January 13, 2011
2011 NBA Draft Prospect Profile: Point Guards and an Enes Kanter update
Team: Duke, Freshman
6' 2" , 185 lbs , 18 Years Old
Kyrie Irving won't wow you with his physical attributes, or with his athleticism, but he's an extremely smart player. Although he's not blazing fast like John Wall, nor is he an elite athlete like Derrick Rose; Irving plays at different speeds, keeping the defense off balance. A stutter step here, a juke there, a slight hesitation and then he takes a quick burst just when the defense is flat-footed. He can drive either left or right equally well. Combine all that with the fact that he's a very good shooter from outside, including range to the professional 3-point line - and defenses have to play him honest. Because he can shoot, it creates driving opportunities - and because he can drive, it creates open shots. As a result, Irving is an extremely efficient scorer - averaging over 22 points per 40 minutes (Pace adjusted) on only 12 sots.
Irving has excellent court vision, and is averaging a robust 6.5 assists per 40 (pace adjusted). He's an excellent passer, but prefers to make the safe pass rather than the spectacular. His ball handling skills are well advanced; able to stop or change direction in an instant.
He still needs work on his shot selection - and he tends to dribble too much.... but overall, Kyrie Irving is an excellent prospect. Even though he injured his toe in early December, and is expected to miss some extended time, NBA scouts have seen enough of him to know what kind of player he will become. He is the most NBA ready player in the draft. I expect him to be the first Point Guard taken, and depending on which team is selecting, he could go as high as #1. In any case, he's a top 10 pick (top 5 in most mock drafts). I have him at #5.
Team: Connecticut, Junior
6' 0" , 180 lbs , 20 Years Old
Kembe Walker is currently the number one scorer in the NCAA, at 25.8 points per game. Right now, he's an extremely efficient scorer, shooting almost 50% from the field and over 84% from the Free Throw line. He's got excellent quickness and ball-handling ability - but what puts him in the Draft Lottery discussion is his jump shot. He's got a very pretty shot - mechanically perfect - and shoots equally well off the dribble, or on a catch-and-shoot. He has range out to the college 3-point line (36%), but will need to extend that just a bit in the Pro's.
Last year, Walker showed more of his play-making skills, averaging over 5.7 assists per 40 minutes (pace adjusted). This year, with Connecticut losing 4 of their starters, he's had to take on more of a scoring role. Although he's only averaging 2.4 assists this year, he still shows flashes of excellent vision and passing skills. When he does pass, he shows more of a willingness to gamble than Kyrie Irving.... able to sometimes thread the needle for spectacular assists.
Defensively, Walker shows some toughness and grit - standing in to take charges against big guys, getting in the grill of his opponent, and generally wrecking havoc with his quickness. He's got terrific lateral quickness and likes to play the passing lanes (2.4 steals). My biggest concern is his height. At 6-feet, he will be at a disadvantage defending some of the bigger, stronger Point Guards in the NBA; and shots that he's easily able to get off in College will be contested by the bigger players in the NBA.
Nonetheless, Kemba Walker's ability to score and dish will make him a hot commodity for any team looking for a Point Guard this Summer. I expect him to be picked in the top 10. I have him at #7
Team: Kentucky - Freshman
6' 3" , 170 lbs , 18 Years Old
John Calapari's latest one-and-done Point Guard prospect is Brandon Knight. Like the other elite Point Guards recruited before him at Kentucky (Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, John Wall), Knight is a top prospect (#3 Scout, #2 Rivals).
Unlike Derrick Rose or John Wall, Brandon Knight is an excellent shooter with range to the NBA 3-point line. He's shooting 47% overall, and a very respectable 39% from 3. Both those percentages are skewed a bit, since he had difficulties early in the year with some horrible shooting games. He was also turning the ball over a lot. I had him high on my draft board until he threw up a couple 20% shooting nights and a 6 TO and 8 TO game.... Looking like he was having trouble adjusting, he plummeted on my board.
However, over the last 8 games, he's shooting much more like I expected (50% and 44% from 3) and has cut way down on his turnovers from almost 5 per game in his first 8 games to a much more manageable 2 per game over his last 8. He seems to have settled in to his role. His assists are up as well - to almost 5 per game.
Right now, my concerns about Knight are around his shoot-first mentality. John Calipari's Dribble-Drive Motion Offense may have something to do with it; since both John Wall and Derrick Rose weren't able to fully display their passing skills at Kentucky either. But with Wall, and to a lesser extent Rose, you could still tell they were pass-first type guys... Knight strikes me as shoot first - and with his height, that may brand him with the dreaded "combo guard" label.
Even with my reservations, Knight is moving up my draft board just as fast as he dropped earlier in the year. Right now I have him in the mid-first round, but if he continues to shoot the way he is now, he will move into the lottery.
Rook's Mock Draft
1. Terrence Jones
2. Perry Jones
3. Harrison Barnes
4. Enes Kanter
5. Kyrie Irving
6. Jared Sullinger
7. Kemba Walker
8. Jonas Valanciunas
9. Donatas Motiejunas
10. John Henson