Thursday, June 11, 2009

First Round Shooting Guards

College players only in this post, their 2008-09 stats below. Six shooting guards under consideration (Toney Douglas, Wayne Ellington, James Harden, Gerald Henderson, Jodie Meeks, and Marcus Thornton)

First, shooting and scoring:


Next, assists and turnovers:


Finally, defense and rebounding:


Now, player-by-player opinions. Links on their names go to their DraftExpress profile and the bounty of information (both scouting and statistical) contained therein. Projections (if applicable) are by Jon Nichols at

Toney Douglas

If the team that drafts Douglas focuses on what he can do (shoot, defend, create his own shot) rather than what he can't do (grow, play point guard full time) they'll get a very useful role player, his upside being something like a miniature Tayshawn Prince. Projections for Douglas should be fairly cautious as he's already 23 years old--three months older than Marvin Williams, for comparison's sake.

I doubt Douglas will last long should he slip tot he second round as he'd be an excellent complement to lottery picks James Harden or Tyreke Evans should the teams that drafted those two have kept their second round pick and I suspect a team* with a big lead guard that could succesfully play alongside a smaller shooter/defender or any team that appreciates a bargain will trade up to pick Douglas.

*I can immediately think of one that fits the bill.

Wayne Ellington

I'm more bearish on Ellington than any of his National Champion teammates. There's no doubt he'll be able to knock down open shots but his inability to create his own shot (or offense for anyone else) and his projection as a defensive liability figure to limit the situations into which Ellington could successfully fit--something which the similarly skilled and limited Jason Kapono and Kyle Korver have found out and which JJ Redick surely will sooner rather than later.

James Harden (Projection)

The part of me that desperately wishes that James Harden would get drafted by the Wizards and get to play alongside the somewhat similar Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, and (assuming health) Gilbert Arenas in a super-efficient offense made up of wonderfully unique players seems to have forgotten that Eddie Jordan won't be around to work his offensive magic but still speaks (accurately, one hopes) to the larger point that successful NBA players don't necessarily have to conform to a type--that a power forward can play below the rim and behind the three-point line, a small forward can be a scorer/distributor out of the post, and a point guard can be a relentless, powerful offensive player who shoots too much.

Harden will appear to be all elbows and knees while scoring in the paint and on the perimeter, finding the open teammate, grabbing rebounds both offensive and defensive, and, yes, probably turning the ball over far too often during his rookie season. But in time, the 19-year-old Harden should figure out what he can and cannot do and be able to use his varied skills to exploit defenses that, frankly, probably won't be designed to stop James Harden.

Gerald Henderson (Projection)

If I may be allowed a moment of candor, I don't have any confidence in predicting what kind of player Henderson is going to be. He was wildly inconsistent (offensively) from game to game at Duke failing to convince either as a jump shooter or as an attacker off the dribble. To his credit, he always played hard (and without displaying the weird, aggrieved mask of intensity so prevalent among his teammates the past two seasons) and defended well (though this may be overrated to some degree due to the generally poor defensive players he was surrounded by).

My best guess is that he continues to defend well, becomes intimately familiar with the corner three, moves well without the ball, and becomes a poor, smaller man's Josh Childress though he could just as easily become a less assault-prone Dahntay Jones.

Jodie Meeks

I think Meeks is getting a bit of a raw deal* in mock drafts to date and it may result in him returning to Kentucky rendering this argument largely pointless. I suspect that Meeks is getting knocked down both for the ridiculous nature of his scoring explosions last season and the general dysfunction of the Kentucky basketball program. Remember that Rajon Rondo was widely and inaccurately downgraded simply due to his presence amidst the poisonous atmosphere of the later days of Tubby Smith's tenure rather than any real limitations he displayed that would carry over to the pro game.

*See, for example, the first weakness listed in his DraftExpress profile: "Scoring instincts." Really? How many more points could he have scored last year had he been more instinctual?

Of course, his 54-point, 22-shot performance at Tennessee, or his 46-point, 21-shot explosion against Appalachian State in Louisville aren't likely to be replicated, and, no, he can't really do anything other than score, but such outsized performances aren't so much flukish as indicative of a very high skill level in the most important facet of basketball: scoring.

Meeks made more than half his two-point attempts, more than 40% of his three-point attempts, got to the line more frequently than any other real shooting guard prospect save James Harden, and made more than 90% of his free throws once he got there. He's competent off the dribble, excellent at finding space to spot up, and were it not for Stephen Curry he'd be the best player in the draft at using screens to get open.

If he stays in the draft (and I think he might be smart to do so as it figures to be The John Wall Show co-starring a miserable Eric Bledsoe in Lexington next season) he'll provide great value for a team in immediate need of scoring off the bench.

Marcus Thornton

Marcus Thornton's obvious weaknesses (ball-handling, shot selection, defensive consistency) make him less appealing in 2009-10 than either Toney Douglas or Jodie Meeks though were Thornton to join a team that helps him define who he is and what he can do successfully he could blow both Douglas and Meeks out of the water in terms of career vaule.

Left to his own devices to drift in a haze of not knowing himself Thornton might not become more than Von Wafer with some latent defensive potential. One more year playing for Trent Johnson, or even one less year playing for John Brady, would have made things a lot easier for NBA teams.

Shooting Guard Rankings

1. Harden
2. Douglas
3. Thornton
4. Meeks
5. Henderson
6. Ellington

NEXT POST(s): Second round and free agent shooting guard prospect rankings, combined backcourt draft board


B. Frank said...

Totally agree on Meeks, Bret. All he does is score efficiently, and he tested well athletically at combine. Weird. I think he may move up boards late, a lot of teams think he's going back to school.

I wrote about Meeks last week at nbadraftroundup. I also linked to your site today for your point guard article which was dead on and sparked the discussion "is jonny flynn over-hyped?" Being close to New York media has advantages I think.

Do you have more thoughts on Jeff Teague? He's the one guy I think could shock people with his talent. Devin Harris with a jump shot. His intangibles are a bit of an unknown but if he can play point he will be the steal of this draft. I like him more than any PG not named Rubio.

Great blog, thanks for the stats. Check out our site sometime

jrauch said...

Wayne Ellington, if he's drafted anywhere in the first round will be a bust.

Take it from a Carolina fan who hated him for three years, except for the last 8 or so games of his college career.

The guy would only consistently show up against one team: Clemson. He was a shrinking violet against anyone else.

Bret LaGree said...

Wayne Ellington

STRENGTHS: Picking winnable battles.

B. Frank--

Thanks for the kind words and the link to the site. Good stuff there.

As for Teague, I think he's a tremendous prospect but clearly not ready to play point guard in the NBA. Normally I think it's foolish to go back to school if you're a first round pick (I would have counseled Cole Aldrich to leave Kansas this year.) but he could get buried on the bench somewhere and have that stall his development. As a basketball fan, I really hope he fulfills his talent and hope he makes a decision that will increase the chances of that happening.

jrauch said...

I think Teague would be a great fit in Atlanta long-term in the abstract sense, but he'll get caught in Woody development hell right now.