With the NCAA season starting and teams globally focusing in on this class of Seniors, here’s a quick positional preview of the upcoming 2018 NCAA Class. And to start with a wider scope we are going with the Brad Stevens positional theory for easy organizing purposes: Ball-Handlers (Guards), Wings, and Bigs. Which really means the idea of a ‘point guard’ now almost encompasses both backcorut positions, a ‘2-guard or combo’ is expected to be a playmaker, ball-handler, and creator. Bigger guards and stretch forwards make up the Wings category. And Bigs include anyway from a ‘4.3’ or ‘Combo Big’ and up. If you have the possibility to play any stretch at the 5, you’re in the Bigs category.
The guard group is extremely versatile. But the ones who stand out have the complete package of scoring, playmaking, defense, and toughness. In recent past years Yogi Ferrell, Frank Mason, Derrick White, Alex Caruso… have stood out in the whirlwind showcase of their Senior season, PIT, and Summer League.
Once the seasons really gets going we will do a Top 25 ranking for all Seniors. This is an exercise to get the pool of candidates out there. There are also short statistical notes for players.
Devonte Graham | 1.5 | Kansas
Pre-season Big 12 POY. Started ever since he got to Kansas. Played second fiddle last year as Frank Mason exploded. Now expected to be the one to breakout, will be on the ball more, given responsibility at clutch time. While Graham is a good outside shooter, has decent feel for the game, and is a solid guard athlete, he’s not a very physical player. He’s a spot up threat. But continually getting into the paint, drawing fouls, and being a lead playmaker is a step he still needs to take. Likely NBA Draft pick, possible first rounder.
85 percent of his half court FGA were jumpshots: highest rate in this group. Played on & off ball: 53.3% of his possessions were in creative situations (PnR, Iso, Post). Fairly regular pick and roll player: 5.0 PnR possessions (incl. passes) per game.
Grayson Allen | 2.0 | Duke
Luke Kennard took Allen’s shine last year emerging as Duke’s go-to backcourt player. Allen went from 21.6 PPG has a sophomore to 14.5 PPG last season. With freshman guards next to him Allen will be given the chance to get back to his sophomore year level. Likely NBA Draft pick.
Played on & off ball. 2nd best PPP (0.914) in creative situations (PnR, Iso, Post) of the 16 players in this group. Fairly jumpshot-oriented, but still a very healthy rate (74% of his half court FGA were jumpshots). Had very good numbers on off-dribble jumpshots. 2nd in this group of 16 players in drawing shooting fouls in creative situations (PnR, Iso, Post).
Manu Lecomte | 1.0 | Baylor
The incredibly quick Belgian guard blasted thru defenses last year as he finally had the keys to his own team with Baylor. Lecomte has jet like quickness. Very adept pull-up shooter. Playmaking has really taken a step, much improved at driving with all options available. He will have even heavier on the ball responsibilities this year and surely will be their go-to late shot clock option.
Sniper. Nr.98 in D1 in catch and shoot PPP (1.26) of players with 3 or more CaS FGA per game. Regular pick and roll player. High pass rate (64.9%) in pick and roll. Did not attack the basket frequently coming off the ball screen; just 12.6% of his PnR possessions ended in a runner or layup. Very low turnover rate in creative situations (PnR, Iso, Post). Not a factor on the glass at all: Just 1.8 rebounds per 30 minutes.
Jaylen Adams | 1.0 | St. Bonaventure
Super smooth scorer, the game comes naturally to him. Short, doesn’t stand out physically, you can bother him with pressure. On-ball scorer, Adams has a crafty handle and ability to really get shots up off the bounce. Adams shoots 3’s at a high clip, gets to the line, and is a distributor. He doesn’t always need to get points, he makes the right basketball play. Always has the ball for St Bonnie, has to take chances and force offense at times.
Big role: 20.5 possession finishes per game, 35th in D1 basketball. 5th in minutes per game (37.4). 2nd in the A10 in scoring behind Jack Gibbs. Dominated the ball: 82.5% of his possession finishes were in creative situations (PnR, Iso, Post). Averaged 7.7 jumpshots per game (35.5 FG%, 48.5 eFG%), 82nd in NCAA D1. 37th in the nation in FTA/30 minutes (6.7). Led the nation in pick and roll possessions (incl. passes) at 19.5 per game. Good/efficient iso numbers, 2 points on 2 possessions per game. Not just a scorer. Had a high 0.49 assist-to-FGA rate.
Marcus Foster | 2.3 | Creighton
One of the strongest guards in the NCAA. In his first year at Creighton after transferring from Kansas State, Foster exploded. Playing next to the nations assist leader Maurice Watson Jr. (until he tore his ACL) and NBA 1st Round big Justin Patton, Foster fit in as the scorer. Both players are gone and Foster takes on a more expansive role. He’s pull-up jump shooter, transition monster, and a power driver. He’s got guard height but wing or forward physicality, meaning he can guard bigger. Needs a degree of freedom.
22nd in D1 basketball in transition PPG. Gets to the hoop: 46th amongst D1 guards in PPG at the rim (4.2). 1.31 PPP finisher there. For a two guard, played a lot of possessions on the ball: 50.2 of his possessions were in creative situations (PnR, Iso, Post). Poor foul shooter for a guard. Made 70.1% of his free throws. Fairly regular pick and roll player: 4.3 PnR possessions per game. Occasional post player; averaged 0.6 points on 0.7 finishes per game in post ups. Averaged just 0.6 steals per 30 minutes.
Measured just 189cm/6’2.5″ft in shoes in 2014, with normal wingspan. But 97kg/213lbs is 10kg heavier than the average 189cm tall player.
Joel Berry | 1.0 | North Carolina
Steady lead guard who helped lead UNC to the National Championship last season. Plays with good pace. Mainly an outside shooter, used heavy by UNC as a spot-up threat. Reads the game, can drive and make tight passes in the teeth of the defense. Lacks burst, not a consistent rim attacker. Needs a ball screen, not a 1v1 creator. Both years as a starter UNC has been in the Title game.
Shooter. 74% of his half court FGA were jumpshots, largely of the catch and shoot type. Played on & off the ball: 54.6% of his possessions were in creative situations (PnR, Iso, Post). 4th amongst guards in the ACC in scoring (behind Dennis Smith Jr., Bryant Crawford and Donovan Mitchell). Averaged 14.7 PPG. 25.2% of his finishes came in transition offense, 2nd highest number in this group of 16 guards.
EC Matthews | 2.0 | Rhode Island
Instant impact player once he got to URI. As a sophomore he was one of the top scorers in his class. Tore his ACL in first game of 2015-16, sat out whole year, played 2016-17 with a giant leg brace. Was missing some explosiveness, something to heavily monitor this season now 2 full years since his injury. Still Matthews pushed his way into the paint last season. Can get tunnel vision, forces action.
On/off ball. 48.7% of his possessions were in creative situations (PnR, Iso, Post). Regular PnR player. 5.3 PnR possessions per game. Just 33.9% pass rate in PnR. Uses the ball screen to get his own shot off. Attacks the hoop hard in ball screen offense. 38.7% of his PnR possessions ended in a runner/floater or at-rim finish. Poor (0.8) assist-to-turnover ratio. Made just 72.7% of his free throws. Made just 10 mid range jumpers (30 attempts) for the season. Averaged just 0.5 steals per 30 minutes.
Bryant McIntosh | 1.0 | Northwestern
McIntosh was the point guard who finally brought Northwestern back to NCAA tournament after a 50 year absence. Deft PnR player, McIntosh flings passes around to an actually potent Northwestern offense. His 3pt shooting dropped off some last season but he’s still a threat. A classic play for McIntosh is coming off a screen, bumping his defender and either drawing a foul or hanging on until the big pops free for a dump down pass or he can put a push shot up in the lane.
3rd lowest PPP in creative situations (PnR, Iso, Post) in this group of 16 guards. Just 10.1% of his finishes were in transition offense; lowest rate in this group. Tied with Elijah Brown for busiest mid range shooter in this group. Scored 3.1 points on 3.7 mid range possessions per game.
Quentin Snider | 1.5 | Louisville
No nonsense Louisville guard who has been the offensive blender on a team with athletes everywhere, he makes the smart play. Snider has gotten more and more reps as a PG. Still fairly slender and has limited defensive versatility. Shoots it as well outside the arc as inside. Smart, solid shooter.
Led ACC guards in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.7). Very low TOV% in creative situations (PnR, Iso, Post). Shot just 38.1% from two point range. Shot just 68.9% from the foul line. Averaged just 0.6 steals per 30 minutes.
Jevon Carter | 1.0 | West Virginia
Classic Press Virginia guard. Carter embodies Bob Huggins patented pressure defense. They press all game and Carter is one of the best at doing it. One of the tops in the NCAA in steals. Good rebounder for a guard. Is he a product of the system or is he a standout within it? That’s the big question for WVU guards going pro.
One of the best rebounding guards in the Big 12. Averaged 1.0 offensive and 3.9 defensive rebounds per game (in 32.0 MPG). Averaged 2.5 steals per game (2.3 per 30) in West Virginia’s full court press oriented defense (WVU led D1 in press percentage). Made just 72.6% of his foul shots.
Quick Hits: Need Deeper Looks
Matthew Fisher-Davis | 2.3 | Vanderbilt
Super shooter. Has developed as a playmaker, becoming a better ball handler under pressure. Has some length but is quite skinny. Generally is just a really good marksman.
JaQuan Newton | 1.5 | Miami
Tall playmaker. Deliberate worker, plays with physicality. Not so quick, shooting is inconsistent. Being overshadowed by stud sophomore guard Bruce Brown and freshman Lonnie Walker.
Nate Mason | 1.0 | Minnesota
High volume shooter for a point guard. Let’s it fly. Has an ideal guard frame. Usually gets his shots off the dribble.
Parker Jackson-Cartwright | 1.0 | Arizona
Arizona’s 5’11”, 170 lbs glue guy. Sets up the offense. Hustle, super active. Knows how to play on and off ball next to all of Arizona’s talent. Sneaky athlete.
Elijah Brown | 2.0 | Oregon
Super scorer, one of the top 2 in the NCAA last 2 seasons. Transfer from New Mexico, son of NBA coach Mike Brown. Spent freshman season at Butler. Has equal turnovers to assists.
Tum Tum Nairns | 1.0 | Michigan State
An absolute blur. Unbelievably quick. Pressure defender. Scoring will pickup once he leaves Michigan St.