While forwards such as Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Aaron Gordon may draw early headlines, there is plenty of point guard talent in this year’s draft class. Picking the right floor general can set up a franchise for years, and the point guard stars of the future just may be part of this class.
With that in mind, here is a look at some of the top point guards available in the 2014 draft.
Shabazz Napier, Connecticut
If the NBA draft was dictated solely by the NCAA tournament, then Shabazz Napier would be the No. 1 pick after leading the Connecticut Huskies to the national title.
Napier dominated throughout the tournament on both ends of the floor. He and Ryan Boatright provided stifling defense throughout the Big Dance and shut down the talented backcourts of the Florida Gators and the Kentucky Wildcats at the Final Four.
LeBron James even got caught up in the moment during the postseason run and let fans know he thinks Napier should be the top point guard taken in the draft:
Napier posted nightly averages of 18 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.8 steals during the regular season and shot better than 40 percent from behind the three-point line. His ceiling may not be as high as some of the other point guards available in this draft, but Napier is a tremendous presence on both ends of the floor and can stuff the stat sheet on any given night.
Dante Exum, Australia
Matt Kamalsky of Draft Express let fans know just how good Dante Exum is when he scouted the point guard at the Nike Hoops Summit:
A 6'6 guard with 6'9 wingspan who appears to have added some 10 pounds of muscle to his frame since last summer, Exum stood out immediately with his speed, fluidity and ball-handling ability. Accustomed to playing the point guard position at the junior level, the strong play of floor general Dennis Schroder required Exum to adapt playing off the ball this week –a challenge he accepted without a second thought in an effort to put his team in the best position to win.
A consummate team player who can do a little bit of everything, Exum still managed to be very effective for stretches in practice and score 16 points on game day despite the significant adjustment he had to make. Perhaps the most impressive thing Exum did throughout the week was get to the rim off the dribble. Without the ball in his hands constantly, Exum wasn't able to create as much on the offensive as we saw last summer, but still managed to make his presence felt attacking from the wing. Showing a very low dribble, an exceptional burst and the ability to finish above the rim, Exum is a very smooth finisher, but is not afraid to elevate in a crowd and draw contact either.
Exum’s perimeter jump shot is the one area of his game that could use consistent improvement. He brings lightning quickness to the table in the open floor, which helps open up looks for his teammates in transition and allows him to get to the rim off the bounce.
Exum is a floor general and will serve as an extension of whichever coach drafts him in the NBA. He will be the first point guard taken in the draft because his ceiling and overall potential are simply higher than anyone else’s at the position.
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Marcus Smart may have been better off in terms of his draft positioning had he left Oklahoma State after his freshman season, but he will still be an early selection.
Smart averaged 18 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.9 steals a game last season and was an absolute star on both ends of the floor. It is rare that someone who is so known for his scoring is also so committed to the defensive end, but that is exactly what Smart was in college.
Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford believes that Smart will make an excellent pro, via Brian Hamilton of Sports Illustrated:
Marcus has had an incredible impact on our program. He has been a joy to coach, and we’ve enjoyed having him on our team. He is going to have a terrific career for a long time in the NBA. No matter what team he ends up with, they are going to get a great player and, more importantly, a special person.
There may be some concerns about Smart’s maturity after he was suspended for shoving a fan, but in a professional environment, he will be surrounded by older players who will help make sure this isn’t an issue.
Smart’s ability to hit the three, slash the lane and lock down his man on defense will outweigh any perceived maturity problems in the days leading up to the draft.
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