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Our Point Guard of the Future Is... a Small Forward? Surprise!

League-wide consensus on the Jazz says we are in need to two pieces to become a true future power in the league: 1) a young point guard to sync together all our talent, particularly Favors and Kanter; and 2) a high level scoring threat from the wing. Many people are very high on Gordon Hayward (and I’m one), but not even his most ardent fans argue that he is likely to become an elite scorer in the NBA. His game is too diverse, his mindset too oriented toward making the right play in a team context. He may well become a 15/4/4/1/1 player, but he’ll probably never post 20 points a game or more, not with other worthy offensive options to share the load. Some still hope that Alec Burks will be that guy, and the minutes he’s gotten the last week or two and his play in those minutes has kept this hope alive, if only on life support. But it’s impossible to argue that Burks has a long way to go to become a dominant scorer who can shoot at a high percentage from all over the floor, if he ever can.

So, we stand in need of two plays, one point guard and one wing. This series of posts is about finding the Jazz’s point guard of the future, but in looking at this year’s draft, I think it would be foolish to disregard the possibility of seeking to attain our other glaring need through the draft given the weakness of the talent pool overall and the point guards in particular. If the Jazz have an opportunity to get a needed piece for the future, they should do it, point guard or not. And if they were to get a major needed piece other than a point guard, it would be a wing. A top talent wing, when paired with high draft picks at every other slot on the floor, should (in theory) make getting a point guard easier, as he wouldn’t have to be a star. Put a solid point guard with top talent everywhere else and you can win championships. Just ask Derrick Fisher.

My assumption is if the Jazz wanted to pick up a major future contributor at the wing, it would take a lottery pick, at minimum. So I took a look at the six SGs and SFs that at least one mock draft (DraftExpress, NBADraft, and CBS) projects as currently going that high. Remember, this is a weak draft, with no players showing franchise level talent and the greatest aspect of depth being "project big men," as one scout put it. The pickings aren’t as great as would be liked when it comes to wings, but they’re substantially better than point guards. If a Jefferson or Millsap trade for a lottery pick did happen, it would make more sense for the Jazz to seek one of the best wing talents rather than reach for one of the very weak lineup of point guards, at least as things now stand. (They could probably get a top three point guard without a trade.) If that were to happen, these are the players they would be looking at as they sent away one of the best players now on the team.

Shabazz Muhammad Projection Position Height Weight Age Year
2012-13 4.3 SG/SF 6'6" 223 LBS 19 YRS FRESHMAN
Ben McLemore Projection Position Height Weight Age Year
2012-13 8 SG 6'4" 181 LBS 19 YRS FRESHMAN
Archie Goodwin Projection Position Height Weight Age Year
2012-13 9.7 SG 6'5" 195 LBS 18 YRS FRESHMAN
Otto Porter Projection Position Height Weight Age Year
2012-13 12.3 SF 6'8" 200 LBS 19 YRS SOPHOMORE
Dario Saric Projection Position Height Weight Age Year
2012-13 16.3 SF 6'10" 223 LBS 18 YRS INTERNAT.
BJ Young Projection Position Height Weight Age Year
2012-13 32.7 SG 6'3" 158 LBS 19 YRS SOPHOMORE

Shabazz Muhammad G PTS FGA FG% 3PA 3P% FTA FT% REB AST STL BLK TO
2011-12 * * * * * * * * * * * * *
2012-13 10 19.6 136 50.0 29 48.3 61 75.4 4.6 0.9 0.5 0 2.0
Ben McLemore G PTS FGA FG% 3PA 3P% FTA FT% REB AST STL BLK TO
2011-12 * * * * * * * * * * * * *
2012-13 12 15.8 131 48.9 51 41.2 47 87.2 5.5 2.3 1.2 0.8 1.8
Archie Goodwin G PTS FGA FG% 3PA 3P% FTA FT% REB AST STL BLK TO
2011-12 * * * * * * * * * * * * *
2012-13 12 16.5 137 46.7 23 43.5 87 69.0 5.4 4.0 1.2 0.8 3.4
Otto Porter G PTS FGA FG% 3PA 3P% FTA FT% REB AST STL BLK TO
2011-12 33 9.7 238 52.5 53 22.6 84 70.2 6.8 1.5 1.1 0.8 1.2
2012-13 10 13.2 102 51.0 23 43.5 28 64.3 7.7 3.2 2.2 1.4 1.2
Dario Saric G PTS FGA FG% 3PA 3P% FTA FT% REB AST STL BLK TO
2011-12 * * * * * * * * * * * * *
2012-2013 Adriatic Leag. 4 6.8 7.5 36.7 2.5 20.0 2.3 33.3 3.5 2.3 1.0 0.5 2.0
BJ Young G PTS FGA FG% 3PA 3P% FTA FT% REB AST STL BLK TO
2011-12 32 15.3 11.0 50.4 3.8 41.3 3.5 74.3 3.1 2.3 1.2 0.3 2.0
2012-13 10 16.7 14.4 45.8 3.4 23.5 4.3 63 3.9 4.1 0.9 0.3 2.0

Shabazz Muhammad, Freshman SG/SF, UCLA: Muhammad has pretty much always been the man, rating at or near the top of every assessment of his class since high school. As his NBADraft profile says, he’s "a man amongst boys" at 6’6" and 225 lbs with "INCREDIBLE length" estimated near 7 feet. They give the package a 96 overall player rating and parallel Muhammad to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, last draft’s #2 pick by the Bobcats. It’s something of an odd comparison once you get passed the MJ in his prime body, though. Where Kidd-Gilchrist is a Mr. Everything whose All-Star potential hinges on the question of whether he can shoot and score at a high level in the NBA, Muhammad is a natural scoring machine who, thus far, doesn’t do a whole lot else. But that scoring is prolific and natural as breathing. After an early (and sloppy and possibly corrupt) investigation by the NCAA that cost him the very beginning of his season, Muhammad has played 10 games for UCLA and is scoring 19.6 points on 50% shooting, including 48.3% from three. He gets to the line more than six times a game and shoots a respectable 75.4% from the line. His 4.6 rebounds are solid from a shooting guard as well. Projections from high school suggested good effort and potential on the defensive side as well as a strong basketball IQ and willingness to get his teammates involved, but these things have yet to express in college. He is averaging less than one assist and steal per game, and I’m pretty sure he hasn’t blocked a single shot. But as a young 19 year old with only 10 college games under his belt, there is plenty of room for growth. And if Muhammad were ever to develop his ball handling, passing, and defensive abilities to even a solid level, with the shooting and scoring he’s already displaying, he would almost certainly rocket up to become the #1 pick in the 2013 draft.

Ben McLemore, Freshman SG, Kansas: No wing is shooting up draft boards like McLemore, who is as often as not jumping ahead of even Muhammad in projections. Maybe Kansas coach Bill Self’s pronouncement that McLemore has talent "off the charts" and perhaps greater than anyone he’s coached—which would include Deron Williams—has something to do with this. The excitement stems from McLemore’s silky smooth stroke, which is producing 15.8 points on 48.9% from the field, 41.2% from three, and 87.2% from the line. Add in 5.5 rebounds, more than 2 assists, and better than 1 steal and nearly 1 block, and you have a freshman who looks like an exciting possible total package. NBADraft scores McLemore a 97 overall prospect and compares him to Ray Allen, very similar to Bradley Beal, the 2012 #3 pick by the Wizards. His ball handling, defense, consistency, and NBA readiness are all areas of question at the moment, but if he continues to perform at the level he has thus far in the college season, he is a near-certain top five pick.

Archie Goodwin, Freshman SG, Kentucky: The third of three highly regarded freshmen wing players in this draft, Goodwin is not yet regarded in the same class as Muhammad and McLemore as a likely top five talent. He has the body and explosiveness to get there, and his 16.5 points a game thus far at Kentucky show he can put up points in that class, but there are more questions about his game, most notably his shooting. Thus far his 46.7% field goal percentage and, especially, his 43.5% from three are looking mighty good. But for a player who has scored his entire life by physically taking his points by force by attacking the basket, Goodwin will need to show consistent shooting for a long stretch before people buy into his ability to be a top notch scorer at the next level. His 69% free throw shooting reinforces that caution. His defense also needs improvement, but if he continues to produce 5.4 rebounds and 4 assists a game, that will go a long way toward inching him further up draft boards come 2013.

Otto Porter, Sophomore SF, Georgetown: Porter is the kind of player that terrifies team executives. NBADraft rates him a 93 overall prospect based primarily on "very good upside and physical tools." Get down to the nitty gritty of performance, however, and you see there isn’t one aspect of his game that doesn’t need to mature a great deal—and that includes his body, which at 6’8" only weighs 200 - 205 lbs. This being said, Porter is one of the younger players in his class, and all information suggests he is both a hard working and intelligent player. If he can mature and develop his all around game, he might turn into a very unique player both in terms of skill set and style. His numbers this year suggest he may be on that trajectory: 13.2 points on 51% shooting, 7.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.2 steals, and 1.4 blocks. What really has people buzzing, though, is his 43.5% shooting from three on more than 2 threes taken a game. If he can prove a consistently effective jump shooter (and his 64.3% free throw percentage suggests his early shooting from three be taken with a grain of salt), he may be the most uniquely all-purpose player in the upcoming draft.

Dario Saric, International SF, Cibona Zagreb: Saric is a project, tall and lanky with a good handle and ability to attack the hoop. His game shows potential on the glass and defensively, largely because of his length. But he needs to show more in pretty much all areas, especially shooting and decision making, given his fondness for handling the ball. The numbers I found for him were extremely limited, primarily 4 games in an overseas league, and were anything but impressive. But every mock has him going middle to late in the first round, so people must like what they see beyond the numbers.

BJ Young, Sophomore SG, Arkansas: Young has the intriguing combination of both top notch speed off the dribble and the ability to spot up and knock down shots. He’s a one track scoring player with a very high usage rate, perfect for coming off the bench. His ability to start is much more in question, particularly in the NBA. At 6’3" and just 158 lbs, he is small in all ways for an NBA shooting guard, which technically makes Young a tweener, a combo type. But his predilection is so titled toward scoring he doesn’t really deserve that classification. Young is a high volume, high scoring shooting guard with speed, athleticism, and loads of confidence. There are plenty of questions about how such a college player can be used in the NBA, and these questions only compound given some potential character issues that have come up as he’s broken team rules at Arkansas.

Analysis

The wings in the 2013 class are clearly stronger than the point guards, especially at the top. Where there isn’t a single freshman point guard shooting up draft boards, there are three freshman shooting guards, all projected as going in the top ten: Shabazz Muhammad around pick 4, Ben McLemore at 8 (and I fully expect this to climb even higher), and Archie Goodwin around 10. Muhammad and McLemore are getting names like James Harden and Ray Allen associated with them. If the Jazz were to make a major trade with the intent of getting a potential game changer in this draft, given their needs, it makes far more sense to look at shooting guard than any other position.

Also, because the top three players here are freshmen, teams pinpointing any of these top players have to be prepared for volatility. It’s really hard to know if what you’re seeing in a 19 year old freshman is who they are for the moment or pretty much who they’ll be forever. In fact, with Porter being so raw and a late bloomer (apparently) and Dario Saric being a typical risk/reward international player, there’s every reason to expect variability in every player on this list. Any team that traded a quality veteran piece for a high lottery pick during this NBA season, as many of us hope the Jazz will do, will likely see both highs and lows in their coveted players and have to assess through the mess when they make their pick. If any of these players do turn in only good reviews without the downsides, they’ll likely jump to top five or even top three picks, given the weakness of the class.

It bears mentioning that if the Jazz were to pursue a high draft pick, Gordon Hayward increasingly looks like he would play his career at small forward, at least as a starter. Neither of the small forwards projected as clear first rounders, Otto Porter or Dario Saric, look much like the dominant wing scorer we need. (Although if Porter fulfills his potential, the Hayward/Porter tandem might be a defensive nightmare for opponents.) So if the Jazz did draft a wing with a high pick, it would be to pair that player with Hayward playing small forward. This brings into question if such a player would even provide better upside than Alec Burks. After all, Burks drew comparisons to both Dwayne Wade and a healthy Brandon Roy in the draft, for what that’s worth. Given the talk thus far, it’s hard to see how any player other than Muhammad, McLemore, or maybe Goodwin could be seen as an upgrade, and it looks like getting any of the three will take a certain top ten pick, and almost certainly a top five pick for the player the Jazz grade as the best wing in the draft.

That being said, if the Jazz decided to leverage current value for future potential, they would most likely do so on the wing rather than at point guard, seeing as it looks like one of the best point guards will likely be available in the area of our own pick--as long as we don't expect too much.

All comments are the opinion of the commenter and not necessarily that of SLC Dunk or SB Nation.

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