Our look at 2013 draft prospects continues with a couple of point guards. Do the Blazers need another point guard? probably not. But if you're a proponent of Best Player Available drafting these guys could qualify, depending on what pick you're holding.
Michael Carter-Williams--6'6", 184lb PG from Syracuse, 21 y.o. Sophomore
Any time you see a 6'6" point guard you take notice. And Michael Carter-Williams is worth taking a look at.
The usual knocks on taller point guards are that they're slower, less coordinated, or play the game like shooting guards in disguise. None of these are true of MCW. He's quick. His dribble gets long when he's nervous or lazy but as soon as he goes into attack mode he's quite compact. Passing is the best part of his game. He sees the floor, delivers the ball quickly. He can drive either direction. He's good at getting into the lane. His combination of height, athleticism, and PG-rated skills is rare.
Carter-Williams would make an amazing point guard if he could just dribble and lob passes to the rim all day. For all the tools in MCW's belt, though, he lacks two important ones: a perimeter shot and a head on his shoulders. Considering many NBA point guards have made a career using only those two tools, they're pretty important.
The perimeter shot isn't critical just for its own sake. MCW doesn't like pressure and gets rushed when guarded closely. Lacking a reliable outside shot, he'll find NBA defenders backing up to play the drive really close. He's not going to jet past them the way he did many college opponents. Instead he'll find his lane-work hotly contested. He already struggles finishing in traffic in the lane. That'll get worse. Defenses will feel less pressure to double-team him, taking away the dishes that he thrives on now. Nor does he possess the leaping and rim-scoring ability to overcome the defense on his own. He's likely to look good for the first two dribbles of a given possession but over time those dribbles will only lead him into trouble.
The head part is harder to guess at. Right now we know his turnover rate is high, his decision-making questionable. A lot of that is confidence, though. Like a young NFL quarterback, he wants to make every play...including some that have no business being made. Will Carter-Williams be able to muster enough humility and wisdom to learn the game without losing the swagger and daring that make him special?
Though shot and head are critical tools, both can be learned. 6'6" and athletic, on the other hand, has to come pre-equipped. If Carter-Williams can grow with experience he could become a dangerous, multi-tool point guard. If not, he'll remain a gifted athlete with not enough range, not enough effective scoring at the end of his drives, and not enough discretion to help your team.
Verdict for the Blazers
If MCW had just one more tool--the three-point stroke--he'd be an exciting prospect for the Blazers. They could plan to shift him to shooting guard alongside Damian Lillard. He'd be the secondary ball-handler/driver/shooter combination they'd craved plus he could slide to point guard when Lillard rested. They could live with some crazy plays and a little ball dominance at the 2 because he could score or pass off of that dribble. As-is, though, MCW would be a scoring guard without the scoring.
You could see the Blazers going for Carter-Williams if they traded down or acquired other picks in addition to #10. He'd be a sketchy bet at the 10 spot though. If they take him there, they must believe they can turn him into a good 6th man in the short term, maybe a starter over the long haul.
Shane Larkin--5'11", 171lb PG from Miami, 20 y.o. Sophomore
I don't hear many people talking about Shane Larkin. Maybe they should be. This guy has some fantastic qualities.
The standout, #1 aspect of his game is the Ivory Soap jumper. It's 99+44/100% pure. It's like the ball's already in the hoop the instant it leaves his hand. If there were style points for how the ball goes through the net the way there are for divers as they enter the water, this guy would get 9's and 10's.
Larkin gets that jumper in all kinds of situations: off the dribble, catch and shoot, pick and roll. Plus he has range out to the moon. When it comes to that shot, he's the complete package.
Aspect #1A to Larkin's game: his speedy feet. He's fast but he can also turn on a dime, go either direction. Plus he has this turbo button thing where his already quick pace becomes blinding for a couple steps. This allows him to separate on offense, steal passes on defense.
Larkin shows good vision and willingness to pass. Unlike many point guards who make their bones in transition, he can handle most every aspect of the halfcourt offense. That's where his money is made: the shoot/drive/pass triple-threat.
Attitude and confidence also come pre-installed with this kid. Everything from the way he carries his body to the way he conducts interviews says he knows who he is and what he wants. You don't have to worry about his head.
The huge caveat to all of this is Larkin's sub-6' stature. His height, size, and reach will modify his NBA game in several ways. Unless he develops an Isiah Thomas level finishing proficiency he's going to have trouble scoring in the lane, leaving the defense to worry about his jumper. He'll not be able to see the floor or pass as easily. His defense will be more annoyance than deterrent. Many NBA players will simply shoot over him no matter how much effort he puts into it.
For those reasons, scheduling Larkin as your starting point guard may be problematic. I wouldn't bet against him making it as a starter. He's good enough and seems committed enough. But you're always going to be staring those weaknesses in the face. At minimum, though, Larkin could be one of the most excellent reserve point guards in the league...a standout feature off your bench, also capable of taking the helm as a starter when need arises.
Verdict for the Blazers
Larkin's shooting would play well in Portland. It's not hard to imagine him having a great time in the pick and roll if the Blazers got Marcin Gortat as a center either. He fits Portland's culture. He'd be a fantastic addition to this team.
BUT...no matter how many things recommend him you probably don't want to spend a first round draft pick on a reserve point guard. Larkin only plays one position, the Blazers have that position filled, and except in targeted offensive possessions there's no way you could play Larkin and Lillard together because of the defensive liability.
The only way this move makes sense is if the Blazers end up picking way down in the draft (where getting any prospect is a good deal) and Larkin is still there. Chances are that's not going to happen.
Chew over Shane Larkin and Michael Carter-Williams in the comment section below. Would you be impressed if either one became a Trail Blazer?