Ranking the 10 Smoothest Guards in 2014-15 College Basketball Season
Gary Harris’ NBA defection didn’t just cost college basketball a great perimeter defender. The Michigan State sophomore was an expert at making the toughest plays look easy, gliding through bruising Big Ten post players like they weren’t even there.
One college star well-equipped to take up Harris’ mantle is Oregon guard Joseph Young. He’s got a complete arsenal of scoring moves, but one of his best sources of points is his ability to get to the rim in spite of a set defense.
Read on for a closer look at Young’s talent for turning a drive into a showpiece, along with nine more guards who excel at staying under control even as they leave defenders flailing around them.
10. Rayvonte Rice, Illinois
One of the inherent downsides of a great ex-JUCO player is that Division I fans have so little time to appreciate him. So it is with Rayvonte Rice, heading into his second and final year of headlining the Illinois offense.
In his Big Ten debut season, Rice left no doubt of his ability to carve up defenders. Even in that physical league, his 6’4”, 235-pound bulk accounted for fewer points than his ability to weave through and around multiple foes.
9. Fred VanVleet, Wichita State
He’s not as flashy as his rivals on this list, but Fred VanVleet can control a game like few others.
The sure-handed rising junior will need to do more scoring in a backcourt-heavy Shockers lineup in 2014-15, and his skill at penetration will play a substantial role in that effort.
VanVleet makes ball screens look like floodgates, with everything moving downhill after he slides past the pick.
Whether he’s setting up Wichita State’s wealth of three-point shooters or flowing to the rim himself, he runs one of the most seamless offenses in the nation.
8. Marcus Paige, North Carolina
It’s becoming ever more common for point guards to be able to hit highlight-reel shots. Marcus Paige can certainly do that, but he can also make highlight-reel passes better than any point guard in next season’s college ranks.
Paige’s ability to dictate tempo enables him to deal out an assist when the entire defense expects a shot. The fact that one of the country’s fastest guards also manages not to rush plays is a big part of what makes him so dangerous.
7. Rodney Purvis, UConn
For all his considerable power as a dunker, Rodney Purvis has an even better finesse game. The N.C. State transfer will quickly become a favorite target for Huskies floor leader Ryan Boatright, not to mention a welcome second option as a ball-handler.
Purvis, whose terrific speed often puts him on the scoring end of a fast break, does particularly impressive work with double-clutch finishes. He’s also an adroit passer off the dribble, even if he doesn't show it all that often.
6. Bryce Dejean-Jones, Iowa State
With UNLV’s offense perilously short on three-point options, Bryce Dejean-Jones faced a lot of zones and other lane-packing defenses.
Fortunately for the Rebels, the 6'5" guard was up to the challenge, slicing through entrenched defenders for layups or assists.
Unfortunately for the Rebels, Dejean-Jones transferred to Iowa State for his senior season. With the Cyclones’ three-point shooters spreading out defenders, expect their newest guard to put on an even better show to cap his college career.
5. D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State
Ohio State basketball has been many things with Aaron Craft at point guard, but “pretty” has rarely been one of them.
The pendulum may be swinging the other way, though, as Craft’s graduation coincides with the arrival of freshman combo guard D’Angelo Russell.
The 6’4” Russell isn’t as physical as many of his shooting-guard classmates, but he’s a terrific ball-handler who’s spent the last few years dancing through some of the best high school defenses in the country.
His array of scoops and reverses does just as much damage as the in-your-face dunks in which many prep stars specialize.
4. Joseph Young, Oregon
Although Joseph Young has the quickness to freeze defenders with stop-and-go moves, he rarely needs to go that route. Instead, the rising senior is more likely to pull the string with a pull-up jumper that leaves his man back on his heels.
Young takes more treys than most players on this list, but when he does drive, it’s a sight to see. As impressive as his ball-handling is, he never appears to play out of control.
3. Delon Wright, Utah
Lost in Utah’s 9-9 Pac-12 finish was Delon Wright’s emergence as one of the conference’s top all-around contributors. The 6’5” JUCO transfer used his long arms to dominate on defense and his long strides to dissect the opposition.
Wright’s wingspan also served him well in finishing reverse layups, one of his favorite (and most artistic) scoring options. A combination of constant double-teams and outstanding court vision, meanwhile, helped him lead the Utes in assists as well as points.
2. Dez Wells, Maryland
As Maryland leaves the ACC for the Big Ten, a slew of Terrapins veterans are leaving the squad for greener pastures of their own.
One of the few recognizable faces for Terps fans next season will be scoring leader Dez Wells, who’s been a rare source of stability since he arrived from Xavier.
The 6’5” swingman is an underrated playmaker, but it’s his finishing ability that secures his place here.
Even as the lone Terrapin able to scare defenses on a regular basis, he still manages to find paths to the rim that make his drives look almost as clean as a layup line.
1. Isaiah Taylor, Texas
It’s no mean feat for a point guard to lead a winning Big 12 offense when he has no discernible three-point shot. It’s even more impressive for a true freshman to do it, but that was what Isaiah Taylor accomplished last season.
Taylor’s 12.7 points and 4.0 assists per game were almost entirely products of his ability to sail through defenses off the dribble.
Other college guards may put up better numbers, but none create a better illusion of orchestrating every movement on the floor than Taylor when he gets in a rhythm.