Now that the NBA finals are over, and my least favorite team has won, it’s time to jump fully into NBA Draft mode. The NBA Draft is one of the best times of the year for any NBA fan. The excitement of the opportunity for your team to get better brings a lot of fun to the table. This year, I thought the draft wasn’t going to be as interesting to me, because the Celtics only have the 58th pick. Now they are rumored to be looking to trade up in the draft, apparently willing to part ways with Rajon Rondo or Ray Allen to get a look at one of this year’s budding stars. Why the hell they would do that, I don’t really know, with Ray Allen being their only true threat from outside and Rondo blossoming before our eyes into one of the top point guards in the league. Nonetheless, it’s gotten me excited for the draft, and it’s now time to rank each position.
To begin Celtics Town’s look at the draft, we are going to start with the floor general, the point guard. This year’s point guard crop is a very intriguing one, with some accomplished college players as well as some European studs. We include a couple guys who might not be classified as point guards on everybody’s list, but they’ve either played point guard their whole lives (Tyreke Evans) or would likely play point guard in the NBA (Jrue Holiday, Stephen Curry). Enjoy Celtics Town’s first annual draft position rankings:
10. Patty Mills, St. Mary’s (Last year’s stats: 18.4 points, 3.9 assists)
Patty Mills is a guy who has yet to scratch the surface of his real potential. Despite a productive two-year college career, Mills could still improve in leaps and bounds. He has the speed to be a very disruptive point guard in the NBA, but often failed to showcase it in college, preferring to settle for contested jumpshots (according to Draft Express, he took the most contested threes of any college player last year). When Mills plays well, he can be electric: Over last summer, he played for the Australian National Team in the Olympics, leading his team in scoring, averaging over fourteen points per game on the way to the Olympic quarterfinals. He also played an unbelievable game against Stephen Curry, stealing the spotlight and demonstrating his ability to blow by his defender and find the open man. Mills is a short point guard, but makes up for it with speed and good shooting ability. Last year, his shooting percentage was low, but the reason for it wasn’t his shooting, it was his shot selection. Look for Mills to become a solid backup point guard in the NBA, a guy who can use his speed to get by defenders and his jumpshot to keep them honest. Because of his size, I don’t think he will ever be a starter, but I think he’ll become a dependable backup, for sure.
9. Darren Collison, UCLA (Last year’s stats: 14.4 points, 4.7 assists)
Darren Collison has always been a guy who I felt was overrated in draft circles. After his sophomore year, everybody talked about Collison as a potential lottery pick, and sat back and scratched my head, wondering why. He is a short, thin player who doesn’t seem to do much on the court, and I was wondering just what about him made him a lottery pick Now that he’s fallen down in the draft order, though, I love Collison. Whereas I don’t feel he has the playmaking abilities to create enough offense to be a starting point guard, he is a steady contributor who will provide solid play offensively and elite ball pressure defensively. He will be a pesky defender from day one, and his stable offense should help him have a long NBA career.
8. Ty Lawson, North Carolina (Last year’s stats: 16.6 points, 6.6 assists)
Before last year, I felt Lawson was an overrated, mistake-prone point guard who couldn’t hit a jumpshot. Boy, was I wrong. Lawson proved me, and all his detractors, wrong during an incredible junior season that saw him completely take the reigns of college basketball’s top team. Tyler Hansbrough got a lot of the credit for North Carolina’s championship, but Ty Lawson was the guy who made them go. Because he played for North Carolina, Lawson gets compared to Raymond Felton, but I see a lot more Jameer Nelson in him. Like Nelson, Lawson is a strong, physical guard with a lot of strength, and he developed a jumpshot during his junior season. This past year, he became a far better player than he ever had been, continuing to push the tempo to breakneck pace but still playing controlled basketball. It was beautiful to watch Lawson play this season, although, being a Duke fan, it wasn’t fun to see Greg Paulus, Elliot Williams and Nolan Smith try to guard him. I look for Lawson to be a starter in the NBA, and he could have a very good rookie year depending on where he gets drafted.
7. Jrue Holiday, UCLA (Last year’s stats: 8.5 points, 3.7 assists)
I really don’t know why Jrue Holiday is climbing draft boards around the country. He did nothing, repeat: NOTHING, in his time at UCLA. Averaging 8.5 points and 3.7 assists per game in his lone college season, I am still very skeptical of Holiday’s skills. Yeah, his stats might be low because he had to share the backcourt with Darren Collison, but he’s going to be playing with much better point guards in the NBA. Holiday clearly has a lot of holes in his game, which he will need to fill to become an NBA contributor. Anyways, after bashing him for a little while, now I’ll tell you the other side of the story. I realize why NBA scouts are drooling over the guy. He is an unselfish point guard offensively, with the tools to be a lock-down defender and a pure distributor. He has an NBA-ready body even though he just turned 19. He has as much upside as just about anybody on this list. Despite all his physical tools, I am not sure an NBA team would be making the right choice drafting Holiday. They would likely have to wait at least a couple years to see him develop into the player he can be.
6. Eric Maynor, VCU (Last year’s stats: 22.4 points, 6.2 assists)
We’ve gotten to my favorite point guard in the draft. Whenever I watch Maynor, I’m struck most of all by the patience in his game. He takes his time, seems to play slow, and then somehow he ends up blowing by his defender into the lane. In that way, he reminds me a lot of Brandon Roy. I’m not saying that he’s going to be as good as Brandon Roy, or even that they play similarly, but the poise and deliberate nature of their games is very comparable. Maynor is a very good shooter, and was a tremendous scorer in college, but I think he can make the transition to more of a distributor in the NBA. Maynor changes speeds so well that it’s very difficult to stay in front of him. Maynor is already a crafty offensive player, great off the pick-and-roll, and as productive in college as any player on this list. I look for his skills to translate well to the NBA, and for him to be a solid player from day one, wherever he ends up.
5. Brandon Jennings, Lottomatica Roma (Last year’s stats:7.6 points, 1.6 assists, 19.6 minutes)
Despite not receiving too much playing time while playing for Lottomatica Roma in Italy, Brandon Jennings made it known that he can produce against great competition. Jennings is a lightning-quick player with the handle and speed to blow by defenders and the athleticism to finish in traffic. Probably the most explosive point guard in this year’s draft, Jennings possesses terrific potential as a playmaker in the NBA. That said, he’s not there yet. His struggles overseas have pointed out the flaws of his game. He has poor shot selection, is not yet a good shooter, and has some issues with being out of control. Playing at the highest level in Europe should definitely help Jennings in the long run. It should force him to mature as a player and give him solid experience heading into the NBA. Whereas most prospects have been playing against guys their own age, Jennings has played against grown men, and lived to tell about it. He should be a star in the league down the road, but I’m not sure how much he’ll contribute immediately.
4. Stephen Curry, Davidson (Last year’s stats: 28.6 points, 5.6 assists)
The most prolific scorer in recent NCAA history, Stephen Curry is being projected right now as a mid-lottery pick. I wish I could tell NBA scouts not to get awed by his tremendous college stats, and instead focus on Curry as a player. He has many flaws in his game that I think will hurt him at the next level. First off, Curry is not a true point guard. While he showed a decent ability to play the point during his junior season at Davidson, he is very turnover prone. Do you really trust him dribbling the ball upcourt against super-quick defenders like Rajon Rondo? I don’t. Curry is also short, super-thin, and doesn’t matchup well defensively with any position. I don’t see him possessing the strength or height to guard shooting guards, nor lateral quickness to guard point guards. Nonetheless, his production over the past three years was remarkable. He is an amazing shooter, and his great touch and quick release should translate well to the NBA. Still, I doubt he will ever be a standout performer in the NBA. I am sure his shooting ability will find him playing time and give him a long career in the NBA, but I don’t see star potential.
3. Jonny Flynn, Syracuse (Last year’s stats: 17.4 points, 6.7 assists)
Probably the most confident point guard in this year’s draft, Jonny Flynn should be even better in the NBA than he was in college. Because of his outstanding athleticism and world-class quickness, Flynn should be able to penetrate at will even in the NBA. Of all the players I saw play college basketball last year, no other player impressed me more with the ability to break down a defense. Once inside the lane, Flynn can still do a lot of things with the basketball. He is a good passer and, especially for a point guard, an outstanding finisher. With the NBA’s handcheck rules that have made it easier than ever for point guards to get to the hole, Flynn should thrive at the next level. He is a good scorer with the heart of a lion. I’ll never forget Flynn’s performance against UConn in the epic six overtime game; Everybody else was too tired to do anything, but Flynn kept relentlessly attacking the basket, unwilling to let his team fall. Flynn should be a contributor right away, and I see him as being the most NBA-ready of all the point guards in this draft.
2. Tyreke Evans, Memphis (Last year’s stats: 17.1 points, 3.9 assists, 5.4 rebounds)
Tyreke Evans, in my eyes, is the most interesting point guard prospect in the draft. Though still raw, he is blessed with an incredible combination of height, strength, athleticism, and basketball skill. Evans is an absolute physical specimen with a 6’11” wingspan to go with 6’5” height and a strong frame. On top of his physical attributes, Evans possesses the ability to create his own shot at any time. Right now, his jumper is uglier than Tyrone Hill, but Evans’ ability to create his own shot should lead to his becoming a terrific NBA scorer as soon as he fixes that jumper. He’s not just a scorer, though – Evans excels at getting into the lane and creating scoring opportunities for others, too. He tends to be a bit too ball-dominant, but should improve on that with good coaching. I see Evans blossoming into an absolute stud down the road, and should produce in transition right away.
1. Ricky Rubio, DKV Joventut (Last year’s stats: 10.0 points, 6.1 assists, 2.2 steals)
Ricky Rubio burst onto the basketball scene in 2006 at the U-16 World Championships, where he accumulated three triple-doubles, one quadruple-double, and put up 51 points, 24 rebounds, 12 assists and 7 steals to beat Russia in the finals in a double-overtime thriller. Rubio, is the most can’t-miss prospect in this year’s point guard class. A basketball prodigy since his teenage years, Rubio is also, far and away, the top Europen prospect in the draft. He is a long, skilled player with tremendous basketball IQ. He has terrific court vision, with the ability to make the simple pass as well as the home run pass. Unlike most young players, Rubio is already a terrific defensive player, winning the 2009 Spanish ACB League Defensive Player of the Year, averaging 2.2 steals per game in only 23 minutes. Despite his youth, the young Spaniard is already very accomplished overseas, where he has played professionally since the age of fifteen. Already, Rubio has won the coveted Mr. Europa Award (in 2008), given to the best European basketball player in the world, regardless of where they are playing, and was also named the ACB League’s top point guard for 2008. Last year, at only 18 years old, Rubio played on the silver medal-winning Spanish National Team, starting over the second half of the tournament over NBA veteran Jose Calderon. With his pedigree, potential, and basketball IQ, Rubio should have a long, storied career in the NBA, and should be drafted in the top four choices should his $8 million buyout not affect his stock.