By Jonathan Givony, for NBA.com
Posted Jun 19 2009 10:02AM
This year's shooting guard class projects to be fairly weak on first glance, with only one traditional SG looking like a lock to be picked in the Top 10, and as few as four expected to go in the first round.
Part of that has to do with a blurring of the lines that has happened in basketball. There seems to be more of a tendency to categorize players from a positional standpoint as being either "guards" -- shot-creators that operate primarily with the ball in their hands -- or "wings," players that primarily come off the ball.
We'll categorize players based on the position they played in college and the position they are expected to defend at the NBA level.
The ACC's all-time leader in 3-point shooting percentage, at a scintillating 43 percent, McClinton managed to outdo himself this season by making 45 percent of his 3-pointers on an outrageous seven attempts per game. Imagine what he could have done if he actually had a real point guard who could get him the ball or a legitimate big man who could draw double teams?
According to our research (http://www.draftexpress.com/article/Situational-Statistics-This-Years-Shooting-Guard-Crop-3195/), McClinton is the most efficient shooting guard in this draft. He sports an incredibly quick release, has range that extends past the NBA 3-point line and is just as comfortable pulling up off the dribble as he is shooting with his feet set.
Although severely undersized at 6-foot-1, and thus potentially considered a defensive liability, McClinton has caught the eyes of a number of teams in the second round and may even sneak into the late first round if a team (like the Knicks for example) decide it likes him enough to go out and get him.
Few players in this draft show a similar combination of athleticism, shot-making ability and pure fearlessness driving the lane as Wake Forest's Jeff Teague.
In a league that is increasingly moving toward ultra quick combo-guards who can create their own shot in the mold of Aaron Brooks and Louis Williams, Teague stands out in this Draft as being an extremely dangerous weapon if placed in the right system. He made 44 percent of his 3's this season, got to the line over seven times per game and sports a deadly pull-up jumper that he should be able to hone into a terrific mid-range game if he puts the work in.
Teague's stock has taken a hit over the past few weeks due to poor workouts and some concerns about his intangibles, but no one is going to question his talent or upside.
In a draft that appears to be almost completely devoid of star power, James Harden's versatility as a do-it all shooting guard makes him one of the safest bets around.
That, first and foremost, starts with his terrific passing ability, leading many teams to project him as being able to spend some minutes at the point, thanks to his excellent feel for the game.
Harden is younger than some of the freshmen in this draft, but he sports a maturity and unselfishness that belies his age. He can create shots for both himself and others, he gets to the free-throw line at an outstanding rate, he's extremely efficient and he picks up a great amount of assists, rebounds and steals.
Considering the way he measured out (6-foot-5 in shoes with a 6-foot-9 wingspan), and with athletic combine numbers that were far more impressive than anticipated, it's no wonder he's come full circle and reclaimed the title of "second best prospect in the Draft" in the eyes of many NBA teams.
If you had to build a prototype for what your NBA shooting guard would look like, Terrence Williams wouldn't be a bad place to start. Standing 6-foot-6 ¼ in shoes, with a 6-foot-9 wingspan, a chiseled 213-pound frame and a 37-inch vertical leap, it's no wonder that Williams was able to effectively guard four positions at the college level.
He played for one of the best defensive coaches in the NCAA in Rick Pitino and is clearly one of the toughest, most aggressive players you'll find in this draft. On top of that, he is arguably the best defensive rebounding wing player we've seen in the past 10 years, far exceeding the likes of Josh Howard, Andre Iguodala and Grant Hill at the same stage. He's also a terrific passer.
While his limitations offensively may limit him to a certain extent, Williams will always have a job in the NBA thanks to how hard he plays on the other end of the floor.
If this year's NBA Playoffs taught us anything, it's that today's NBA is ruled by great athletes. Being faster, quicker, stronger and more explosive than your opponent is the name of the game, and the team that gets out in transition better, crashes the offensive glass harder and closes off its opponent more effectively in the half-court is going to win more games than not.
One look on Youtube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikv-3KoXW_U) tells you all that you need to know about how Henderson stacks up in this Draft in the athleticism category. He gets off his feet in the blink of an eye and was a constant presence on highlight shows thanks to his penchant for making spectacular dunks. What's scary is that he almost decided not to pursue basketball at all. He was a championship-level golfer as a teenager, drawing praise from the likes of Tiger Woods.
When the NBA announced the early entry candidates that decided to stay in this year's Draft, some teams might have been surprised to see the name Sergey Gladyr still available. The 19-year old is somewhat of an unknown despite being one of the top scorers in the Ukrainian first division this season, averaging over 15 points per game.
He is coming off an eye-opening showing in the Reebok Eurocamp in Treviso, Italy, where he showed his credentials as a terrific athlete and even better 3-point shooter, having absolutely no problem getting his shot off against players much older than him.
Gladyr surely has a promise from some enterprising team drafting in the second round, and is likely to continue developing somewhere in Western Europe for the next year or two. Considering his very promising combination of excellent physical tools and scoring instincts, as well as his high-level production, it's not out of the question that he develops into a real steal in the second round down the road. In view of the risk/reward ratio involved, the team that drafts him obviously has very little to lose.
Best shooter coming off screens: Jodie Meeks -- Most expected him to return to Kentucky to compete for a national championship, but Meeks clearly had other ideas. No one outside of Stephen Curry is better at running off screens, squaring his shoulders and getting his shot off.
Most Underrated: Jermaine Taylor -- The second-best scorer in college basketball after Stephen Curry has NBA size, athleticism and shooting ability.
Best Pedigree: Wayne Ellington -- Ellington won the NCAA Tournament with North Carolina and was named the MVP of the Final Four.
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