2012 NBA Draft Preview: First Round Guards

First-Round Locks:

Bradley Beal – Expected to be the first guard selected, Beal should come off the board between the number two and four picks, which are held by Charlotte, Washington, and Cleveland, respectively. At 6’4”, Beal projects to be a shooting guard in the league and has drawn comparisons to Eric Gordon and Ray Allen. Although he struggled shooting the ball (34% on three-pointers) in his only season at Florida, Beal’s stroke has teams excited about his scoring potential in the league. Turning 19 years old on draft night, Beal possesses great rebounding capability for a guard, evidenced by his 6.5 rebounds per game in college. While he may not be an elite athlete, Beal’s potential and performances in pre-draft workouts have solidified him as one of the first players to hear their name called come Thursday.

Damian Lillard – While some may be asking “Who?”, those who have seen Lillard play have little questions concerning the top point guard in the draft. Hailing from Weber State (“Where?”), Lillard was the focus of opposing defenses night-in and night-out in the Big Sky Conference. Nevertheless, Lillard finished second in the country in scoring at 24.5 points per game, impressively coming on only 15.5 shot attempts per game. Lillard is expected to be drafted anywhere from pick six to 11 and has drawn comparisons to former Duke guard Jay Williams, who was also a scoring guard with great penetration abilities. Lillard will have to adjust to a lesser scoring role in the NBA, but the 6’3” guard has teams intrigued about his pick-and-roll capability given his quality decision-making and pure shooting ability (41% on three-pointers senior year).

Kendall Marshall – The best pure floor general in the draft, Marshall is coming off a sophomore season that saw him dish out 9.8 assists per game for North Carolina. While he was surrounded by a wealth of talent, Marshall showed consistent ability to put his teammates in good scoring positions in college. At 6’4”, he has great size for an NBA point guard, but the question mark with Marshall is over his scoring ability, or lack thereof. In his two seasons at Carolina, Marshall averaged a paltry 7.2 points per game, coming on only 5.6 attempts per game. To keep defenses honest in the league, Marshall will have to display the ability to knock down shots. Doing so will open up his penetration and passing lanes. Expect Marshall to be selected in the late lottery to mid first-round.

Austin Rivers – While some guard prospects have questions over their ability to create offense for themselves, Rivers displayed a dynamic scoring capability during his only season at Duke, scoring 15.5 points per game. Blessed with unbelievable quickness and yo-yo like ball handling ability, Rivers has the potential to be a high volume scorer in the NBA. However, that is also where the concerns lie with Rivers, as he is a very ball dominant player. At 6’5”, Rivers is probably best suited to play shooting guard in the league and his 2.1 assists per game to 2.3 turnovers support this belief. With supreme confidence, Doc’s son should adjust to the NBA game well, where one-on-one situations are common, but he will have to improve his decision making to become a real difference maker. Expect Rivers to be drafted anywhere after the 5th pick to late in the lottery.

Terrance Ross – A well-rounded overall player, Ross has been gaining attention along the pre-draft circuit, after averaging 25 points per game in the NIT. Most of the buzz surrounding Ross is centered on his ability to shoot the ball and stretch defenses. After averaging 16.4 points per game and 6.4 rebounds in his sophomore season at Washington, the silky 6’7” player should be able to contribute at either the shooting guard or small forward position in the NBA given his solid defensive ability. Ross also has good athleticism, but could use some seasoning and ball handling work to enable him to reach his full potential. Some have likened Ross to former NBA player Eddie Jones, who was also a first-round pick. Expect Ross to be picked anywhere from pick seven to the end of the lottery.

Dion Waiters – For a player who didn’t even start in college, Waiters is still one of the best guards in the draft. The Syracuse sixth man, who averaged 12.6 points per game on nearly 48% field goal shooting, has been one of the most talked about prospects leading up to the draft, mostly because of the rumored lottery promise he received, causing him to cancel individual team workouts. At 6’4”, 220 pounds, Waiters is a typical combo guard in the NBA, possessing the ability to overpower point guards and get around shooting guards with his quickness. His tough style of play has calmed concerns that he might be a tweener in the league, but there are still questions over his ability to shoot the ball from deep. Nevertheless, Waiters should be selected in the lottery, as early as pick seven.

Jeremy Lamb – The defending national champ had a decent sophomore season at UConn given the high standard he set during his freshman year and NCAA tournament run. With a 6’11” wingspan to go with his 6’5” height, Lamb possesses great size for an NBA two-guard. Lamb is noted for his offensive ability (17.7 points per game sophomore year), which starts with a smooth jump shot and is complemented by impressive athleticism that allows him to get his shot off over defenders, leading to some comparisons to Tracy McGrady. While his frame and intensity could use work, Lamb figures to be a lottery pick that could come off the board as early as pick number eight to the Toronto Raptors, where he sprained his ankle in a pre-draft workout, causing him to cancel a few team workouts.

Fringe First-Round:

Doron Lamb (Kentucky), Tyshawn Taylor (Kansas), Marquis Teague (Kentucky), Tony Wroten (Washington), Evan Fournier (France)

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