The one field of blight in the robust crop that is the 2015 draft is the position of shooting guard. The hyped freshmen just aren’t all that good. The scrappy seniors all have question marks. I could make it better by including D’Agello Russell, who I analyzed as a PG and Justise Winslow and Mario Hezonja who are SFs. All 3 could become NBA SGs and make the 2015 SG crop great. But until any or all of them officially switch in the NBA this is what we have to go with.
When looking at SGs and success I came up with some benchmarks for college players to hit. This was back in 2007. Those were .500 2PP, 20.0 P40, 7.0 RSB40 and an A/TO over 0.8. I later added an S40 of at least 1.4. These numbers were considered strict for junior and seniors, but more of a guideline with some leeway given for likely improvement in the cases of freshmen (especially) and sophomores. This was based on successful college SGs drafted into the league in the 20 years leading up to 2007.
I think I’m going to have to go back to the drawing board and tweak some things on how I evaluate SGs. Here’s a list of SGs who were drafted in the lottery since the 2008 draft. I listed in rough order of how well they’re careers have gone. That order is definitely fluid with so many players on the list being so young. The numbers are from the player’s draft year.
First thing to say is we aren’t experiencing an era that will be referred to as “the golden age of the SG” someday. Klay Thompson proved that a sub-.500 2PP isn’t a prospect killer. Dion Waiters proved great prospect numbers don’t always make a prospect a great pro. Here are some more thoughts from this list:
On efficiency, Thompson posted the 2nd worst 2PP of the players on this list and did it in his junior year, yet became an all-star. The 2 who topped .600, Lamb and Oladipo, look nothing like stars. Harden was very efficient, but so was McLemore. The difference is Harden scored more frequently with better defensive numbers. It is still better to be good than bad on this, but a sub-.500 2PP may not be so bad if the other numbers are strong.
Scoring a lot of points still appears to be important. Beal is the only player who is what I would call successful with a college P40 below 20.0. Because he was a freshman, this isn’t as big a deal as it would be with a junior like Henderson.
The defense still seems important. If anything it might be time to kick the RSB40 benchmark up to 7.5 or 8.0. Players with an RSB40 below 8.0 and a S40 below 1.4 have all disappointed on some level. The flip of that is dominant defensive numbers, like the ones posted by Oladipo and Caldwell-Pope aren’t necessarily a ticket to superstardom.
With that in mind, here’s a look at the 2015 class of SGs. Here are their numbers:
There are some interesting players here, but I don’t see any of them bringing the position back to the prominence it enjoyed in the era of Jordan, Drexler, Moncrief and Richmond. Players are listed in order of how I would draft them all other things being equal:
Rashad Vaughn, UNLV: As I mentioned in the lead, I’m not all that impressed with this year’s SG crop. There are some who might exceed expectations though. At the top of that list would be Vaughn. He isn’t perfect, as the 1.0 S40 in his freshman year shows. That stat could be misleading though. He may in the process of correcting that when he tore a meniscus, cutting short his freshman year after just 23 games and 741 minutes.
Here is a look at Vaughn’s year broken down into the first two months and the final two months:
He scored frequently from the start, which is a great sign. The defensive numbers started very low, but were steadily improving at the time of the injury. His passing and 3-point shooting also improved.
Unfortunately we have an incomplete picture in Vaughn. If he had been nothing more than the player who averaged 1.0 S40 consistently for the entire 741 minutes I could easily dismiss him to the 2nd round. We don’t know if he was starting to figure defense out or if he’s prone to inconsistency on defense.
Even if the latter 2 months were a better reflection of Vaughn’s ability, 1.4 is still just at the benchmark level so it isn’t like he suddenly became a lockdown defender. There’s also the problem of 2-point efficiency, which was substandard all year. That’s excusable in a freshman, but it remains something of a red flag.
Vaughn is the default top SG prospect. This isn’t a very good class. Vaughn has youth on his side. He’s a young freshman who won’t turn 19 until August. He posted some very good numbers and the not-so-good ones were on the uptick at the time of his injury in February. He has good size and athleticism and is a top 20 prep prospect from a year ago. His ceiling is pretty high, but so is his bust potential at this point. Once the draft goes past the first 20 picks drafting Vaughn becomes a risk worth taking.
Derrick Marks, Boise State: I’m always leery of players who emerge late in their college careers. Derrick Marks has been on the radar since a solid sophomore season in 2013. He was down as a junior, but had such a monster senior season that he needs to be looked at.
Here is Marks with other NCAA SGs since the 1990 season who also topped .500 2PP, 25.0 P40, 2.0 S40, 7.0 RSB40 and 1.1 A/TO as Marks did this past season:
Wade and Allen are future HOFers. Curry’s career is on the same path. Finley was a 2-time all-star who topped 20 PPG 5 times in a long NBA career. Anderson had some promising moments before struggling with injuries that eventually ended his career. Dixon was a journeyman who played 8500 minutes over 7 seasons. Hudson and Minard have had little and no impact respectively in the NBA. Minard was drafted by the Kings in ’04. He headed to Europe after being cut after training camp. He’s had a solid 10-year career in Europe that is still going strong. Hudson has knocked around the NBA for a few years and has played some in China where he’s averaged close to 30 PPG over 4 years. Both have had solid careers, just not in the NBA. It’s possible they’re NBA-caliber players who just never got a proper shot in a league with limited opportunities.
The only real troubling thing for Marks from this list is his RSB40 is low compared to the others. Curry is the only other player under 9.0. Curry scored over 30.0 P40 twice in his college career and these numbers are for his sophomore year. He was a much better prospect in ’09 than Marks is this year for more reasons than the RSB40.
So he isn’t going to become another Wade, Allen or Curry. Can Derrick Marks become a player like Michael Finley? Probably not, but that might be his extreme high end but still barely realistic upside. There are a lot of red flags too. Here are his numbers from his 4 seasons at Boise State:
Players who emerge as seniors are both good and bad. The good is that they improved their games to the point that they’re serious prospects. Improvement is a good thing because it shows a player has identified weaknesses in his game and fixed them. That’s a good trait to have. The bad is that players who don’t become serious prospects until their senior season don’t fare as well as players who look good immediately. Because Marks is young for a senior, still just 21, I think we can give him some benefit of the doubt. He isn’t a 5th-year senior.
Looking at his stats and the improvement there are 2 things I like a lot. The first is he cut down his high turnover rate. The other is for the last 3 seasons his S40 has been strong. Both are great signs. The one thing I don’t like is it took until his senior season to get the 2PP over .500. This is scary, because 2PP can be a fickle stat affected by hot streaks that don’t get corrected in a shorter college season. The good thing is there wasn’t a lot of fluctuation in the efficiency during the season. He was cold in November, but heated up and stayed hot after that.
I believe Derrick Marks is one player the experts are completely missing on. It’s almost a given that he’ll be undrafted. Because of that it seems more likely at this point that his career will be a long, productive one in a league overseas. Considering the numbers he put up this year and the company they put him with, I think passing on Marks would be a huge mistake. I feel he’s a bubble first round talent. There are some red flags, but a player like this has the upside of a borderline all-star. It would be a mistake is he went undrafted.
RJ Hunter, Georgia State: Hunter is a solid prospect whose efficiency was down in this, his junior year. The decline started with a cold streak in January that he was never able to completely shake. Here are his freshman and sophomore seasons listed with his junior splits:
He’s a player with solid defensive numbers. His efficiency was good until this past season. I’m not sure what caused this. I can find nothing about an injury. It’s probably just a cold streak that he didn’t have time to break out of. The bigger concern is that he didn’t get closer to 25.0 P40. That’s pretty important for a small or mid major college guard. One great stat is his low turnover rate. That shows he’s a smart player who doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. That’s an underrated skill for role players in today’s NBA.
What strikes me about Hunter and Derrick Marks is how little difference there is between the two statistically, but there’s a wide gulf between them in how they’re rated going into the draft. Hunter is looking like a late first round pick, while Marks looks like he’ll have to catch on as an UFA.
Hunter has been a better defender and has had overall a more consistent career. Marks’ senior year has been by far the most impressive single year either player has put in. They are roughly the same age, Marks is just a month and 10 days older. Boise State plays in a more difficult conference than Georgia State, making Marks’ statistics slightly more impressive. Hunter is taller, longer and is generally considered the better athlete.
I don’t want to break down Hunter as a prospect to build up Marks though. RJ Hunter is a decent NBA SG prospect. Like Marks his probably too optimistic, but still barely realistic high end is a borderline all-star. More likely he’ll become a solid journeyman. That makes him a bubble first rounder like Marks. The difference is Hunter will get more of an opportunity.
Devin Booker, Kentucky: Booker is the top SG out there if you look at the mocks. He has jumped into the top 10 in some and at the very least seems like a lock for the lottery. Booker is a terrific shooter who has shown some great potential as a scorer. Because he played his one season with the Kentucky Phenom Hoarders, I suspect his numbers were somewhat suppressed. That sentiment should also be the hope of any team drafting him in the lottery, because his defensive numbers were terrible.
Here are Booker’s numbers listed with the only other SGs since 1990 who have been successful after posting an RSB40 below 6.0.
I could have included Reggie Miller and Hubert Davis if I were to go back before 1990 and include players with less than 600 minutes, if that makes this list look a little less hopeless. Houston actually improved his RSB40 to over 7.0 by his senior season, as did Reggie Miller. Houston, Redick, Miller and Davis have had long careers because they could shoot the lights out. That will be Booker’s ticket also. As long as he can knock down the outside shot, he’ll have a place in the league.
Now I have no idea how much or even if Devin Booker’s numbers were suppressed playing at Kentucky. It is possible that with defenders like Karl Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein behind him, Booker took things easy on defense in order to stay fresh offensively. His low rate of steals certainly didn’t hinder a defense that ended the season ranked first in the nation in defensive efficiency and opponent’s shooting percentage.
It is possible that his numbers are skewed by the situation at Kentucky. I just can’t imagine that they’re skewed so much that Devin Booker will suddenly emerge as a solid defender once he gets to the NBA. His S40 and RSB40 are that weak.
The upside of Devin Booker is that he is young and he has proven he can score effectively from inside and outside. He has a low turnover rate and that has always been a good thing for gunners. He’s just a freshman and there is always some upside with youth.
Devin Booker is a risk if drafted too high. I would compare him to Nik Stauskas a mistake from last year’s top 10. His offense is so good, that it obscures the red flags that are his low defensive numbers. It is possible that he’ll become an effective gunner, but I don’t see him becoming anything more than that. He also has high potential for bust if drafted in the top 10.
Denzel Livingston, Incarnate Word: I have been on Denzel’s bandwagon since his breakout performance last year. I’ve had him in the 20-30 range of my top 60s. I have experience in projecting great things for Denzels, having predicted greatness for Denzel Washington after watching him steal the 1979 made for TV movie Flesh and Blood, so I figured I had spotted another young Denzel with promise. But I have to say I may have over rated this Denzel just a tad.
His numbers show a player who excelled in all the important SG statistics:
|Mid-Major and better||500||063||16.9||2.3||8.7||0.9|
Double figures on RSB40, high rate of steals, good scoring frequency and efficiency are all great things for an SG prospect. The bottom line, which shows his numbers in 3 games against opponents from a mid-major or better conference illustrate why his numbers aren’t as impressive as they look.
Incarnate Word is in their 2nd year playing NCAA division 1 basketball. According to the Sagarin rankings Incarnate Word played the 317th most difficult schedule in college ball last year. That will inflate a prospect’s stats and it clearly did in the case of Livingston.
As good as his scoring numbers are, successful small college guards, Curry and Lillard are two recent examples, generally are well over 25.0 P40. Because Livingston failed to hit that benchmark his P40 should actually be considered a red flag.
I still like Livingston enough that I would bring him in as an UFA. His numbers are terrific for any level and make him worthy of a look. I would like him better if he scored more often or hit the 3-pointer more efficiently.
Terry Rozier, Louisville: Rozier took over the bulk of the distribution duties after Chris Jones was dismissed from the team late in the year. He actually showed some promise there. Enough that I would like to see what he could do in a full season as the Cards’ PG. That won’t happen. So we have a player with strong defensive numbers who is short and weak offensively. That isn’t much of a prospect other than the fact he still has the upside that comes with all sophomores.
Wesley Saunders, Harvard: The Ivy League POY, Saunders is a multi-skilled guard with good size. He made some nice improvements to his game this year. He topped 20.0 P40 for the first time in his career. From behind the arc he showed some skill for the first time, hitting .425 on 73 attempts. He improved on his already strong defense, topping 10.0 RSB40 for the first time in his career. He’s a good enough passer that playing some PG isn’t out of the question.
That’s the good stuff. There are a lot of negatives with Saunders too. The biggest problem is his scoring. He only topped .500 2PP once, as a sophomore. Jeremy Lin, the last guard to leave Harvard for the NBA, hit a stellar .598 as a senior while his other stats were remarkably similar to Saunders:
|Jeremy Lin ’10||598||341||20.2||5.5||3.0||9.7||1.5|
|Wesley Saunders ’15||460||425||20.5||5.3||2.3||10.2||1.6|
The huge gap in 2PP is a big deal. Hitting .598 put Lin in elite company when his other stats were considered. For a guard to hit a number that high is a sign of NBA-level athleticism. Lin’s emergence as a decent rotation guard in the NBA is proof of this. That Saunders number is so weak makes it unlikely he’ll be able to replicate Lin’s NBA success. So don’t hold your breath on Wesanity happening.
Saunders is a player to put in the UFA zone. He’s done a lot of good things. He posted terrific numbers for defense and passing. He went to the NCAA tournament all 4 years, the last 3 as the best player on the team. But the fact that he was never a dominating scorer in a small college conference is a big negative that I doubt can be over some. He’s worth a look and may find himself a role in the right situation.
Aaron Harrison, Kentucky: Harrison is like Booker, only not as good. There is very little about his numbers that suggest he can make it in the NBA. The only reason to list him here is he’s still young and has upside. He was a top 10 prospect coming out of high school and the remote possibility that playing at Kentucky messed with his game and numbers is there. I wouldn’t draft him, but he is worth a look.
Rayvonte Rice, Illinois: Rice was having a great season before an injury ended things early. His defensive numbers have always been stellar. He started hitting the 3-pointer consistently for the first time this year. He had never been able to break .300, but hit .436 this past year.
Rice is a 5th-year senior who will turn 23 on Bastille Day so he has that working against him. He’s one of those 5th-year senior who looks like a serious prospect for the first time as a 5th-year senior, which is usually a bad sign. He is worth mentioning because of his sudden proficiency from behind the arc. If that’s his newfound level of ability it makes him a decent sniper/defender prospect.
Tyler Harvey, Eastern Washington: A very good shooter with few other numbers to suggest he can make an impact. His low S40 and RSB40 say he’s a player without the athleticism to make it in the NBA. As I mentioned in the Livingston analysis, it should be considered a red flag when small college SGs don’t hit 25.0 P40. Harvey has hit 43% for his career on almost 700 3-pointers attempted. That is impressive. He might make it as a gunner, but is a long shot.
Sir’Dominic Pointer, St Johns: I think this guy deserves a mention. He isn’t much of a scorer and non-scorers in college just don’t make it as SGs in the NBA. His defensive numbers were off the charts great for a guard though. He blocked shots at a higher rate than Willie Cauley-freakin-Stein for gosh sakes. He hit .560 on 2-pointers. Both are dominant numbers and that’s always something to look for in prospects.
His chances probably hinge on an ability to start knocking down 3-pointers and becoming a 3&D role player. Pointer was never asked to be a gunner at St. Johns and was never very good when he tried to become one, connecting on 22 of 110 for his career a 20% rate. Now the 3-pointer is the easiest skill to develop, so if Pointer can somehow double that number in the NBA, he has a good chance to play.
Michael Frazier, Florida: Frazier is included for his 3-point prowess. Previous to this season he had years of .468 and .447. Stats are otherwise unimpressive, but the gunner potential makes him worth a look.
Dez Wells, Maryland: Wells is a solid college player whose efficiency numbers flipped this year. He went from being an efficient inside scorer who struggled from the outside to the opposite. The fact that he at different times he excelled from both inside and outside is impressive. If he can work that into an effective inside-out game he could stick around. The defense has been good enough. He’s definitely an UFA candidate at best, but could work out in the right situation.
Norman Powell, UCLA: Powell is similar to Wells. He has soldiered on for 4 years as a solid college player. He has seen phenoms come and go in his time at UCLA. He has been to 3 NCAA tournaments. This was the year he would be the go-to guy. While he didn’t exact seize the moment, he wasn’t that bad either. He’s a UFA who could stick around in the right place if he brings the right work ethic.
Josh Richardson, Tennessee: Richardson is the last of the seniors worth a mention. He’s a late bloomer, showing up as a prospect for the first time in his senior year. Like Marks he is a young senior, still just 21. His numbers aren’t great, but he’s in the same “worth a look” group as the others here.