The 2011 NBA draft arrives tomorrow night, and while the talent pool isn't nearly as saliva-inducing as some in years past, it still is working out to be a potential draft to remember.
With players under the microscope even more than usual and draft-day trade rumors already swirling out of control, this could go down as one of the most entertaining drafts in recent memory.
To help prepare for all the chaos, here's a ranking and breakdown of the top 10 point guards available in Thursday night's draft.
1. Kyrie Irving (Duke)
He's not that much better than the guys beneath him at his position, but he's still the best. Irving has the size, athleticism and point guard skills to be a franchise player at the position at the next level. Experience works against him, but no player is a more complete package at the point in this class.
2. Brandon Knight (Kentucky)
Knight is a gifted athlete with great size and developing clutch ability at the position. He can score the ball effectively and has a nice, reliable jumper. He has no trouble getting to the rim and finishing in a variety of ways and does a solid job getting his teammates involved. He appears to be on the same level as Irving, but not quite as polished and controlled.
3. Jimmer Fredette (BYU)
Fredette is an elite scorer with endless range. He is by far the most gifted offensive player in this draft. The number of ways he can burn a defense is scary. Defense and athleticism continue to be questioned despite combine drills and measurements proving he's right there with Irving, Knight and Kemba Walker (which makes no sense).
He still isn't getting anywhere near the respect he deserves. If he weren't held back by stereotypes, he could be in discussions for one of the top two picks in this draft.
4. Kemba Walker (UConn)
Walker is an elite scorer with a killer instinct and the ability to carry his team on his back. He has very solid athleticism and can score in a number of ways. He has all the offensive ability a point guard needs to dazzle at the next level and has improving point guard skills to go with it. I still see him as a shooting guard in a point guard's body, although that could easily change with time.
5. Nolan Smith (Duke)
Smith possesses great leadership and clutch ability. With great experience in huge games and a national title on his résumé, he's one of the more polished and NBA-ready guards entering this draft. Smith plays smart and makes good decisions, and he has really improved his point guard skills.
6. Shelvin Mack (Butler)
What is Fredette's role at the next level?
Mack projects as more of a combo guard but has the size and skills to develop into an interesting point guard at the next level. He is always a threat on offense with a reliable jumper and a solid mid-range game. Mack is a great leader and clutch performer, easily evidenced by two trips to the NCAA title game. His point guard skills aren't there yet, but he has the potential to play both guard spots effectively at the next level.
7. Norris Cole (Cleveland State)
Cole is a very solid offensive player with the potential to be an effective point guard at the next level. He really didn't come out of his shell until this past season, but he did so in a big way, averaging over 21 points and five assists per game. He isn't as well known as some of the other point guards ahead of him because he faced weak competition at Cleveland State, but he still poured in some big-time performances in 2010.
Cole will need to get stronger and continue to hone his skills as a lead guard, but he has major draft sleeper written all over him.
8. Josh Selby (Kansas)
Selby played just one year at Kansas and decided to jet for the 2011 NBA draft after averaging under eight points per game. He had a very inconsistent freshman season, and it was capped by a final stretch of him simply fading away.
He has not displayed great point guard skills or overall decision-making to this point, but his potential is so great that those flaws can be overlooked. He has immense offensive potential due to his natural scoring ability and great athleticism. Selby has tons of untapped potential, and while he's shown us nothing as a point guard, the hype just might be worth it in the right situation.
9. Reggie Jackson (Boston College)
Jackson is a very gifted offensive player with a nice deep ball and the ability to create for himself. He has great size for the point guard position and can even play the 2. Morris can clamp down on defense due to his ridiculous 7'0" wingspan. He seems to rely too much on his athleticism on both ends of the court, however.
His shoot-first mentality on offense hinders his potential as a lead guard, but the skill and body are there to make the transition. He is a rising player in this draft and could go somewhere in the first round if teams are convinced he's actually a point guard at the next level.
10. Darius Morris (Michigan)
I don't like his lack of experience or average athleticism, but he does have the perfect size and skills for the position. He plays with great confidence and control and knows how to get his teammates involved when needed. He controls the tempo of the game and has a great feel and understanding of the game.
If he was a little more explosive, he'd be a sure first-rounder. Only one full year as 'the guy" manning the point in Michigan doesn't help his draft stock either.
Odd men out
11. Iman Shumpert (Georgia Tech)
I think Shumpert has excellent size and athleticism for the position, but he is getting ridiculous hype out of nowhere, and all within days before the draft. I still think he makes too many poor decisions on offense and doesn't always have his head in the game. He's just not efficient or controlled at all, which are two things you really want from your point guard at the next level. The comparisons to Javaris Crittenton scare me, and not in a good way.
12. Cory Joseph (Texas)
Joseph simply isn't a developed point guard. He has great size and solid athleticism for the next level, but he's much more of a shooting guard or at least a shoot-first point guard right now. That mentality hasn't even translated into elite success yet. He's also too inexperienced to make an immediate impact. He feels like a D.J. Augustin or Jerryd Bayless, and while offensively that's nice, I just don't see the transition to a lead point guard.
13. Malcolm Lee (UCLA)
Malcolm Lee probably isn't a point guard at all, which is why he ranks third among the odd men out. If he had good decision-making and passing skills (which he doesn't), his size and athleticism would have him shooting up this list. He's following a nice string of impressive UCLA point guards but is probably better suited at shooting guard.
He might actually never really find a niche or true position, but he's talented enough to hang in the league. I just don't see that happening as an impact point guard.
14. Ben Hansbrough (Notre Dame)
I want to put Hansbrough higher up on this list because I love his passion and offensive ability, but I just can't. He's probably more of a shooting guard than a point guard, and we've really only seen him play at an elite level for a little over half of a season.
His 2010 numbers were pretty impressive, and he's shown leadership, clutch ability and some decent point guard skills, but I don't think he's where he'll need to be athletically—at least not on the same level as most of the guys above him. He has a decent chance at getting picked up late in the second round because of his offense and energy, but he likely won't ever be a starter at the next level.
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