Over the weekend, the deadline to declare for the NBA draft passed. We now have a clear picture of what the 2013 NBA point guard class will look like, a class that will include Texas guard Myck Kabongo. I thought it would be interesting to take a look at this group, to give readers a better feel for how Kabongo compares with his peers.
Before I do this, I want to make a disclaimer. I am kind of an idiot when it comes to the NBA, particularly when it comes to projecting how guys will do in the NBA draft and then afterwords in their pro career. So I am basically going to avoid projecting as much as possible. I am instead going to focus on what these guys have shown us so far, with regards to their development, physical ability, and skill set.
While this year's draft is considered weak, what that really means is it lacks can't miss stars. This doesn't really affect where Kabongo goes, as he isn't looking at a top 10 pick anyway. I actually think that this draft has a lot of depth at the point guard position.
The order below roughly approximates the order in which these guys appear likely to be selected, based on the rankings of sites such as DraftExpress.com. Of course, the actual order in which these guys will be drafted will be different from this, and almost certainly some will not be drafted at all. But I think it is reasonable to guess things will break down the following way:
Obvious first round picks
Trey Burke (Michigan): This is obvious. Burke was college basketball's player of the year. He has a great handle, is a terrific playmaker, makes good decisions, and can shoot. From an NBA perspective, the only real concern is his size.
Michael Carter-Williams (Syracuse): Size is not a concern for Michael Carter-Williams. Carter-Williams is about 6-6, and was an outstanding playmaker during his sophomore year at Syracuse. The trouble is that he can't shoot, and his game is still a work in progress. Some team will draft Carter-Williams very high in the draft. This will be a pick based on his potential, based on the idea that 6-6 guys who can pass like Carter-Williams are rare.
C.J. McCollum (Lehigh): McCollum is likely to become the highest drafted Patriot League player since Golden State drafted Adonal Foyle with the eighth pick of the 1997 draft. The Lehigh senior was a scoring lead guard during his college career. He was largely unknown until the 2012 NCAA tournament, when he dropped 30 on Duke, leading the Mountain Hawks to a first round upset victory. Unfortunately, he missed most of his senior season with a foot injury, but he is reportedly back now and ready to impress.
Likely first round picks
Dennis Schroeder (International): I can't comment intelligently on Schroeder, other than to say he has received high praise from DraftExpress.com.
Shane Larkin (Miami): Larkin had an outstanding sophomore season for Miami. His major strength is that he is a good shooter and he makes good decisions; he is not the player that Trey Burke is, but in many ways they are similar. Larkin hasn't demonstrated the play making ability of Burke yet.
Lorenzo Brown (NC State): Let's start with the good on Brown. He has good size at 6-5, and can get to the hoop. Over the last three seasons, he has typically gotten between 35 and 40 percent of his field goal attempts on layups and dunks, which is a very good rate for a guard. The downside with Brown is that he has been a little careless with the ball during college, and that he doesn't shoot the ball very well. His 35 percent shooting from three point range during his sophomore season looks a little out of place next to the rest of his shooting stats; over his career he has struggled with his three point shot and has generally shot below average on two point jump shots. The size and quickness are promising, but he will have to improve as a shooter to succeed in the NBA.
B.J. Young (Arkansas): Holy crap, I really like B.J. Young. As a freshman, he came out like a ball of fire. He got to the rim at will, taking 39 percent of his field goals there, and finished at a 72 percent rate that is almost unheard of for a guard. Many of these chances came in transition. He also shot 42 percent from three point range and took care of the ball. After that promising first year, his sophomore season was a letdown. He struggled with his shot, only making 23 percent of his 110 three point attempts, and got into some trouble with his coach. Of course, he still got to the rim, attempting 46 percent of his shots there and making 69 percent, and still protected the ball. If the shooting problems of his sophomore year were a fluke, he could very easily end up as the best lead guard in this class -- no one else in this class can do all of the things that he has shown during his two seasons in college.
Erick Green (Virginia Tech): Green is a fabulous basketball player. As a senior, the 6-3 guard basically was the Virginia Tech offense, or at least all of the good parts of it. Green can shoot and he almost never turns the ball over. While on the floor, he took a third of the Hokies shots, and he buried them. Over his last two seasons, he averaged 38 percent shooting from three point range. ACC defenses were able to key on him completely, and he still scored without trouble.
Second round, here we come
Nate Wolters (South Dakota State): Wolters is another guy who could score even when everyone in the gym knew where the ball was going. An underrated part of his game is that he has a pretty good handle. He is an outstanding shooter, a decent playmaker, and is on the taller side, at 6-4.
Myck Kabongo (Texas): Now it is time for the hometown favorite. Kabongo has some of the same holes in his game as Carter-Williams and Brown. Like Brown, Kabongo can get to the rim seemingly whenever he wants. Kabongo is a strong playmaker, but he will have a hard time realizing his potential without developing a credible shot.
Nemanja Nedovic (International): I am not even going to pretend that I know anything about Nedovic.
Phil Pressey (Missouri): Pressey's profile is odd. After a strong year in 2011-2012, he struggled some this year. During his sophomore season, Pressey did well attacking the rim, and finished his layups and dunks at a rate slightly above the NCAA average. During his junior year, Pressey got to the rim and the free throw line less often, and only converted on 45 percent of his layup attempts. Pressey can also be a little scary with the basketball, making questionable choices.
Ray McCallum (Detroit): Ray McCallum is a player who will get drafted much later than I think he should, but what do I know? (I would take him before Larkin, Brown, Pressey, and Kabongo without hesitation.) McCallum was a top high school point guard prospect, but chose to play for his father at Detroit over offers from UCLA, Arizona, and Florida.
(Detroit was one of the most entertaining teams in all of college hoops, pairing McCallum with the electric Doug Anderson. Few teams were more fun to watch in transition. When you type "Doug Anderson" into Google, it offers to auto-complete your search by adding the word "dunk." There is a reason for this. Go to YouTube now, and watch Doug Anderson and Ray McCallum highlights.)
Here is my thinking on McCallum. The current rankings indicate that he will likely be drafted after Myck Kabongo, even though he is basically a better version of the Texas sophomore. McCallum gets to the rim only a little less often than Kabongo. McCallum also draws fouls, and is every bit as quick as Kabongo. But McCallum turns the ball over less and has greatly improved as a shooter over the last year. McCallum is older than Kabongo, but only by six months. Had McCallum gone to a major program, like Arizona, I suspect he would be higher up in the mock drafts.
Leo Westermann (International): This guy is 6-7, with a 6-4 wingspan. I am picturing a tyrannosaurus rex with a handle. I don't watch international hoops at all.
I hope somebody drafts me
Pierre Jackson (Baylor): Jackson can play, but he is very small for an NBA guard. After being a bit shaky with the ball at times during his junior year, he came back as a senior making much better choices. There is no question about his ability as a scorer and a playmaker. The question: is he actually as tall as his listed 5-10 height?
Isaiah Canaan (Murray State): Canaan is basically a larger version of Jackson who didn't pass as much and who played against a lower level of competition. The Murray State guard had an extraordinary college career. He might make teams feel very foolish for passing on him, as he isn't a small as people seem to think.
Seth Curry (Duke): Curry isn't really a point guard, but at 6-2 he may have to convince a team that he can be at least a serviceable ball handler in order to make a team. Still, he can shoot, and he isn't the first member of his family who looked like he didn't have an NBA position when he came into the draft.
Matthew Dellavedova (St. Mary's): Here is something I don't get about the NBA draft. Why isn't Dellavedova rated higher? Dellavedova is big, at 6-4, and he can shoot. NBA point guards have to be effective in pick and roll, and next to Trey Burke I am not sure there is a player better at working with ball screens than Dellavedova.
Let's be clear, I understand exactly why Dellavedova isn't rated higher. He played at St. Mary's, which meant that most of his games took place late at night, and he rarely matched up against high level players. Another legitimate criticism is that he doesn't get to the rim at all. He makes up for it by being extremely good shooting from mid-range, and by being deadly from three. He is also the owner of America's most talked about mouthguard.
Now, let's try a thought experiment. Imagine that instead of playing for St. Mary's, Dellavedova had instead played for Kansas. It is likely he wouldn't have gotten as many minutes until his senior year, but don't you think he would have ended up about five or seven spots higher on this list? Can't you just picture Dellavedova coming off the bench in the NBA and giving a team 10-15 minutes a night?
Let's hope to impress in summer league
Anthony Marshall (UNLV): I will be mildly surprised if Marshall ever makes an NBA team.
Peyton Siva (Louisville): Siva is quick and he plays hard. But he is 6-0 and he can't shoot. This class is full of guys who are quick and can't shoot. Most of them are bigger than Siva.
Elijah Johnson (Kansas): Johnson can make decent money playing basketball abroad.
Khalif Wyatt (Temple): It has become a cliché to talk about Wyatt's "old man, YMCA game." Wyatt is big and strong, smart with the ball, and a pretty good shooter. It is easy to picture him playing ten years in the NBA. It is just as easy to picture him never making a team.
D.J. Cooper (Ohio): Cooper doesn't show up in the DraftExpress.com top 100. That is a bummer. He is more fun to watch than pretty much any other player on this list. He is small at 5-10, but he has absurdly long arms. Cooper can pass like few other players, and had a virtually telepathic connection with his Bobcat teammates. If he doesn't make the NBA, he could make an amazing Harlem Globetrotter. He just plays with style.
Trey Burke appears a step ahead of everyone else in the 2013 point guard class, while B.J. Young could very easily end up being the best player in this group five years from now. I also won't be surprised if Isaiah Canaan is either drafted very late, or goes undrafted, and ends up with a solid career.
There seems to be no shortage of athletic guards with shaky shots, as well as more polished upperclassmen who can score. For Myck Kabongo's benefit, I hope that there are a lot of NBA teams looking for athletic guards with shaky shots.