NBA Draft Preview: Sifting through the point guards
As the Nets roster currently stands, it’s hard to see them using a first round pick on a point guard. Deron Williams will eat up the bulk of minutes at the position, C.J. Watson has a player option left on his contract and the team invested a 2012 second round pick on Tyshawn Taylor.
Still, there’s a chance Watson declines to pick up his player option for the veteran’s minimum. Although good friends with Deron from their days in Utah, Watson recently hired a new agent (Jeff Schwartz, of whom Deron is also a client), which could be a sign he’s looking for a bigger deal. Taylor, meanwhile, hasn’t proven himself as a point guard at any level—he mostly played off the ball in college.
If the Nets are looking for a player to help right away, the draft board may fall in such a way they’re inclined to grab a point guard. It’s also important to remember that the Nets’ ten most used lineups had either Deron or Joe on the floor. Unless the new coach has a drastically different philosophy, it’s unlikely the full playmaking burden would fall on a rookie point guard.
Who might the Nets be eyeing at the position? Here are some names to track. Not all are currently projected to go in the range where the Nets pick, but Billy King does have a penchant for moving up or down in the draft.
Dennis Schroeder, Germany (19) - 6’2, 165
- Lightning quick with elite speed in transition.
- Has the handle needed to penetrate at will.
- Aggressive and committed on defense, uses superior athleticism to hound opposing point guards.
- 6’7” wingspan.
- Overseas marketing potential
- Still learning the nuances of the point guard position.
- Not a natural shooter, but has been effective in catch and shoot situations.
- Not a great finisher despite size and athleticism.
How he fits:
The big question for Schroeder is how ready is he for the NBA game? He’s only 19, and didn’t play at the highest level of European competition. That being said, he has more than enough ability to spell Deron for 10 minutes a night while he learns, especially with Joe to help him run the offense. Schroeder has enough size to play together with Deron defensively, but his off the ball game isn’t strong enough to hurt opponents when playing off of an elite point guard. He can make life difficult for speedy point guards on the defensive end, but is he really an upgrade over Tyshawn in that area?
Shane Larkin, Miami (So) - 5’11, 176
- Ultra athletic. Tested as one of, if not the best athlete at the combine (44” max vert).
- Uses athleticism to attack on offense, create havoc on defense (2 steals per game).
- Good (not great) shooter. Improved to 40% from 3pt range as a sophomore.
- Good balance of scoring and playmaking.
- Leader who took unheralded Miami team to ACC regular season title and the Sweet 16.
- Undersized. 5’11 in shoes with a 5’11 wingspan.
- Not a great finisher at the rim.
- Doesn’t get to the free throw line a lot, and is strangely mediocre when he does get there (78%).
How he fits:
Billy King said he wanted the team to get more athletic, and Larkin can help to that end. Larkin’s ability to attack a defense with pure speed would provide a stark change of pace to Deron. Plus, he has enough handle and enough shooting for him and Deron to share the backcourt, although they would give up a lot of size on defense. Maturity and comfort with the position makes him a candidate to step in right away.
Pierre Jackson, Baylor (Sr) - 5’11, 176
- Super quick and athletic.
- Comfortable in the pick and roll.
- Good shooting mechanics, can shoot off the bounce and spotting up.
- Willing to shoulder the burden on offense (19.8 ppg, 7.1 apg as a senior).
- Undersized (5’10.5 in shoes, 5’10 wingspan).
- Tries to do too much (went 5-17 with 7 turnovers against Kentucky).
- Elite Baylor bigs — Perry Jones and Isaiah Austin — both struggled. PG to blame?
How he fits:
As you can see, Jackson has a very similar profile to Shane Larkin: athletic, undersized point guard who can score, pass and defend. Jackson would likely be deployed in much the same way as Larkin, but the big question for Jackson is whether or not he makes the game easy for his teammates.
Ray McCallum, Detroit (Jr) - 6’2, 191
- Pure point guard. Understands the nuances of the position, knows how to run an offense.
- Plays hard, gives a strong effort defensively.
- Takes care of the basketball.
- Doesn’t have elite size or athleticism for the position (although he’s average at worst in both areas).
- Poor shooter, will he defer to other players too much when he’s surrounded by better talent?
How he fits:
From a maturity standpoint, McCallum is ready to be a backup point guard in the NBA. He was a top recruit who shunned Arizona to play for his father (a clue!) at Detroit. McCallum could give Deron a breather, but the Nets would need to surround him with scorers and shooters. Pair him with MarShon Brooks in the backcourt and the Nets would struggle to space the floor. McCallum also has enough size and grit on the defensive end to play alongside Deron, especially if the Nets want to give the latter some time off the ball.
Lorenzo Brown, North Carolina State (Jr) - 6’5, 189
- Size for the position.
- Has transformed from a shooting guard to true point guard.
- Looks to get his teammates involved (7.2 assists per game).
- Poor shooter (26% from 3pt as a junior).
- Just an okay athlete.
- Not great at getting to the line or scoring at the rim.
How he fits:
Brown is still learning the position, but he understands his job is to initiate the offense and get his teammates involved. He’d need some time to adjust to the NBA game, and like McCallum the Nets would need to pair him with a shooter in the backcourt. Where Brown becomes intriguing is as a cross-match with Deron. Brown’s the type of point guard who can afford the Nets the option of playing Deron off the ball without giving up any size on the defensive end.
Isaiah Canaan, Murray State (Sr) - 6’, 188
- Can score from anywhere on the floor.
- Great shooter with deep range on his jumper.
- Good physicality - both strength and athleticism.
- What a name!
- Not a pure point guard.
- Slightly undersized.
- Wasn’t always asked to defend.
How he fits:
Canaan has an NBA-ready skill in his shooting ability, and he’d provide the Nets with some scoring punch off the bench. He’s effective in catch and shoot situations as well, so he can help spread the floor and make defenses pay for collapsing on Deron, Joe or Brook. While Canaan might be able to handle a few minutes a night running the offense, the Nets would need to look elsewhere if Deron were to miss an extended period of time.
Erick Green, Virginia Tech (Sr) - 6’3, 178
- Excellent scorer (led the NCAA with 25 ppg as a senior).
- Quickness allows him to get to the rim with ease.
- Good shooter.
- Length for the position (6’7 wingspan).
- Will have to learn how to play the point guard position
- Virginia Tech wasn’t loaded with talent, and they play in the ACC, but the team didn’t win.
How he fits:
Green, like Canaan, can come in right away and provide the Nets with some buckets off the bench, but he’s further from being a point guard than Tyshawn was last year. In all probability, Green would have to share the floor with another point guard as a rookie. Still, he can up the Nets offensive tempo and hurt teams who are paying Deron, Joe and Brook too much attention.