In all shapes and sizes, point guards could factor for 33rd pick
With a desire to add depth and youth up front and a likely need to replenish what free agency might subtract at small forward, point guard isn’t a likely priority for the Pistons with their high second-round pick, obtained from Toronto.
But the door could swing open to one of a number of point guards if any of them possess the right combination of basketball skills and leadership qualities that mark great NBA floor generals.
And the way the 2011 draft shapes up, a number of players of intrigue could be stacked up just outside the first round looking for the right fit on a team in need of a little direction.
The Pistons fully expect Rodney Stuckey, who will be a restricted free agent, to return next season. And backup point guard is capably manned by Will Bynum. But Joe Dumars has long contended that Stuckey is capable of filling either guard spot, and if personnel moves are made to sort out a Rip Hamilton-Ben Gordon combo that didn’t click in its two years under John Kuester, a new coach might wind up using Stuckey off the ball nearly as much as running the point.
Having another option at point guard would make such a move more appealing. Here’s a look at nine players who could convince the Pistons to spend the No. 33 pick on them:
- Norris Cole – He was a highly successful high school quarterback in the football hotbed of Dayton, Ohio, and Cole appreciates toughness in basketball players every bit as much as you’d expect of a football star.
“Joe Dumars was a tough customer,” Cole said at the Chicago draft combine last month. “I watch tapes. I’ve got all of the ’90s tapes – all of them. When I say all of them, I mean all of them – especially him going against Mike (Jordan).”
Cole, whose greatest asset offensively probably will be his feel for exploiting pick-and-roll situations, is one of many on this list to have worked out for the Pistons since the Chicago combine.
While Cole’s ceiling might be somewhat limited, there won’t be many safer second-round picks than this guy, who gets high marks all around for character, work ethic and coachability. Cole has a nose for the ball, as evidenced by his 5.8 rebounds as a 6-foot-2, 175-pounder, to go with 21.7 points and 5.3 assists as Cleveland State’s best player.
“I’m going to compete at both ends,” Cole said. “I know what it’s like to carry the offensive load, but also understand what it’s like to have to be the shutdown defender. I feel I’m ready right now to come in and contribute, especially at the defensive end.”
- Andrew Goudelock – Goudelock is more a scoring point guard than a classic playmaker and more a shooter than a pure scorer. His best fit might be for someone like Miami or New York, where he would be asked to bring the ball across half court, then let those teams’ stars go to work while spotting up at the 3-point line.
Goudelock, a 6-foot-3 senior who averaged 23.7 points and 4.2 assists for College of Charleston last season, knocked down 41 percent of his 3-point attempts and there have been several reports of his impressive shooting displays at the Chicago combine and in subsequent individual workouts.
One more thing: The Pistons have picks at 33 and 52 in the second round and while some of the players on this list are considered first-round candidates, Goudelock is a guy who might still be on the board at 52. That’s the nature of this and other drafts – there are probably a dozen or more players who could go as high at 33 but might still be available at 52.
- Charles Jenkins – Like Cole and Goudelock, Jenkins is another four-year mid-major star, averaging 22.6 points and 4.8 assists as a Hofstra senior while taking fewer than 15 shots per game. Jenkins, like Goudelock, was deadly from the 3-point arc, shooting 42 percent.
He scored with both versatility and efficiency, showing a potent mid-range game to go with his deep shooting distance. He might be less than an explosive athlete, but Jenkins’ decision-making and savvy made him a serious threat off the dribble at Hofstra, where he was expected to shoulder the burden every night. Teams picking late in the first round – teams that won 50-plus games and are looking for a safe double instead of a home run/strikeout type of pick – will take a long, hard look at Jenkins.
- Cory Joseph – There’s a chance the Pistons could take Tristan Thompson with their first-round pick at No. 8. If they then took Joseph in the second round – and Joseph is another player who might slip all the way to 52 – it would mean the two Toronto natives would continue a relationship that stretches to the fourth grade. They were freshman teammates at Texas last year and played together before that at a Las Vegas prep school.
NBA scouts probably would have preferred Joseph return to Texas to build off a first season in which he averaged 10.4 points and three assists while shooting 41 percent from the 3-point line. But Joseph, it is believed, feared that the addition of another Canadian point guard, Myck Kabongo, would push him off the ball for the Longhorns and hurt his draft stock.
Joseph has good size at 6-foot-3½ with long arms and is considered a winner with good basketball smarts. Whether he is ready to run an NBA offense could cause him to plummet.
- Malcolm Lee – Russell Westbrook, Darren Collison and Jrue Holiday have all left Ben Howland’s program at UCLA in the past three years and produced at levels that their modest college totals did not suggest likely.
Will Malcolm Lee benefit by the success of his UCLA predecessors and get taken higher than his junior year statistics of 13.1 points and two assists per game suggest? Even if NBA scouts aren’t sold on Lee’s offensive capability, he will remain intriguing for his defensive potential. At 6-foot-5½ with a wing span more than 4 inches longer, Lee could blossom into an elite perimeter defender capable of guarding three positions, a la another recent UCLA product, Arron Afflalo.
Lee reportedly has been impressive on the workout circuit, giving NBA teams some reason to believe his offense will explode just as that of Holiday’s did after he showed little in his one season at UCLA.
- Shelvin Mack – Mack projects as something of a poor man’s Chauncey Billups, a scoring point guard who is thickly built, displays solid deep shooting accuracy and is a clever pick-and-roll operator.
Also like Billups, Mack isn’t an explosive athlete but will experience NBA success based on his ability to use his size and strength to compensate against quicker point guards. And, like Billups, Mack displayed at Butler a knack for making big plays at critical moments in leading the Bulldogs to back-to-back NCAA title game appearances.
As a junior, Mack averaged 16.0 points and 3.4 assists for a defensive-minded team that played low-scoring games. His 3-point shooting percentage dropped to 35 percent from his sophomore numbers of near 40 percent.
- Darius Morris – Morris seemed a most unlikely early-entry draft candidate at the start of his sophomore season at Michigan, but the progress he made over his freshman season and the unexpected success his play brought to the Wolverines opened the door for him to give the NBA a shot.
Similar in build and playing style to Andre Miller, Morris needs to develop his ballhandling and the consistency and range on his jump shot to round out his game and stamp himself as a future NBA starting-caliber point guard. But his vision and size made him a tremendous playmaker at Michigan and should translate to the NBA.
A Los Angeles native, Morris followed the Pistons during his two seasons in Ann Arbor and knows his draft range falls right about where the Pistons sit at 33 – though there is a decent chance he goes in the first round, perhaps even in the late teens or early 20s.
“They have two good guards in Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum off the bench,” Morris said at the Chicago combine. “I would fit well in there, being able to pass those players the ball. You’ve got a lot of young talent – Greg Monroe, Austin Daye, a lot of pieces to work with. If I did fall there, I would love the opportunity to play for the Pistons.”
Morris averaged 15 points and 6.7 assists as a Michigan soph, shooting 53 percent overall but just 25 percent from the arc. His ability to get into the lane was uncanny, and his size and footwork allowed him to get his shot off over Big Ten defenders. He’ll need to adjust again to NBA shot-blockers, but at 6-foot-5½ it’s tempting to project what Morris could become as he rounds out his skill set.
- Iman Shumpert – Shumpert raised eyebrows at the Chicago combine when he registered a 42-inch vertical leap (and, perhaps more impressively, a 36-inch vertical leap from a standing position) to go with a 6-foot-9½ wing span on a 6-foot-5½ frame, topping it off by benching 185 pounds 18 times, one short of power forward Derrick Williams’ combine-best 19.
If Shumpert gives anyone cause to believe he can develop reasonably consistent and effective shooting range, he’d be a lottery pick. As it is, he probably goes in the late first round. But inconsistency at Georgia Tech, where Shumpert averaged 17.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.7 steals as a junior, makes it at least possible he slides out of the first round.
Even if Shumpert doesn’t refine his offensive game, he holds appeal in the second round for his defensive potential and athleticism.
- Nolan Smith – Much like Duke teammate Kyle Singler – profiled in our look at wing possibilities for the Pistons with the 33rd pick – Smith earns high marks for character and selflessness after a four-year career that saw him finish with a flourish.
After flirting with entering the draft after a junior season in which he helped Duke win another national title, Smith returned for his senior year despite the likelihood that Mike Krzyzewski was going to tailor the offense to incoming freshman Kyrie Irving.
That was the case, but Smith adjusted seamlessly both to playing off the ball at Irving’s side and running the point when Irving went down for the bulk of the season with a November injury. Smith averaged 20.6 points and 5.1 assists and stamped himself as a first-round candidate.
Fundamentally flawless, Smith lacks high-end athleticism. But teams know what they’re going to get with him: somebody who’ll defend his position, value the basketball and follow the script.