I don’t think there’s any question that last year’s NBA Draft was one of the worst we’ve ever witnessed. Particularly, it doesn’t help that No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett had a horrific season with many already writing him off as a bust, and that other top five picks–Alex Len, Cody Zeller and even Otto Porter Jr., for the time he did play–disappointed fans this season.
However, don’t fear or panic–in two more months, you’ll see that the 2014 NBA Draft is back with a class loaded on talent. Do you really think Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle or Jabari Parker, who are all projected to be top-five picks, will be as bad compared to Bennett, Len or Zeller? I don’t see that happening, nor do I see Aaron Gordon or Doug McDermott being as bad as four of the top five picks last season.
It’s no secret anymore that this year’s draft is overloaded at the forward position as the guards may be getting overlooked. Some are even claiming the point guard position is the weakest in this year’s draft. In defense, here’s a look at my top five point guard prospects that shouldn’t get overlooked. With the talent these guys have, don’t be surprised to see any of these point guard prospects all go early in the first round this year.
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5. Elfrid Payton, UL Lafayette
Many people probably didn’t think a team like L.A. Lafayette would be playing in the NCAA tournament, but indeed they did, and nearly even upset Creighton in their first-round matchup thanks to the play from Elfrid Payton, the Ragin Cajuns’ leader who’s carried them all season. His shooting is a little questionable, particularly his three-point shooting as he shot a poor 25 percent from beyond the arc this season. But his 19 points per game in his junior season mostly came from inside the paint on floaters or midrange jumpers, proving he can still score the ball.
Standing at 6-4, his 6-7 wingspan is what makes him a desirable prospect as he’s mainly known for his defense and playmaking ability. The pesky defender led the Cajuns with 2.3 steals per game. Imagine getting a Patrick Beverley type of defender with a Rajon Rondo playmaker on offense. With his NBA comparison and potential, Payton is deserving of a late first-round pick in my book.
4. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
He’s a solid NBA point guard prospect, and probably the most pure point guard in this draft. Although an early exit from Syracuse may have hurt his draft stock just a bit, his basketball IQ will sell to many NBA scouts. Ennis constantly sees the floor, get his teammates involved and plays with his head up. He has the ability to do a little of everything on the floor and doesn’t turn it over at all considering how much the ball is in his hands. Many people will probably remember Ennis for his game-winning three-point shot against Pittsburgh that kept the Orange undefeated at 24-0 through mid-February, and not even know that he’s a guy who averaged just 12 points per game.
However, with his ability to do a little of everything, he’s very much deserving of a top-10 pick as he reminds me of a little Deron Williams running the floor.
3. Shabazz Napier, UConn
It’s tough to doubt a national champion. I mean, a two-time national champion who learned from Kemba Walker as a freshman to building his own legacy at UConn, leaving his senior year as a national champion. Don’t get it twisted about Napier’s reputation after making headlines saying he sometimes goes to bed starving, along with calling the NCAA out for banning the Huskies from the last year’s postseason. Instead, Napier’s play on the court truly speaks for itself as everyone saw how his game elevated during the tournament.
He showed up Andrew Harrison in the National Championship Game, refusing to let a freshman outshine him on the biggest stage. He scored whenever UConn needed a bucket and has glimpses in his game to be a big-time playmaker. Beyond his experience that will sell to NBA teams, it makes it particularly tough for NBA GMs to pass on Napier when LeBron tweets things like this.
2. Dante Exum, Australia
If all you do is follow the NBA and college ball, you probably haven’t seen or ever heard of this guy. The book on Exum is that he’s a 6-6, 18-year-old international player from Australia, barely legal enough to declare as he turns 19 the same year of the draft. But it’s Exum’s potential that will get him drafted high, with his size setting himself up as a monster of a point guard–even if he will also play a lot of two-guard. There aren’t too many 6-6 guys who can handle the ball and defend the 1-4 positions on the floor.
His perimeter shooting needs a bit of work and he needs to put on a few more pounds and gain strength. But for a young man who already compares himself to Derrick Rose, the potential for Exum is definitely there. Most likely, he will be the first international player off the board in this draft.
1. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Players like Dwyane Wade don’t come around too often, but if there’s a point guard in this draft that’s the next closest thing, it just may be Marcus Smart for many reasons. He has a proven midrange pull-up, although his perimeter shooting from beyond the arc can use a little work. (That would really take his game to another level.) But it’s his size, strength and explosiveness when attacking the rim that makes Smart one of a kind at the point guard position.
We all know that he can definitely score the ball, but his passing is very much underrated. He enjoys getting his teammates involved more than he gets credit for. I’d say people are probably sleeping on his defensive ability too as he’s 6-4 and averaged three steals per game in his two seasons at Oklahoma State.
Smart may be the most NBA-ready point guard in this class. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him make an immediate impact during his rookie season.
Which player will be the best PG from this draft?
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