The shooting guard position in the NBA isn't a very deep position in terms of star players. In fact with the decline of Dwyane Wade and the injuries to Kobe Bryant the last two seasons, the shooting guard position has become pretty anemic. It's become so thin that a guy like Klay Thompson, who looks like a very good role player but has a very definite ceiling in this league, may not be thrown in by the Warriors in order to trade for Kevin Love.
The incoming talent of the 2014 NBA Draft class is incredible and any team can at worst replenish role players in their rotation with a first round pick. But if you have a need for a really good shooting guard, are you going to be able to fill that need with a first round pick? Can you find a star shooting guard in the lottery?
We're going to break it down into tiers of shooting guards -- from the future stars of the league to role playing starters to prized backups to guys who may not have much of an impact at all. We'll be looking at how they project out based on skill set now and what we expect them to develop into in the future.
(The players in each category are in order of how good I think they'll be in the NBA. If you don't see a player in this position category, he's either not good enough to be mentioned or I think he'll play a different position in the NBA.)
Do We Have Any Potential Stars in This Shooting Guard Class?
When trying to figure out if there are any potential stars from the shooting guard group, my measuring stick ends up being Bradley Beal. Beal is going to be a fantastic player in this league and likely will be a multiple time All-Star over the next decade-plus. He's probably not a number one player on a team, but you pair him with another star or a great point guard in this league and you're set for quite some time. Do we have any guys in this draft who can fit that mold?
Gary Harris, Michigan State: Gary Harris is the best shooting guard in this entire class, and I'm not sure how close it is. There's a little bit of concern over him being 6'4" and not having a great wingspan (under 6'7"), but he's still a smart defensive player who should move his feet well. His offense is likely to be a major plus for whatever team gets him. He can shoot the lights out, he can create his own shot, and he can make plays for others. He can stand to get stronger, but he has the best chance of being a star shooting guard of anybody in this draft class.
Zach LaVine, UCLA: There are a lot of qualifiers with me including Zach LaVine in this category. LaVine's athleticism and skill set are remarkable. He's showing vertical leaps that would have his feet clearing most children. He has a great shooting stroke and he's a very good player at getting to the basket. He was billed as more of a point guard coming out of high school, but I'm not sure he's showed us a willingness to be a playmaker after one year at UCLA. The key for him is will he be disciplined in tapping into his potential at the NBA level. Get him to the right coach and system and he'll be a star. Let him freelance on his own and he'll be a good player, but he won't be a star. He's very Jamal Crawford-esque in that way.
Do We Have Any Star Role Players in This Shooting Guard Class?
The measuring stick I have for this tier of shooting guards is Klay Thompson. Thompson is a guy who might be able to make an All-Star Game or two in his career. He has distinct skills and can play both sides of the floor. While he's not someone you'd be comfortable becoming a max player, he can certainly be in that discussion because of the dearth of talent at the position. These guys aren't stars but they can be within the context of being a great role player.
Jordan Adams, UCLA: Jordan Adams is someone who could be catching lightning in a bottle in the second half of the first round. He showed an improved 3-point shot this past season but he'll still need to work on it quite a bit. He's a guy who can be a game-changer on defense, although it's fair to wonder if Steve Alford's defensive system bumped up his per game numbers. Adams isn't a big shooting guard (under 6'5") but his 6'10" wingspan makes you believe his defense will translate to the next level. Curious to see if he's a good enough athlete at the NBA level to turn himself into a star role player.
Nik Stauskas, Michigan: Nik Stauskas will go fairly high in this draft, but his ceiling might be lower than some. He can be a star role player with his shooting alone, much like J.J. Redick and Danny Green have been at times. But his ability to score off the dribble or fit in on defense will determine just how long he can sustain that star role playing career. He's the best shooter in the draft, but is that enough to be a consistent contributor? I think it is, but we still have to see what system and roster he ends up in.
C.J. Wilcox, Washington: The biggest drawback to drafting C.J. Wilcox is he's already 23 years old. He'll be 24 at the end of December. But what you're getting with his game is a pretty versatile scorer. He hit 38.9 percent of his 3-pointers in college, taking 773 of them in his four years. He's a very good athlete with a good wingspan. He can score inside and out. He can defend multiple positions. You're not getting a ton of upside because of his age but he can come in and play right away.
This Guy Can Be a Big Spark Off The Bench
You're going to love rooting for a guy like this. You don't mind if he becomes a starter in a few years, but for now you're excited when he comes into the game. Either his shooting or his athleticism can have a profound impact on a game and turn the tide. There will be bad games in which no spark is provided at all, but you're looking for a potential game-changer and someone who can be molded into the Sixth Man role.
P.J. Hairston, North Carolina/D-League: The questions about the character and potential distractions with P.J. Hairston will be what's keeping him from likely being a top 20 pick in this draft. He shot the ball well from 3-point range in college and did a nice job in his D-League stint last season. He's also a very good athlete who can play at the rim and finish through contact. I'm a little concerned about his handle and we don't know if he'll be a good defender aside from stalking passing lanes. But Hairston could be a great scorer in the second unit.
Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado: Spencer Dinwiddie's draft stock took a huge hit when he tore up his knee, and you're grabbing a guy who may need another year before he is strong enough to be himself again. But he's a great, natural playmaker with the ball. He was a fantastic 3-point shooter at Colorado and he can score by driving to the basket. It's just hard to project how good he can still be without knowing how strong his knee will be.
Jordan Clarkson, Missouri: The tricky thing with Jordan Clarkson is deciding whether or not he'll be a shooting guard or a point guard at the NBA level. He's a guy who dominates the ball quite a bit when he's in so some people think he's a point, especially when factoring in his size. I think he'll be more of a slasher off the ball and a creator off that initial pass. He can score and he's a good passer when he decides to do it. His 3-point shot needs work, but he can still score decently without it.
Nick Johnson, Arizona: I don't know if Nick Johnson is ever going to be a big time role player off the bench, but he'll be someone that impresses the crowd and draws chants during games to put him on the court. He's a very small shooting guard at 6'3" but he doesn't have the skills to be a lead guard. He does have the ability to jump to the rafters and he's going to put a lot of big men on YouTube clips during his career. Can he shoot the NBA three? Can he defend? Those two questions will determine whether he's more rotation guy than novelty.
He's a Likely Roster Filler
These shooting guards are probably too good to spend years back-and-forth in the D-League, but they might not be consistent enough to find a regular spot in an NBA rotation. You can carve out a nice career like this, and you'll have the opportunity to push your way into a rotation. However, you can't miss on that opportunity if you want to get on the court.
Joe Harris, Virginia: Joe Harris doesn't have great size for a shooting guard in the NBA when you also factor in his lack of athleticism and his short wingspan. However, he can shoot the rock and he might be a better playmaker than he showed us at Virginia. Harris' play may be to get stronger so he can make it hard for guys to get past him when they do make contact on the perimeter, but he has to find a way to get separation on offense to release his pure shot.
Jabari Brown, Missouri: Jabari Brown is a gunner and he may be a gunner at the NBA level too. He's not a playmaker and he's not a defender. He's also undersized for the shooting guard position. What he can do is fill it up inside. His 3-point shooting improved dramatically over his three seasons in college, but I think his shooting stroke is more legitimate than outlier. He'll have to find a way to be a more well-rounded player to crack rotations.
These shooting guards are more likely to have success in a career overseas in international play, but they could try to go the D-League route, shuttle back and forth between the D-League and the NBA, and hope they truly develop whatever deficiencies are currently keeping them from being a guaranteed second round pick.
Jordan McRae, Tennessee: Jordan McRae is a guy who needs to put on a lot of muscle mass and add actual strength for him to be an NBA-ready player. He's already 23 years old too. He's not a good shooter, but he does a good job of getting to the basket. He has good height and length for the position, but if you can't hit shots and you're too weak to defend, I'm not sure how you make it in this league. He has work to do if he wants to be an NBA player.
Markel Brown, Oklahoma State: Markel Brown may be in the Terrico White mold of "let's get this guy to the NBA so he can be in a dunk contest." His saving grace may be that he's a guy who can contribute on the boards and he may be able to defend at the NBA level. He's a streaky shooter though, which is a nice way of saying he's not a good shooter. Improve the shot and he's definite NBA material. He's borderline as is though.
What to Make of the International Guys
Trying to make sense of a couple of international prospects who are likely to go in the second round and not come over right away if at all is tough. They're not ranked like the others but I have some thoughts on them regardless.
Bogdan Bogdanovic, Serbia: Bogdan Bogdanovic is versatile guard who should be drafted in the early second round. If/when he comes over to the NBA, he'll be able to play both guard positions at times. He's not much of an outside shooter but he did finally break into the mid-30's for 3-point accuracy this past season. He's much more of a slasher and a playmaker but he's definitely an NBA rotation guy if he wants to be.
Nemanja Dangubic, Serbia: Nemanja Dangubic is not nearly as NBA ready as Bogdanovic is, but he's a different type of shooting guard. He's a worse shooter than Bogdanovic, but he's capable of utilizing his athleticism in order to make plays. He's a very tall shooting guard at 6'8" and can stand to add some strength to his frame. He could end up being an excellent, pesky defender if he comes over to the NBA, but he has to work on his offensive decision-making in all facets.