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Eggplant's Guide to the 2016 NBA Draft: The Point Guards

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Grab a cup of coffee, find a comfortable chair, and read about players the Wolves probably won't draft this spring.

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016 draft has been hailed as one of the weakest in recent memory, and through doing the preparation for these articles, I came to fully appreciate those sentiments. While last year I was forced to look for reasons why certain prospects would not succeed in the NBA, this year I have been looking even harder for reasons they will succeed. One of the problems with starting draft analysis this early is that there is still quite a bit of mystery surrounding the eventual participants in this year's draft. However, if I waited until we knew the eligible players, this series would never be completed. For this first article, I compromised by looking at the top seven point guards listed under the 2016 NBA Draft by Draft Express, not counting players listed as PG/SG that I deemed to be shooting guards, Jamal Murray most prominent among them. I claim no special insight or expertise in the scouting process; this is just the result of one fan with slightly too much time on his hands watching condensed games on YouTube (because college basketball has so many stoppages nobody should be forced to endure that live), looking at some statistics and doing his best to reckon as to what the future might hold. Make sure you are sitting somewhere comfortable because this turned into a long one. Now, without further ado, the top point guard prospects of the 2016 class, in no particular order.

Kris Dunn

MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS TS%
Per 40 Pace 6.7 14.8 .450 1.4 4.0 .352 4.8 7.0 .691 1.3 5.1 7.5 3.0 0.7 4.2 3.3 19.6 .541

6 GP v. Top 20 D

33.8 4.8 12.0 .403 1.2 3.7 .318 3.5 5.3 .656 0.3 3.0 4.7 2.5 0.3 4.3 3.8 14.3 .500

Let me dispel the myth about why the Wolves should not draft Kris Dunn. The myth is that Ricky Rubio is a really good point guard who would have a difficult time coexisting with Dunn, another ball dominant, poor shooting floor general, etc. If you are reading this article, you have probably seen this argument before. And the issue with this line of reasoning is not that Rubio can't shoot. Stop it. Rubio can be an awesome player, and drafting Kris Dunn can be a good idea. The problem with this argument against Dunn is that it presupposes too much confidence about the future of the Wolves and betrays a lack of understanding of the typical development curve of a NBA point guard.

Next year, Kris Dunn will be a rookie. He will be a bad player by the standard of "does he help you win NBA games." The year after that, unless he is a superstar, he will still be a below average player who a halfway decent team should probably not give more than 20 minutes a night. If he is a superstar, then obviously taking him was the right move, never mind the fit. By Dunn's third year in the league, Rubio will be in a contract year, entering unrestricted free agency. If Dunn pans out, the Wolves would be in one of a few, unknowable as of now, scenarios.

Scenario 1: Rubio wants to leave, Dunn is ready to start. Good thing we drafted Dunn, right?

Scenario 2: Rubio wants to stay, Dunn still can't shoot but is good enough to start. The Wolves have a really valuable trade asset to fortify a playoff roster.

Scenario 3: Rubio wants to stay, Dunn has learned how to shoot. Now you have an awesome two way backcourt!

Other scenarios where Dunn is not good aren't as crucial to the decision making process if you evaluate Dunn as the best player available on the draft board. Ending up with a good player almost always results in a win-win scenario. That's why you take the best player available. You don't know what the future will hold, so having as many good players as possible puts you in the best position to succeed while dealing with the whims of mysterious fate.

Now, let me undermine everything I just wrote with seven words. The Wolves should not draft Kris Dunn. Not because he is not a good fit next to Rubio, but because he is a very flawed prospect. Everyone talks about Dunn's struggles shooting the ball, and it is true that if a point guard cannot shoot, he either needs to learn very quickly or the rest of his game needs to be nearly perfect to compensate. Dunn's lack of improvement from the free throw line during his four years at Providence makes me skeptical he has untapped shooting potential, and the rest of his game has too many flaws for me to endorse drafting him with a lottery pick.

Much of the excitement about Dunn starts on the defensive end, as can be surmised from his excellent steal and block numbers. Dunn is big, athletic, and has quick hands and yet, as someone who trumpeted the draft stock of previous defensively minded perimeter players like Marcus Smart, Justise Winslow, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, I was a bit underwhelmed by Dunn's defense. He has potential on that end of the floor, but I often saw him out of position gambling for steals, and in the games I watched, those gambles hurt his team more than they helped it.

Dunn's bigger issue, though, is turning the ball over. He has a very high turnover rate, and against elite defenses, as can be seen in his six games against Villanova, Seton Hall, and North Carolina - teams in Ken Pom's top 20 on that end of the floor - his assist to turnover rate was shockingly bad. Watching him closely, one of the reasons may be a lack of focus and awareness at times, complementing his issues on defense, but I think the bigger problem is a loose handle. I saw Dunn dribble the ball off his foot or just lose control an astounding number of times in the two games I scrutinized. Once I noticed that, his shaky handle became more apparent and subtly limited his game in other ways. A shaky jumper is one thing. A shaky jumper and a loose handle? That's a recipe for disaster against better defenses, especially from a 22 year old 4th year junior.

It's really a shame that I have been writing so negatively about his game, because I genuinely loved Dunn's court vision. He made several filthy passes in each game I watched, but I am very skeptical the rest of his skills will be good enough at the next level to allow that passing ability to shine. I expect Dunn to find a niche as a bottom rung starter or quality reserve due to his passing and athleticism, but I do not expect him to be the best player available when the Wolves pick and I would give pretty good odds that another point guard from this draft eventually surpasses him.

Demetrius Jackson


MP
FG
FGA
FG%
3P
3PA
3P%
FT
FTA
FT%
ORB
DRB
AST
STL
BLK
TOV
PF
PTS
TS%
Per 40 Pace

6.4
14.3
.448
1.9
5.6
.331
3.9
4.8
.806
1.1
3.0
5.6
1.4
0.4
2.5
2.3
18.6
.560

4 GP v. Top 20 D

38.0
5.0
15.0
.333
2.8
8.0
.344
5.5
5.8
.957
2.0
1.3
3.8
1.0
0.3
2.0
1.3
18.3
.521

Now that I have written about the reasons the Wolves should disregard "fit", the rest of these capsules should be more concise. The next point guard usually mocked after Dunn is 21 year old junior Demetrius Jackson, who is rather underwhelming statistically. Jackson has also played the fewest games against teams with a top 20 defense of any of the point guards we are looking at today, as Notre Dame only played one game each against Virginia and Louisville, and two against North Carolina. The Fighting Irish will play their fifth game against an elite defense later this week when they face Wisconsin.

What Jackson lacks in statistical accomplishments, he makes up for in athleticism. Jackson "popped" off the screen athletically in a way few other point guards can match. Watching him play against Duke and UNC, he seemed far more athletic than Grayson Allen and Marcus Paige. He is strong, quick, and explosive, throwing down some of the NCAA's best dunks this year. But for all his athletic accomplishments, Jackson has not fully taken advantage of his surroundings. Notre Dame runs a spread pick and roll offense that surrounds Jackson with a tenacious roll man and several shooters. Jerian Grant rode the same offense to a 1st round selection last year and Jackson's numbers, and the team's efficiency, aren't as good as they were with Grant, who did not exactly light the NBA on fire this year.

Despite his athleticism, Jackson's lack of size means he often has trouble finishing at the rim. I saw him make some very difficult shots, especially against Duke, but he doesn't get many easy shots and when the tough ones don't go in, things can get ugly. In the game I saw him play against UNC, one of the few teams he faced with NBA size, Jackson went 5-18. In the other game against the Tar Heels, that I did not see, he went 1-10. To succeed in the NBA, Jackson needs a reliable jump shot. This year, he has shot 41% on two point jumpers and 33% on three pointers. His 81% free throw shooting is a career high, suggesting a good but not great stroke. Last year, those numbers were 53% and 42% on a smaller number of attempts, but that was playing next to Grant.

Given his size, inconsistent shooting, problems at the rim, and general ineptitude on defense, it will be difficult for Jackson to find a starting role in the NBA. Still, players with athleticism, quickness, shot-making ability, and an excellent handle are always useful off the bench and a small improvement in his shooting could lead to a long career. He's not a player I would consider at #5 or #6, but could be worth a pick in the 20s in a relatively weak draft.

Wade Baldwin


MP
FG
FGA
FG%
3P
3PA
3P%
FT
FTA
FT%
ORB
DRB
AST
STL
BLK
TOV
PF
PTS
TS%
Per 40 Pace

5.3
12.5
.427
1.6
4.0
.406
6.1
7.7
.799
0.5
4.7
6.8
1.6
0.4
3.6
3.3
18.4
.571

7 GP v. Top 20 D

33.9
4.7
10.7
.440
1.0
2.7
.368
3.6
5.0
.714
0.4
3.3
5.0
1.0
0.3
3.3
2.9
14.0
.542

Wade Baldwin is a frustrating player to watch, and I'm not sure if that says more about Wade Baldwin or more about Vanderbilt and the team that was put around him. In theory, the sophomore Baldwin perfectly fits the modern NBA. His wingspan, reportedly 6'10, allows him to switch between both guard positions, giving his team coveted defensive flexibility. In the games I watched, his ability to close out on shooters forced some uncharacteristically bad misses. His three point shot, over 40% both years, makes him a deadly threat off the ball, while his passing ability allows him to create good looks while running the offense. He could be a combo guard in the best sense of the term, who is quick enough to guard 1's, long enough to guard 2's, and can play both on and off the ball on offense.

The problem is that Baldwin, despite tantalizing stretches, was extremely inconsistent and would spend large portions of games standing in the corner, not doing much of anything. The two games I focused on were emblematic. Baldwin looked fantastic against Texas A&M on both sides of the ball, finishing with an efficient 17 & 8 with stellar defense. Against Kansas, he disappeared for most of the game, ending up with 11 & 2 in a game Vanderbilt lost down the stretch. Part of the blame should go to Vanderbilt's offense, which was unusually egalitarian - the Commodores' top ten players all had USG% between 15.9-26.8 and the other guards almost never set up Baldwin for open threes. More of the blame, though, should go to Baldwin, who seemed very reluctant to drive the ball and turned it over far too often when he did. It's also difficult to fathom how such a natural looking long range shooter should shoot so little, something especially glaring when Vanderbilt faced elite defenses.

One reason for his inability to take the ball to the rim is Baldwin's lack of explosiveness. He's athletic, but he's more of a smooth athlete than an explosive one, so defenders found it easier to stay in front of him. Also, similarly to Kris Dunn, I think the main culprit for his frequent disappearing act has been his handle. When I was watching, he would almost always take an exploratory dribble or two, then swing the ball to his teammate, not challenging his defender. He also lost the ball a few times on relatively basic plays. In the games I watched, most of those were deflected out of bounds by the other team, allowing Vandy to retain possession, but it was easy to imagine them turning into fastbreaks going the other way.

As of now, I would peg Baldwin as a 3&D point guard off the bench. Improving his handle and taking more threes would help him take the next step towards becoming a NBA starter, in the mold of a George Hill type who can play defense, hit threes, and act as an effective secondary creator. Based on this nascent skill set, I think Baldwin has the easiest path of anyone in this article to becoming an above average player on both sides of the ball. That potential should be enough to make Baldwin a late lottery pick despite Vanderbilt's underwhelming year.

Tyler Ulis


MP
FG
FGA
FG%
3P
3PA
3P%
FT
FTA
FT%
ORB
DRB
AST
STL
BLK
TOV
PF
PTS
TS%
Per 40 Pace

6.0 13.9 .435 1.8 5.1 .348 5.3 6.2 .855 0.6 2.7 7.7 1.6 0.1 2.1 2.0 19.1 .567

6 GP v. Top 20 D

41.5
7.8
13.7
.573
2.5
4.8
.517
4.5
5.5
.818
0.2
2.8
9.0
1.8
0.3
2.5
1.8
22.7
.705

I would like to act as though I started this process without any bias, and with a completely open mind. But that would not be true. If I started this process expecting to love Wade Baldwin's NBA chances, I expected to easily dismiss Tyler Ulis' pro prospects. From afar, Ulis seemed to be the prototypical overrated, undersized college point guard that I start to despise in direct proportion to the amount he is hyped by the announcers. However, the more I watched of him, the more I started to think that he could actually succeed in the NBA.

Let's start with Ulis' most glaring negative attribute, his height. Ulis is 5'9, which is the height of only a few successful players in recent memory. How does his size impact his game? The most obvious way is on defense. Ulis won the SEC's Defensive Player of the Year this season, which may be the dumbest award ever given in the history of team or individual sports. Ulis is a pesky defender who can create turnovers and draw charges, but opposing guards can take him off the dribble and shoot over him and the Wildcats hid him on the least threatening matchup against Kansas and Texas A&M. Kentucky, in the games I watched, also tended to switch everything on the perimeter, a strategy that magnified Ulis' shortcomings. In the occasions he did try to fight over screens, he sometimes looked like a bug splattering against a windshield as his man was able to get wide open. In the NBA, Ulis may not be a complete disaster thanks to his aggressiveness, competitiveness, and smarts, but it's difficult to see him even becoming an average defender, given his physical limitations.

The other way Ulis' height negatively effects him is finishing around the rim. According to Hoop-Math, Ulis took only 18.8% of his shots at the rim and only made 57.8% of them, numbers that will surely decline in the NBA. In lieu of getting to the rim, he is often forced to shoot floaters and midrange pullups, which depress his efficiency. On the other hand, Ulis is not the only point guard in this class with issues at the rim, and he is probably the best in the class at finishing those more difficult looks, converting an impressive 44.7% of his non-rim twos, a shot that is not the most efficient, but will be crucial for his NBA success.

I wrote a few paragraphs back that I thought Ulis could succeed in the NBA. What do I like about his game? I'm tempted to just write "everything else", but let me go down the checklist. I think of a player's attributes as falling into three main categories, skill, smarts, and athleticism. Ulis is the only point guard in this draft that definitely checks all three boxes. His skill level is very high, as he has a tight handle, as evidenced by his low turnover rate and three minutes of watching him, and a shot that is better than you might think. Ulis "only" shot 35% from deep this year, but after watching him, I can say that most of those shots were already from NBA range, he shot better from midrange than any of the other point guards, and his 86% free throw percentage indicates a player with shooting ability.

Ulis' smarts are also almost beyond reproach. You can find all sorts of stories about him as a fantastic teammate and competitor, and it comes through in the way he plays. He is always directing traffic, often at both ends of the floor, and he always makes good decisions with the ball, as is confirmed by comparing his assist : turnover rate to that of other high usage point guards. His court vision is also superb, as he does an excellent job of finding cutters and shooters off the bounce. I don't want to get too far into personality & mental makeup voodoo, but if there's any player with the fire and intelligence to keep improving his game beyond apparent physical limitations, a la Draymond Green, it might be Ulis.

Finally, even though he is short, Ulis is a phenomenal athlete. He is incredibly quick and can play at a multitude of speeds. I remember being really impressed watching Dennis Schroder before his draft because he was fast, but could easily shift gears to create space for himself. Ulis can do the same thing, and probably has about 10 different gears he can shift between almost at will. He may not have been able to finish over the trees at the rim, but he could get into the paint and collapse the defense any time he wanted, creating open looks for cutters and shooters. I looked at each player's numbers against top defenses, in part because I suspected Ulis would struggle against the better defenses thanks to his lack of size, but he actually put up the best numbers of the entire group against those defenses, suggesting that his game translates against superior athletes.

When it comes to the modern NBA, Isaiah Thomas is the obvious best case scenario for Ulis, though Ulis would need to get stronger to even match Thomas' physical profile. Ulis has a fantastic skill-set, intangibles, and athleticism, and if he was two inches taller, I think he would be a top 3 pick in this draft, maybe with an argument for number one overall. Would I rather take a chance on a prototypical point guard with glaring weaknesses, or a player who has everything I'm looking for minus two inches? I think I'd rather take a chance on the latter, and several years from now, I would not be surprised if 2016 re-drafts have Ulis in the top ten.

Melo Trimble


MP
FG
FGA
FG%
3P
3PA
3P%
FT
FTA
FT%
ORB
DRB
AST
STL
BLK
TOV
PF
PTS
TS%
Per 40 Pace

5.4 13.2 .410 2.1 6.4 .326 5.3 6.1 .870 0.4 4.1 6.3 1.6 0.2 3.3 2.1 18.4 .569

6 GP v. Top 20 D

36.8
4.8
13.2
.367
1.7
5.2
.323
7.3
8.2
.898
0.3
2.5
6.3
1.5
0.2
3.7
2.2
18.7
.557

Trimble is like Jackson in that neither is very impressive statistically, but there is enough there to make you think that each player can stick in the NBA. Unlike Jackson, Trimble is not that impressive of an athlete, and any hope the 21 year old sophomore has for his game translating to the next level resides in his jump shot. For a player making less than one third of his threes, and only 29% of his two point jumpers, that does not seem promising, but bear with me. Trimble hit more than 40% from beyond the arc last season and is an elite free throw shooter, which is a promising indicator of future long range shooting. Trimble is comfortable shooting off the dribble or off the catch and could have a role as a microwave scorer off the bench.

Trimble's most notable skill at the college level is drawing fouls. He drew even more last year before drawing the ire of ACC coaches, and probably the refs, for the way he baited opposing players into cheap fouls. I am skeptical that this ability will translate to the NBA, but it is worth mentioning, in case it does translate, as an offensive profile built around threes and free throws should be efficient.

Melo the Lesser is sometimes criticized for not being a true point guard. In the games I watched, I thought his court vision looked okay, and he was able to make some nice passes in the pick and roll, most often to a rolling Diamond Stone. On the other hand, his handle and focus left something to be desired, especially in the game I watched against UNC, in which he committed 8 turnovers, some of them very ugly.

Maryland is a very talented team, surrounding Trimble with a poor man's Jahlil Okafor in Stone, a NBA stretch four in Robert Carter, a NBA wing in Jake Layman, and a solid shooter and defender in Rasheed Sulaimon. A pick and roll with that lineup against most college defenses should be unstoppable. I can't think of another point guard in the NCAA that has as many weapons, and it may be fair to ding Trimble for being unable to separate himself from the pack in the best possible situation. Trimble also, like many of the point guards on this list, has a tendency to dribble the air out of the ball, further reinforcing my view that his NBA future is most likely to be as a microwave scorer off the bench.

As for his defense, it's bad. It's really, really bad. He'll get a steal occasionally, and he's at least tall enough to theoretically play defense, but his effort is bad, his execution is bad, players can shoot over the top of him, get around him, lose him on screens. It's all not good, and is another reason he'll probably come off the bench in the pros and might last until the early 2nd round.

Monte Morris


MP
FG
FGA
FG%
3P
3PA
3P%
FT
FTA
FT%
ORB
DRB
AST
STL
BLK
TOV
PF
PTS
TS%
Per 40 Pace

5.4 11.1 .486 1.1 3.0 .364 2.0 2.8 .733 0.8 3.4 6.9 1.8 0.2 1.7 1.6 14.0 .566

6 GP v. Top 20 D

39.5
4.6
11.3
.411
0.9
3.0
.292
2.3
2.9
.783
0.9
3.1
5.1
2.0
0.1
1.8
1.8
12.6
.504

Monte Morris versus Tyler Ulis is an interesting contrast in height against athleticism. Both players have the cerebral qualities needed to play the position at the next level, but while Ulis lacks the height, Morris lacks the explosiveness - and I think that might be more damaging.

Morris is a very patient, methodical player that lives in the midrange (.435 FG% on non-rim twos) and makes excellent decisions with the ball. You can think of him as the Andre Miller of the NCAA. He is often able to get the ball to the elbow and either knock down a short jumper or find a cutter or leaper for the alley oop. The question is whether or not this is enough for him to carve out a role in the NBA.

The answer might come down to his shooting ability. Morris' 3P% and FT% have declined every year since he arrived at Iowa State, and a point guard making less than three quarters of his free throws is not someone who can be counted on as a shooter at the next level. In contrast to someone like Melo Trimble, Morris also has a low number of three point attempts, again indicating a lack of confidence in his shot. He badly clanked some wide open looks when I watched him play.

The defense does not look great either. Morris has decent anticipatory skills, and was able to stay in front of smaller, slower players, but I am skeptical he has the athleticism to keep up with most NBA point guards. Morris could use his basketball smarts and midrange game to find a place on a NBA bench somewhere, but unless his shooting dramatically improves, it is difficult to see him becoming more than a 9th or 10th man for an average team, which could be a reasonable use of a second rounder.

Gary Payton II


MP
FG
FGA
FG%
3P
3PA
3P%
FT
FTA
FT%
ORB
DRB
AST
STL
BLK
TOV
PF
PTS
TS%
Per 40 Pace

7.5 15.5 .481 0.8 2.6 .313 2.9 4.6 .647 2.8 6.6 5.9 2.9 0.6 2.7 3.1 18.7 .532

5 GP v. Top 20 D

37.6
7.2
16.0
.450
0.2
1.4
.143
3.0
4.6
.652
4.0
7.0
4.2
2.6
0.8
2.8
2.6
17.6
.488

Like my experience watching Wade Baldwin, I watched Gary Payton II, and was convinced at the end there was a NBA player there, but unconvinced it was a point guard. Payton is the oldest player on this list, already 23, but in some areas the most productive. He is easily the best athlete of this group and will probably be the best defender out of this group in the pros, although I did not see the constant aggression and focus that are the hallmarks of a truly great perimeter defender. That's important for his draft stock, because Payton has a lot of questions on the offensive end.

The obvious question is, "Can he learn to shoot?" I can't pretend to answer that, just to say that the odds are against it. The other, sneakier question is, "Can he run an offense?" I was surprised, watching Oregon State, how often Payton played off the ball, then got the ball and attacked with the defense already moving. This was in sharp contrast to players like Dunn and Ulis, who created many of their team's looks ex nihilo. That being said, his passing vision is solid, it's just a question of how often his shooting and handle will be good enough to open those lanes for him.

If you play Payton off the ball, you still get many of his skills, including the rebounding, the potential multi-positional defensive versatility, and some nice secondary creation. If his shot improves, he could be a valuable player, but that is true for almost everyone on that list, and at his age and free throw percentage, Payton seems like the least likely candidate to become a good, or even respectable, shooter down the road. I would still draft him late in the first round for his defense and athleticism, but think the odds are against his becoming a starter quality player. I do hope he makes it to the league, if for no other reason than to see him in the dunk contest, as he throws down some amazing in game slams.