Top 5 Rookie Point Guards Entering 2018-19 NBA Season

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterSeptember 4, 2018

Top 5 Rookie Point Guards Entering 2018-19 NBA Season

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    The 2018 NBA draft is bound to produce multiple starting point guards. But how soon?

    The following five rookies should be ready to make an immediate impact based on their tools, skill level, opportunity and how they fared at summer league.

    They're ranked according to how they'll perform next year, not their long-term potential.

5. Aaron Holiday, Indiana Pacers

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    Aaron Holiday could be the future for the Indiana Pacers. The question is how much he'll factor into the equation as a rookie behind Darren Collison and Cory Joseph.

    He'll get his chance as a scorer off the bench at different stretches of the season.

    Holiday, who averaged 20.3 points per game at UCLA and 14.5 in summer league, should experience immediate success as a shot-maker. He shot at least 41 percent from three-point range in each of his three NCAA seasons, and he ranked in the 84th percentile on jump-shot points per possession as a junior.

    One of the most complete guards in the country at UCLA—he ranked in the 84th percentile in spot-ups and the 71st percentile as a pick-and-roll ball-handlerHoliday will continue working on and off the ball, giving Indiana another shot-creator and shooter.

    History suggests he'll struggle with turnovers, as he averaged 3.8 giveaways last season before coughing it up 22 times across four games in Las Vegas. But Holiday's value next year will be tied to his ability to generate offense for the Pacers' second unit. 

4. De'Anthony Melton, Phoenix Suns

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    USC held De'Anthony Melton out for his sophomore season due to the FBI's investigation into corruption in college basketball, which prevented him from bolstering his NBA draft stock. As a result, he slipped to the Houston Rockets at No. 46, but the Rockets proceeded to ship him to the Phoenix Suns in the Ryan Anderson salary dump last week.

    On the bright side, Melton should have the chance to play in Phoenix, as the Suns don't have an established veteran point guard on their roster. And if summer league was any indication, he could finish as a top-five point guard from his class during the 2018-19 season. 

    Melton will impress coaches with his defense, as he can pressure both guard positions, but he also averaged 16.4 points and 4.0 assists in Las Vegas. Most notably, he hit 12 threes in five games after knocking down only 21 across 36 games as a freshman.

    Melton appeared to make significant progress with his jump-shot fluidity and confidence over the past year. Had he been able to prove that before the draft, he likely wouldn't have fallen as far as he did. 

    Regardless, he should still contribute and excel playing to his strengths as a transition weapon, passer and tough defender in Phoenix.

    Even if the Suns trade for a veteran point guard, Melton's role in the rotation should be secure, particularly in the second half of the year. Once Phoenix falls out of the playoff race, it figures to lean more heavily on its young players.

3. Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks

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    Atlanta's acquisition of Jeremy Lin should take pressure and minutes away from Trae Young, which isn't necessarily terrible. Young was lined up to lead arguably the NBA's weakest roster, which was a recipe for inefficiency given his loose, ball-dominant style. 

    Still, the Hawks have a lot invested in their rookie point guard, and they'll give him plenty of opportunities as a rookie to produce.

    Given his lack of explosiveness and length, Young may have some trouble right away as a scorer. That hurt his ability to separate in college, limiting him to 49.6 percent shooting at the rim and only four made two-point jump shots all season at Oklahoma. 

    He's still a next-level shot-maker and spectacular playmaker, with the latter likely to translate to a strong assist rate once again. Young's three-ball might be streaky, but his vision and passing should be a constant.

    Young figures to put up enough points and dimes to finish as a top-five rookie point guard. However, his projected low field-goal percentage puts him behind two others in these rankings.

2. Collin Sexton, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    George Hill may be penciled in as the Cleveland Cavaliers' starting point guard, but Collin Sexton is the franchise's priority. It wouldn't be surprising if he takes over for Hill before the end of the year. 

    Strong, athletic and confident, Sexton should emerge as one of the top rookie scorers after averaging 19.2 points per game at Alabama and 19.6 at summer league. 

    Sexton is going to put pressure on defenses with his explosiveness and off-the-dribble footwork. He'll get plenty of layups and foul shots, and once his confidence is pumping, he'll go to work with his pull-up jumper.

    He isn't ready to shoot a strong percentage from three yet, and his assist-to-turnover ratio won't be pretty. It was weak at Alabama (3.6 to 2.8), and he finished with 24 assists to 23 turnovers in summer league. Sexton needs to improve his reads and ability to use his elusiveness to create for teammates. 

    But based on his projected role, NBA tools and scoring success in every setting from high school and AAU to college and summer league, Sexton figures to put up points from day one for the Cavaliers.

1. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Los Angeles Clippers

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    Shai Gilgeous-Alexander's stock has been trending upward since conference play began in January. His next move will be rising atop the Los Angeles Clippers' depth chart and the rookie point guard rankings.

    A summer-league star (19.0 points, 4.0 assists, 45.8 percent shooting), Gilgeous-Alexander looked to be further along than Young and Sexton. His size and length should be advantageous, and his skill level continues to improve and expand.

    Though he isn't an explosive athlete, Gilgeous-Alexander will give defenses trouble next year by mixing crafty ball-handling, footwork and unpredictable hesitations. In college, he converted 37-of-61 takes to the basket as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, and he finished around the rim at a better rate (57.4 percent) than Young and Sexton. 

    His perimeter shot-creating and pull-up game also looked sharper in Las Vegas. Gilgeous-Alexander won't light it up from three, but he'll make enough open ones to keep defenders honest. He should also add value defensively with his quick hands and ability to guard multiple positions. 

    Young and Sexton may wind up with higher scoring and assist averages, but Gilgeous-Alexander will be the most efficient, well-rounded point guard from the 2018 class. 


    Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports.