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David Aldridge

Colorado guard Alec Burks is a shooting guard in the mold of ex-NBA veteran Larry Hughes.
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Among shooting guard prospects, stars look hard to come by

Posted Jun 23 2011 10:06AM

If you're looking for greatness at shooting guard in this year's Draft, you'll probably be disappointed.

"I don't envy you," a Southwest Division executive said Sunday night, knowing that today was the day that we here at put our shooting guard Big Board out.

The pickings are ... well, slim is the wrong word. There are plenty of twos with the potential to become contributors in the league. But there are few that are special, who project as first-rounders or potential stars.

Colorado's sophomore Alec Burks is the consensus top pick among the twos, and Washington State junior Klay Thompson is most team's second choice, despite his one-game suspension last month following his arrest on misdemeanor marijuana possession charges. After that, there is potential, guessing and uncertainty.

Just as a reminder: this is neither a predictor of Draft order, nor a mock Draft, which waste everyone's collective time -- especially when done before the Lottery establishes the Draft order. Depending on need, what they currently have on their roster and team philosophy, some teams could opt for Thompson over Burks. Some may prefer taking a senior like Providence's MarShon Brooks.

NBA personnel people are taking a closer look at the shiny stats put up by MarShon Brooks.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

What the Big Board tries to establish is the consensus of NBA personnel people that I trust as to which players at which positions are most ready to make the jump to the pros right now. Essentially, if there was a game tonight, the players who could contribute now -- not in three years -- are listed higher. Players are also listed at the position that most NBA folks believe they will play in the pros, though many could play multiple positions. A player like Hofstra's Charles Jenkins, for example, is considered a shooting guard by many NBA scouts, but the majority of people I spoke with said he'll have to play more at point guard in the NBA.

In order to provide a realistic board, I am also now including underclassmen that I believe, based on conversations with pro and college coaches, NBA personnel types and other sources, are either definitely going to be in the Draft or are seriously considering it.

"Sleepers" list players who are likely second-round picks, but who intrigue scouts for one reason or another, and who make a roster next season and get into a rotation.

Underclassmen who may genuinely be on the fence on whether or not to enter the Draft are listed in the grouping "Some Scouts Like," because of their talent and the potential that they could be selected. (Emphasis on "potential.")

The Big Board will also adjust as we approach the Draft, based on individual workouts, player performance at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament next week, the Chicago pre-Draft camp in June and other factors.

Measurements come from the player's school and/or professional teams. They will be adjusted after the players' official heights and weights are taken in Chicago.

UPDATE: POINT GUARDS (first posted March 21): No major changes in the point guard rankings, though Connecticut's Kemba Walker has obviously solidified himself as a high first-rounder, still likely to be the second point guard taken after Duke's Kyrie Irving, assuming both players come out and enter the Draft. With his outstanding NCAA tournament run, Butler's Shelvin Mack is climbing, and could be a late first-rounder, as well as Cleveland State's Norris Cole.


A note on the rankings:
This is not a predictor of when these players will be taken. These rankings, based on discussions with dozens of NBA and college coaches, and NBA college scouts and team executives, address the question of how ready players are to play the position which they are assigned: in other words, if there was a game tonight, who would play better at that position tonight, not in three years. Players are ranked based on the position that the coaches and scouts believe is their best NBA position, and even then, there is always disagreement between teams.

"Sleepers" are players almost certain to go in the second round but who may have first-round talent or otherwise have an impact on the teams that select them if they overcome perceived shortcomings.

Players listed as "Some Scouts Like" category are those who are not certain to declare, but are viewed as potentially draftable if they do -- with an emphasis on "potentially."

For now, all measurements are the ones listed from a player's school or team. Official player measurements will be available after the Chicago pre-Draft camp in early June.

Editor's Note: Rankings now reflect June 14 update.

Rank Name School/Team Class/Age Height Weight Wingspan
1 Alec Burks Colorado Sophomore 6-6 193 6-10
2 Klay Thompson Washington State Junior 6-7 206 6-9
3 Malcolm Lee UCLA Junior 6-6 198 6-10
4 Travis Leslie Georgia Junior 6-4 205 6-11
5 Josh Selby Kansas Freshman 6-3 195 6-5
6 MarShon Brooks Providence Senior 6-5 195 7-1
7 LaceDarius Dunn Baylor Senior 6-4 187 6-6
8 Jon Diebler Ohio State Senior 6-7 197 6-6
9 David Lighty Ohio State Senior 6-7 216 6-8
10 Charles Jenkins Hofstra Senior 6-3 216 6-8

HONORABLE MENTION: E'Twaun Moore, Senior, 6-4, 191, Purdue

To view David Aldridge's complete Big Board, click here.

The irony about Burks is that the 19-year-old is not a great shooter. But his upside is the best by far among those expected to play the two spot, even though he won't likely score in the traditional NBA manner by coming off of screens and pindowns. His style has at least one player personnel director thinking of veteran Larry Hughes -- "he's so much like Larry, it isn't funny," said the personnel man. Hughes was taken eighth overall in the 1998 Draft after one season at St. Louis, and that could well be the range in which Burks goes after leading the Buffaloes to the NIT semifinals.

"I've become a convert," said a Northwest Division scout of Burks. "I saw them play Texas at home. He was (terrible) in the first half. Second half, they couldn't guard him. Then I saw him twice in the Big 12 (tournament) and he was really good. He can't shoot, but he can score. He's something like a 28 percent (actually, 29.2) three-point shooter. But he gets to the line a lot. He can really rebound. I saw him get 16 rebounds. And they're not like those rebounds that fall to the floor. He goes and gets them."

Said another Northwest scout: "The only question I have is how consistent he can be as a shooter. And I think he will be, because I don't think his shot is broke."

Alec Burks' mid-range game has helped boost his stock in the eyes of some NBA front-office types.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Burks -- whom one assistant general manager thinks could also play some point guard in the NBA -- has a mid-range game that is a rarity among guards these days. Most young players who can't break you down off the dribble retreat behind the 3-point line and fire away. And while the 3-pointer has become a major weapon in the pros, making those proficient at it able to consistently find work, there are thousands of points from the foul line extended that are ignored, year after year. Doesn't anyone watch Paul Pierce play?

"What he'll have to work on is to be a threat at the 3-point line so the rest of his game will be just as effective," a Southeast Division personnel man said. "He's good at the one-two [dribble] and pull up, and he's good at the rim. He scores with trickery and not with the bounce. He doesn't have that last dribble like Jason Richardson, where he just takes a step and he's going to dunk on anybody. (But) when the shot clock is going down and all the coaches are yelling 'red!,' you can get the ball to Alec Burks, and he's going to manuever and get a shot. And that's highly valued in the NBA."

But Burks does need to work on some things, and not just his shooting. He has to stop ignoring the defensive end of the floor. "There's no pride in doing it yet," says a Northwest Division executive.

"He has no interest," the first Northwest scout said of Burks. "He won't go under, through, or behind (screens). He's got some issues. But we draft on talent, and he's very talented. He'll have the ball and he'll break you down. In space, he's (tough) ... great upside if he's willing to work. Something tells me (the work ethic) is not off the charts because he hasn't worked on his body at all. But the holes in his game are fixable."

Thompson, the son of former Laker great Mychal Thompson, is a more prototypical two. He's able to come off screens and shoot after taking one power dribble, can make plays for others and can handle the ball. A first-team Pac-10 selection, Thompson finished ninth in the country in scoring (22.1 per game), including 43 points last month in a losing effort against rival Washington in the first round of the Pac-10 Tournament.

"If you're looking for a two and Burks is gone, he's got to be a candidate in the first round. 'Cause he can shoot the ball," said a Central Division executive.

But Thompson's arrest has cast a shadow on his Draft status.

"It'll knock him back from where he potentially he could have gone," the Central executive said. "He was going hot for a while until that marijiuana thing came up. When people do their investigation, they'll want to know if it was recreational or a heavy use thing."

Teams will do their own research, of course, but they want to hear it from the player himself. Until then, it's hard to know how much Thompson hurt himself. In an era where perception often trumps reality, more teams are going to be less willing to take a chance than they used to. At least one executive Sunday said that if there's a choice to be made between Thompson and a player of similar skills with no record, he'll go with the other player.

Klay Thompson's marijuana possession charges are casting a shadow over his Draft stock.
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

A former NBA head coach added: "If Klay Thompsoin is not smart enough to follow the [bleeping] rules he doesn't deserve to be in the [bleeping] league."

But two other team executives said they believe Thompson's contention that it was a one-time mistake that won't happen again.

"I don't think, maybe it was a one-time thing," one said. "He's just a little too clean-cut to me to be somebody who's doing it all the time. You have to give him a pass on that one."

After Burks and Thompson, there are no certainties.

Providence's Brooks made his mark with a 52-point effort in February against Notre Dame, setting a Big East single-game scoring record. He's not a great shooter, but he's a slasher who can explode for points coming off screens. But he'll have to fight questions about whether he was just a good player on a bad team that didn't make the NCAAs. "They didn't play right," a Western Conference scouting director said, "so a lot of his numbers came at the cost of winning, in my opinion."

Brooks has made an interesting impression on at least a couple of scouts.

"Whether it's intentional or not, he tries to move around the court like Kobe," a Central Division executive said. "It's obvious he's been watching him. Just kind of how he moves on the court. He's got his jump shot, a couple of little moves that Kobe has, like the crossover. He's got a lot of confidence in himself. He''s got the mentality to play up here."

Wanamaker isn't a great shooter, either, but he impresses a lot of NBA scouts with his toughness and ability to defend on the ball.

"He's a tough SOB and he's a good guy," a Southeast Division executive said. "I don't know what he is. I just know if there's three dogs and one bone, and he's one of those dogs, he's gonna get that bone."

Said a Northwest Division scout: "I know I like Brad because he does a lot of things besides just shoot the ball. I don't think he's a great shooter, but he can pass the ball. He can play a little point guard if you need him to. He'll pass the ball. Coaches will like him.

"Pittsburgh's got two guys coming out: Wanamaker and (junior guard) Ashton Gibbs. Wanamaker's a better NBA prospect than Gibbs, even though Gibbs was their leading scorer. Gibbs is a small two guard and Wanamaker is a good sized combo guard."

Leslie could be a high-risk, high-reward player. He may be more of a small forward than shooting guard, but he has the most upside of any of the shooting guards, which has teams intrigued. He could go anywhere from late first round to mid-second if he enters the Draft.

Toughness and other intangibles have made Pitt's Brad Wanamaker an intriguing pro prospect.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

"He can move up the board," a Northwest Division scout said. "He's in the conversation of the handful of players below Burks. He's not consistent, but he's some athlete."

One executive says that Leslie doesn't have first-round talent, but could be taken there anyway.

"Will the sex appeal of the upside swing the kid? I don't know," the executive said. "Unlike most people, I think this is a deep Draft. I think you're going to get a situational guy late. The fact that he's not a longball NBA shooter, you can't throw him out there. That just kills you."

But Leslie will earn time at the other end of the floor.

"He'll be the best two guard defender," said a Western Conference GM. "He might be the best one-on-one defender. He's got really good, quick feet. But his handle is not good enough yet. He doesn't show his talent as much. Somebody with that athletic ability in the NBA, he's going to get on the court. Now, can he stay on the court? He can't hit that jumper better than Burks. But he's going to change ends of the court and get out for dunks and change the game."

Buford, the Buckeyes' junior guard, didn't have a good finish to the season. Scouts think his game could translate well at the NBA level because of his length and ability to shoot the ball with distance -- as well as any guard in the Draft. But there are questions about Buford's maturity level. His teammate, Lighty, impresses with his ability to defend in space. Scouts think he may be able to guard as many as three positions in the pros and will be able to rebound his position.

"I thought [Lighty] was undraftable at the beginning of the year and now I think he can be drafted in the second round," one scout said. "Whatever offense he gives you is a plus. Nobody thought Wes Matthews could score like this. If they did, he would have been drafted ... this generation is not going to pass on Lighty like they passed on Matthews. He's going to get drafted."

There's no question that Dunn should be drafted higher than he probably will be. But it will be hard for NBA teams to get past Dunn's arrest last September for aggravated assault stemming from a domestic violence case involving the mother of his son. The woman sustained a broken jaw. But she disputed the police's version of events and asked that no charges be brought against Dunn. A grand jury agreed last month, declining to indict Dunn for assault, effectively ending the case.

By playing solid defense all season, Ohio State's David Lighty has upped his Draft stock.
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

But NBA people have a lot of questions.

"I don't think he's undraftable, but with that said, I don't know what's going to happen," a Western Conference executive said. "He's going to have to own what he did ... it will be interesting to see how he handles the process, whether he's going to minimize it or really own up to what he did."

Lots of people have been drafted with baggage, Video up to and including Lance Stephenson, taken by Indiana last year in the second round. So someone will almost certainly take a chance on Dunn, who broke Terry Teagle's 29-year-old scoring record at Baylor and set the Big 12's all-time scoring mark this season. He can shoot the ball as well as anybody in the Draft.

"He was a mid-first, late-lottery guy last year," a Northwest scout said. "This year may be somewhat similar to last year. He's a flat-out shooter. But the problems he's had off the court, whatever else you find in his background, it could really hurt his chances, knock him out of the first round. Any time you have physical abuse, that doesn't sit very well with NBA people."

Lee declared for the Draft after the Bruins lost in the third round of the NCAAs, along with teammate Tyler Honeycutt. He didn't have a great season, playing through injuries, and getting selected is not a certainty. But his ability to play both backcourt positions will help, along with the body of work of recent UCLA players in the pros, like Milwaukee's Luc Mbah a Moute, Philly's Jrue Holiday, Denver's Arron Afflalo -- and, of course, Oklahoma City's All-Star guard, Russell Westbrook.

All had significant question marks on them before the Draft, but each has become a very good pro, especially on defense. (Kevin Love isn't a great defender, but the All-Star has made his NBA mark in other ways.) Lee won't be as good as Westbrook, but he'll get a look because of that past UCLA success.

"Back in the day, a couple of years ago, I was very intrigued by him," a Western Conference GM said Sunday. "He's a guy I'd love to bring to the workouts to see what he has. There's something about those UCLA kids that are underrated. There's always something unseen ... those guys, they find a way. They're very, very fundamentally sound. People underrate that. They're all defenders. He hasn't wowed me, but neither did Jrue Holiday or Mbah a Moute."

Malcolm Lee should get a long look thanks to the success of other recent UCLA alums in the NBA.
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Diebler is a great shooter, and that ability will get him in the loop.

"You look at Jason Kapono play," an Eastern Conference executive said of the Sixers guard. "I don't know why Diebler can't play. And Diebler's probably a little tougher and will mix it up a little more."

Said a Southwest personnel director: "He's not the greatest athlete in the world, but he's a better player than most are giving him credit for. I think he'll get a lot of opportunities to get invited to training camps. Shooting's a funny thing. Nobody really wants to draft it or sign it or trade for it, but halfway through the year the coach is always saying 'we don't have enough shooting.'"

Two major college scorers -- Charleston's Goudelock, who finished fifth in the country in scoring at 23.4 points per game, and Northern Illinois' Silas, who finished eighth (22.3) -- have their supporters.

If Connecticut's Lamb comes out after Monday's NCAA title game, he might well wind up a first-rounder, though teams take tournament stardom with a grain of salt. Jenkins has talent but many scouts think he could use another season in the SEC before coming out.

France's Fournier, who would turn 19 just before the start of the 2011-12 NBA season and thus be eligible for the Draft, is expected to participate in this week's Hoop Summit in Portland, though it's uncertain if he will declare.

Longtime NBA reporter and columnist David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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