Ranking Top 10 Point Guards in 2019 NBA Draft: Who's Behind Ja Morant?

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterApril 22, 2019

Ranking Top 10 Point Guards in 2019 NBA Draft: Who's Behind Ja Morant?

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    Jessica Hill/Associated Press

    The 2019 NBA draft could see three point guards selected in the lottery.

    But there are other potential backup ball-handlers and sixth men who deserve consideration later in the first and second rounds. They're mostly upperclassmen whose lack of upside could lead to teams getting steals, like the Dallas Mavericks did with Jalen Brunson.

    We ranked the top-10 point guards (based on NBA potential) for those who have made themselves eligible for the 2019 draft, though it's possible some withdraw later in the process. 

10. Jordan Bone (Tennessee, Junior)

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    A key to Tennessee's success all season, Jordan Bone took a notable step forward as a junior.

    He's strengthened his image as a trustworthy point guard to run the offense or handle the ball late in games. Bone also averaged 5.8 assists to just 2.0 turnovers and generated 1.31 points per possession on pick-and-roll passes (94th percentile) with a stronger feel as a facilitator.

    The fact he only averaged 0.712 PPP as a ball-screen scorer highlights the lack of explosion that casts doubt on his NBA potential. He also hasn't been deadly enough with his pull-up jumper (31.7 field-goal percentage) to compensate.

    But he did raise his two-point percentage from 39.6 to 52.5 percent—a key development given his lack of burst. He went an efficient 12-of-25 (48.0 percent) on runners and converted 56.6 percent of his attempts around the rim.

    His 1.4 made threes per game and 35.5 percent clip from beyond the arc aren't convincing, though he did shoot 44.8 percent on catch-and-shoot chances in the half court.

    Bone isn't likely to help himself much during a pre-draft process that typically rewards exciting athletes and shooters. His case is in the film as a player who impacts winning.  Even if he doesn't get drafted, he'll be a player to watch in summer league, training camp and the G League.  

9. Jared Harper (Auburn, Junior)

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    Jared Harper earned a spot in this year's draft discussion during Auburn's Final Four run. He's flawed but has strengths that became too compelling, particularly after his 26-point game against Kentucky in the Elite Eight.

    He finished the season in the 90th percentile as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, mostly thanks to his pull-up game. Off ball screens, he went 36-of-77 (46.8 percent) on dribble jumpers—a key shot for him, given how he struggled to finish around the paint (6-of-21 on runners, 44.9 percent at the rim).

    Harper did a good job using his breakdown ability to set up teammates; 19 of his 33 passes out of isolation resulted in baskets. His 5.8 assists to 2.4 turnovers per game reflect fairly level-headed decision-making.

    Even at 5'11", he can be tough to shake defensively. He compensates for physical limitations with peskiness and effort, which give him a competitive chance to defend NBA point guards. 

    For a player his size who isn't an above-average athlete, Harper will have an uphill climb toward cracking an NBA roster or rotation. But his shot-making (2.5 threes per game), passing and toughness should draw second-round looks.

8. Devon Dotson (Kansas, Freshman)

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    Jeff Swinger/Associated Press

    It wouldn't be surprising if Devon Dotson winds up returning to Kansas, but he's putting his name in the draft and forcing teams to look closer in May.

    Limited in size (6'2", 185 lbs) and athleticism, Dotson doesn't pop as an NBA prospect. Instead, he's made a case with efficient point guard play and the ability to change the pace.

    Effective as a 42.9 percent spot-up shooter and a pick-and-roll ball-handler who can both drive and pass (0.872 PPP, 76th percentile), Dotson generated offense playing on and off the ball. He'd have the rock more at Kansas next year without the offense running through Dedric Lawson (assuming he stays in the draft) and Lagerald Vick. 

    Dotson will need to continue strengthening his lead-guard skills as a scorer (6-of-23 in isolation) and facilitator (3.5 assists to 2.3 turnovers per game). He converted just 6-of-20 pull-ups and 2-of-10 runners—shots he'll need to compensate for his lack of explosion around the basket and questionable range (1.1 made threes per 40 minutes).

    He still managed to connect on 48.2 percent of his field-goal attempts as a freshman. And despite lacking standout physical tools, he can be tough defensively with his lateral quickness and focus. 

    Dotson would likely draw second-round looks as a potential backup if he keeps his name in the draft. A more productive and well-rounded sophomore season could lead to first-round interest in 2020, though.

7. Shamorie Ponds (St. John's, Junior)

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    Slight improvements as a junior should have secured Shamorie Ponds a spot in the 2019 draft. 

    His 21.6 points per game in 2017-18 weren't enough to generate solid NBA interest. So he returned to focus on becoming a more efficient playmaker and shooter. 

    During the 2018-19 season, Ponds went from 25.3 to 35.3 percent on three-pointers while raising his assist average from 4.7 to 5.1 and reducing his turnovers from 2.7 to 2.0 per game. He still pumped in 19.7 points per game on a career-best 45.4 percent from the field.

    Ponds has a confident pull-up (38.9 percent), and he's developed a knack for hitting tough shots, converting 46.9 percent of his guarded catch-and-shoot chances. Despite playing mostly below the rim, he finishes well there (61.1 percent).

    But he's been brutal with the runner he'll need at the next level (13-of-55). Though he nailed a handful of clutch shots late in games, he's also been vulnerable to putting up duds.

    Ponds will have trouble earning trust from teams making first-round selections. However, his potential as a bench spark should be compelling enough in the second round.

6. Justin Wright-Foreman (Hofstra, Senior)

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    The nation's second-leading scorer, Justin Wright-Foreman may have cracked top-60 boards over Hofstra's final 11 games, during which he averaged 31.5 points to close his college career.

    He's at least earned attention entering the predraft process. He didn't always have it while playing in the CAA and standing 6'2" without explosion or standout playmaking ability.

    Only two other players averaged more points per game off pull-ups than Wright-Foreman, who made a tremendous 100 of his 210 attempts in the half court. He doesn't have the size or lift to create major separation, but he doesn't need to with such high-level shot-making skill off the dribble. 

    Advanced as he is around the perimeter, he also does a terrific job finding angles to finish around the basket, where he shot 62.9 percent. Converting 22-of-42 runners also highlights Wright-Foreman's touch and precision on the move.

    He just isn't a proven facilitator, having never averaged more than 3.2 assists. He can make the heady pass, particularly out of pick-and-rolls. But if his scoring effectiveness doesn't translate as planned, he's unlikely to offer enough as a playmaker to hold rotational value. 

    Regardless, Wright-Foreman has become worth considering in the Nos. 45-60 range as a potential scoring specialist off the bench.

5. Jalen Pickett (Siena, Freshman)

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    Jalen Pickett's huge season at Siena didn't result in national attention. Now that he's putting his name in the draft, teams will want to take a closer look into his 15.8 points, 6.7 assists, 2.0 threes and 2.0 steals per game.

    At 6'4", Pickett sports a solid physical profile for a point guard, though he doesn't explode or handle the ball low to the ground.

    His 42.6 assist percentage was still the highest among freshmen and No. 5 in the country. Pick-and-roll possessions made up 42.6 percent of his offense (229 possessions). He compensates for limited blow-by speed with strong passing instincts and a dangerous pull-up game (68 makes, 38.4 percent).

    He also impressed defensively with his pressure and playmaking, and unlike the lottery point guards, there is more potential for Pickett to add value at both ends of the floor. 

    Teams will be questioning the competition Siena faced and if Pickett has enough quicks and athleticism to execute against NBA point guards. He'll be one of the most interesting prospects to watch during NBA combine scrimmages, assuming he's invited to participate. An early guess would predict him returning for a bigger sophomore season that leads to more first-round interest in 2020.

4. Carsen Edwards (Purdue, Junior)

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    Heading into the NCAA tournament, Carsen Edwards had already earned recognition as one of college basketball's top scorers. But he changed the discussion after he averaged 34.8 points during four games in the Big Dance.

    Remarkable shot-making in late March, when the stakes were highest, has created dialogue and hope regarding his NBA potential. Though questions persist about his 6'1" size, athleticism and inefficiency (39.3 field-goal percentage), even tight defense doesn't appear capable of throwing off Edwards' shot once he's found a rhythm.

    He buried nine threes against Villanova, five against Tennessee and 10 against Virginia (the eventual national champs) over Purdue's final three games. 

    His game suggests he may be more of a 2-guard, but Edwards' defensive limitations will force him to play the point. He was used mostly as a pick-and-roll ball-handler this year (29.0 percent of his offense), doing far more scoring than passing off the ball screens he received. He also ranked in the 89th percentile out of isolation with shot-creation and pull-up abilities that fuel optimism regarding his chances to mirror Lou Williams' NBA success. 

    On the downside, Edwards struggled around the basket, showing poor finishing (48.3 percent at the rim) and no runner game (5-of-15). He also totaled 113 turnovers to 104 assists—hardly numbers that reflect playmaking IQ. 

    Teams will likely look at Edwards as a lightning rod off the bench, as opposed to a floor general for an offense.

3. Darius Garland (Vanderbilt, Freshman)

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    In terms of draft stock, Darius Garland's torn meniscus could work to his benefit. He wowed through four games with sizzling scoring (19.8 points) and went down before he allowed teams to find flaws in his playmaking and defense.

    But based on his breakout play as a high school senior and the eye test during his limited action at Vanderbilt, his scoring ability seems real.

    Garland's pull-up game (13-of-23) is the toughest among point guard prospects. Ten of his 13 makes came off ball screens. His confident release and 11-of-23 three-point results say he shouldn't have any issues with the NBA's arc.

    His shooting also works off the ball, as Garland combined to hit nine of his 13 jumpers off screens and catches. 

    Shifty and clever with his ball-handling, he'll keep defenses on their heels, which should create more chances to drive, pass or stop and pop.

    He'll need to improve his runner and floater game. But the key question for scouts is whether Garland can develop into a well-rounded lead guard capable of running an offense. He finished with more turnovers than assists. Only 10 of his 28 pick-and-roll passes were converted into baskets (9th percentile). He's proved nothing about his decision-making and feel. 

    And at 6'2", Garland only defends one position. Best case, he does it with average effectiveness. 

2. Coby White (North Carolina, Freshman)

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    Paul Vernon/Associated Press

    Coby White will play the 1 and the 2 throughout his career, but he's optimized as a 6'5" scoring point guard. 

    Despite that label, he still ranked in the 94th percentile as a pick-and-roll passer this year, demonstrating facilitating IQ and vision to offer enough playmaking in an initiator role.

    In the NBA, White also projects as a weapon to throw an outlet off a defensive rebound. Ranking in the 91st percentile as a transition ball-handler, he plays with pace and a desire to push the tempo.

    In the half court, his pull-up game looked better than the numbers suggest (25.0 percent) based on his decisiveness and confident makes (29). He also hit 43.1 percent of his catch-and-shoot attempts, which plays to his versatility as a combo. White wound up splashing 82 threes in 35 games and finished 11 contests with at least four triples. He'll be a threat to catch fire for stretches of a game. 

    The 19-year-old does lack upper-body strength and explosiveness, but he managed to convert a promising 60.3 percent of his attempts around the rim and showed the ability to improvise with nifty layups. 

    He needs to improve his shooting over rim protection, as he went just 4-of-17 on runners. His 3.8 turnovers per 40 minutes were also on the high side, and he struggled both to create separation and to contain his man against some matchups. 

    White's upside says starter, just not All-Star.

1. Ja Morant (Murray State, Sophomore)

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    Ja Morant was setting records before the NCAA tournament. But the way he dominated No. 5 Marquette in the Round of 64—completely controlling a game in which he took only nine shots—strengthened his case as the draft's top lead guard. 

    The first NCAA player since 1992 to average at least 20 points and 10 assists, Morant also packs explosiveness and speed that screams NBA upside.

    He led the country with 8.3 points per game in transition, but playmaking will be his signature strength. Morant has vision and passing skill with both hands. He whips the ball around off live dribbles, getting it to teammates before their men are prepared to contest.

    Morant even uses his left more effectively off drives (18-of-36 vs. 5-of 20 with his right). Altogether, he converted 100 half-court field goals at the hoop through 33 games, showing a knack for penetrating, cutting and beating rim protection to the cup.

    His shooting has been a hot topic among scouts, as Morant improved to 36.3 percent from three on 1.7 makes per game. However, he struggled off the dribble, converting 32.1 percent of his pull-ups and going 10-of-32 on runners. Morant doesn't elevate high on his shot to create separation, and his release is on the low side.

    As a ball-dominator, he tends to either get too sped up or careless. He averaged a whopping 5.2 turnovers per game—a high number regardless of workload. 

    Morant's defense could be another concern, both due to his skinny 175-pound frame and his tendency to lose focus or give up through screens. 

    He's still the most exciting prospect in the draft outside of Zion Williamson, boasting star power, unprecedented college production and dramatic year-to-year improvement. That combination has led Morant to become a potential favorite at No. 2 overall, depending on the draft order. 

    Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports, Basketball-Reference.com