Six at the Point - Looking at the Preferred Fits for PG Prospects
- By Michael Miller, Day 120, 2021
The point guard crop for this year’s draft class does not have any apparent elite prospects. There is no obvious Chris LaCruz here. Yet, it appears that many of these players could thrive...IF they land in the right team and play in the right system. This article looks at 6 point guard prospects who played in major programs and are currently slated to be selected in the first round. Each player appears to have a specific archetype to their game.
The Solid Prospect (Isaiah Leonard - Arkansas) - Of all the prospects analyzed in this article, Leonard has the most balanced game that seems to fit into any system. He has nice size at 6’6” with a 6’10” wingspan. He shot over .400 on 5.9 3Pa per game. He averaged 5.0 assists per game. All of this is well and good, but what does he excel in? That is the problem. If this is his ceiling, then he projects to basically be an average starter, and you would want more from your lottery pick. On the other hand, if he has another level and all his skills grow at the same rate, he could be a potential All-Star. Moreover, the fact that, as a freshman, he was the leading the scorer on a solid Arkansas team who finished the regular season ranked #11 in the country should not be ignored. All in all, Leonard likely has the highest floor of PG prospects in this draft, and at only 19, he may also have the highest ceiling. BEST FIT - An expansion team running a high-pace offense who can afford to be patient with Leonard and give him lots of minutes to grow and develop.
The Slasher Prospect (Deleon Slay - Memphis) - At 6’8”, Slay enters the JBL as the tallest PG in the league. While Hilton Phillips has also played point during his career, much of his work has been off-ball as a shooting guard. At that height and with a 7’1” wingspan, you would think Slay would dominate the CJBL. For whatever reason, however, he has not played as big as his height would suggest as he only averaged 2.1 boards a game and 1.20 steals. He also was not very creative in distributing the ball, generating 5.3 assists per game. Lastly, Slay shot an an anemic .227 from the 3 point line. The only thing Slay does well, and actually really, really well, is get to the rack and finish. His 6.0 shot attempts per game were the most by any guard in the CJBL, and the second highest finisher Matt Roy from Pittsburgh, attempted 36 less shots at the rim (5.0 per game). Slay finished those at rim shots at a .619 clip, which is a nice percentage. It appears that Slay will at least be a great slasher and, if he develops, a plus defender with that wingspan, but is he worth a lottery pick at PG where he can neither shoot nor pass? BEST FIT - A moderate-pace dribble-drive or post up team with shorter/smaller perimeter players who could use Slay’s height and wingspan to balance out that deficiency.
The Scorer Prospect (Jaleen Rifkind - Rutgers) - Arguably, no PG prospect has had to carry a heavier load than Rifkind but he has delivered. He finished the regular season as the highest scoring player on his team as well as the highest scoring PG in this year’s draft. His shots are either at the rim or at long distance, and he has been pretty efficient from both spots, converting over .500 of his shots at the rim and .400 from beyond the 3 point line. He also does not appear to be deficient on defense, as his plus/minus is a strong 12.6 and his TO rate is one of the lowest of the draft prospects. Rifkind is a very pro ready prospect, which is also a concern because his ceiling appears to be low. He does not have the height or build of Leonard or Slay, so it is questionable how much more he can really grow from here. He does not have lottery talent but he would be a solid 1st round pick for a team who needs a second guard. BEST FIT - A solid team who needs scoring and shot creation from the bench as a sixth man.
The Supporting Prospect (Calvin Astroth - Duke) - As the starting PG on the #2 ranked team in the country, one would think that Astroth would receive much more attention than has been granted. Duke, however, appears to be a very egalitarian team that does not put the focus on any one player, and it may be why they have been so successful this year. Notably, SF Tywan Liggins, a pro prospect in his own right, has 5.0 assists per game on the year behind Astroth’s 5.5 assists per game. It seems Liggins is eating into the numbers Astroth would put up in a more PG system. To that end, however, Astroth has elbowed his way into some of Liggins’ anticipated rebound total. Astroth’s 3.7 rebounds per game is second most of those PG prospects ranked in the top 50, behind only Leonard’s 3.9 RPG. Astroth is only 17 years old, and as the youngest PG on this list, his development can go in numerous projections. He has great size and may have a long way to go until he hits his peak. He is an enigma. BEST FIT - A young team that does not yet have an established player or system, because Astroth may have the ability to grow into any role in which he has experience.
The Safe Prospect (Mehdy Brown - Kentucky) - As a freshman, Brown was overshadowed by SG JaDante Hicks, who went pro and was selected by the Warriors as a lottery pick. Before committing to Kentucky, Brown put up excellent stats in his senior year of high school, averaging 20.7 ppg and 13.5 ast per game. The improvement he showed in his second year with Kentucky is telling, as his scoring efficiency improved dramatically. He may be a lights out shooter, hitting over 50% of his 148 3PT attempts during the 2021-2022 season. While his assists rate did not rise at a similar rate, that could be because the surrounding talent at Kentucky is both raw and underdeveloped. Demarr Wilson, a freshman, is the team’s leading scorer and has been inefficient. If Brown were 3-4 inches taller, he would likely be a lottery prospect. At 6’0” and with a 6’3” wingspan, however, it is questionable whether he can develop into anything more than a solid starter. BEST FIT - A fast-paced transition based team with longer wing players who can mask Brown’s size and wingspan deficiency.
The Steady Prospect (PG Bryce Cleveland -Wake Forest) - From a pure “counting stats perspective, Cleveland might be the best PG in the draft. By the end of the regular season, he led all prospects in the original Top 50 ranking, not just point guards, in assists and steals per game. His 0.67 turnover per possession ranked second among all prospects in the original top 50 ranking. Although he was originally ranked as a high second round pick, his end of season performance likely solidified first round status. Additionally, he is slightly taller and longer than Brown at 6’1” with a 6’4” wingspan. So why is Brown still ranked as a better prospect? Perhaps the biggest reason is that Cleveland does not exhibit scoring or playmaking ability. His best skill may be his defense, especially on a high-trapping team that likes to press. BEST FIT - A full court/half court press team who already has an established playmaker at SG or SF and needs a defensive minded PG.