Since the Wizards are pretty much set at Point Guard with John Wall entrenched there for hopefully the next decade or more; I've decided to do only short, abbreviated profiles for the current crop of Point Guards in the 2011 draft. The first batch includes Duke's Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker from Connecticut, and Kentucky's Brandon Knight. Keep reading at the end for an update on the Enes Kanter eligibility issue.
More after the jump.
Team: Duke, Freshman
6' 2" , 185 lbs , 18 Years Old
Kyrie Irving won't wow you with his physical attributes, or with his athleticism, but he's an extremely smart player. Although he's not blazing fast like John Wall, nor is he an elite athlete like Derrick Rose; Irving plays at different speeds, keeping the defense off balance. A stutter step here, a juke there, a slight hesitation and then he takes a quick burst just when the defense is flat-footed. He can drive either left or right equally well. Combine all that with the fact that he's a very good shooter from outside, including range to the professional 3-point line - and defenses have to play him honest. Because he can shoot, it creates driving opportunities - and because he can drive, it creates open shots. As a result, Irving is an extremely efficient scorer - averaging over 22 points per 40 minutes (Pace adjusted) on only 12 sots.
Irving has excellent court vision, and is averaging a robust 6.5 assists per 40 (pace adjusted). He's an excellent passer, but prefers to make the safe pass rather than the spectacular. His ball handling skills are well advanced; able to stop or change direction in an instant.
He still needs work on his shot selection - and he tends to dribble too much.... but overall, Kyrie Irving is an excellent prospect. Even though he injured his toe in early December, and is expected to miss some extended time, NBA scouts have seen enough of him to know what kind of player he will become. He is the most NBA ready player in the draft. I expect him to be the first Point Guard taken, and depending on which team is selecting, he could go as high as #1. In any case, he's a top 10 pick (top 5 in most mock drafts). I have him at #5.
Team: Connecticut, Junior
6' 0" , 180 lbs , 20 Years Old
Kembe Walker is currently the number one scorer in the NCAA, at 25.8 points per game. Right now, he's an extremely efficient scorer, shooting almost 50% from the field and over 84% from the Free Throw line. He's got excellent quickness and ball-handling ability - but what puts him in the Draft Lottery discussion is his jump shot. He's got a very pretty shot - mechanically perfect - and shoots equally well off the dribble, or on a catch-and-shoot. He has range out to the college 3-point line (36%), but will need to extend that just a bit in the Pro's.
Last year, Walker showed more of his play-making skills, averaging over 5.7 assists per 40 minutes (pace adjusted). This year, with Connecticut losing 4 of their starters, he's had to take on more of a scoring role. Although he's only averaging 2.4 assists this year, he still shows flashes of excellent vision and passing skills. When he does pass, he shows more of a willingness to gamble than Kyrie Irving.... able to sometimes thread the needle for spectacular assists.
Defensively, Walker shows some toughness and grit - standing in to take charges against big guys, getting in the grill of his opponent, and generally wrecking havoc with his quickness. He's got terrific lateral quickness and likes to play the passing lanes (2.4 steals). My biggest concern is his height. At 6-feet, he will be at a disadvantage defending some of the bigger, stronger Point Guards in the NBA; and shots that he's easily able to get off in College will be contested by the bigger players in the NBA.
Nonetheless, Kemba Walker's ability to score and dish will make him a hot commodity for any team looking for a Point Guard this Summer. I expect him to be picked in the top 10. I have him at #7
Team: Kentucky - Freshman
6' 3" , 170 lbs , 18 Years Old
John Calapari's latest one-and-done Point Guard prospect is Brandon Knight. Like the other elite Point Guards recruited before him at Kentucky (Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, John Wall), Knight is a top prospect (#3 Scout, #2 Rivals).
Unlike Derrick Rose or John Wall, Brandon Knight is an excellent shooter with range to the NBA 3-point line. He's shooting 47% overall, and a very respectable 39% from 3. Both those percentages are skewed a bit, since he had difficulties early in the year with some horrible shooting games. He was also turning the ball over a lot. I had him high on my draft board until he threw up a couple 20% shooting nights and a 6 TO and 8 TO game.... Looking like he was having trouble adjusting, he plummeted on my board.
However, over the last 8 games, he's shooting much more like I expected (50% and 44% from 3) and has cut way down on his turnovers from almost 5 per game in his first 8 games to a much more manageable 2 per game over his last 8. He seems to have settled in to his role. His assists are up as well - to almost 5 per game.
Right now, my concerns about Knight are around his shoot-first mentality. John Calipari's Dribble-Drive Motion Offense may have something to do with it; since both John Wall and Derrick Rose weren't able to fully display their passing skills at Kentucky either. But with Wall, and to a lesser extent Rose, you could still tell they were pass-first type guys... Knight strikes me as shoot first - and with his height, that may brand him with the dreaded "combo guard" label.
Even with my reservations, Knight is moving up my draft board just as fast as he dropped earlier in the year. Right now I have him in the mid-first round, but if he continues to shoot the way he is now, he will move into the lottery.
Rook's Mock Draft
1. Terrence Jones
2. Perry Jones
3. Harrison Barnes
4. Enes Kanter
5. Kyrie Irving
6. Jared Sullinger
7. Kemba Walker
8. Jonas Valanciunas
9. Donatas Motiejunas
10. John Henson
Notes about Enes Kanter:
The NCAA Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement finally ruled on the Enes Kanter issue. They upheld the earlier NCAA ruling that Enes Kanter is "permanently ineligible" to play College basketball. The reason is that he received payment over "actual and necessary expenses" directly from a Professional basketball team. This was Kanter's final appeal, and unless he decides to take the NCAA to court, he will not be playing for a U.S. College this year, or at any time in the future.
Kanter will remain at Kentucky, his scholarship intact. John Calipari has designated Kanter an undergraduate student-assistant coach; meaning he can help out with the Kentucky basketball program. It also means that Kanter can continue to work out and practice with the team. He cannot however, travel with the team. Calipari has also stated that he will help Kanter with his preparations for next Summer's draft, if it is his intention to declare. I believe Kanter will declare for the 2011 draft - and because there will be very few Centers in the draft - he will be picked high. He may even have an advantage because he won't have scouts picking apart every aspect of his game all year long. The only information they have to go on will be his stellar performance in the Nike game - and individual workouts.
Now on to my rant:
The NCAA has put forth a ruling that is completely defensible. According to the letter of the law, Kanter accepted benefits from a Professional basketball team - making him a professional and inelligible for College play. But just as it's defensible, it's still wrong and unfair.
Other players have taken benefits from agents, shoe companies, restaurants, recruiters, clothing companies, automobile dealerships and other third parties and were allowed to repay those benefits and still play college sports.
The NCAA ruled Renardo Sidney inelligible for accepting "preferential treatment" and improper benefits totaling $11,800. Not only that, but Sidney provided false and misleading statements to the NCAA investigators. HE LIED! They ruled this past March that Sidney could still play if he paid back the money he took from a Shoe company. The NCAA never was able to determine how the Sidney family was able to move from Mississippi to Los Angeles and reside in a $1.2 Million mansion; but I guess that's beside the point.
In the case involving Josh Selby, the NCAA investigated Selby for his relationship with Robert Frazier (Carmello Anthony's agent). They suspended Selby 9 games because of "improper benefits" Frazier provided. SARCASM KEY DEPRESSED: Ouch, I bet that really hurt his team, suspended for all the non-conference games......SARCASM KEY OFF. The benefits included clothes, transportation, meals and lodging for Selby and his family. The university and the NCAA have determined that the value of those benefits was $4,607.58. Selby had to pay back that money. Selby is currently a Freshman playing for Kansas.
I could go on about the Cam Newton case.... Where his father put his son's Quarterbacking skills up for the highest bidder.... The NCAA declared that Cam didn't know what his Father was doing - Nudge, Nudge, wink wink, Say no more. Newton played in the BCS Championship bowl on Monday.
Or how about the case of the star quarterback at Ohio State (Terrelle Pryor) who sold his championship rings, jerseys and awards for cash, and received "improper benefits" from tattoo parlors, restaurants and automobile dealerships. The NCAA suspended him for 5 whole games.... but he was still allowed to participate in the Sugar Bowl. No, really. That was not a joke; he was allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl. That slap on the wrist 5 game suspension by the NCAA will be imposed next year - but it will be negated by the fact that Pryor will simply turn Pro before any sanction or suspension can take effect.
Apparently, if you receive benefits from restaurants, shoe companies, agents, tattoo parlors or automobile dealerships; or if you sell your bowl bootie for cash; or if you try to extort money from a University or sell your son's Quarterback services to the highest bidder - the NCAA considers those minor infractions. Those insignificant lapses where players had difficulties staying within the well defined (snicker) rules can be washed away simply by paying back the money and accepting a laughably short suspension. In other words go ahead and lie, cheat and steal.
Just don't accept educational reimbursements from a foreign Basketball club because the entire weight and might of the NCAA will come crashing down upon you like a (slow moving) avalanche.