May 24

2012 NBA Draft By Position: Point Guard

By caseyholdahl Posted in: 2012draft, draft2012
As the 2012 Drat approaches, Trail Blazers broadcasters and bloggers will look at some of the top first-round prospects by position. First up, point guards, probably the thinnest positions in an otherwise deep draft

In an offseason full of important decisions, finding a long term solution at point guard might be the most pressing. There is now a whole generation of Trail Blazers fans who have never known stability at arguably the most important position in basketball. Case in point: Portland has had a different starting point guard in six of the last eight season openers. That has to change.

It's likely that the Trail Blazers will try to acquire a veteran point guard via free agency or trade, so the slim pickings regarding starting-quality point guards in this year's draft isn't as detrimental to Portland's long term goals as you might assume at first glance. But if the team is unable to swing a deal for that long sought-after point guard of the future, Portland may be forced to put the fortunes of the team in the hands of a rookie, at least initially.

Here are a few options the Trail Blazers might consider if they decide to draft a point guard with one of their picks.

Kendall Marshall
Sophomore, North Carolina

Ten years ago, Kendall Marshall would have been the prototypical, pass-first point guard coming out of North Carolina. Great size for the position at 6-4. Finished first in the NCAA in total assists and assist to turnover ratio while finishing a close second in assists per game. Averaged just 8.1 points per game, thanks in large part to attempting just 6.3 shots per game, but that would be expected, and in many ways encouraged, playing alongside the likes of Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller and John Henson at UNC. He'd be the old school point guard NBA scouts would step over their grandmothers to draft.

But in today's NBA, players like Marshall have a tougher time getting noticed. He's not particularly athletic or quick, which raises questions about his ability to guard what seems to be an increasing number of lightening-fast, score-first point guards who are now running the NBA.

And there are questions of whether they'll have to guard him. Just an average shooter, some wonder if Marshall will be able to keep opposing point guards honest on the offensive end, as both his jumper and ability to get to and finish at the rim are areas of concern. He has shown the ability to score when needed, as he did late in the 2011-12 season. With UNC struggling on offense heading into the tournament, Marshall responded by scoring in double-digits in seven of his last nine games as a Tarheel. Prior to that stretch, Marshall scored in double figures just three times.

Marshall, who broke his right wrist in North Carolina's 87-73 victory over Creighton in the third round of the NCAA Tournament, might also be one of the few players whose draft stock actually improved due to injury. Without Marshall, a considerably less potent UNC offense needed overtime to beat Ohio in the Sweet 16 before losing to Kansas in the Elite 8, highlighting his status as a point guard who makes his teammates better.

Marshall is expected to be drafted somewhere in the 8-12 range, and if Portland is picking for themselves in that range, one would think he'd be a serious consideration, even if the team looks to add a more experienced point through free agency.

Damian Lillard
Junior, Weber State

If Kendall Marshall is the "yin" of point guards in the 2012 NBA Draft, then Damian Lillard is the "yang." Marshall is a pure point, whereas Lillard is considered more of combo guard. Marshall focused on distribution at the expense of scoring; Lillard scored at the expense of distributing. Marshall went to hoops powerhouse North Carolina; Lillard went to Weber State, a little-known Big Sky Conference school.

But much like Marshall, the way scouts view Lillard's approach to the point has changed dramatically in recent years. There was a time not to long ago that being labeled a "scoring" point guard was the kiss of death. Teams wanted floor generals, not shoot-first, undersized scorers. But with rules changes all but eliminating hand checking, point guards with the ability to get to the rim are all the rage, and that's good news for Lillard.

Lillard finished second in the NCAA in scoring last season at 24.5 points per game while shooting 48 percent from the field and 41 percent from three. You have to put up those kinds of numbers if you're going to get drafted out of a small school. His 4.0 assists per game average speaks to his status as a scorer rather than a distributor, which, along with the fact that he took 28 percent of Weber State's shots and averaged more rebounds (5.0 per game) than assists in 2011-12, raises questions about his ability to play point at the next level.  He'll also be 22 when he begins his NBA career, so whatever changes he's going to make, if he even needs to, while need to be made quickly.

Many are predicting that Lillard will be the first point guard taken in the draft, and when you see the likes of Russell Westbrook and Rajon Rondo tearing up the league, it's not hard to see why.

Marquis Teague
Freshman, Kentucky

Figuring out just how good individual players who play for great teams are can be a bit tricky, which is one of the reasons why Marquis Teague is kind of hard to pin down. On one hand, he started, as a freshman, on a team that won the National Championship. But on the other, he played alongside three players in Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Terrence Jones who are all likely to be drafted in the lottery. That raises the question: Is Marquis Teague one of the reasons for his teammates' success or a product OF their success.

That's something scouts will have to figure out during predraft workouts, if they haven't already. What's already obvious is that Teague has the speed, athleticism and length to play the point in the NBA. He isn't a particularly good shooter at 41 percent from the field and 33 percent from three,  (his percentage from the field would be much worse were he not so adept at getting to the rim) and he will turn the ball over, but neither is so much of an issue that teams should be too concerned, especially if he goes in the latter part of the first round, as he's currently projected. You can improve your shot and decision-making. You can't really improve speed, and Teague has that for days. And his older brother, Jeff, plays for the Hawks, which certainly doesn't hurt his draft stock.

It's hard to watch Teague and not think about another quick, athletic Kentucky point guard who left school early and was drafted later in the first round because of questions about his ability to hit the outside jumper. His name is Rajon Rondo, and he's currently one of the best point guards in the NBA. And if nothing else, you have to like Kentucky's recent track record of producing one-and-done NBA-caliber point guards like Brandon Knight (Pistons), Eric Bledsoe (Clippers) and John Wall (Wizards).

Tony Wroten
Freshman, Washington

Tony Wroten is one of those players who people want to will into being a point guard. At 6-5, 205 lbs, he'd be a match-up nightmare for nearly every other point in the league. Basically, he's Washington's version of Tyreke Evans.

But much like Evans, wishing and hoping doesn't make you a point guard. And it's hard to argue that's what Wroten is, at least at the present time.

It's hard to categorize Wroten as anything other than a project at this point. His first problem is that, well, he can't shoot. He can get to the rim almost at will, but that's where the offensive prowess ends. One need look no further than his truly abysmal percentages from the free-throw line (58 percent) and from three (16 percent) to know it's going to take some time to develop even an average NBA jumper. And the fact that he put up those percentages in a historically terrible season for the Pac-12 makes an even stronger argument that Wroten's offense isn't where it needs to be. The 1:1 assist to turnover ratio doesn't help either. Developing a right-handed dribble would take much of the pressure off.

There have also been questions about this attitude -- he does have what some would categorize as a "big" personality -- but those concerns have been largely overblown.

If Wroten goes to a team that has the time, patience and staff to develop his game, they'll likely end up with a very good player in a few years. And best case scenario, Wroten reaches his full potential and becomes a perennial all-star.

Should the Trail Blazers use a pick on one of these point guards this season? Is there another point not listed who the Trail Blazers should target? Leave your comment or head over to the message board topic.

Interested in learning the strong players at other positions in the 2012 Draft? Check out Wheels' take on small forwards and Mike Rice's thoughts on power forwards.


  1. I'd really be happy with all of these point guards. Marshall makes everyone around him better, Lillard brings back visions of Terry Porter bombing away from 3, Teague is only one-year removed from high school but already has big-game experience, and Wroten gives me the same vibe I got from Russell Westbrook coming out of UCLA.

    I wouldn't take any if we do indeed end up with New Jersey's pick, but #11 is good value for Marshall and Lillard while trading back into the first for the latter two could end up being a steal.

    by DHawes22 on 5/24/2012 9:26 AM
  2. Hey Casey:
    I have many questions about our PG needs. Of course the first is we don't know the position or if we will have one or two picks in the first round.

    The second question is can we go after an experienced PG, say Dragic for an example because of expense relations, could we then pick up a draft pick to train, or do we just stay with Nolan and maybe Jonny?
    We need a PG that can distribute and shoot, much like Raymond was supposed to be. Which one of the draftees would fit that better that may fall into our position of draft?

    by Hg on 5/24/2012 10:41 AM
  3. HG: I've had an internal debate about the benifits of bringing in a vet PG, then drafting a PG to bring along slowly. On one hand, it seems like a good idea, but on the other, do you really want to use a Top-10 pick on a backup? And it seems like PGs need time to play to get better, moreso than any other position. So if you sign Dragic, then draft, say, Teague, will he be able to get better playing only 15 minutes a game? I'm not sure.

    One of these guys is probably going to be available in the mid to late first round, and honestly, I'd be happy with any of them.

    by caseyholdahl on 5/24/2012 1:51 PM
  4. Good Point Casey, I just want to get a PG to replace Raymond, I think Raymond's talent and skills were satisfactory, but it is the mistrust that the Blazer fan's can't cope with. I don't think we can get that from the draft in a quick retool.
    So what about trading a pick and whatever for a solid center, get Dragic and use our remaining picks for a project PG and Center.

    I know there are a million ways to go, and we can only guess at who the FO is targeting; knowing our needs is one thing, but figuring out the best way to get it is crazy. That is why I probably flunked out on you be the GM on Or-Live LOL.

    by Hg on 5/24/2012 2:14 PM
  5. I think marshall is a good pickup, i enjoy entertaining the idea of dragic and marshell as are starter and backup and letting marshell and nolan smith battle out for number 2 spot- dragic/marshall/smith will def solve our pg problems
    #1 pick should be trade mathews and the nj pick for mkg and another side piece, and kick batum to sg i then like our depth

    mg/look through FA
    LA/ JJ
    look for a center
    like the feel of this start/and priz

    by jamsmashers on 5/24/2012 2:31 PM
  6. even if not marshall lillard is good for the portland pick

    by jamsmashers on 5/24/2012 3:01 PM
  7. @jamsmashers:
    First: we have to wait to find out for sure if we have NJ pick.
    Second: I am not in full agreement of trading Wesley because he is a proven defender and EW hasn't had enough experience yet. and I like Nic and Wesley on D together.

    I would rather see
    Dragic, Smith and Jonny
    Wesley, E Williams and draft pick
    Batum, Babbit and shawn Williams
    LMA, JJ, Joe Freeland
    FA, Joel Pryzbilla, Thabeet.
    I don't know if that would give us a contending team or not and Jonny may be replaced by a draft pick Babbitt and Shawn Williams could be traded,
    I just don't know who is out there that we can get, but would like to keep Wesley, Nic and LaMarcus as our core as they have had playing time together.

    by Hg on 5/24/2012 3:36 PM
  8. In my opinion, if we bring in a point guard in the first round, that's our guy. As the piece said, we need consistency at the point guard position and if that means letting a young player play through some growing pains, so be it.

    The only way I could see bringing in a vet to start would work is if the vet were Steve Nash. Nash only plays about 30 minutes a night and his backups get a lot of critical playing time which improves their progression. Also, what better PG to learn from if you're a rookie then the former two-time MVP?

    And it goes the other way as well. If we have plans on picking up a young, up and coming PG like Dragic, then he's our guy. There's no need in spending a 1st Round pick on a lead guard with a player such as Goron in the fold.

    by DHawes22 on 5/24/2012 4:28 PM
  9. To me, I would give Raymond another season, he was just out of shape, so next year, he'll be much greater. since we have Raymond and Jonny, the great passers, we need either a scoring PG (Lilliard) or a quick PG (Teague). Pick another Center, then we're good, we'll make at least with that roster.
    PG: Felton, Jonny, LIlliard/Teague.
    SG: Matthews, Williams.
    SF: Batum, Babbit.
    PF: LA, JJ
    C: Joel....

    by Khanh Nguyen on 5/24/2012 10:25 PM
  10. @DHawes22: that sounds good to me, but do you think with a full year Nolan will make a good back up? I have heard so much negatives on him, I don't know.
    Then do we sell our lottery picks for a Center, or get a center out of the draft and treat them the same way as with our PG go with the one we get.

    by Hg on 5/24/2012 10:26 PM
  11. I would have liked to see a mention of the NCAA assist leader Scott Machado. I would not be a big fan of Marshall, he is a good passer but terrible getting his own shot. Lillard has potential since we need someone who can penetrate and score. Teague is the same way with his athleticism but he is very turnover prone and he could very easily just become another Jonny Flynn. Wroten has potential because he attacks the basket although his terrible FT% is worrisome.

    by cmeese47 on 5/25/2012 12:56 PM
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