Contrary to popular belief, it's not all about the lottery or even the first round when the NBA convenes for its annual draft on June 23.
Everyone and their mom knows the full scouting reports on Kyrie Irving, Brandon Knight, Kemba Walker and of course, The Jimmer, but here are five lesser heralded point guard prospects you should know about come draft night. Despite their lower projected draft position, all five have special qualities and could become very productive NBA players.
Jackson is rising up the draft boards after his quality workouts and noted playmaking ability. Measuring out at 6'3" with a freaky 7'0" wingspan, he possesses great size and athletic traits for a point guard. Jackson is a relative unknown despite playing in the ACC -- but shouldn’t be. A terrific leaper with a sudden burst who loves to break defenses down, he is a capable scorer and developing passer that has all of the tools to become a starting lead guard in this league.
With his size and shooting ability (42 percent 3s), he has the versatility to play off the ball as a shooting guard and can defend both positions. His 1.88 assists-to-turnover ratio shows plenty of room for growth, but the 21-year-old is clearly a worker, having vastly improved his perimeter jumper from his freshman year when he shot just 27.3 percent from distance. While he's highly unlikely to go in the lottery, Jackson presents excellent value in the mid-to-latter stages of the first round, and could be one of the real steals of this draft.
Current Projection: No. 24 (OKC Thunder)
NBA Comparison: A better C.J. Watson
Charles Jenkins, 6'3", 216 lbs., 22 years old, Hofstra --
A solid 6'3" and 216 lbs., Jenkins has an NBA point guard's body. A natural slasher, he is one of the premier scorers in the entire class, but he is also a deft passer in both the half-court and up-tempo game. His 22.6 points per game and 2.16 assist-to-turnover ratio are both superb, as are his 42 percent 3-point shooting and 51.7 percent from the floor. Don't let his small-school and conference pedigree fool you either. The Hofstra star dropped 24 on North Carolina and has shined bright in pre-draft workouts against some of the marquee names. According to data from Synergy Sports Technology, Jenkins ranked was one of the most prolific players in the country in terms of efficiency in isolation scenarios scoring on over 50 percent of his attempts when going one on one (minimum 50 possessions).
Perhaps even more important for the NBA game, he also ranked in the top-10 in pick and roll situations and in the top-25 as a catch and shoot threat, proving that -- similar to Jackson -- he can easily slide over to shooting guard when necessary. One of my favorite players in the draft, Jenkins has a chance to become a lethal scorer off the bench or potential starting point guard in this league, depending on what situation he comes into.
Current Projection: No. 26, Dallas Mavericks
NBA Comparison: Ben Gordon
Darius Morris, 6'5", 190 lbs., 20 years old, Michigan --
I really felt that Morris, just a sophomore, should have stayed in school another year or even two. Still, it's hard to fault him in some respects. Not an especially blessed athlete, the floor is much higher than the ceiling in his case. The former Wolverine already possesses an innate and natural feel for the position. He is a splendid passer who loves to incorporate teammates and execute the pick-and-roll about as well as anybody. At 6'5", he has incredible size as well, allowing him to see over the top of smaller guards and use the post-up game to his advantage. Morris is a kid that does a lot of things really well but his passing is what separates him. At 6.7 assists per game, he literally was the engine that made a rather mediocre Michigan team go, leading UM to the NCAA Tournament. Morris is a natural leader who loves to defend and understands precisely what his team needs from him. He won't be a star, but Morris should develop into a solid floor general, whether as a starter or first guard off the bench.
Current Projection: Early second round
NBA Comparison: Andre Miller
Norris Cole, 6'2", 175 lbs., 22 years old, Cleveland St. --
Another very intriguing prospect because of his ability to score and pass, Cole hails from Cleveland St. and thus hasn’t gotten the hype he warrants. A four-year starter, he has a wondrous and very developed skill-set that should earn him instant minutes at the next level. A dynamic playmaker, he averaged over 5 assists to go along with his near 22 points and 6 rebounds, clearly displaying the overall floor game GMs covet from point guards. Similar to small school counterpart Charles Jenkins, Cole used four years of college to really make himself into a true point guard. He is a good rebounder, adroit passer and creator off the bounce who loves to slash but is more than willing as a distributor.
He is tremendous running the screen-and-roll from anywhere on the floor and understands exactly what the defense is trying to do, thus adjusting accordingly and almost always making the CORRECT play. While he lacks the sudden burst of his peers, Cole makes up for it with intelligence and a much improved jump shot. And, he can also bang in transition. Cole is another guy that can become a difference-maker off the bench as an undersized guard.
Current Projection: First round bubble
NBA Comparison: Toney Douglas or J.J. Barea
Malcolm Lee, 6'5", 198 lbs., 21 years old, UCLA --
I've always struggled in evaluating Lee because I think he should be so much more. One prominent NBA point guard told me recently, "He should be Jamal Crawford ... but he's not." I couldn’t agree more. At 6'5" with natural scoring instincts, Lee -- a former McDonald's All-American -- has all of the tools to be a great player. He is an elite defender who can easily guard both 1s and 2s, and, with his size and remarkable speed, effectively play off the ball. But that's just it; often times, it's like Lee forgets just how gifted he actually is. Errant shot selection and head-scratching turnovers are a constant, as are a lack of overall intensity at both sides of the floor.
Never the dominant player at UCLA his talent level suggested he should have become, Lee is coming off another subpar season where he averaged 13 points, a mere 2 assists and 3 rebounds. While his questionable shooting stroke (28.2 percent career 3s) hindered him in college, a recent knee injury (he's all healed) has enabled Lee to go back to work on it. Having seen a lot of tape on him recently, it looks far smoother and completely refined and, for the first time, looks like a legitimate NBA jumper. While his collegiate career was certainly a disappointment, Lee has a real opportunity to have a very good NBA career.
Current Projection: Early second round
NBA Comparison: Jamal Crawford?
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