2011 NBA Draft

NBA Draft 2011: Kyrie Irving, Jimmer Fredette and the Best Point Guard Prospects

Jonathan TjarksSpecial to Bleacher ReportApril 22, 2011

NBA Draft 2011: Kyrie Irving, Jimmer Fredette and the Best Point Guard Prospects

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    HOUSTON - APRIL 03:  Jimmer Fredette of BYU received the 2011 Naismith Trophy Presented by AT&T at the NABC Guardians of the Game Awards Program on April 3, 2011 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    When trying to evaluate how college players will fare in the NBA, it's important to consider the different roles they might have on the next level.

    Most college stars have to make the transition to becoming a role player: Adam Morrison didn’t have the athleticism to replicate his gaudy scoring average in the NBA, but that lack of foot speed also made him a liability defensively, which very few role players can afford to be.

    Conversely, role players in college might have the athleticism to slip right into a similar role in the NBA despite not putting up huge stats in March.

    Sherron Collins was a college legend at Kansas, a three-year starter who won a national title and became one of the sport’s all-time winningest point guards. Tyshawn Taylor, his replacement, has frustrated many Jayhawk fans with his inconsistent, up-and-down play over the last three years.

    But Collins, at 5’11'', 215 pounds, is most effective dominating the ball, something that was never going to happen in the NBA. As a result, he’s already washed out of the league. Taylor, meanwhile, is an excellent athlete at 6’3'', 185 pounds with the wingspan to defend both guard positions and the shooting ability to spot up on the three-point line (38 percent this season) off of better players.

    Russell Westbrook and Jrue Holiday averaged less points and assists at UCLA than Darren Collison.

    While collegiate achievements shouldn't be overlooked, in many cases, Player A can be worse in college than Player B, but better in the NBA.

    With that in mind, here's a look at the top nine 6'3'' and under guards in the 2011 draft. While many are point guards, some are more suitable as scorers and will likely be combo guards off the bench.

     

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1. Kyrie Irving, Duke

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    ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 24:  Kyrie Irving #1 of the Duke Blue Devils looks on against the Arizona Wildcats during the west regional semifinal of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Honda Center on March 24, 2011 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by
    Harry How/Getty Images

    Easily the best prospect in this draft class, Irving played in only eight games before suffering a mysterious toe injury that sidelined him until the NCAA tournament.

    But what an eight games they were.

    He averaged 17 points, five assists and three rebounds while shooting 45 percent from the three-point line and 53 percent from the field. At explosive athlete at 6’2'' 180 pounds, he can get to wherever he wants to go on the court, and he can get there fast. At times, he was just toying with his defenders, even against quality teams like Marquette.

    Irving is a prototypical five-tool point guard; he’d start for the majority of NBA teams and should be the early favorite for Rookie of the Year.

    Best case: Chris Paul

    Worst case: Ray Felton

    Needs to improve: Staying healthy

2. Josh Selby, Kansas

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    SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 25:  Josh Selby #32 of the Kansas Jayhawks goes to the basket against Cedrick Lindsay #2 of the Richmond Spiders during the southwest regional of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Alamodome on March 25, 2011 in San A
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    A classic case of a guy forced to declare by family issues before he's really ready, Selby is one of the most talented prospects in this draft, but he rarely showed it in a chaotic up-and-down season for Kansas.

    An explosive 6’3'', 185-pound combo guard, Selby is an exceptional athlete. Before a nagging foot injury hobbled him in early February, Selby was penetrating to the rim at ease while playing lock-down defense on either guard position, averaging 1.5 steals a game.

    He has all the skills—a great shooting motion (36 percent from beyond the arc and 76 percent from the free-throw line) as well the ability to pass the ball through traffic (2.2 assists a game). But he still needs to work on harnessing them within a team concept; he shot an abysmal 37 percent from the field and averaged 2.0 turnovers a game, an unacceptable ratio for a ball-dominant guard.

    Whoever takes him will be taking a major gamble—he could become an All-Star-caliber player or he could be out of the league entirely in five years.

    Best case: Eric Gordon

    Worst case: Dajuan Wagner

    Needs to improve: Running the point, decision-making

3. Kemba Walker, UConn

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    HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 04:  Kemba Walker #15 of the Connecticut Huskies handles the ball against the Butler Bulldogs during the National Championship Game of the 2011 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at Reliant Stadium on April 4, 2011 in Houston,
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    With four underclassmen starting beside him, UConn's dynamo of a point guard carried an amazing burden all season and led his team to the national title.

    With lightning-quickness, a devastating crossover and a compact shooting motion, he can get his shot pretty much whenever he wants at this level. His step-back jumper is unguardable, and he’s won several games for UConn at the buzzer with it, including an OT thriller in Austin as well as a huge win in the Big East tourney against Pittsburgh.

    He won’t dominate the ball in the NBA like he does in Storrs, but he can definitely run a team as a pure point guard (averaging 5.1 assists to 2.9 turnovers last season when he had more help) as well as spot up off the ball (shooting 34 percent from the three-point line despite a lot of his shots coming off the dribble).

    Best case: Jason Terry

    Worst case: Jonny Flynn

    Needs to improve: Perimeter defense

4. Brandon Knight, Kentucky

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    HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 02:  Brandon Knight #12 of the Kentucky Wildcats moves the ball while taking on the Connecticut Huskies during the National Semifinal game of the 2011 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship at Reliant Stadium on April 2, 2011 in
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Knight was not quite the All-World athlete his predecessors running the point for John Calipari (Rose, Evans and Wall) were, and like Evans, he is more of a shooting guard masquerading as a point right now.

    That being said, he’s still an impressive prospect in his own right.

    At 6’3'', 180 pounds with great quickness and an above-average wingspan, he projects to be a good defender of point guards who can also occasionally swing over and guard shooting guards.

    He’s an excellent slash and kick player—combine that with a good three-point shooting stroke, and you’ve got an offensive weapon at any level of basketball.

    While he has an excellent handle and the ability to make all the passes in the book, his overall point guard skills are holding him back—he averaged 4.2 assists and 3.2 turnovers a game.

    He has declared for the draft without signing an agent, but he will likely stay in, if for no other reason than he would have to share the ball next year at Kentucky with Marquise Teague, a highly regarded prospect who is the younger brother of Jeff Teague of the Atlanta Hawks.

    Best case: Leandro Barbosa

    Worst case: George Hill

    Needs to improve: Point guard skills

5. Demetri McCamey, Illinois

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    TULSA, OK - MARCH 20:  Demetri McCamey #32 of the Illinois Fighting Illini takes a shot over Markieff Morris #21 of the Kansas Jayhawks during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at BOK Center on March 20, 2011 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    An athletic 6’3'', 200-pound pure point guard, McCamey has all the talent in the world.

    A great athlete with a devastating handle and a smooth outside stroke (45 percent from beyond the arc), he can create his own shot pretty much at will. But unlike most big point guards, he can run a team, too, averaging 6.1 assists and 2.9 turnovers last season.

    Yet he’s frequently clashed with his coach, who blamed street runners and agents for his midseason slump, and there’s been a sense around Champaign that he has not quite lived up to his potential.

    There’s no reason he shouldn't be a contributor on the next level with his ability to play on and off the ball and defend both guard positions. 

    Best case: Toney Douglas

    Worst case: Marcus Williams

    Needs to improve: Perimeter defense

6. Nolan Smith, Duke

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    ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 24:  Nolan Smith #2 of the Duke Blue Devils looks on against the Arizona Wildcats during the west regional semifinal of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Honda Center on March 24, 2011 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by
    Harry How/Getty Images

    After bursts of ineffectiveness in his first two years at Duke, Smith made himself into quite a player as an upperclassmen. He stepped ably into the role of lead guard with Irving’s injury, averaging 5.1 assists and 3.2 turnovers a game.

    Offensively, he’s a threat from any part of the floor. He has deep range on his three-point shot (shooting 35 percent from beyond the arc), he can knock down the mid-range jumper and take the ball all the way to the front of the rim.

    He shoots 46 percent from the field, impressive considering that he creates most of his shot opportunities off the dribble.

    A decent athlete at 6’2'', 185 pounds, he doesn’t quite have the speed to guard NBA points or the size to guard NBA shooting guards, but he has the toughness and intelligence to become a combo guard off the bench at the next level.

    Best case: Eric Maynor

    Worst case: CJ Watson

    Needs to improve: Limiting turnovers

Reggie Jackson, Boston College

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    GREENSBORO, NC - MARCH 11:  Reggie Jackson #0 of the Boston College Eagles moves the ball against the Clemson Tigers during the second half in the quarterfinals of the 2011 ACC men's basketball tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum on March 11, 2011 in Gr
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    One of the most overlooked players in college basketball, Reggie Jackson quietly had an outstanding year for Boston College, a middle-of-the-pack ACC team that slipped under the national radar most of the season.

    A pretty good athlete at 6'3'', 210 pounds, he has the size to play both guard positions at the next level.

    He did an excellent job handling a huge offensive load at BC, scoring 18 points on 50 percent shooting as well as distributing the ball efficiently, netting 4.5 assists and 2.4 turnovers.

    While he won't do anything exceptionally well in the NBA, he should be able to carve out a spot in someone's rotation.

    Best case: Jarrett Jack

    Worst case: Acie Law

    Needs to improve: Perimeter defense

8. Isaiah Thomas, Washington

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 20:  Isaiah Thomas #2 of the Washington Huskies moves the ball while taking on the North Carolina Tar Heels during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 20, 2011 in Charlotte
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    One of the most exciting players in the country, Thomas managed to dominate games for Washington despite being only 5'9'', 180 pounds. 

    An incredibly explosive athlete, he was able to use his speed and shooting ability to get a shot off at will in college, averaging 17 points on 45 percent shooting. 

    An injury to the Huskies starting point guard, Abdul Gaddy, put the ball in Thomas' hands more in the middle of the season, and he responded positively.

    He ran the team with aplomb, averaging 6.1 assists and 3.0 turnovers, carrying his Washington team to the Pac-10 tournament championship as well as a narrow four-point loss to UNC in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

    Best case: Nate Robinson

    Worst case: Will Bynum

    Needs to improve: Point guard skills

9. Jimmer Fredette, BYU

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - MARCH 24:  Jimmer Fredette #32 of the Brigham Young Cougars reacts during their 74 to 83 loss to the Florida Gators in the Southeast regional of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at New Orleans Arena on March 24, 2011 in New Orle
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    With range out to the parking lot and a fundamentally sound game seemingly straight out of Pleasantville, “the Jimmer” became a national phenomenon this year. 

    Averaging a preposterous 29 points per game on 45 percent shooting, he won the national POY and carried BYU into the Sweet 16.

    But there’s little reason to expect that he’ll be able to duplicate his college success on the next level.

    Jimmer lived in a shooter’s paradise at BYU—not only did he dominate the ball, taking 20 shots a game, but he was surrounded by a bevvy of skilled and unselfish upperclassmen who can space the floor for him with their three-point shooting ability.

    A relatively unathletic 6’2'', 195-pound guard, Fredette doesn’t have the size to be a starting shooting guard at the next level. And while he is a good passer, he is much more comfortable looking for his own shot, as his 1.29 assist-to-turnover ratio can attest.

    Just getting him on the floor will take a defensive juggling act of tremendous proportions. Most likely, he’ll be instant offense off the bench with the ability to spread the floor and get buckets in a hurry.

    Best case: Stephen Curry

    Worst case: JJ Barea

    Needs to improve: Point guard skills

Just Missed the Cut

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    GREENSBORO, NC - MARCH 10:  Iman Shumpert #1 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets dribbles down the court during the second half of the game against the Virginia Tech Hokies in the first round of the 2011 ACC men's basketball tournament at the Greensboro Co
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    10. Iman Shumpert: 6'4'', 200 pounds, Georgia Tech

    11. Charles Jenkins: 6'3'', 220 pounds, Hofstra

    12. Shelvin Mack: 6'3'', 215 pounds, Butler

    13. Norris Cole: 6'2'', 170 pounds, Cleveland State

    14. Brad Wanamaker: 6'4''  210 pounds, Pittsburgh

    15. Ben Hansbrough: 6'3'', 200 pounds, Notre Dame

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