Point guards aplenty, but picking the one who’ll hit is the challenge for Pistons front office

Jordan Bone of Tennessee, a junior, posted dazzling athletic testing numbers at last month’s NBA draft combine.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

AUBURN HILLS – In the NBA’s era of position-less basketball, there’s still one incorruptible position: point guard.

And the Pistons will spend a considerable chunk of their off-season planning in pursuit of solutions at a position where only Reggie Jackson from last year’s roster is under contract for next season.

That means via trade, free agency or the draft, the Pistons almost certainly will add two point guards in the near future, perhaps in the next month.

There is very little chance the Pistons will come out of draft night confident that they’ve filled their backup point guard role – even if they were to spend the 15th pick on a point guard. The odds are slim that one of the top three point guards – Ja Morant, Darius Garland and Coby White – will get out of the top 10 and there’s no consensus No. 4 point guard and probably not another clearly identifiable point guard considered a lock to go in the first round.

Purdue’s Carsen Edwards might go in the 20s somewhere. Virginia’s Ty Jerome could be a first-rounder, but isn’t universally considered a point guard. There’s skepticism whether Virginia Tech’s Nikeil Alexander-Walker can effectively play point guard in the NBA, though there are those who expect he’ll eventually play there and do well – and he’s considered a possibility at 15.

But recent NBA history shows you don’t necessarily have to commit a premium asset to find a capable point guard if you know what you’re looking for and the system meshes with the skill set. Both NBA No. 2 seeds in this year’s playoffs, Toronto and Denver, had second-unit point guards recently obtained with non-premium assets. Toronto, in fact, signed Fred VanVleet as an undrafted free agent in 2016 and Denver used the 51st pick on Monte Morris two years ago.

Here’s a look at seven high-production college point guards – and one wild card who never played in college – possibly available with the 45th pick or maybe even in undrafted free agency.

  • Justin Robinson, Virginia Tech – Robinson, who worked out for the Pistons on May 20, started 105 of 125 career games in the ACC and is in the classic mold of a pass-first point guard. He averaged 14.0 points and 5.6 assists as a junior, then 13.5 and 5.0 as a senior around a foot injury that cost him 12 games late in the season. He hit 42 percent from the 3-point line on 4.1 attempts a game as a senior. Robinson passes character evaluations with flying colors. He’s ESPN.com’s No. 56 prospect.

  • Tremont Waters, LSU – Waters, a sophomore, is one of three SEC point guards on this list. ESPN.com’s No. 49 prospect, Waters averaged 15.3 points and 5.8 assists. Invited to the NBA draft combine, Waters was the shortest player measured at 5-foot-10¾. And that’s why there’s a chance he’ll go undrafted or at least be available when the Pistons pick in the second round. He was a first-team All-SEC selection. An 81 percent free-throw shooter, Waters slumped to .327 3-point shooting as a sophomore after hitting at a .351 clip as a freshman. He also averaged 2.9 steals a game.

  • Shamorie Ponds, St. John’s – Ponds, a junior, has been one of college basketball’s most prolific scorers two years running, averaging 21.6 and 19.7 points a game over that time. His 3-point shooting swung from .375 as a freshman to .253 as a sophomore to .353 as a senior on 5.6 attempts a game. Ponds, ESPN.com’s No. 47 prospect, is, like Waters, undersized at 6-foot-½. He was a first-team All-Big East selection.

  • Jordan Bone, Tennessee – Bone, a junior, had to be considered the top athlete among those who underwent testing at the NBA draft combine last month in Chicago. He finished one-half inch off of the top vertical leap (42.5 inches), had the best standing vertical (36 inches), easily posted the top lane agility time, had the fastest shuttle run and finished fourth in the three-quarter court sprint. A three-year starter, Bone’s growth as a point guard surged as a junior. He improved from 7.3 to 13.5 points and from 3.5 to 5.8 assists while his shooting percentage soared from .396 to .525. An 83.5 percent free-throw shooter, Bone also has a solid frame at 6-foot-2¾ and 179 pounds. He’s the No. 58 prospect according to ESPN.com

  • Jared Harper, Auburn – Harper, at 5-foot-11, is closer in size to Waters than Bone, but all three were remarkably productive players in the SEC and tested similarly in Chicago. Harper tied for the top sprint time and tied for fourth in the vertical leap (40.5 inches). Harper is listed four spots below Bone in ESPN.com’s list of the top 100 prospects at 62. A junior and three-year starter, Harper averaged 15.3 points and 5.8 assists for the Tigers, who lost in the final seconds to NCAA champion Virginia in the national semifinal.

  • Ky Bowman, Boston College – Bowman worked out for the Pistons on May 21. He flirted with the NBA draft as a sophomore, then averaged 19.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists as a Boston College junior. Bowman was a highly recruited wide receiver in football before deciding to play basketball and he brings that level of physicality to the court. Bowman, ESPN.com’s No. 74 prospect, measured at 6-foot-2¼ with a 6-foot-7 wingspan at the NBA draft combine. His vertical leap of 33 inches ranked in the bottom 12, though Bowman’s highlight reel contains plenty of examples of explosive dunks.

  • Jalen Lecque, Brewster Academy – Lecque, committed to North Caroline State, was declared eligible for the NBA draft after spending a post-high school year at a New Hampshire prep school. He was considered the nation’s No. 33 prospect according to the 247.com composite rankings – though he’s also listed as ESPN.com’s No. 48 draft prospect. Lecque is raw and athletic, posting the No. 1 vertical leap at the draft combine (43 inches) while measuring in at 6-foot-4¼.

  • Justin Wright-Foreman, Hofstra – Wright-Foreman finished second in the nation in scoring at 27.1 points a game as a senior for a 27-8 team that won the Colonial Athletic Association. ESPN.com’s No. 76 prospect, Wright Foreman was not invited to the NBA draft combine but was among the 40 college players invited to the G League elite camp. He played more off of the ball at Hofstra, finishing second in assists at 2.9 while scoring efficiently. Wright-Foreman shot .511 overall and .425 from the 3-point arc on 7.4 attempts a game. He’s listed at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds.
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