The last 10-12 games have gotten me pretty sad (except for the Clippers game; Go Magic!!!) so I thought I would look forward to something that always gets me excited: NBA Draft. It’s still pretty early in the college season, but it’s never too early to look at the prospects that will soon have more money in a couple of years than most of us will have in our lives....gotta love this game. The position I’ve been looking at is the PG since that is the one spot that does not have either a first round pick or a young enough veteran invested in it. Without further ado, my PG prospects for the draft:
Burke is a 6’0", 190 lb, 20-year old playing PG for the Michigan Wolverines. He is currently in his sophomore year and started both this year and last year for Michigan. Burke is a very compact PG that does most of his damage by not hurting his team. He is one of the best all-around PG as he scores efficiently, leads an offense well, and can also rebound when he needs to. He is short for the NBA standing at 6 feet even, but does make up for it with a 6’5" wingspan that allows him to play bigger than his height might suggest. He is scoring 18.2 ppg on 13 FGA per game on 53/39/78 percentages. His FT% is average, but shooting over 50% from the field while also getting almost 40% from three-land is fantastic. Take into account that he shoots four to five 3PA per game and his percentages are eye-catching to say the least. Burke is also a great passer as he is 10th in the nation with 7.25 assists per game and also in the top 15 in assist percentage with 40.4%.He commits less than two TO per game which gives him a great A/T ratio of 4.0 and a very low TO% of 12.3%. Fun fact: Burke is number one in the nation in +/- as Michigan is 314 points better when he is on the court.
2011-12 Big Ten Freshman of the Year (voted by media)
2011-12 Big Ten, 2nd Team
2011-12 Big Ten, All-Freshman Team
2011-12 All-American, 2nd Team (CBS)
He has a high floor and also high ceiling. His leadership was questioned, but he seems to have improved on that in his sophomore year. With that said, his worst case is probably a rich man’s DJ Augustin with Burke having better luck putting the ball in the basket. His ceiling is Chris Paul. That may be hard to reach, but Burke does have the body and vision to possibly get there.
(I would also like to mention that another player he has been compared to is a younger Jameer Nelson. Seeing as how some fans would like to see Jameer be a mentor to our next PG, and then be reduced to a 6th man role, who better to be Jameer’s protégé than a younger version of himself?)
MCW is a 6’6", 185 lb, 21-year old playing PG for the Syracuse Orange. He is a sophomore, but only became the starter this year. MCW is a very tall PG that has a pass-first tendency and towers over most other players at his position. MCW currently leads the nation in both assists (160) and assists per game (9.4) by a wide margin. His assist percentage is also top five in the nation with a 47.4%. His height lets him see over most defenders and put the ball where he wants it to go. He also has a 6’5" wingspan which, including his height, would let him guard two, possibly three positions at the next level. His weight is a little bit of a concern because he is still pretty thin, but if he could put on another 10-15 lb of muscle then MCW should be perfectly fine. His biggest concern though is his shooting. For a guy that was touted out of high school as a great scorer, MCW has had some big problems in college. He is currently scoring 11.9 ppg on 10.6 FGA on 37/27/72 percentages. Those are not good to say the least. His 2-point FG% is 42.7% which isn’t great, but is good enough as a pass-first guy. The problem is that he’s shooting 3.6 3PA per game, but only converting on 28% of them. If he could cut down on three’s and focus on 2-pointers, it would help him a lot. I’ve only seen him play twice, but he seems to be able to get to the rim almost at will. He has a solid first step, and he rarely looks like he’s working hard even if he’s running full speed. He is a potential triple-double threat as he is one of the leaders in rebounds per game for guards (5.0 rpg). He also has a great knack for steals (3.2 spg) but that may be inflated due to Syracuse running a zone.
None in 2011-12 season
MCW has a low floor and high ceiling. He has a great chance to be, at the very least, a defensive stopper that isn’t an offensive threat on the floor. His worst case would probably be a taller Ish: a heady defender who can’t consistently hit a jumper on the other end. His ceiling is Rajon Rondo. He has the ability to get to the rim, find passing lanes, and grab rebounds and become the triple-double threat that Rondo has become.
Smart is a 6’4", 225 lb, 18-year old combo guard playing PG for the Oklahoma State Cowboys. He is a freshman and is the starter for his team. Smart is a very well built PG in that he is almost a mini-tank: he’s as tall as Westbrook, but has the girth of Jameer and a wingspan of, by my calculations, 6’6". In other words, he’s a PG version of Lebron. Smart has shown flashes of being a great PG, but he’s been very inconsistent. His best game was against NC State where he posted a line of 8-15 for 20 points, 7 assists, 7 rebounds, 4 blocks, 4 steals, 5 TO, 3 PF. Then he followed that game up with a line of 3-9 for 8 points, 9 assists, 3 rebounds, 1 block, and 5 TO against Portland State. One could say that he plays to his opponent’s level, but we’ll have to keep an eye on him to see if that rings true. He is scoring 14.2 ppg on 10.0 FGA per game on 42/30/77 percentages. His FG% and FT% are both average, but with him being a freshman that shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. His 3P% though is scary since it is below average and he likes to jack up 4.4 per game. If he’s going to keep the 3-pointer as part of his arsenal, he either has to select his shots better, taker fewer attempts, or a combination of the two. He is a great rebounder for his position as he gets 5.5 per game with 1.5 of them being O-Reb. His assist numbers are low (70 total, 4.7 per game), but his assist percentage is a very respectable 30.2%. His best trait may be his defensive instincts as he is averaging 2.8 spg and 1.0 bpg. He has a knack for jumping into passing lanes as well as never giving up on a play which turns into Lebron-esque fast-break blocks. He will have to learn to be more patient as his 3.2 TOpg and 2.8 PFpg won’t make him a reliable weapon at the next level.
None in 2011-12
Smart has a very high ceiling and has many different possibilities as a player. Since he is a combo guard, he may not become a PG in the next level but I think that depends on the team and his attitude. We need a PG and he might be drafted by us, so he’s going to be heading down the "PG ceiling" that I have for him. His floor would be O.J. Mayo (Grizzlies version) as Smart might not cut down on PF/TO thus having him come out in the "offensive spark" role. His ceiling would be James Harden: two-way player that is mainly a scorer, but can make a major impact in several facets of the game.
McCollum is a 6’3", 180 lb, 21-year old combo guard playing PG for the Lehigh Mountain Hawks. He is a senior and has been the starter since his freshman year. C.J. is a taller PG that has a score-first mentality while on the court. Out of all of the prospects, he is definitely the scorer of the group. He is second in the nation in points per game at 23.9 on 16.2 FGA per game on 50/52/85 percentages. He plays in the Patriot League, but those percentages are fantastic no matter where you are. His most eye-popping number is his 52% from behind the arc and that is with over 5 attempts per game. Crazy good. Those would probably go down if not for McCollum’s broken foot that might have him out for the rest of the year (keep that in mind for the rest of this rundown). Based on his other three years though he was a 3 point sharpshooter as he went 42.1%, 31.5%, and 34.1% from 3-land. He, like Smart, is a great rebounder as he was averaging 5.0 per game before he went down. The one thing he would have to work on though is his passing. He is averaging only 2.9 apg in the 11 ½ games he played in. That wouldn’t have been too bad except he also averaged 2.7 TOpg for a very meager 1.1 A/T ratio. That won’t cut it for a starting PG even if they are a score-first type of guy. He is also average in both steals (1.4 spg) and blocks (0.3 bpg) but his 6’6" wingspan makes him a great specimen to be, at the very least, an above-average defender.
2009-10 Patriot League Player of the Year
2011-12 Patriot League Player of the Year
All-Patriot, 1st team (2010, 2011, 2012)
Scored 30 points to lead 15th seed Lehigh past 2nd seed Duke*
*Not an award, but worth mentioning
C.J. has a low floor and high ceiling. He, again like Smart, is a combo guard but he is going to be a PG in my comparisons. If he has a problem with it, he can contact me. His floor is a player we know and love (except for Squid) in J.J. Redick. He could come off the bench and be a 3-point sharpshooter with the chance to become a good-to-great defender. His ceiling is Stephen Curry: for his career, Curry is averaging 18 ppg, 6 apg, and 4 rpg on 46/45/90 percentages. C.J. would have to improve on his passing ability, but he could certainly get there if he works on it.
Craft is a 6’2", 195 lb, 21-year old playing PG for the Ohio State Buckeyes. He is a junior that was 6th man his freshman year, and starter the last two years. He is a very pesky guard who does his dirty work on the defensive end. He averages a solid 1.8 spg while playing great all-ball defense: he has a top-50 Defensive Rating of 88.3. For comparison’s sake, Anthony Davis had a DRtg of 80.3 last year when he was arguably the best defensive player in the nation. Craft plays very pesky on-ball defense (think Liggins-on-Lebron defense) and isn’t scared to go against either guard position. With that said, everything else he does is good, not great. He scores a 8.9 points per game on 7.5 FGA on 40/33/81 percentages. Those are below-average to average numbers shooting-wise. To his credit, a guy shooting 33% on 2.8 3PA is pretty good and 81% from the line is what you would like to see from any player on your team. The problem is his 40% on his FGA. That won’t do at the next level. History shows this might just be a cold start for him (46% and 50% from the field last two years) or that he has been trying to play outside himself to make up for Sullinger and Buford leaving (two of the top three scorers). Either way, he needs to go back to being the slasher that he was if he wants to be a threat on the offensive end. He does do a good job running the offense though: he dishes out 4.7 assist per game (same as Smart) while only turning the ball over 1.4 times per game. That comes out to a 3.3 A/T ratio which is only topped by Burke’s 4.0 ratio in this piece. He is also the complete opposite of a "ball hog" as his possession percentage (amount of possessions a player used divided by total possessions) is 17.3%. That is by far the lowest of these five prospects as the next lowest is Carter-Williams at 25.4%.
2010-11 Big Ten All-Freshman Team
2010-11 Big Ten Sixth Player of the Year
2010-11 Big Ten All-Defensive Team (Coaches)
2011-12 Third Team All-Big Ten (Media)
2011-12 Big Ten All-Defensive Team (Coaches)
2011-12 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year
Craft has a medium-to-high floor and low ceiling. He won’t ever be a star in this league but he can definitely be a fan-favorite and "that guy" that every team needs. His floor is a rich man’s Eric Snow: a pass-first, defensive guy who can defend either guard position. His ceiling is along the lines of Maurice Cheeks/Derek Fisher: be the 4th or 5th offensive option, but would make you pay and would make sure you couldn’t breathe going down court with the ball.
So Magic fans, which guy would you hope the Magic would draft? Not all of these guys would be a lottery pick, but a couple (C.J. or Craft) could fall to the late first, early second round if we wanted to trade up/down. If I missed anyone, talk about them in the comments and show some reason why we should draft them or tell me if I missed anything on these five prospects. I tried to be unbiased, but you never know. Thanks for reading.