This year's draft class may be heavy with individual big man talent, but it is sorely lacking in elite point guard prospects. While there are a few guards that could make a name for themselves in the NBA, the number is still much lower than it has been in years past.
Despite the small number of point guards, there are a few that could have success early. About four of them are projected to go in the first round, while the rest are solid second-round prospects. Based on that, these are the five best rookie point guard prospects in the 2012 NBA Draft, ranked solely on how I expect them to perform in the long-run as pros.
Tyshawn Taylor had a great year at Kansas alongside elite power forward Thomas Robinson. Making it all the way to the final game, Kansas was eventually ousted by the powerhouse Kentucky Wildcats (which featured a formidable lineup of Anthony Davis and MIchael Kidd-Gilchrist to say the least). Unfortunately, he still is slated to be a fringe first-rounder/early second-rounder in most mock drafts.
Coming off a breakout season with averages of 16.6 points, 4.8 assists, and 47% shooting, it's easy to see that Tyshawn possesses a lot of what GMs now look for in their point guards. Taylor is one of the quickest players in this year's draft with the ability to make it very difficult for defenders to stay in front of him.
According to NBADraft.net, Taylor's not considered to be a true point guard, even though he has fantastic ball-handling skills. At the same time, Taylor has all the confidence in the world but isn't known for any definite leadership qualities. That is something that could hurt him at the next level, as teams definitely are seeking point guards that can lead their squads from the get-go.
In the end, I expect Tyshawn to go somewhere near the end of the first round to a team looking to develop a potential future starting point guard. Most likely destinations would be the Indiana Pacers, Memphis Grizzlies, or even the Chicago Bulls.
His career will be most like a George Hill or Darren Collison; always a solid player, but never amazing. Taylor will eventually become a fringe starter/solid backup guard.
The brother of Atlanta Hawks point guard Jeff Teague, the younger Marquis Teague out of Kentucky is a hard player to predict. While he is a very strong, athletic and physically gifted point guard, he doesn't come across as one who can make the greatest decisions when the ball is in his hands.
Is that something you really want out of your point guard?
He's also, unfortunately, been tagged as selfish at times. Despite that, his quickness with the ball is unparalled and he should still see plenty of success at the next level.
Unfortunately for him, there are plenty of other forwards and shooting guards that would be better picks before him. He should find himself going anywhere from the mid-first round to the end of it. Don't expect Teague to fall to the second round.
As crazy as it may sound, Teague might actually find himself on the Atlanta Hawks, backing up his older brother Jeff. Such a situation could be ideal for the younger Teague, as he would learn under the wing of someone he trusts, who also happens to have much the same game as him.
Future-wise, I expect Marquis to end up with much the same skill-set and role on a team as his older brother. In the end, Marquis will be the better all-around player.
The Washington Huskies will have two projected first-rounders selected on Thursday; Terrence Ross and their young point guard Tony Wroten Jr. While many consider Ross to be a superstar in the making, the jury is still out on Wroten.
Much like Tyshawn and Marquis before him, Tony has a lot of great qualities that you would look for in a starting point guard (the quickness, the ability to penetrate, the fearlessness, and the passing skills). But at the same time, there are plenty of knocks against his game. NBADraft.net has him listed as not having the best jumpshot, as well as suffering from the free throw line. Point guards should be expected to drain it at the free throw line. Of course, his decision-making could improve as well, but that comes with maturity.
A one and done player at Washington, many thought that Wroten should've waited a year before declaring for the draft, but it seemed his mind was made up the second that Washington's season ended.
At this point, expect Taylor, Teague, and Wroten to all get drafted around the same time to teams like Indiana, Atlanta, Chicago, or Memphis. Every single one of them should turn out to be decent backups. Wroten is the only guy I worry about, mainly because of his age.
Now we've officially arrived at the guards that everyone has been talking about. Damian Lillard, out of Weber State, is projected to go somewhere in the lottery.
Anything lower would be a travesty. Of the point guard prospects in this draft, Lillard is one of two that I expect to have a highly successful NBA career, especially if he ends up on the right team. Teams like the Portland Trailblazers, Toronto Raptors, Phoenix Suns, or the Utah Jazz would be great fits for the young explosive scoring guard.
Really, he reminds me a lot of Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook, with the ability to do pretty much anything on the court. While he's mainly a scoring guard, that isn't to say that he doesn't have the ability to get his teammates open looks. At Weber State, he averaged a healthy 24.5 points, to go along with 5 rebounds and 4 assists.
But can he produce against elite talent in the NBA? At this point, he hasn't yet proven himself against top players; that's just what comes of playing for a mid-major team. But if the draft combine is a good indicator, he really impressed everybody under extreme pressure.
Doesn't seem like there is any room to doubt the kid.
My opinion? Lillard will be one of the top 10 point guards in the league in less than five years.
Kendall Marshall, to me, is the most complete point guard in the entire 2012 draft class. He was undeniably the leader of his North Carolina team and that definitely showed by the time he went down with a wrist injury. From what I saw, they looked incredibly lost without him running the floor. That to me shows what a quality leader and point guard Marshall already is and will continue to be.
His passing is nothing short of elite, which is a quality that will definitely translate to the next level. Marshall's passing and leadership attributes aren't something that should be quickly overlooked. They are both rare to find.
If he lands in the right situation, than the sky is the limit for him. Possessing qualities much like a young Andre Miller and with a Steve Nash-ceiling, Marshall will produce high assist numbers from the get-go, provided he has someone to pass to and a veteran point guard to show him the ropes early on.
Currently projected by Chad Ford to end up on Dallas Mavericks, I also can see him somehow landing on the Utah Jazz and setting up their great frontcourt of Derrick Favors, Paul Millsap, and Al Jefferson with easy baskets.
It's also possible that he ends up suiting up with fellow rookie Anthony Davis in New Orleans. If that happens, than we could see an elite rookie tandem form in the Big Easy alongside Eric Gordon.
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