NBA Draft 2007: Combo Guards

This being a relatively new category of prospects, I don’t have the history to draw on that I do with the 5 traditional positions. While I could give the combo standards to pass, like the 7 RSB40 for SGs, the best thing for now might be to look at how well they do the things that are most important. To me that would be showing the ability to play PG in a pinch, good scoring ability and strong defense. While his numbers were pretty awful overall for a guard prospect last year, Daniel Gibson had all three of these things going for him and he ended up playing a prominent role for a team that went to the finals. In contrast, two players who were rated higher: Quincy Douby by me and Randy Foye by everyone else, both struggled, though Foye came on in April.

So with combos I’m going to keep it simple. I’ll look for players who have shown the ability to score often and efficiently, play some PG and defend. Everything else they do will be considered a bonus. I don’t feel any player in this group is a top notch prospect. Stuckey’s the best and there are a few after him who have a shot, but nothing to get too excited about. Here’s a list of the prospects along with the pace-adjusted numbers that would seem to be important. Keep in mind here that players from small conferences need to be dominating, so don’t go too overboard in comparing the numbers of a Stuckey or a Neal to one of the major conference players:

FGpct 3pct P40 A40 TO40 A/TO S40 rsb40 FTA/FGA PPS
Stuckey, Rodney











Karl, Coby











Elliott, Carl











Stokes, Loren











Wilson, Jamar











Dowdell, Zabian











Raivio, Derek











Neal, Gary











Green, Taurean











Heath, Brandon











Reynolds, JR











Funk, Nate











Curry, JamesOn











Tatum, Jamaal











Jackson, Jarrius











1. Rodney Stuckey, Eastern Washington: Stuckey played PG at Eastern Washington. His numbers were down some his sophomore year, but they were still pretty decent. Mainly down were his shooting percentages. He dropped from .490 and .372 as a freshman, to .453 and .267 as a soph. I suspect there was an injury in there somewhere that affected his outside shot, because he was an ice cold .186 the final 13 games. All his other numbers were pretty similar, except that he was a better passer and he got to the line much more often. I don’t think the low percentages are a huge concern. The fact that he shot .372 on 148 attempts as a freshman and that the .267 as a soph can be explained away by a late season slump says he’ll be OK. That the other numbers stayed strong and even improved in a couple of important areas is more significant to me than the low percentages.

What I want to do with Stuckey is compare him to other recent sophomores and juniors from small and mid-major colleges who scored over 25 P40. Needless to say any guard, point, combo or shooting, who had put up numbers like Stuckey has at EWU at a major college is a top 5 draft pick and likely star. But the lower levels are a different story and since Stuckey plays in the Big Sky, we have to compare him to players from a similar background.

Player Points40 FG pct. 3-point pct. Assists40 Steals40 A/TO
Bonzi Wells







Courtney Alexander







Brandon Armstrong







Marcus Brown







Tony Dumas







Bubba Wells







Luis Flores







Eddie Benton







Keydren Clark







Jason Conley







Chris Davis







Henry Domercant







Ricky Minard







Rodney Stuckey







If I remember right, some of these players, like Bubba Wells, Jason Conley and Henry Domercant were very much the SF types in college, so comps to them may not be appropriate. Stuckey is definitely a guard. The only player here who experienced any sort of NBA success is Bonzi Wells. Where Stuckey compares to Bonzi is they’re the only 2 with over 5 A40 and a 3-point pct. under .300. Since I’ve already determined Stuckey’s .267 is a fluke, there’s no real close comp on the board. Stuckey is the best passer on the board and one of the better ballhawks. Considering that Stuckey’s the only player here who played PG and his shooting percentages were way down as a soph and probably are better than he showed, I feel comfortable saying that Stuckey is a better prospect at this early point in his career than any player here other than Bonzi Wells. But that doesn’t make him a great prospect. The small college hurdle has historically been a huge thing to get over. Stuckey has gotten noticed and is working out for teams, which is a huge part of it, but he still has a ways to go. I’d feel a little more comfortable about predicting great success for him if he didn’t rebound like a guard. He rebounds well enough that it’s not a problem and it’s not important for a guard to be a great rebounder to begin with, but a 6’5” guard prospect from a small conference needs to dominate that conference in as many ways as possible to make himself into the type of player who can make the jump. If he pulled down a couple more rebounds per game to go with his dominant numbers in steals and scoring, I’d feel better about touting him as a strong prospect.

That small misgiving aside, Stuckey should at the very least become a decent NBA player. He looks like he’s capable of playing either backcourt position, he has shown the ability to score, pass and defend well and he has good size. There could be some transition problems early in his career to the pro game, as he’ll be going from playing a Kobe-LeBron type of role at a much lower level to playing a supporting role where he may not be asked to score much at all. Becaue of this there may be a transition period, so don’t figure on seeing too much of Stuckey until later in 2008. Eventually he’ll probably be good enough to start as either a PG or SG. It could take a season or two to figure out what his best position actually is. He’s a good prospect, easily the best combo this year, but he’ll take some time.

2. Zabian Dowdell, Virginia Tech: Dowdell got his scoring and FG pct. up to the point where he became a pretty decent prospect as a senior. He didn’t play PG, but has averaged over 3 APG for 2 seasons now and his A/TO as a senior was a respectable 1.58, so he has done OK while running the offense part-time. One thing he did as a senior that improved his production and efficiency was he took fewer 3-pointers and took the ball inside more often, with great success. He got to the line a couple more times per game and improved his PPS from 1.17 as a junior to a strong 1.39. Defensively, he’s been over 2 SPG for a couple of seasons now.

All his numbers look good enough, if not spectacular. The RSB40 is at 6.97, which is slightly below the magic number of 7 that is there for SGs, but I’m not sure if that applies for combos. Being around 6.5 didn’t hinder Daniel Gibson much, so for now I’m going to say it isn’t a big deal. Right now the only thing that concerns me is that he looked like a prospect for the first time his senior year. That would be more of a problem if a hot streak had simply upped his FG pct. The increase in FG pct. happened, but it was due to a change in his game where he became more of a penetrator and less of a gunner, so he deserves credit for that.

Dowdell gets a yes on all 3 counts. He can score, play some PG and defend. His numbers aren’t as strong as Stuckey’s, but they’re good enough. I feel he’ll make a roster and has a chance to become a rotation regular.

3. Brandon Heath, San Diego State: Brandon Heath may or may not be a better scorer than he shows. He pumps in a lot of points, but isn’t very efficient. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, it’s better for a guard to score often than efficiently, so this should be looked at as a positive. What I wonder about is Heath launched an awful lot of 3-pointers, almost 8 per game, for a guy who hit only .352. Considering he hit .480 on 2-pointers and is a solid foul shooter, one would think taking it inside more would be a smart move. I don’t like a player who doesn’t play smart, but I say this without much knowledge of how the Aztecs run their offense. The fact that he showed he can score from both inside and outside with reasonable efficiency should be considered a positive. As for the passing, he gets a lot of assists, but his ratio has hovered around 1, because of a high number of TOs. It’s a definite concern and probably precludes him from playing much more than emergency PG in the pros. As a defender he looks good. He gets a lot of steals and he’s more athletic than most prospects.

He’s in the 2nd round mix. He does the 3 things reasonably well. I don’t like him as much as Dowdell, because he isn’t as efficient as a scorer, but that could also be me going overboard with the importance of efficiency in college players. The fact that Brandon Heath does scoring, defense and PG well enough suggests there’s a place for him in the NBA.

4. Coby Karl, Boise State: Karl’s scoring was down some his senior season in both frequency and efficiency. His P40 was at 17.4 and his FG pct. was .408. Normally such numbers would preclude a prospect from even being considered. In Karl’s case it can be forgiven some, because the Broncos added a couple of more scorers to the roster this year in Reggie Larry and Matt Nelson and played a more balanced offense. Since he had been at 21.1 and .427 as a junior, he’s proven he can hit the necessary scoring levels. Karl was also going through cancer treatment during the season and that can’t be good for a player’s production.

Like many of the players here, Karl does two of the three combo things well, passing and scoring. He was the Bronco’s main passer the last two seasons, averaging over 4 APG and has had a stellar PPS of over 1.40 for 3 consecutive seasons. His defense looks average at best. He averages less than a steal per game for his career, but he does block a lot of shots for a guard. Coby Karl is good enough that he’ll be in the hunt for a final roster spot.

5. Nate Funk, Creighton: Funk’s numbers were different from his great junior season of 2 years ago. I wouldn’t necessarily say down, even though he wasn’t as productive overall. He did look more like a guard and less like a 6’3” guy playing some guard and some forward. A late season slump dropped his 3-point pct. down to .364, but with 2 seasons well over .400, I think it’s safe to say this part of his game is solid. I do worry some about his defense. His 1.2 SPG was his career high and some opposing guards, Matt Lojeski and Marcellus Kemp, torched Creighton pretty good. Funk is a great college scorer, who has some PG ability and experience, but he looks a little weak on defense. I guess two out of three ain’t bad. Funk’s best bet would seem to be getting his shot back to the mid-.400 range he was in as a soph and junior. I doubt he has enough to make it if he’s not a deadly gunner.

6. Jamaal Tatum, Southern Illinois: Tatum is a defender first and foremost. He gave a strong Kansas backcourt fits in a near-upset in the tournament with his aggressive, in-your-face defensive style. Offensively he was weak, but got things going enough as a senior, getting his percentages to .435 and .408. He’s not a great offensive player and won’t even be a good one as a pro, but he does enough. His passing abilities are along the same, just-good-enough-to-get-by line. Tatum’s ticket is defense. His high end is becoming a Randy Brown type. That’s a player who harasses, wears down and is a general pain in the ass for the opposing PG for 10-15 minutes per game. He’s the player who will check into a game in the closing minutes for defensive purposes then come back out when his team gets the ball back.

7. Derek Raivio, Gonzaga: Raivio bounced back from a poor junior year with his best season as a scorer. He played SG, but had been the PG his sophomore year. He posted a respectable 1.46 A/TO, so this is where he fits. Offensively he had been mostly a gunner, taking 64% of his FGAs from behind the arc his first 3 seasons. As a senior that number dropped below 50%, as he took on a larger offensive load. He also was able to get his efficiency back to the impressive levels of his freshman and sophomore seasons. The most impressive thing about him is his ability to hit free throws. He hit 96% as a senior, after being over 90% the previous 2 seasons. From watching him, he’ll never be a shut down defender, but he has averaged over 1.5 SPG for 3 consecutive seasons, which has to be worth something. Raivio is a gunner and a good one. Other than his junior season when he went through a slump, his efficiency has been great. It didn’t skip a beat when he stepped up his scoring as a senior. The competition is tough at the pro level, but as good a shooter as Raivio is, I think he can probably find a spot.

8. Jarrius Jackson, Texas Tech: Jackson didn’t play much PG as a senior, averaging on 1.8 APG. I still think this is the place for him though. He was the PG as a sophomore, but last year Martin Zeno took over the bulk of the playmaking duties and by the time Jackson was a senior he seemed to be concentrating on scoring. He did keep his A/TO above 1 though and that’s impressive. Jackson could score a variety of ways in college. He was consistently around 44-45% from behind the arc and he knew how to get to the line. He wasn’t wildly efficient, but his numbers were good enough.

He seems to be slipping as a prospect, because I haven’t seen his name pop up in any of the camp reports. I don’t follow those things real close, but I like to keep tabs. As a prospect he’s not much more than a gunner, but considering he has some PG abilities, plays decent defense, rarely turns the ball over and has been a consistently terrific 3-point shooter, I would think there’s a place for him somewhere. No immediate impact, but he could surface somewhere down the line.

9. JamesOn Curry, Oklahoma State: Curry was a decent enough scorer, averaging .411 from behind the arc and .452 over all. His per game numbers look a little better than they are, because he played 37 minutes per game. While his 17.3 PPG looks good, the P40 of 18.2 isn’t all that impressive. As for the other important combo things, Curry is good enough to play some PG, but certainly not full-time. He was the PG at OSU, but was always more of a scorer than a passer. Defensively he looks weak. He doesn’t do any of the 3 things a good defender needs to do. I just don’t see that Curry offers enough to make it. He’s a good scorer, but not good enough that his weak defensive game can be ignored.

10. Carl Elliott, George Washington: Elliott is one of the better defenders around. He’s big and has averaged over 2 SPG all four college seasons. He’s run the point for the Colonials and he has hit a high of .469 on FGs and .438 on 3-pointers. The problem is he didn’t do much scoring as a senior: 12.9 PPG, .406 and .275. Going into the season it looked like the perfect time for him to step up and make himself a prospect. That he has had moments of efficiency as a scorer is good. That he struggled when asked to be the team’s main scorer isn’t so good.

That leaves a defensive specialist. He looks like he could be a good one too. At 6’4” 220, he would seem to have the size to cover most any perimeter player and some SFs, though quickness could become an issue since he’s pretty big. He’s one of the better ballhawks in college and is a decent passer, but probably only an emergency PG. If he isn’t asked to do too much offensively, he could probably hit a decent percentage of open treys. That combined with what looks potentially great defense makes him a decent candidate to find a role somewhere. He’s not anywhere on the radar right now, so his road will be a little longer than most.

11. Taurean Green, Florida: Green looks somewhat like a player who landed in the right place at the right time. His numbers look pretty good, at least efficiency-wise. He got his FG pct. up to .444 and the 3-point mark to .404. What aided the improvement is he wasn’t asked to run the offense as much as he did in the past, just do his job within it. Florida’s big 3 all helped out in the playmaking and this helped Green become a better scorer and a better prospect.

This is a good thing, because he’s a more productive player. But it’s not such a good thing for his prospect status, because at his size he probably needs to play PG and he wasn’t all that impressive as more of a pure PG his first two seasons. As a soph he was a poor scorer, hitting only .366 on FGs. This year, with fewer PG responsibilities, he was a pretty good shooter, but still only scored 13.3 PPG. I know the team was full of great scorers and it’s a different situation than most college teams, but the fact that his only impressive scoring year came as a role player doesn’t answer the question of whether or not he could have been a averaged close to 20 PPG while hitting close to 45% of his shots if he were in a different situation. Nor has he proven he’s much of a college PG.

I have trouble believing he can be that player. I don’t see him as the scorer most of these players are and he hasn’t proven he’s a standout defender either. He’s enough of a passer to handle the combo, but doesn’t look like he could be a pure PG. For Green to make it, he’s going to have to get himself into the right place at the right time, again.

12. JR Reynolds, Virginia: Reynolds played SG at Virginia, but like Dowdell he handled some of the distributing duties and posted a solid A/TO of 1.21 while playing next to another combo, Sean Singletary. The most impressive thing about Reynolds is he can be an explosive scorer. He dropped 40 on Wake Forest and averaged 27 in 2 tournament games. Like his teammate Singletary, he was able to get to the line at a higher rate this past year, which improved his efficiency to an impressive 1.39 PPS. That said, his percentages are on the low side. The .429 and .369 he posted this past season as a senior were the highest since his freshman year, when he averaged only 9.4 PPG. His .369 on treys drops to .336, if you take out consecutive games in late January when he was a combined 11-16. He also averages less than 1 SPG, which suggests his defense may not be up to what’s needed.

While Reynolds had some good moments as a senior, the entire package he offers isn’t all that impressive. His scoring abilities were impressive at times, but overall erratic. That’s fine for a freshman or sophomore, but not so good for a 4th-year senior. His defensive numbers are unimpressive and he wasn’t the lead PG. While he might latch on in the right situation, I can’t see him making a huge impact. I’d rather take my chances with one of the small college guys, Stokes or Wilson. With them there’s at least a little intrigue. With Reynolds I can pretty much say he won’t make it.

13. Jamar Wilson, Albany: Wilson led his Albany team to a couple of NCAA tournament appearances. He led the Danes in scoring rebounding and assists. He has PG size at 6’1”, but was more of a scorer than a distributor in college. His biggest problem as a PG was TOs. Over the past 3 seasons his A/TO improved from 0.94 to 1.07 and 1.34 this past year as a senior. Improvement is good, but getting an A/TO up to 1.34, hardly signals the next John Stockton. He’s a great scorer who dominated the American East at a level that suggests he can make the leap. His FG pct. has been at .454 for 2 consecutive seasons. He gets to the line better than most guards, which makes him a much more efficient scorer than the average guard. Defensively his numbers aren’t great, but his high number of rebounds for a 6’1” player and his dominant scoring suggests he has the necessary athleticism.

Wilson’s battle to make the NBA will be tough. I’d like him a lot better if he had shot around 45% from behind the arc rather than the 39% he hit. But he can score, he can play some PG and he appears athletic enough to play decent defense. Those are the 3 important combo skills and if he keeps flashing them in the minor leagues, he could eventually get a call.

14. Gary Neal, Towson: For Neal it might be a good idea to refer to the table in the Stuckey comment and plug in his numbers.  Neal is another small college scoring machine. His numbers are: 28.6 P40, .446, .335, 3.9 A40, 1.6 S40 and 1.50 A/TO. I should note that Neal did this as a senior and the others listed are sophomores and juniors. He looks more in the Domercant mold than anything. It hurts him that he only hit .335 on treys and that he didn’t dominate in a small conference in anything other than scoring. He’s a long shot. I mention him because he can score and has some distributing abilities. Gary Neal was a great college player, but looks like one of those players who will be forgotten everywhere except the Towson Tigers record book.

15. Loren Stokes, Hofstra: He played SG at Hofstra, but is smallish at 6’3” 175 and did average 3.0 APG, so I think he fits best here. Stokes does the 3 things a great scorer should. He’s scores often, 22.0 P40; he scores efficiently, over 48% career FG pct. and a 3-point pct. of .373; he gets to the line a lot, with 1 FTA per every 2 FGA. The last number is particularly amazing for a guard. His defense isn’t all that impressive, but he’s a decent rebounder and that’s never a bad thing. Stokes’ shot at making it is quite a longshot. He was a great scorer at a smaller college, which in itself doesn’t get him in. He’s out there though and is certainly worth a look.

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