Tuesday, November 1, 2011

2011-2012 Season Preview: Top 25 Shooting Guards

All week, we'll be breaking down the top players at each position in the college games. A few caveats. First, we're talking about how good these guys are as college players, not how well they project as a pro. Second, while it may be too much power for me, I am making the executive decision on what "position" a player is (and it may not necessarily be what he is listed as on a roster). Third, I love me a good argument, so if you think someone is too low or too high or the wrong position, leave a comment and let me hear about it.

Positional Rankings: PG, SG, SF, PF, C

To browse through the rest of our Season Previews, click here.

1. Ashton Gibbs, Sr., Pitt: For my money, Gibbs is the best shooter in all of college basketball. We've already written twice about his ability to shoot, however, so we are going to focus elsewhere for this post. Like any college hooper, Gibbs wants to play in the NBA when he's at Pitt. But to make it to the next level, he will likely have to make the move to the point. As good of a shooter as he is, 6'1" two-guards with below-average explosiveness don't survive long in the league. In an effort to prove his ability to play as a lead guard, Gibbs wants more reps at the point this season. What kind of effect will that have? Well, its worth noting that Gibbs had the lowest assist-to-field goal attempt of any potential lead guard that Luke Winn had in his power rankings this week. He's the most efficient shooter, and the most dangerous coming off of a down-screen, in the country. If he embraces it, its the best thing for him and his team.

2. John Jenkins, Jr., Vanderbilt: For a guy that scored 19.5 ppg as a sophomore and has made himself into an all-american heading into this season, Jenkins is entering the year without all that much hype. The scary part is that he still has room to grow as a scorer. As a freshman, Jenkins excelled as a spot-up shooter, hitting 48.3% of his long-range shots. His efficiency dropped his sophomore year, but that was largely a result of an expanded role in the offense. He's gotten better at shooting off the dribble and attacking a close-out, but he can still get better when it comes to finishing in and around the paint. His shot selection can be iffy at times, as well. He'll never be an overwhelming athlete, but as he continues to develop ways to despite the physical limitations he may have, don't be surprised to see his name climbing up NBA Draft boards.

3. Marcus Denmon, Sr., Missouri: I'm expecting an enormous year out of Denmon. He's an incredibly efficient scorer, notching an offensive rating of 127.9 and scoring 16.9 ppg despite using just 20.6% of Missouri's possessions when he's on the floor. After being used as an offensive sparkplug in his first two seasons in Columbia, Denmon thrived as the Tiger's go-to option as a junior. He's a terrific shooter with an even better understanding of what a good shot is. He doesn't commit turnovers, he makes his free throws and he's an excellent on-ball defender to boot. With Laurence Bowers tearing his acl and Kim English being forced to play as more of a four-man, expect Denmon to become more of a focal point for the Tiger's offensively.

4. Austin Rivers, Fr., Duke: Talent isn't going to be the limiting factor for Rivers heading into this season. The kid has every skill that you look for in a collegiate guard -- he can shoot with range, he's athletic and he has the handle to beat his man and get all the way to the rim. The issue with Rivers is going to be whether or not he can buy into the concept of being on a team. Doc's son comes into Duke with a reputation for being a bit too cocky, and while confidence isn't a bad thing by any means, it will be interesting to see if he is willing to work in the flow of the offense, particularly on his off-nights. Are his bad games nights when he goes 2-7 with four assists or 3-15 with six turnovers?

5. Darius Johnson-Odom, Sr., Marquette: DJO is one of my favorite players in the country to watch. A 6'3" lefty, Johnson-Odom was strictly a spot-up shooter as a sophomore, but he developed into much more of an all-around scorer as a junior. His scoring went from 13.0 ppg to 15.8 ppg, but shooting numbers took a hit -- he went from being a 47.4% shooter from beyond the arc to 36.3%. How much of that was the result of being forced to take more contested shots and more shots off the dribble, and how much was simply the fact that he's not an elite shooter? The bigger question -- which shooter shows up this season?

6. William Buford, Sr., Ohio State: Believe it or not, Buford has a very real chance of becoming Ohio State's all-time leading scorer this season. It will require an outstanding year -- he needs to score 673 points, which would mean that he has to average 18.2 ppg if the Buckeyes play 37 games again this season -- but its not out of the realm of possibility, especially when you consider the fact that he no longer has to share perimeter shots with Jon Diebler and David Lighty. The most impressive part of Buford's game is how he has redefined himself from a mid-range shooter of the Rip Hamilton variety into a guy that hit 44.2% of his threes as a junior.

7. Jorge Gutierrez, Sr., Cal: Gutierrez is the kind of player that every coach loves to have. Offensively, he is incredibly well-rounded -- he can hit an open three, he's can put the ball on the floor and get to the rim, he finds assists without turning the ball over, he draws fouls and make free throws, he rebounds the ball. He's also one of the best on-ball defenders in the country. Throw in the fact that he plays with his heart on his sleeve and is an emotional leader for his team, and there is a lot to like about Gutierrez. Unless he's guarding you.

8. Doron Lamb, So., Kentucky: John Calipari said that Lamb would be the best player on his team in the preseason. I think we can all agree that was Coach Cal-speak, but the point he was trying to make still stands -- Lamb is being underrated heading into this season. Playing on a team with gunners like Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones made it difficult for Lamb to get a ton of opportunities to score, but he made the most of it. He's far and away the best shooter on this year's Kentucky team and is one of the most efficient perimeter players in the SEC. He'll still be in a complimentary role this year, but he is capable of carrying the Wildcats for games at a time.

9. Orlando Johnson, Sr., UC-Santa Barbara: I would normally say that Johnson is one of the best scorers in the country you've never heard of, but I'm going to assume that the BIAH readership knows about this guy by now. The reigning Big West Player of the Year, Johnson is unlike a lot of mid-major scorers in that he has the size and the physical tools to make him an intriguing NBA prospect. He's a deceptively athletic 6'5", with three-point range on his jumper and the offensive repertoire to score with having to rely on physical tools.

10. Jared Cunningham, Jr., Oregon State: Its a shame that Cunningham plays in the worst major conference in the country for a team that is only relevant nationally because of who the coaches brother-in-law his, because this kid is something special. At 6'4", Cunningham is a physical specimen, a sensational athlete with an ideal physical profile. The best news? While averaging 14.2 ppg last season, he got the majority of his points off of open jumpers, layups due to his hustle on the glass or cutting to the basket and on dunks in transition (he's a terror in passing lanes, averaging 2.8 spg). He's got tons of room to grow as he develops more ball-handling skills and the ability to score in isolations.

11. Allen Crabbe, So., Cal: Crabbe averaged 8.4 ppg in the 13 games that he played with Gary Franklin. After Franklin transferred to Baylor midway through the season, Crabbe averaged 16.9 ppg, even tossing in a couple of 30 point outbursts to boot. Expect more of the latter this year.

12. Tim Hardaway Jr., So., Michigan: Hardaway has all the makings of a star at the college level -- height, skill level, athleticism, pedigree. But how much of his success last season was derived from the playmaking of Darius Morris? It will be interesting to see how well the sophomore thrives in John Beilein's system as the go-to guy for a full year.

13. Rodney McGruder, Jr., Kansas State: McGruder is a kid that I'm expecting a big year from. Kansas State will be entering the A.P. era (After Pullen) looking for a leader, and McGruder has apparently embraced that role. A 6'4", do-it-all guard, McGruder is an efficient player and a guy that should thrive as he gets more opportunities this year.

14. Kevin Foster, Jr., Santa Clara: How about this for a stat: Kevin Foster shot 67 more threes last season than Jimmer Fredette did. And while he only made them at a 36.8% clip, that was enough to notch an average of 20.2 ppg. When he gets into a rhythm, he's as dangerous as any shooter in the country. With Marc Trasolini out for the year with a torn acl, Foster will be counted on even more offensively.

15. CJ McCollum, Jr., Lehigh: McCollum is the most productive guard in the country, and that is an inarguable fact. Last year, he averaged 21.8 ppg and 7.8 rpg while notching 2.5 spg and handing out 2.1 apg. The problem? He's all that Lehigh has. If he can improve on his 6.4% offensive rebounding percentage (which will be difficult as he takes 35.4% of his team's shots when he's on the floor), there is a chance this 6'2" guard can average 20 and 10 this year.

16. Brad Beal, Fr., Florida
17. Kenny Boynton, Jr., Florida
18. Sean Kilpatrick, So., Cincinnati
19. Trent Lockett, Jr., Arizona State
20. Brandon Paul, Jr., Illinois
21. Durand Scott, Jr., Miami
22. Anthony Marshall, Jr., UNLV
23. J'Covan Brown, Jr., Texas
24. Jason Clark, Sr., Georgetown
25. Kyle Kuric, Sr., Louisville


Joel said...

How close to this list is Mark Lyons from X? He came on strong in the second half last year after taking some time to warm up to his role. His game gets overshadowed by Tu, but he can be just as explosive a scorer.

Rob Dauster said...

I had him somewhere around 30th. In the group that just missed the cut.

Kevin said...

Jeremy Lamb is a shooting guard. I loved this blog but now that i know that you don't actually watch college basketball i'm not so sure...