Shooting guards are often asked to be the scorers for their team at the NBA level. The 2014 class of two-guards is very good with a lot of potential. The group could be deeper if a team believes one of the small forwards or point guards would be better suited for the shooting guard spot—Andrew Wiggins and Dante Exum could classify a shooting guard at the next level, but many believe they will better placed in the other positions.
This group has a wide variety of talents: There are athletic slashers, who can get to the basket at will; there are shooters who can spot up from anywhere. The 2014 NBA Draft has a lot of talented shooting guards who could make an impact in the NBA. Let’s take a look at my top five shooting guards in the 2014 NBA Draft.
1. Gary Harris, Michigan State
Michigan State’s Gary Harris is a player who can play on both sides of the ball very well. On offense, he is a good shooter both in spot-up and off-the-dribble situations. Last season, he shot 42.9% from the field and 35.2% from behind the three-point line, averaging 16.7 points a game. He is able to penetrate off-the-dribble because of good ball handling. When he drives to the basket, he can either take it all the way to the hoop or pull up for a jumper. He is also a good passer who can create opportunities for his teammates. Harris has excellent court vision for a shooting guard. His best skill could be his defense, both on and off the ball. He can stay in front of any offensive player with his quickness and strength. He is good at contesting a shot and altering the opponent’s shots. He has quick hands, which can rip a ball away from the offensive player. He can also play the passing lanes very well and get breakaway steals from them. Last season Harris had 1.8 steals a game.
Harris is not super athletic and also does not have great size for his position. He is only 6-feet-4-inches tall with a 6-foot-7-inch wingspan. He struggles sometimes finishing because of lack of length and great athleticism. He also is inconsistent with his shot resulting in being a streaky shooter. He needs to improve his shot selection, which can help his shooting percentage. But, he has intangibles like hustling and working hard that can help him improve and be an excellent player in the NBA. ESPN’s Chad Ford says, “Harris is one of the true two-way players in the draft. He’s equally effective on both ends of the court, which is a large part of his appeal.”
2. Nik Stauskas, Michigan
Many experts believe that Michigan’s Nik Stauskas is the best shooter in the 2014 NBA Draft. Last season at Michigan, he shot 47% from the field and 44.2% from three. He can shoot in spot-up, off curls, and off-the-dribble situations. He has deep range, which keeps defenders tight to him enabling him to slip by for a drive. He can drive to basket and score many different ways off the drive like a pull up jumper or an acrobatic finish. He can flat out score in many different ways, which will make him an instant scorer at the next level. Along with his scoring ability is his passing and ball handling. He can make plays for his teammates off penetration and fast breaks. He is also very skilled at ball handling and using it to his advantage. He could play point guard because of ball handling, passing and basketball IQ.
Stauskas is not a great athlete and is also not very long for his position. This hurts him on the defensive end because he has a hard time guarding with his lack quickness and length. He will struggle trying to guard in the NBA and so he could be taken out because of this weakness. His ability to get past defenders may not translate to the NBA because of lack of quickness. He also is not very strong, which hurts him in defense and offense in finishing through contact. Stauskas, though, can come in and immediately help a team offensively. He will be a huge help for any team looking for perimeter shooting. ESPN’s Jay Bilas says, “Stauskas has deep range, a quick and high release and the ability to get a shot off under duress. He moves without the ball, can rise up off the run, can catch and shoot and has the ability to pull up and hit with consistency.”
3. James Young, Kentucky
Kentucky’s James Young can score in many different ways. He is a good shooter, shooting 40.7% from the field and 34.9% from three. He has solid form and a quick release. He can shoot off the dribble, off curls, and in spot up situations. He is good at getting to the rim and finishing. Young is 6-feet-7-inches with a wingspan of 7-feet. He uses his great size and length to beat defenders and finish at the rim. Because of his length and size, he is an excellent rebounder for a shooting guard. Young is a smart and hard worker, who can get better because of his willingness to improve. He will be a player, who will get the hustle points for your team and will help the team win. He has a lot of potential because of his length, ability to score, and youth.
Young is still very raw on defense and lacks fundamentals on this side of the ball. He could be a good defender in the NBA because of his length. He is very streaky as a shooter and sometimes can go cold over a period of time. He is not a great athlete, so he can sometimes be stopped on offense because of inability to get past his defender with quickness. But, he is still a player, who could come in and be a very good scorer. An eastern conference general manager told NBA.com’s David Aldridge that, “He’s a super talent. Super feel for the game on the offensive end. Scoring comes very naturally to him.” Young is still developing as a player and so he could end up being one of the best shooting guards in this draft in a couple of years.
4. Zach LaVine, UCLA
UCLA’s Zach LaVine has one of the biggest upsides and potential in the 2014 NBA Draft. He is one of the best athletes in the draft. The 6-foot-6-inch shooting guard, with a 6-foot-8-inch wingspan, posted a fourth highest maximum vertical jump, the fourth highest standing vertical jump, the best lane agility time, the second fastest shuttle run, and in the top ten of the fastest ¾ court sprint. These tests show his freakish athletic ability and huge potential. LaVine is a good shooter, shooting 44.1% from the field and 37.5% from three. He can shoot off the dribble and on a spot up position. He also has a great first step with solid ball handling ability, which allows him to get to the basket at will.
LaVine biggest weakness is strength and toughness. He struggles to finish on his drives to the basket when he is faced with contact. He needs to add bulk and strength in order to improve his finishing ability and be a versatile threat on offense. He needs to improve on his passing and playmaking ability. He does not look for his teammates when he drives to the basket and so he misses opportunities for an open shot for a teammate. LaVine needs to improve his shot selection, too. But, he has huge potential to be a very good player in the NBA. ESPN’s Amin Elhassan, “LaVine is barely 19, so he really is just a lump of clay and could develop into almost anything.”
5. P.J. Hairston, North Carolina
P.J. Hairston is a very experienced player and one of the most NBA ready bodies in the draft. The 6-foot-5-inch, 229-pound former Tar Heel, has great strength for a shooting guard. This size and strength gives him the ability to score on penetration to the basket. He is great finisher because of his strength and athletic ability to fight through contact. Because of this ability to get to the basket and fight through contact, he goes to the line a lot and shoots it well at the line. He is also a deep perimeter shooter, who can score off of spot ups and off the dribble. Last season with the Texas Legends, he shot 45.3% from the field and 35.8 % from three, averaging 21.7 points a game. He has a lot of experience because of his time in the NBA D-League. He could come in and immediately score because of his versatility on offense.
Hairston’s biggest question mark is his attitude and character. He was dismissed from North Carolina’s basketball team and entered the NBA D-League. He lacks work ethic and does not play hard in stretches of games. He is a big red flag in terms of his attitude. He also is not very good at defending and can get beat by quicker guards. He is not an overly agile player, so he can struggle guarding these quicker players. But because of his strength and size, he could guard the bigger shooting guards or even small forwards. He is a scoring guard who must improve the rest of his game in order to make a steady impact in the league. SI.com’s Chris Johnson says, “Hairston’s combination of size, strength and capacity to attack the basket make him a tough cover in the half-court, as he’s able to drive past defenders, fight through contact and finish in traffic.”
(Photo by: Michael Hickey/Getty Images North America)
Joe has been writing for WFNY since April 2014. He is a diehard Cleveland sports fan, who is just looking for a winner in this town. He has been around sports his entire life by working with the basketball and football teams at St. Ignatius High School and also with the football team at Baldwin Wallace. Besides watching and writing about sports, Joe loves to spend time with his family and two dogs.