shooter from both mid-range and three point land. Schroeder's shot release is a bit slow, which is one reason he might have much more success in catch-and-shoot situations.
Dennis' passing and ball handling is inconsistent at best but he shows elite potential in this category, often making terrific passes and beautiful crossovers to create space for himself. However, he sometimes can get a bit careless with the ball, leading to turnovers. Schroeder is so high up the list because of his intangibles and big time potential. At only 19 years old, he is ahead of most players at this point, but time will tell if he can reach his sky-high potential.
3. Erick Green | Virginia Tech
HT: 6'3" | WT: 178 | AGE: 22
Projection: Mid 1st to Very Early 2nd Round
Analysis: Green was one of the best guards in college basketball last season despite playing on a below average team. Green led the NCAA in points per game, averaging 25, on 47.5 percent shooting from the field and 38.9 percent from three. I originally had Green slated as a shooting guard due to his minuscule 3.8 assists per game but after digging deeper I came to realize that my first impressions were false. Erick Green is indeed a point guard and I believe his lack of assists were more a product of his environment than his own game. He is not a great passer, but is certainly good enough to be an NBA-level point guard.
As Virginia Tech's primary ball handler, Green was able to take his game to another level as a senior. He scores very well in a multitude of ways: as a spot up shooter, off the dribble, in transition, and in the pick and roll. Green elevates well, making his jump shot very difficult to bother. Green's only weakness on the offensive side of the ball is finishing at the rim. Erick Green has a very thin frame, so he can get banged around a bit near the basket. He takes contact well and got to the line at a high clip, but there are no guarantees he will draw those fouls in the NBA. Green's size will also hurt him on the defensive end, where his weaknesses were already exposed at the college level. He struggles getting around screens and has a hard time keeping larger point guards out of the paint. Green does have room to add muscle to his body, so that does add to the hopes that he can, at the least, become an average defender.
4. Myck Kabongo | Texas
HT: 6'3" | WT: 180 | AGE: 21
Projection: Very Late 1st to Mid 2nd Round
Analysis: I believe that Myck Kabongo is one of the most underrated players in this draft and could be a steal for whatever team selects him in the second round. Kabongo shot only 41.8 percent from the field last season, which is horrible, but he makes up for it with his ability to run the point with his exceptionally high basketball I.Q. Not enough can be said about the accuracy of Kabongo's ability to run an offense. He does a great job of controlling tempo and changing speeds; and in the pick and roll he is able to penetrate and accurately dish the ball outside. Kabongo consistently gets the ball right in the shooter's sweet spot, allowing for a quality look at a basket. Kabongo is the definition of a pass first point guard and that is, in large part, due to his weaknesses as a scorer. Kabongo has had some high scoring games, so the potential is there, it seems more about finding consistency and increasing the speed of his jump shot. Defensively, Kabongo is a great off ball defender and is always tipping or intercepting passes. On ball, Myck can get a bit overly aggressive and foul the player he is defending, but his heart and hustle shows off, giving him very high potential on this end of the floor. For the most part, I think that Myck Kabongo's weaknesses are much more correctable compared to some other point guards in the draft.
5. Michael Carter-Williams | Syracuse
HT: 6'6" | WT: 184 | AGE: 21
Projection: Mid to Late Lottery
Analysis: I was very impressed by Michael Carter-Williams when I first saw him play. He is a long, athletic guard that showed promising handles and he is able to get to the basket with ease. At one point I even had him as the number two point guard, only behind Trey Burke, but the more I watched, the more I've come to realize that some of his flaws are potentially uncorrectable.
Carter-Williams' touch around the basket is flat out horrendous, shooting only 39.3 percent last season. Though he can dribble and get through traffic, he throws bricks up at the rim. He relies too much on a floater (that has little touch) and he struggled with contact at the rim. At 6'6" you might think he has a huge advantage, yet he only has a 6'7" wingspan, incredibly small for a player his size. Don't get me wrong; I think "MCW" will be a solid point guard in the NBA because of his tenacious defense and solid passing ability...but can he ever be a reliable starting point guard? I don't see it. A guard like Rajon Rondo may lack a reliable jumper but he can at least score well at the rim, Carter-Williams doesn't look like he has the ability to improve much there or from the outside.
6. Shane Larkin | Miami
HT: 5'11" | WT: 171 | AGE: 20
Projection: Late Lottery to End of 1st Round
Analysis: I have quite a hard time placing Shane Larkin on my draft board for a number of reasons. First, I believe that he will never be a good defender in the NBA because of his lack of length, reach, and size. Larkin was a very good defensive player at Miami, but how will that possibly translate to the NBA when virtually every single point guard in the league will be larger and stronger than him? Not to mention the possibility of him getting matched up with a two-guard on a switch. Despite testing extraordinarily well at the NBA combine in athletic tests, he simply doesn't have an NBA body. With a 5'10.75" wingspan and 7'5.5" standing reach, he would be one of the smallest overall point guards ever drafted. To me, that says a lot about his ceiling as an NBA player.
On the other hand, Larkin can flat out ball. Miami primarily ran a pick and roll offense that allowed Larkin to thrive. In the half court, Larkin was able to pick apart defenses with a slick pull up jumper, strong handles, and passing skills. In transition, his speed and agility allowed him to create space for himself and opportunities for his teammates. My biggest concern is: how does any of this translate to the NBA? Other point guards that are his height (Ty Lawson and Nate Robinson come to mind) have much longer wingspans, making up for their lack of height. Larkin might be the perfect example of a terrific college player that just can't make it in the pros.
7. Lorenzo Brown | N.C. State
HT: 6'5" | WT: 189 | AGE: 22
Projection: Early to Mid 2nd Round
Analysis: At 6'5" and 190 pounds, Lorenzo Brown has the physical tools to be a productive backup point guard in the NBA. Brown is a very good rebounder for his position, averaging 4.3 per game last season with N.C. State. Brown came to college as a shooting guard, but was the point guard his junior season. Brown has drastically improved his ball handling and passing ability; you could make the argument he is one of the better guards in this class at doing that. Lorenzo has the ability to get anywhere he wants on the court with his handles, which helps him score at an efficient rate near the basket.
However, Brown still lacks the intellect to run his offense at a high level. He must take time in the developmental league to further his skills before becoming an effective point guard at the next level. Not only that, but he has an absolutely terrible perimeter game on the offense end. Brown shot 28 percent on perimeter jumpers and 26.3 percent from three-point land. On the defensive end, Brown's lack of athleticism will hurt him in the NBA, since he lacks the lateral speed to stay with most guards.
8. Isaiah Canaan | Murray State
HT: 6'0" | WT: 188 | AGE: 22
Projection: Very Late 1st to Mid 2nd Round
Analysis: Isaiah Canaan is essentially the poor man's version of Trey Burke. Canaan does everything that Trey Burke does well but at a less effective rate. As a junior, Canaan shot 46.8 percent from the field and 45.6 percent from three. As a senior those statistics dipped, respectively to 43.1 and 37 percent. I believe that drop in production can be contributed to the heavier load he had to handle on offense and increased minutes, which added a number of low quality shot attempts. Regardless, Canaan has proven that he can drill shots from the outside. His high shot release and quick handles bode well for his transition to the NBA. Despite facing a weak level of competition, Canaan seems to have the overall offensive tools needed to have some mild success in the NBA. But unlike Burke, he lacks that elite burst in his first step. This limits his ability to get to the basket, something he wasn't great at in college anyway.
9. Pierre Jackson | Baylor
HT: 5'10" | WT: 176 | AGE: 21
Projection: Early to Mid 2nd Round
Analysis: At best, Pierre Jackson projects to be a Nate Robinson type of player, but with better passing ability and natural point guard skills. Like Robinson, Jackson is a small player but makes up for it with incredible athleticism. Pierre Jackson can jump out of the gym; making for many exciting dunks and plays at the rime. However, he's on his way to the NBA, a league where size truly matters. Pierre Jackson had a 46 percent field goal percentage during his junior season but took a few steps back during his senior year, shooting only 42.7 percent. Jackson's ability to finish at the rim will be even lessened in the NBA, making him a purely perimeter player, which is a place where he has success. Jackson shows good, consistent form on his jump shot, shooting 37.9 percent from three in his time at Baylor. But once again, Pierre Jackson is barely 5'10" and only has a 5'10" wingspan, the smallest in the draft. Despite his lack of size, a player like Jackson should get an opportunity to be an energy guy in the NBA, but his lack of size makes one wonder if he can succeed.
10. Nate Wolters | South Dakota St.
HT: 6'5" | WT: 196 | AGE: 22
Projection: Mid to Late 2nd Round
Analysis: Wolters has all the ball handling and passing skills that you look for in a point guard. He knows how to run an offense and has very good court vision. Even though Wolters gained four years of experience playing at South Dakota State, he still hasn't faced off against top end competition to prove he is a capable point guard. Wolters limited time against top schools has created doubt that he will ever be an effective player considering his lack of success in those games. In Wolters' final college game against the Michigan Wolverines, Wolters shot a dismal 3-of-14 and struggled to get anything going. Nate Wolters is a much better defender than people want to give him credit for but he still lacks the athleticism and foot speed required to play at an effective level in the NBA.
Overall Point Guard Class Analysis
I think this class of point guards is pretty good at the top but drops off very quickly. Trey Burke and Dennis Schroeder both have potential to be great point guards in the NBA, and both Erick Green and Myck Kabongo could be very good as well. I believe that both Michael Carter-Williams and Shane Larkin have bust written all over them, but they do have more potential than the players following them because after the top six, the talent drops off a cliff.
To be honest, I think you can put the names Isaiah Canaan, Lorenzo Brown, Pierre Jackson, Ray McCallum, and Nate Wolters in a hat, pick them out, and have an equal chance of projecting who will be better than one or the other. Each of those five players have their own weaknesses and it's possible all five of them aren't in the NBA in a few years. I do believe that Lorenzo Brown is a bit better than the others, but the concerns about his game aren't any less worrisome than the ones about the others.
The two biggest surprises on my rankings are most definitely Myck Kabongo at the number four spot and Michael Carter-Williams at number five. Most recently, Chad Ford has talked about how "size rises" in the draft, which is why he has Carter-Williams slated as his number two point guard and number eight player overall. I just don't see it. "MCW" has many of the same weaknesses and strengths as Myck Kabongo but I feel he lacks a lot of the natural skills that Kabongo already has. I think Carter-Williams gets that high ranking from others simply because of his size and the fact he played at a big school. There is most certainly a biased in the media towards players from top-ranked schools, understandably considering the talent they face off against. But when a player struggles against those teams, like "MCW" has, I don't believe they deserve the ranking. Call me crazy if you want, but I see a player with very high potential in Myck Kabongo and I see a bust in Michael Carter-Williams. Both players are raw and need to make improvements to their game, but I believe that Kabongo already has more NBA point guard skills than Carter-Williams.