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NBA Draft 2014: Best Landing Spots for Top Guards

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NBA Draft 2014: Best Landing Spots for Top Guards
Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

The 2014 NBA draft is renowned for featuring one of the deepest draft classes in recent memory. Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker are all touted as potential franchise saviors.

The big men make up the consensus top-three, but outside of those names lies a number of guards with the potential to have a huge impact in the league, provided they find themselves in favorable situation.

All the pre-draft hype in the world can't protect a prospect from a bad situation in his rookie year.

For example, Xavier Henry was drafted No. 12 overall by the Memphis Grizzlies in 2010 and was viewed as a potential replacement for Rudy Gay. He never got into a rhythm with Memphis and was shipped to New Orleans after just one season.

After two lackluster seasons in Louisiana, Henry finally got his shot at decent playing time with the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2013-2014 season. He put up 10.0 points per game in 21.2 minutes of action per night, career highs in both categories.

Yes, there is more money to be had at the top of the draft, but the neediest teams in the league aren't necessarily the best fit for some of the top guards in this year's crop of talent.

 

Dante Exum, PG/SG, Australia

The biggest mystery in the NBA draft, Dante Exum finally gave scouts a closer look at his personality and athletic ability at the NBA combine.

In an era with few true surprises thanks to the abundance of video clips and social media exploits, Exum's visual legacy is still confined to a handful of grainy YouTube highlights.

The videos show an impressive array of offensive moves and athleticism. However, Exum was quick to point out that his game has evolved from what scouts, executives and fans see online. Via Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

My game has changed a whole lot since those [YouTube] clips. But from those clips, I'm a get-to-the-rim type of player and I beat my man off the dribble and try to draw help to find open players. I guess that's what puts me in a good position to be a point guard.

At 6'6", Exum's height would make him a potentially devastating matchup against the majority of the league's point guards. The ability to get his shot off over smaller defenders could take some of the pressure off of scoring points in the lane. 

However, at just 18 years old, he still needs time for his body to mature to withstand the rigors of a long NBA season. 

Exum's best-case scenario is landing on a team that will allow him to work out at both point guard and shooting guard. Fortunately for him, the majority of teams at the top of the draft are deficient at both positions.

Which team is the best fit for Dante Exum?

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Considering Exum may be too much of a mystery to break into the top three, his best chance at pro success comes with the Orlando Magic.

He would form a fearsome tandem on the perimeter with Arron Afflalo and Victor Oladipo. Oladipo could move over to the small forward position should Exum play a significant amount of time as a 2-guard.

The Magic also need significant help at point guard.

Jameer Nelson played in 68 games last season and averaged 7.0 assists per game, but he is 32 years old and has one year remaining on his contract. He hasn't played at least 70 games in a season since 2010-2011, and the Magic have very little depth at this position.

 

Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State

Marcus Smart will offer any NBA team a ferocious defensive presence with a body ready to handle the rigors of the NBA.

The biggest deficit in his game is his outside shooting. He shot a lackluster 29.9 percent from three-point range in 2013-2014. He did average 18.0 points per game that year, but the majority of those points came from shots around the basket. 

However, as ESPN's Chad Ford points out, most NBA teams aren't looking at Smart to set the league on fire with his jump shot.

The Los Angeles Lakers were an absolute travesty on defense in 2013-2014, giving up 107.9 points per 100 possessions, according to ESPN's Hollinger rankings.

Smart would have the opportunity to showcase his tenacity and anchor the Lakers' perimeter defense.

The combination of Smart and Kendall Marshall taking turns running the Lakers' offense would give the team an excellent change of pace. They can utilize Smart's athleticism and ability to attack the basket while relying on Marshall for his long-range shooting and unparalleled court vision.

The Lakers are the best bet for allowing Smart to focus on his strongest attributes while easing his transition into the league.

 

Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan

Nik Stauskas made a huge leap in offensive production between his freshman and sophomore years at Michigan, and he has NBA scouts drooling over his potential as an efficient scorer in the professional ranks. Stauskas averaged 11.0 points per game as a freshman and 17.5 points per game as a sophomore, becoming the main scoring threat on a talented Michigan team.

He made his claim to fame with the three-pointer, shooting 44.2 percent on 5.8 shots per game from downtown in 2013-2014.

There is more to his game than outside sharpshooting, although that is his calling card on the court. According to ESPN's Jeff Goodman, Stauskas may be set to workout for the Los Angeles Lakers among other top collegiate stars.

Considering the other prospects on that list and the Lakers' No. 7 draft position, Stauskas may have vaulted into a higher tier on many NBA executives' draft boards.

Which team is the best fit for Nik Stauskas?

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The Atlanta Hawks are lurking in the middle of the first round, but they already have a bevy of willing three-point shooters, such as Kyle Korver, DeMarre Carroll and Jeff Teague. They need to add a different dynamic on offense to improve on their 38-44 record in 2013-2014, and Stauskas might get lost in the shuffle in Atlanta.

The Minnesota Timberwolves would be the best landing spot for Stauskas.

He would help space the floor and give room for Kevin Love to operate in the post. Should Love depart in the next year or so, Stauskas would be able to carry on some of the long-range shooting duties in his absence. Slick-passing point guard Ricky Rubio would find plenty of opportunities to get Stauskas in a position to score early and often in his career.

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