This is part two in a five-part series looking at many of the top prospects in the NBA draft. In case you missed it, I looked at the point guards in part one. Each post will be divided into three parts: lottery prospects, first round prospects, and second round prospects. As far as the organizations of the tiers goes, I'm organizing them based on where I feel they will or could be picked in the draft. For instance, I have seven shooting guards in the "First Rounders" tier, and I highly doubt all seven of them will be taken between picks 15 and 32. I do, however, feel like each of them is enough of a first round talent that it it would not surprise me if any one of them were chosen after the lottery.
The grouping of the prospects by position is going to be fairly subjective, in that I won't be organizing them strictly according to what position they played in college, or what position they will play in the pros. For instance, while Austin Rivers is too small to play shooting guard (what he played at Duke) in the NBA, I'm still going to look at him in the shooting guard section because he isn't enough of a point guard skill-wise to play it in the pros. Anthony Davis on the other hand, while he has all the talents you could ever want in a center, is far too undersized and weak to ever play center in the NBA so he will be grouped in with the power forwards. In the tiers the prospects will be organized alphabetically, as opposed to who I think is the better prospect.
Lastly, the purpose of this endeavor is not to shove who I think the Blazers should be picking down anyone's throat. It is a serious, as unbiased as possible look at some of the best prospects in the draft. I'm a huge college basketball fan, and watched as many games as possible throughout the year. Not having a premium cable package, I did not get to watch every minute of every game, so the analysis comes from what I saw of them and from what I've read. These posts are meant to encourage discussion on what prospects the Blazers should draft in June. At the end of every post I will include my thoughts on who out of the specific position group (if anyone) the Blazers should target as a jump start to the discussion.
So without further ado: the shooting guards.
The Lottery Picks:
- Bradley Beal (Florida): Beal is one of those prospects whose negatives seem to get overblown because there's so little to dislike. Coming out of high school, he was billed as the complete package: great athlete with an NBA body, a Reggie Miller/Ray Allen type lights-out shooter who can do everything on the floor (including play defense) and even play point guard in a pinch. He didn't do much to change that perception in his one year at Florida. Ideally he'd be an inch or two taller (he's somewhere between 6'4" and 6'5"), but he has good length. He isn't explosive, and needs to be a much better finisher at the rim. However, to compensate he does get to the free-throw line at an above-average rate. The dirty little secret about Beal is that he wasn't the lights-out shooter he was billed as. He only shot 34% from beyond the three point line, which is where about half of his FG attempts came from last year. He has a great shooting stroke though, so his shooting problems may have been the result of Florida's funky four guard lineup, so he was playing a little out of position this year. He has an incredible work ethic though, so I don't think it will scare off GM's. He'll compete with Michael Kidd-Gilchrest for the second overall pick.
- Jeremy Lamb (UConn): Known last year as "Kemba Walker's Wingman", Lamb has struggled being UConn's number one option. He can score anywhere from midrange out past the three line (though he could improve his three point shooting), and can put the ball on the floor and finish at the rim. He's a smooth athlete with a freaky 7-foot wingspan and can wreak havoc on defense on the ball and disrupt passing lanes. He wasn't consistent in his effort on the defensive end off the ball, and needs to pay more attention to the little things, but the potential for him to be an elite perimeter defender is there. He can create his own offense in iso sets, but could improve his ability to create for others. His 7' wingspan renders any concerns GM's might have about his height (6'5") moot. Though he badly needs to add strength to his frame.
- Austin Rivers' Punchable Face (Duke): Ultimately all Austin Rivers' Punchable Face (ARPF) is is a poor man's Kobe Bryant. He has one elite skill, putting the ball on the floor and getting the rim. He's also a good shooter, with some truly sick moves with the ball. He does need to work on his shot selection though. He is nowhere near the athlete Kobe is. Kobe was a world-class athlete when he came into the league, explosive and could leap out of the building. So when Rivers tries to do the things Kobe can do, he is not as successful. Unfortunately, he also has all of the arrogance and selfishness of Kobe, though he did tone that down as the season progressed. If he were in kindergarten the note home to his parents would say "does not play well with others". Initially, he'll probably be instant offense off the bench for a team, but could grown into a quality starting shooting guard.
The First Rounders:
- Will Barton (Memphis): Barton is young, and I don't mean that in a pejorative way. He's an explosive athlete, great motor, aggressive on offense, good in transition, has a nice midrange game and range out beyond the three point line. He's got good size (6'6"), and is a terrific rebounder for a guard. But at 19, he's young and has all the attributes that come with that. He desperately needs to add strength, he's a streaky outside shooter and has poor shot selection at times. All things that can be improved with age on an NBA team.
- Evan Fournier (France): He's French, so who cares? Batum doesn't count as French, because he's awesome.
- John Jenkins (Vanderbilt): Jenkins is the next Reggie Miller. You know, if all Reggie could do was shoot. Jenkins is undersized at 6'4"-6'5", isn't an elite athlete, is an average rebounder, and doesn't have great lateral quickness. But damn can the kid shoot the ball. He hasn't shot under 41% from three - and averaged 44% - in his three years at Vandy. He could seriously improve his stock by returning for his senior season and be squarely into the first round next year. As it stands, he would pretty much be solely a role player off the bench for a veteran team that needs shooting to space the floor.
- Doron Lamb (Kentucky): Well it's official: Kentucky's starting five declared for the NBA draft. Lamb doesn't have the upside of Marquis Teague, Anthony Davis, or Michael Kidd-Gilchrest, but I feel like that is only due to him being about 6'4", and he needs to add strength. He has a very long wingspan though, which helps make up for his height. However, he's probably the best shooter in the entire draft. He has range from everywhere on the court, an incredible midrange game, is a very smooth athlete, and a great ball handler. If he was two or three inches taller he'd be a lottery pick.
- Terrance Ross (Washington): Ross is a borderline lottery pick, and will probably go in the 13-19 range. He's explosive, can get to the basket with a great first step, is a very good shooter, and a great defender and good rebounder with size (6'6"). To be a lock-down defender in the NBA he'll need to add some strength, and to be a great two-way player he'll need to improve his ball handling and shot selection. He could be a very good player at the next level.
- Dion Waiters (Syracuse): Waiters' fortunes hinge entirely on his intangibles. He's an elite/explosive athlete and a big-time scorer. He attacks the rim relentlessly and is a great slasher. He doesn't have a consistent jump shot, is a bit undersized and can be selfish at times. If he interviews well with teams, he could go closer to the lottery, and if he doesn't wow teams in his interviews he might go closer to the second round.
- Alex Young (IUPUI): Young is the classic case of best-player-from-a-small-school-but-never-played-against-top-competition. Scouts aren't quite sure what he can do on the NBA level against NBA competition, but they love his body and skill set. He has an NBA body and is an elite athlete with a quick first step. He's a good slasher and excellent finisher at the rim, he can play off the ball well, and is a good rebounder for a guard (over 6 a game his junior and senior seasons). He downsides are that he needs to develop a consistent outside shot, and can be turnover prone. Possibly the biggest question is if he can perform against elite competition, though as a four year senior his maturity should ease his transition into the NBA.
- Evan Fournier (France): Fine, I'll talk about him. Fournier is kinda slow, not a great athlete or defender, mediocre shooter, long with good size for a SG but needs to add a lot of strength. Really the only thing he can do is get to the basket, which he does really well, but there isn't a lot to like other than that and the fact he's only 19. A team could take him late in the first round, stash him overseas for a few seasons and hope he develops into something in the French League.
The Second Rounders:
- William Buford (Ohio State): Buford could absolutely get taken in the first round based on his terrific NCAA tournament showing. He's a great shooter with deep range, athletic and always looking to attack. However, he's also quite unselfish for a scorer. For as good of a scorer as he is, and for as physical as he is, he needs to be able to get to the line more, and he's also not a good rebounder. Ultimately, if he's asked to carry the scoring load on an NBA team he'll need to look to get his own shot more, but he could carry the scoring load for a team's second unit off the bench right away.
- Jared Cunningham (Oregon St.): Cunningham has the kiss of death for any college guard: he's the ultimate tweener. If he was more of a point guard or had a better jump shot, he'd be in the first round. But as it stands, he's an undersized two guard with good length and an inconsistent jump shot (which has improved each of his three years in college). He uses his length to disrupt passing lanes and be a great on-ball defender. He has a great motor, a very quick first step and is a good slasher. He needs to add strength and keep improving his jump shot, and he'll always be undersized, but with the proper development he has the potential to be a really good two-way player at the next level. He's just a project.
- Orlando Johnson (UC Santa Barbara): Johnson is a "jack of all trades, master of none" player. He has a great motor, an NBA body, is a good shooter with legit 3-point range, is a good slasher and penetrator, and can do pretty much anything you ask him to. His downsides are that he has a questionable shot selection at times, and doesn't have one elite skill (for instance, ARPF is an elite slasher, he can get to the rim anytime he wants). But overall he's a solid player.
What I think the Blazers should do: Everything the Blazers do in regards to taking a shooting guard hinges on two things: where they pick in the first round, and what they do with Wesley Matthews. Because the Blazers will pick twice somewhere in the lottery, the only realistic options for them for first-round SG's are Bradley Beal and Jeremy Lamb. (I'm not an Austin Rivers fan, he's too undersized and not a great shooter. I don't see him being worth a lottery pick.) I would love to get Beal, but I just don't see him being on the board when the Blazers pick. Now, Matthews is due somewhere around $6 mil next year. While the Blazers will have a ton of cap space heading into this offseason, $6 mil is too much to pay for a backup SG. So if the Blazers do draft Beal they would have to find a trading partner to take Matthews.
I like Lamb, and he could be a good option to platoon with Matthews for a year or two while he develops his outside shooting, adds strength and improves his ability to create shots for others. However, I really like Orlando Johnson as a second rounder. He could step in and be a rotation player right away, and a cheap backup to help get some offense off the bench.
The Blazers definitely have bigger needs (point guard, center), but if they had a chance to draft Beal they should absolutely take him.