NBA Draft: Top 10 Shooting Guards

Florida's Corey Brewer tops the list of available two guards

June 12, 2007

By Steve Aschburner

Special to CSTV.com

 

Everyone wants to be Michael Jordan. Hardly anyone aspires to be Bruce Bowen.

 

Last time we checked, though, Bowen was pulling down a cool $3.75 million annually, was on his way to his third NBA championship ring in five years and was about to turn 36 years old, still making his living the way he loves while out-earning and out-faming most of his Cal State-Fullerton classmates.

 

It took Bowen some time to catch onto the value of stifling defense in the NBA, especially when he was playing for mediocre-or-worse teams that rarely knew its value, either. But at age 30, after knocking around Europe, the CBA and four other NBA clubs, Bowen landed with the San Antonio Spurs, made himself a pest, nuisance and borderline dirty defensive player and settled into a rewarding career as an indispensable role player on a perennial title contender.


 

 

 

The lesson for shooting guards and other wing players headed into the 2007 NBA draft and dreaming of a long stay in the league, year after year of six and seven-figure salaries? Defense matters. Defense is important. Defense keeps you employed.

 

"I take a lot of pride in my defense," said Florida's Corey Brewer, probably the top prospect among this draft's shooting guards. "That's what's gotten me to where I am today, to have a chance to actually get drafted this high. If you want to play, you've got to learn to do something. When I was a freshman in high school, I wanted to play and my coach was always stressing defense. I knew the only way I was going to get on the court was if I played defense."

 

Hear that? If the top choice at his position, after back-to-back NCAA titles with the Gators, can talk humbly enough about the value of defense, there's no excuse for the others on this list not to embrace that half of the game. Yet it figures to be the biggest adjustment for most of them when they get to the next level.

 

Here is a look at 10 top shooting guard prospects:

 

Corey Brewer, Jr., Florida: 6-foot-8, 185

Brewer's defensive prowess and inclination is what separates him from the pack in this group. He cites Dallas' Josh Howard and Detroit's Tayshuan Prince as players after whom he has patterned his game, and his choices are sound; both Howard and Prince made strong early impressions with defense and effort, then added to their offensive games. Brewer is a tremendous athlete who thrives in the open court and is working on his shot off the dribble.

 

Nick Young, Jr., USC: 6-foot-6, 200

"Smooth" and "fluid" are the adjectives you hear most about Young, an outstanding athlete with skills to shine at both ends and an eager, easy attitude. His intensity was questioned while in college because he stood around too much when he didn't have the ball in his hands. He is a good shooter, especially from mid-range, and has spent long hours this spring getting stronger.

 

Rodney Stuckey, So., Eastern Washington: 6-foot-4, 205

Stuckey has many scouts convinced that he can play both backcourt spots in the NBA, a nice option given his in-between size at shooting guard (his natural spot). He's strong and he's quick, which enables him to get to the rim and to the line. Stuckey's shooting range is limited and some folks question his Big Sky background, but that shouldn't keep him from getting selected late in, or soon after, the lottery.

 

Daequan Cook, Fr., Ohio State: 6-foot-5, 210

Cook likes the comparisons he hears to Chicago's Ben Gordon, and Cook has the shooting eye and physical strength to prompt them. He is capable of taking the ball inside and earns frequent trips to the foul line. He has the tools to be a decent defender but has to work on his discipline at that end. Cook brims with confidence, sometimes a little too much.

 

Morris Almond, Sr., Rice: 6-foot-6, 215

Almond's shooting ability, scoring touch (26.4 ppg last season) and build have drawn comparisons to former Knicks' guard Allan Houston. He nailed almost 46 percent of his three-point shots as a senior, so a few feet back to the NBA arc shouldn't pose a problem. Almond moves well without the ball and is a willing passer. He could pick up the pace on defense.

 

Rudy Fernandez, Spain: 6-foot-6, 172

Strength and toughness are the scouts' biggest questions with Fernandez, whose skills, potential and grasp of the game usually make them forget such reservations. Fernandez played well in Spain last season and is a reliable, creative finisher. He remains more of a gambler on defense than an effort guy.

 

Marco Belinelli, Italy: 6-foot-6, 190  

A quick release on his shot, range out to the three-point line and the knack for creating scoring chances off the dribble make Belinelli a dangerous offensive threat from nearly every spot on the floor. He sees the court well, though he needs to bulk up and assert himself on the defensive end. He also should spend time on his shooting form, which has been erratic at times, leading to pronounced hot and cold streaks.

 

Arron Afflalo, Jr., UCLA: 6-foot-5, 215

A good, reliable, heady player who doesn't awe observers with any one skill or physical attribute, Afflalo does a lot of the so-called little things that help good teams win but don't earn a guy on the bubble extra time in training camp, if the team fit is wrong. The UCLA product is strong physically and mentally but doesn't assert himself when he has talented teammates.

 

Trey Johnson, Sr., Jackson State: 6-foot-5, 215

Johnson scored more but shot worse last season, boosting his average to 27.1 points as a senior but slipping from 45.5 percent to 41.4 percent from the field and from 44.1 percent to 33.3 percent from the college arc. He handles the ball well enough to play point guard at times and gets into the paint well. He didn't have the quality of teammates or competition that most others in this class had.

 

D.J. Strawberry, Sr., Maryland: 6-foot-5, 200

Pre-draft camp drills and testing showed Strawberry to be among the best athletes in this draft, which shouldn't surprise anyone given his gene pool (son of baseball's Darryl Strawberry). His defense is ahead of his offense at this stage of his development, and he's quite aware that his father's checkered reputation precedes him with a lot of casual sports fans. "I just have to show people I'm my own person," Strawberry said recently.

  

Steve Aschburner is a senior NBA reporter and columnist, covering the Minnesota Timberwolves for the Minneapolis Star Tribune for 13 seasons and serving as president of the Professional Basketball Writers Association from 2005-07.