As the NBA shifts to a more guard-dominant league, we’re starting to see a significant amount of guards leave early and declare for the draft. Last year there were only 10 forwards and centers taken in the first round and 19 in the entire draft. Those numbers are favorable if you’re a guard knowing that 68 percent of the players taken last year were in the backcourt. This year appears to be no different, with a staggering amount of guards most likely coming out for this upcoming NBA draft.
Here’s a look at the top 10 guards who will potentially be taken in the 2020 draft and who they compare to at the NBA level.
PG LaMelo Ball, Illawara (NBL), 6-7, 180
Background: Ball is the younger brother of Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball and is currently playing for the Illawarra Hawks in the Australian National Basketball League. Ball was originally committed to UCLA as a freshman in high school but turned pro two years later and played with his brother LiAngelo in Lithuania. LaMelo Ball then played one year at SPIRE academy in Ohio before heading to Australia this season, where he’s averaging 17 points, seven assists and 7.5 rebounds per game.
Player comparison: Most will want to compare LaMelo’s game to his brother Lonzo’s, but when you break it down, their games are very different. Lonzo is a run-and-gun point guard and LaMelo excels in the pick-and-roll. Shaun Livingston was a top-five draft pick in 2004 who was a tall point guard with insane athleticism, similar to LaMelo. Livingston was quick in the lane and could finish above the rim. LaMelo has had some similar finishes playing in Australia this season.
PG/SG Anthony Edwards, Fr., Georgia, 6-5, 225
Background: Edwards chose to stay close to home and picked Georgia over North Carolina and Kentucky. A native from Atlanta, Edwards is averaging 19.8 points and 5.2 rebounds per game in the SEC.
Player comparison: There are three players that come to mind when watching Edwards play: Dwyane Wade, Donovan Mitchell and Victor Oladipo. Those are three All-Stars and some of the best shooting guards NBA fans have seen. His shot selection needs some work but he’s explosive and has one of the highest releases on a jump shot with his 6-foot-9 wingspan. “He’s a little inconsistent at the college level right now but all the tools are there for Edwards to be an elite NBA guard in the future,” an NBA scout told Yahoo Sports.
PG Cole Anthony, Fr., North Carolina, 6-3, 190
Background: Cole is the son of former NBA player Greg Anthony and played his senior year of high school at national powerhouse Oak Hill Academy. Cole was the No. 1 ranked point guard in high school and chose UNC over Oregon, Georgetown and Notre Dame. UNC announced last week that Anthony is out indefinitely with a right knee injury and will most likely sit out the rest of the season to prepare for the draft.
Player comparison: Dennis Smith Jr. is a very fair comparison to Anthony because of his explosive downhill game and finishing above the rim. Anthony is an alpha male guard who you can always count on for flashy plays, including step-back threes with defenders in his face or putting someone on a poster in transition. Smith Jr. got robbed in the dunk contest a couple years ago and expect Anthony to make an appearance in a dunk contest down the road. A front-office executive said recently, “It’s tough to see a player like Cole go down with an injury in December, but from what we’ve seen from McDonalds and Hoop Summit last year and a little of this season, we all have a good idea of how his game will translate.”
PG Nico Mannion, Fr., Arizona, 6-3, 190
Background: Born in Italy, Mannion’s dad is a former NBA player who played for a handful of different teams in the 1980s. Mannion plays for the Italian national team and was co-MVP at the Nike Hoops Summit his senior year of high school. He’s now leading Arizona into Pac-12 play, averaging 14.6 points and 6.2 assists per game.
Player comparison: There are flashes of Steve Nash in Nico’s game but we need to be a little more realistic in our expectations for the young guard. He’s a little more like Derek Fisher — a solid, reliable guard with a high basketball IQ.
PG Tyrese Haliburton, So., Iowa State, 6-5, 175
Background: A native of Wisconsin, Haliburton was just a three-star recruit out of high school and chose Iowa State over Nebraska and Cincinnati. Haliburton is one of the most productive guards in college basketball, averaging 16.8 points and eight assists per game while shooting 53 percent from the field.
Player comparison: With Haliburton’s size, funky shot and pass-first skills, a lot of NBA scouts are comparing him to Lonzo Ball. Haliburton has said his shot is always evolving, even now. “If you think my shot now is ugly, my shot when I first got to high school started at my knees,” he told The Ringer last month.
PG R.J. Hampton, NZ Breakers, 6-5, 185
Background: Hampton was a five-star recruit and had a final three of Kansas, Memphis and Texas Tech. Last May he announced that he planned to forego college and play professionally for the New Zealand Breakers in the NBL. Hampton is currently sitting out with a minor injury but is averaging 9.5 points per game.
Player comparison: Hampton’s game is most similar to Dante Exum’s. He has speed and size with his 6-foot-5 frame but doesn’t have a consistent outside jumper yet. Hampton can get into the lane and finish like Exum though, and he has a sneaky good crossover in one-on-one matchups. “R.J.’s first step is so explosive it’s tough to guard. There’s a reason why so many of us made the trip over to see him play. He’s a modern-day NBA guard,” an NBA scout told Yahoo Sports.
PG Theo Maledon, ASVEL (France), 6-4, 174
Background: A native of France, Maledon was the youngest French league All-Star since 1987. Maledon has been mentored by Tony Parker in his young career after meeting the former NBA player when he was 11 years old. Parker has high hopes for Maledon, telling SB Nation in September, “When I see Frank Ntilikina drafted No. 8, Theo is a lot better than him.”
Player comparison: For kicks, let’s explore the similarities between Maledon and Parker. Parker had a long career in the NBA with six All-Star appearances and four NBA championships, so Maledon has a long way to go. Similar to Parker though, he sees the court incredibly well and is a true point guard, finding his teammates with ease in transition and in half-court sets. Maledon is extremely athletic and can play above the rim. He has some physical similarities to Emmanuel Mudiay and D'Angelo Russell at the same age.
PG/SG Tyrese Maxey, Fr., Kentucky, 6-3, 198
Background: Maxey was a top-10 prospect coming out of high school and chose Kentucky over Texas, Oklahoma State, Michigan and Michigan State. Although he’s struggled as of late, Maxey showed NBA scouts glimpses of his potential at the Champions Classic, where he had 26 points on 7-of-12 shooting in a win over Michigan State.
Player comparison: Devonte' Graham is playing really well right now for the Hornets, averaging 19.6 points per game and dropping 40 points on the Brooklyn Nets early in December. Maxey isn’t Graham right now, but they are very similar players and tweener guards with similar personalities. Maxey has struggled at Kentucky, but his game should translate well to the NBA. He’s a quick guard who let it fly from all over the court in high school, and he has a solid mid-range game with a decent floater in the lane. Just like Graham, he loves to push the tempo in the open court and can be a clutch shooter at times.
PG/SG Killian Hayes, Ulm (Germany), 6-5, 176
Background: Born in Florida, Hayes has spent most of his life in France. His dad played professionally overseas and has helped guide Hayes’ development through the professional league in Germany. He’s averaging 10 points and 5.5 assists per game this season.
Player comparison: Hayes has a great motor and solid handle for a point guard his size. He’s a streaky shooter and reminds most international scouts of Austin Rivers. Running the pick-and-roll is one of his biggest strengths, and he makes good reads in transition.
SG Isaiah Joe, So., Arkansas, 6-5, 180
Background: Joe, a hometown guy from Fort Smith, was an early commit to Arkansas and there was little drama surrounding his recruitment. As a freshman he averaged 14 points per game and after going through a coaching change, Joe has found a way to excel under coach Eric Musselman, averaging 16.4 points per game.
Player comparison: Joe is pure shooter — whether off the screen, off the dribble or straight-up 3-pointers. His comparison at the NBA level is closest to Seth Curry. Joe is similar in size to Curry and isn’t afraid to let it fly. “There’s a lot of question marks in this draft but there’s also opportunities to pick a guy up, develop him and have him be a real player in a couple years. Isaiah Joe could be one of those guys,” and NBA scout told Yahoo Sports.
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