By: Mike Bonomo and Chinmay Vaidya
With the 2015 NBA draft approaching, prospects continue to rise and fall with workouts, training sessions and interviews. Here is the first in a series of position breakdowns leading up to the draft, starting with the point guards.
Bonomo: D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State
Vaidya: D’Angelo Russell
MB: This year’s point guard class can be broken down into two tiers at the top, with little separation inside the tiers. I give Russell the slight edge over Emmanuel Mudiay. He’s a terrific shooter, and has shown that he can be a good passer even while mostly playing the 2 in college. He fits the trend in the NBA of guys either getting to the rim or shooting threes a la James Harden. Doesn’t have the elite athleticism that many of the top PGs in the league have currently, but is skilled enough to make a difference right away.
CV: Russell is a great blend of ball-handling and shooting. His stat line at Ohio State is outstanding and his jump shot is extremely smooth. In my eyes, he’s a cross between Steph Curry and James Harden. He has issues on the defensive end and his rebounding numbers might be inflated because of his size for the position. At 6’ 5”, he will be disruptive against smaller backcourt players in the NBA but his offensive potential makes his stock high.
Bonomo: Emmanuel Mudiay, Guangdong Tigers
Vaidya: Emmanuel Mudiay
MB: Coming into the season Mudiay was considered a potential number one pick. After deciding to play professionally in China, his stock seems to have fallen. He was injured and couldn’t find the court at times, and playing overseas limited how often scouts could see him when he was on the court. He should still impress in workouts, as his combination of size and athleticism will be tantalizing to teams at the top of the draft. He doesn’t have the best jump shot but it’s not as big of a concern as it was for, say, Elfrid Payton, who had a very good first season in Orlando. Don’t be shocked if Mudiay passes up Russell before draft night.
CV: Mudiay is next up and although he is considered to be right up there with Russell, I have him below Russell. Mudiay simply doesn’t have the playing time necessary to move him above Russell. If he played at SMU, I think Mudiay may have had a legitimate shot at the top pick. Now, I think he has to prove himself in workouts and will initially struggle at the NBA level. He does have a ton of potential and that will either the Sixers or Knicks to pick him.
Bonomo: Tyus Jones, Duke
Vaidya: Jerian Grant, Notre Dame
MB: Now we’re into the second tier, where there are four guys who are really hard to separate. I think Jones has the most upside of the group, and I’m not as worried about him in his first year as others are. He’s small and doesn’t have top-flight athleticism, and it’s definitely possible that he struggles at first. But he was often the best player on the floor, especially in the biggest moments for Duke this season. He’s a smart player, is very capable around the rim for his size, and is a great distributor. His jump shot improved throughout the season, and he finished shooting 37% from three, which combined with his 89% free throw percentage is a sign that he can be a good shooter at the next level. He may struggle early, but when all is said and done he should be as good as any point guard in the class.
CV: Grant was an explosive scorer and distributor for a stellar Notre Dame squad. He averaged 16.5 points and 6.7 assists per game and can easily run a second unit in the NBA. I think Grant has the potential to be a starter on a team with a lot of shooters, but he might be more effective off the bench. The outside shooting has to improve for Grant to reach his full potential.
Bonomo: Cameron Payne, Murray State
Vaidya: Tyus Jones, Duke
MB: Another guy with great potential, but with much less star power than the previous three is Cameron Payne. Playing at Murray State and never making an NCAA Tournament, casual fans likely haven’t heard of Payne. He was clearly the guy on Murray State the last few years, and ran their pick and roll scheme to near perfection. He’s a very good jump shooter and can get to the rim. He doesn’t have the elite attributes of the guys above him, but does everything well and should make an immediate impact.
CV: Jones was lost in the Duke shuffle. Okafor was dominant for the entire season and Winslow took over March. However, he had big moments against North Carolina and Wisconsin. Jones is small, but his determination to get to the hoop makes up for this. He’s an excellent three-point shooter, but his inside game needs to get better.
Bonomo: Delon Wright, Utah
Vaidya: Andrew Harrison, Kentucky
MB: It came down to Wright and Jerian Grant for this spot, and I’m going with the former Ute. He has very good size and could play the two, but is such a natural distributor that it would be a waste. He’s a smart passer and has a good set of moves with the ball. He can use those moves to get past his defender and is a good finisher. His biggest question mark is his jump shot which was downright awful at times, though he got better throughout his time at Utah. Smart defenders will sag off of him and dare him to shoot, which could be his downfall. But he’s strong in every other area offensively, and is a terror defensively; using his length to bother his man and pick up steals very well. If he improves his jump shot he could be very successful right away.
CV: I’m going with the better Harrison twin as a sleeper. He’s 6’ 6” and can shoot the three extremely well. His inside game is really bad, but he can distribute the ball well enough to avoid being a top option. Size and potential at the position give the nod to Harrison, but I can easily see Wright or Payne at this spot.