Continuing with the Early Entry Candidates, today’s post looks at the Shooting and Combo Guards. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, a Combo Guard, as the term suggests, is a combination Shooting/Point Guard. The classic Combo Guard is a Point Guard by position but is more of a scorer/shooter. Think Nolan Smith of Duke or at the NBA level – Aaron Brooks of Houston. We will also include in this group players like Evan Turner and Darington Hobson who can play either guard position or move over to the Small Forward position.
James Anderson - Oklahoma St. – (6’6, 195) – Junior – Anderson is as pure a scorer as there is in this year’s draft. With an increasingly more reliable jumper, which he can hit off the dribble or screens, and strong moves to the basket. While not exceptionally quick or agile, he finds space for himself to score. His decision-making can be suspect at times, especially when a defender rotates to help on his drives. Defensively, Anderson is decent, but far from outstanding. He is very active, but sometimes ends up out of position, opening up lanes for the players he’s guarding. Anderson should be a valuable bench player right away for a lot of NBA teams, so a good decision coming out now. Mid-First Round, 16-22.
Avery Bradley - Texas – (6’2, 180) – Freshman – Bradley, like the rest of the Texas team, had a very up and down year. At times, he played like the best Freshman in the country, and others seemed confused by what to do on the court. He is very quick and plays tough every night, though his offensive game really needs time to develop. He is very aggressive going to the basket and doesn’t mind taking some hits along the way. He is decent perimeter shooter, and he showed increasing range throughout the season. His greatest role was as a tenacious defender, able to play up on the ball and hounding ballhandlers. He anticipates passes well and does a good job in transition defense. He could have used at least another year to hone his game at the college level before entering the draft and I think he will have a tough time cracking a team’s rotation next year. Mid-to-late First Round, 16-25.
Jordan Crawford - Xavier – (6’4, 195) – Sophomore – Crawford, who made his name dunking on Lebron James last summer, has shown that there is a lot more to his game then good hops. Crawford is a great all-around scorer, able to penetrate easily with a great first step and having a smooth, consistent jump shot. And as the dunk on James alludes, he knows how to finish. He does need to work on his shot selection, taking the best shot, not just an available shot. Along with this, he tends to force action too much when it just isn’t there. Hopefully he grows out of these with more game experience. His defensive effort leaves a lot to be desired, but when he does step it up, he is a more than adequate defender. He has long arms which he uses to disrupt passes and he can rebound well for his size. Crawford is clearly taking advantage of his hot end to the season and probably played his way into the First Round, which is good enough for me. Mid-to-late First Round, 18-26.
Xavier Henry - Kansas – (6’6′, 220) – Freshman – Henry, considered by many to be the best high school player in the country last season, showcased many of the skills which earned him that distinction. A top-notch athlete, Henry does his best work in open space. He is able to take players off the dribble, hit the open jumper, and penetrate and kick. He needs to improve his shot selection and hitting the perimeter shot while covered. Defensively, he is still learning his way. While his spacing has improved, he still finds himself off-balance when guarding on the perimeter. He is athletic enough to recover, though it will be more difficult at the next level. He also needs to become a better rebounder. Henry would have been a First Rounder out of high school, so a year of college hasn’t changed that. Good decision. Late Lottery-Mid-First Round, 8-16.
Dominique Jones - South Florida – (6’4, 215) – Junior – Jones, the Big East’s leading scorer, provided many big moments for South Florida this season. He is a versatile scorer who has good range on his jumper and is strong enough to muscle his way to the basket. He does a good job creating space for his shots and also has become a much better at penetrating and finding the open teammates. His shot selection needs improvement, though that may have been a result of his carrying the load for South Florida. Defensively, he closes well on shooters and is a very good help defender. He is not a great athlete, though he does move smoothly and has good lateral movement. While Jones did lead the Big East in scoring, there are just way too many areas of his game that still need work. He would be a much better prospect if he can show some more skill playing the point. Late-Second Round – Undrafted, 50-60.
Lance Stephenson - Cincinnati - (6’5, 210) – Freshman – Stephenson had been hyped since his Freshman year of High School, but a long decision in choosing where he was going to college, plus talk of laziness and selfishness took some of the luster off of him. Cincinnati took a chance on him and it seemed to have paid off. For the most part, Stephenson integrated well into the team’s system, while showing the skills that had people raving years earlier. The best word to describe Stephenson is “Playmaker.” He does a great job creating shots for himself and for his teammates. He is a nice shooting stroke and good range, and has excellent court vision. At times his choice of shot is suspect and he often takes too long trying to create, leaving the team with little choice but to put up a tough shot. Defensively, he still needs to work on his positioning and not taking plays off, but he was not as bad as was expected. He has NBA level skills, but needs to work more on his conditioning and playing within a team structure. Probably should have spent one more year in school. Late First Round, 22-30.
Part II of the Shooting/Combo Guards coming tomorrow. Remember, comments are welcome and check out the latest mock draft at Draftsite.com.