NBA Counterparts for College Basketball's Top Shooting Guards

Brian Pedersen@realBJPFeatured ColumnistAugust 31, 2016

NBA Counterparts for College Basketball's Top Shooting Guards

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    As much as the NCAA and its coaches might try to convince you otherwise, college basketball is essentially a free minor league for the NBA. Since players are no longer allowed to go straight from high school to the pros, that means spending at least one year in college—unless they want to go overseas.

    As such, the college game provides plenty of evaluation opportunities for pro scouts. And during that process, comparisons to current and former pros inevitably occur.

    As part of our series of offseason college basketball stories, we've put together NBA counterparts for each of the top players at each position. Last week we went through the best pro point guard prospects. This time the shooting guards take center stage, chosen based on their inclusion in various mock drafts.

Grayson Allen, Duke

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    Lance King/Getty Images

    Compares to: Nick Young, Los Angeles Lakers

    An out-of-nowhere performance at the Final Four nearly propelled then-freshman Grayson Allen into the NBA draft without much playing experience. Then he exploded for a monster sophomore season, averaging 21.6 points per game. He was on his way to being Duke's next great scorer...as well as the latest Blue Devil to be universally hated thanks to some tripping incidents.

    But instead of turning pro, Allen is coming back to college. He didn't allude to improving his game when announcing his return. But some of the common criticisms about the 6'5" guard's play have been a lack of defensive intensity and often too much of that offensively.

    "Allen hustles his ass off, but his fundamentals leave a lot to be desired," Sporting News' Kevin O'Connor wrote in February.

    His strengths are his play in transition as well as perimeter shooting, having made 41.7 percent of his threes this past season. Until he can learn to do more in the paint and defend his position, though, he'll be a one-dimensional player.

    Young had the same label coming out of USC in 2007—DraftExpress said during his final college season his "focus and intensity on the other side of the ball can certainly improve"—but still went in the first round. And while he's never been a full-time starter, he's carved out a decent career. Whether Allen will get a "Swaggy P" type of nickname, though, remains to be seen.

James Blackmon, Indiana

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Compares to: Randy Foye, Brooklyn Nets

    At 46.3 percent from three-point range, James Blackmon was on pace for one of the best seasons from the perimeter in Indiana—and maybe college basketball—history. But his sophomore year only lasted 13 games, with a knee injury shutting him down in December. That also put his NBA prospects on hold, though he went through the draft process before withdrawing in May.

    Sports Illustrated's Chris Johnson suggested Blackmon should have turned pro despite the injury, noting it would be hard for him to raise an already solid draft profile. One of his major pluses: despite being only 6'4" he has a 6'8 ½" wing span, which is above-average and can help him overcome being shorter than many of his perimeter defenders.

    A lot can change, since Blackmon will have a bigger offensive role in 2016-17 now that Yogi Ferrell has graduated. For now, though, his three-point shooting is all he can lean on. That's where the comparisons to the 6'4" Foye come in. Foye was a scoring machine at Villanova (20.5 ppg his senior year) but was considered too small for an NBA 2-guard. He has become a perimeter tweener in his 10 NBA seasons.

Isaiah Briscoe, Kentucky

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Compares to: Cory Joseph, Toronto Raptors

    Isaiah Briscoe is the fourth guard in the last three years to return to Kentucky for his sophomore year instead of heading to the NBA. Coming back didn't work out for the Harrison twins, Andrew and Aaron. Tyler Ulis went in the second round to Phoenix in June and hasn't had a chance to prove his mettle.

    What will things be like for Briscoe a year from now, assuming he follows his predecessors' paths and turns pro after two seasons?

    For one, it will depend on how separates himself from fellow guards De'Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, the latter of whom is also on this list. Briscoe played in Jamal Murray's offensive shadow this past season, but this enabled him to show off his skills on the defensive end.

    The 6'3" Briscoe was Kentucky's best rebounding guard, particularly on the defensive end, pulling down 12.8 percent of opponents' misses. His defensive box plus/minus of 3.4 was far better than Murray's (1.1) or Ulis' (1.0).

    Briscoe's offensive game didn't have a chance to come out and might not again in 2016-17. With that in mind, he projects as a defensive specialist similar to how Joseph used those skills to work his way into a more prominent NBA role. Joseph has been one of the better defensive rebounding guards since coming into the league in 2011, and only this past season with Toronto did he start to shoot from outside.

Tyler Dorsey, Oregon

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    Compares to: Jerryd Bayless, Philadelphia 76ers

    International play is when Tyler Dorsey makes his greatest strides. He excelled first while playing for Greece in the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championships and recently as Oregon completed an exhibition tour in Spain. Though the NBA is his ultimate dream, if he has to head overseas to get a gig, it might not turn out badly.

    The 6'4" Dorsey averaged 20 points for the Ducks in four games in Spain, taking advantage of junior Dillon Brooks' absence. Brooks missed the trip with a foot injury. Dorsey averaged 13.4 points as a freshman for Oregon in 2015-16, making a team-high 67 three-pointers at a 40.6 percent clip.

    With that shooting ability, as well as the willingness to take over when needed, Dorsey has that plug-and-play game that allows him to fit anywhere. If he can improve his ball-handling, either as a backup point guard or when creating his own shot, the sky is the limit.

    But for a baseline, look to journeyman guard Bayless for a comparison. Though he was a point guard at Arizona—where Dorsey originally committed—in the NBA he's morphed into a combo guard who can handle both positions, and he's coming off his best perimeter season when he made 43.7 percent of his threes.

Josh Hart, Villanova

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    Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

    Compares to: Danny Green, San Antonio Spurs

    The best senior in the country, according to Bleacher Report's Kerry Miller, Josh Hart plays much bigger than his 6'5" frame would indicate. A solid three-point shooter, at 38.1 percent for his career, Hart does much better when he's inside the line—not just as a scorer but also on the boards.

    Hart's 12.8 rebound percentage from last year makes him more of a wing than a 2. But Villanova goes almost exclusively with three guards, so the ability to have perimeter guys who can pull down rebounds is a plus. In the NBA, he won't be asked to play as close to the basket, but that he's capable of it will increase his value.

    Hart does everything well but nothing great. That puts him in the "role player" category. While that's not what a prospect wants to hear, it's not a bad way to make a living, especially after a successful college career that includes a national title.

    The comparison to Green fits because he won a championship at North Carolina (as the fourth option on a deep offensive team) and after four seasons went in the second round of the 2009 draft. He also had to spend some time overseas before catching on as a glue guy for the Spurs, where he won another championship.

Donovan Mitchell, Louisville

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    Michael Hickey/Getty Images

    Compares to: DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors

    Limited to 19.1 minutes per game as a freshman, Donovan Mitchell has yet to show what he's capable of in college. With a breakout season possible, the 2016-17 campaign might be his last at Louisville, though he's not on most draft boards.

    That's because most scouts saw a version of Mitchell whom Cardinals coach Rick Pitino is still molding. Last season he averaged 7.4 points per game but shot only 25 percent on three-pointers—the result of a flat shot that had no chance of going in most times. Weight might have been an issue, too.

    "We’re trying to get him down in weight from 215 to 195," Pitino blogged in June. "That would make him a better defender and develop a quicker first step on offense."

    As long as the lighter Mitchell can still bounce and dunk, that's fine. As of now he's one of the best jammers in college, and it's why we see him in the mold of DeRozan, who continues to only be a so-so perimeter shooter (28.3 percent for his career) but can wow you with his rim play.

Malik Monk, Kentucky

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    Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

    Compares to: Lou Williams, Los Angeles Lakers

    Malik Monk can go off for a load of points in no time. He scored 22 points at the Jordan Brand Classic in April, and earlier that month he canned 15 threes in the McDonald's All-American three-point contest and only needed 50 of 60 seconds to finish his session.

    A year after Jamal Murray averaged 20 points for Kentucky—the most of any Wildcat in the John Calipari era—Monk could challenge that number if he can get hot on a regular basis. If not, he'll still shine because of his ability to play both guard positions. He comes in as the second-ranked combo guard in the 2016 recruiting class.

    Amazing scoring prowess at lower levels has to be taken with a grain of salt, which is why we're using a comparison like Williams. Also known for his ability to score in bunches, Williams has only started 89 games in 11 NBA seasons, yet he has averaged double figures the last nine years.

    Bleacher Report's Scott Phillips wrote: "Monk has put on red-hot scoring runs in high school that are a bit reminiscent of when Williams comes in and torches opponents off the bench, so he could be the type of combo guard who can create instant offense."

Svi Mykhailiuk, Kansas

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    Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

    Compares to: Kyle Korver, Atlanta Hawks

    There's so much to like about Svi Mykhailiuk—the least of which is a tremendous upside, considering he is entering his junior year at Kansas and only turned 19 in June.

    When he's on as a shooter, he's really on, making 40.2 percent of his attempts this past season with a 5-of-5 performance against Texas Tech in February and a 4-of-5 effort in the NCAA tournament opener against Austin Peay.

    But at 6'8" and 191 pounds, and with a wingspan of 6'6", his frame is small. He's still 27th in DraftExpress' 2017 NBA mock draft but was as high as eighth (for 2016) midway through his freshman year.

    He won't get bigger or grow longer arms, so a catch-and-shoot player is what he's destined to be. It's how Korver has defined his 13 NBA seasons, in which he's made 1,887 threes (compared to 1,428 twos and 1,100 free throws), and he remains one of the most dangerous perimeter shooters in the game.

Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Florida State

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    Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

    Compares to: Greivis Vasquez, Brooklyn Nets

    Florida State's leading assist man in each of his two seasons, Xavier Rathan-Mayes doesn't project as a prototypical NBA point guard, but that will look good on the resume. More impressive will be finding an outside shooting touch to go with his strong driving ability and handles.

    That might be part of the league's feedback he received after applying for the draft this spring but not getting a combine invite. His minutes dipped in 2015-16 with the Seminoles leaning on Dwayne Bacon and Malik Beasley. But with Beasley gone and true point guard C.J. Walker coming in, the opportunity is there for Rathan-Mayes to mold into the kind of player he'll be in the NBA.

    This will be Rathan-Mayes' fourth year of college, since he was ineligible as a freshman in 2013-14, so the time to assert himself is now. Whether that means doing enough to turn pro after one more season or staying for two, he's got the look of a late bloomer.

    Vasquez stayed in college for four years, and though he was Maryland's primary ball-handler for much of his career, he became more and more of a shooter over time. In the pros he's gone back and forth in those roles.

Allonzo Trier, Arizona

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    Lance King/Getty Images

    Compares to: Kevin Martin, Last played for San Antonio Spurs

    Though he can shoot it from all over, Allonzo Trier has been most effective in taking the ball to the hoop. His freshman season saw him attempt 5.4 free throws per game (making 79.3 percent), and when he didn't get fouled, he was hitting runners and short jumpers in addition to the threes he's converted at a healthy 36.4 percent.

    If this is the kind of game Trier goes with in the NBA, Martin fits perfectly since he's one of the those shooting guards who drives as much as he puts up jumpers, but either way he isn't likely to give up the ball.

    Martin has 1,352 assists in 12 NBA seasons, or 1.9 per contest, and his career assist rate is 10.6. But since he makes 38.4 percent of his threes and 87.0 percent of his foul shots, there aren't concerns about him being a ball hog.

    Same goes for Trier, who averaged 14.8 points but only 1.1 assists in 2015-16 with a 7.6 percent assist rate more fitting of a post player than a guard.

         

    All statistics courtesy of Sports-Reference.com, unless otherwise noted. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports, unless otherwise noted.

    Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

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