Thursday June 9, 2011 10:51 AM

2011 NBA Draft Preview


Taking a look at the top two-guards available in the upcoming draft

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com

HOUSTON -The NBA Draft is right around the corner so the time has come to take an in-depth look at the players hoping to hear their names called out by Commissioner David Stern on the night of June 23. To help with the process, Rockets.com is once again enlisting the help of NBA draft expert Jim Clibanoff.

The formula is simple: our man Clibs will break down the draft position by position, offering his thoughts on the top prospects, while sprinkling in a few feelings on some lesser known players who might be worth a closer look in the drafts later stages.

Todays feature focuses on the shooting guard position. Click here for Part I in which we break down the best prospects at center. One final note: players' height and weight are taken, when possible, from the NBAs combine measurements, with each prospects listed height rounded up to the nearest inch while wearing shoes.

Alec Burks, Colorado: 19 years old, 6-6, 195

There might be some people who think Burks can be a point guard, but I see him as a good passing two-guard all the way. Hes a very good all-around player. He can defend, get into seams, and really get to the free throw line which he did a lot this year.

Hes a guy who, in his second or third year, could really approximate what Larry Hughes did during the best years of his pro career. But whereas Hughes only played one year in college, I think the additional season Burks played at Colorado has helped him tremendously.

Playing in the same backcourt as Cory Higgins, son of (Charlotte) GM Rod Higgins, I think also helped Alec Burks because had Higgins not been there, Burks might have ended up evolving into a shot-happy gunner. But by having a good producer in the backcourt with him, Burks was able to develop his poise, maturity and his passing skills as well.

Ill say this, too: A lot of people knock this guy saying hes a shooting guard who cant shoot. But if you look at Dwyane Wade, Michael Jordan not to say Burks is anywhere near their class they were very suspect shooters coming into the league and they didnt even take that many 3s, but yet by their third, fourth or fifth years in the league, they became competent long-range shooters. So if Burks shows the work ethic he can make big strides over time.

And dont forget, he is a very good free throw shooter, too, so its not as if hes Rajon Rondo with a flawed shot and bad form; its very encouraging that Burks shot better than 80 percent from the free throw line last season. Hes continuing to get better and hes a good kid so, yeah, you cant know for certain whether or not hell improve, but you can definitely make an educated guess that he is going to put the necessary time in to work on his outside shot.

Heres the other thing: even if he doesnt get much better from distance, his midrange game is pretty good. So if the 3-point shot isnt there, he should be good enough as a midrange shooter to still be effective. Even Turner, who was a rookie for the Sixers this year, faced a lot of the same questions: does he have range, is he going to be able to be a 3-point threat? Its almost immaterial at the beginning of his career because hes still such a young pup gathering all this experience. Its far more important what these guys look like and are able to do three years from now.

Klay Thompson, Washington State: 21 years old, 6-7, 205

Im a big Klay Thompson fan because he does so many different things. This is a guy who wasnt much of a slasher as a freshman, who really became a great pure shooter and scorer as time went on, but he also learned how to get into the lane and pick up fouls to take advantage of his good free throw shooting stroke. So when youve got a guy who emerges out of a shell throughout his career and becomes a much different player from what he was, thats very encouraging in terms of what hes going to be like going forward.

I will say that when you watch Klay Thompson play it doesnt always look like hes having a great time out there and I hope he can learn to relax a little bit more. I think hes a pretty bright kid, notwithstanding some bad decision making as far as off court transgressions, but he is a guy who should be appreciated by other good talent. When you take him out of the Washington State system and drop him on an NBA floor I think hes going to be able to contribute in a lot of ways.

In addition to the way his overall offensive game developed, he became an excellent passer I mean a really good passer. So even though hes a two-guard, I think at certain times hell be able to initiate the offense if hes got the proper complementary guard next to him.

Marshon Brooks, Providence: 22 years old, 6-5, 195

He had very, very poor body language a couple times I saw him in person; so much so that I was turned off a lot. However, you have to temper that with the fact that the guy is an offensive machine; he just has an arsenal of midrange moves and he looks like an NBA player when hes out there.

Does he have the physical toughness, can he convert his ability to score into victories or is he a guy thats going to be selfish and look to outscore his opponent and think that thats going to mean a good days work those are the questions he has to answer.

I think a lot of his pro development will depend on the team that he goes to and the surrounding personnel. If youve got a coaching staff and veterans who can keep a kid like this in line and to really grab him by the shoulders and say, Dude, grow up! then that could be the best thing that ever happens to him. You have to see how he reacts and responds to that sort of coaching because, again, you cant really tell whats inside a guy or whats motivating a guy. Is it just getting an NBA contract and making that money on the first deal, or is it having staying power in the league and earning the respect of other people?

So how he matures will really go a long way in determining how he can capitalize on his potential and ability to create some sort of positive professional legacy. He could easily go to the wrong team and average 14 or 15 points a game, cultivate bad habits and then just perpetually be that guy whos thrown into trades as an instant offense guy but not a winner.

Nolan Smith, Duke: 22 years old, 6-4, 188

He went from being a role player to a guy who became a candidate for national player of the year. Hes someone who showed great improvement and expansion of his game. If it werent for Kyrie Irving going down with an injury, Im not even sure Nolan Smith would be considered a draftable player but his senior year ended up becoming so important for his development. He didnt force anything; he just took time to progress and when youre a four-year player, you oftentimes are so much more NBA-ready than some of these other guys and thats what I think Nolan Smith is.

I will say we have him listed as a point guard; its just that, with his physical dimensions, you dont see a lot of guys playing the two-guard position in the NBA. I think he can help at both positions, but I do think hes better suited as a point guard at the next level. But the ability to swing over and contribute at both spots helps quite a bit.

Travis Leslie, Georgia: 21 years old, 6-4, 205

The most explosive player in this draft from a run-and-jump type explosion standpoint. Hes a thick, muscled 205 pounds and he just explodes off the floor and Id install him as a likely candidate to be one of the participants in the 2012 NBA slam dunk contest.

He definitely needs more refinement from his pure shooting guard game repertoire but this is a guy who played a lot in the paint in high school, so the fact that hes made it this far makes me expect his development curve to look very appealing.

Hes another guy who does shoot it well from the free throw line but doesnt take many 3s whatsoever; his range is probably 17-18 feet.

If all offense breaks down with a guy like Leslie, he does have the tools to be a simply magnificent defender if he puts his mind to it. Background checks have this kid coming out very bright, a very good kid, so I think hell put the work in so, again, if a team doesnt need him for his explosive athletic ability, maybe they can turn him into a defensive stopper.

Scotty Hopson, Tennessee: 21 years old, 6-7, 205

He just hasnt gotten much better from his freshman year. He teased with great size for the two-guard spot and a very soft shooting touch and athletic ability, but he doesnt really contribute a very well-rounded stat line, he doesnt rebound and use his length, and hes not much of a passer at all. Hes been a bit of a disappointment to be quite honest.

Another way you could look at is there was a lot of talent (former Vols head coach) Bruce Pearl assembled when he was down there and always had a lot of guys who could do a bunch of things, but you just dont get the feeling that Hopson wants to roll his sleeves up and get his hands dirty. Instead he wants to look good, look nice in transition, but not put in the work on defense, not put in the work on the glass, and not be an all-around guy who does the little things that contribute to winning.

David Lighty, Ohio State: 23 years old, 6-6, 215

A nuts and bolts guy who I dont think will be a sexy name whatsoever in this draft - I wouldnt expect him to be selected, in fact but he could clearly be a guy who will get a call right after the draft is over with a bunch of teams wanting to bring him in as an undrafted free agent.

Hes a guy who over five years was part of a winning program and cultivated all those little things that you want in a guy whos going to be your 11th, 12th or 13th man. Again, not a sexy pick or sexy prospect, but a guy who is potentially more NBA-ready than guys who will hear their names called.

Sleepers:

I wouldnt be surprised if one of these guys ends up making it: Xavier Silas from Northern Illinois, who was one of the nations leading scorers. Gilbert Brown of Pittsburgh is a guy who learned how to do so many different little things; he doesnt stand out offensively but he can check multiple positions. He handles the ball real well, he passes real well and I think he could be a sleeper. Then I also think Charles Jenkins from Hofstra, DeAndre Liggins from Kentucky and Bill Clark from Duquesne are worth a look.

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