The 2014 NBA Draft: Profiling the Top Shooting Guards

A deep class with exceptional versatility, the 2014 shooting guard draft class possesses a number of different styles to choose from.

In part two of my 2014 NBA Draft prospect series, we analyze the top shooting guards looking to hear their names called on June 26th. You can find a look at the point guards here.

One of the deeper positions in this draft, there could be as many as seven or eight shooting guards chosen in the first round this year. It was extremely difficult to narrow it down, but here are the top shooting guards in this year's draft class.

1. Dante Exum

School: Australian Institute of Sport
Height: 6’6”
Weight: 196 lbs.
Age: 18

Considered one of the top five overall players in the draft, Dante Exum possesses incredible size for a guard. Standing at 6’6” with an almost 6’10” wingspan, Exum uses his length to attack the basket and finish inside as well as swallow up opposing guards on defense. His perimeter shooting has improved greatly over the last year as well as his ability to create scoring opportunities for teammates. His upside as an all-around superstar is why he is considered one of the few “elite” talents in the 2014 NBA Draft.

The 18-year-old Australian’s weaknesses right now stem from how raw he is as a player. He tends to play a little out of control, especially in the half-court, and is prone to turning the ball over and poor shot selection. He is also extremely thin a la Kevin Durant, however with an NBA training staff at his disposal he should improve his strength.

Player Comparison:

Penny Hardaway – Hardaway was able to use his array of shifty moves and length to get into the lane and finish at the rim. Exum has the potential to enjoy the same success at the NBA level while shooting well from behind the arc and playing lockdown perimeter defense.

Draft Pick Projection:

Orlando Magic – A Victor Oladipo-Dante Exum backcourt combo could be lethal in transition and on the defensive end. Traditional point guards are slowly becoming extinct and having a pair of combo guards could prove to be very rewarding for Orlando.

2. Nik Stauskas

School: Michigan
Height: 6’6”
Weight: 207 lbs.
Age: 20

The best pure shooter in this draft class, Nik Stauskas took the rest of his offensive game to a new level this past season at Michigan. Not only did he shoot over 44 percent from three-point range, but he showed a very good ability to get to the rim and create offense for others. Extremely patient with advanced ball-handling skills, Stauskas should have no problem scoring in the NBA from anywhere on the court. He could even see some time at point guard as he possesses an exceptional passing ability with the size to see over defenders.

Unfortunately Stauskas is very poor on defense, often getting caught beaten by faster, more athletic guards. His subpar wingspan and lack of strength will hold him back from being anything more than a below-average defender.

Player Comparison:

Klay Thompson – Stauskas will immediately become one of the best shooters in the NBA when he is drafted and shows surprising leaping ability at the rim. If he is paired with a skilled point guard like Thompson, he could be a trendy pick for Rookie of the Year.

Draft Pick Projection:

Phoenix Suns – The opportunity to play Stauskas with rising superstar Goran Dragic and possibly another star in Eric Bledsoe will be tough to pass up for a Suns team that had an encouraging season in 2013-2014.

3. Gary Harris

School: Michigan State
Height: 6’4”
Weight: 205
Age: 19

One of the stronger all-around players in college basketball last season, Gary Harris is considered one of the “safest” picks in the 2014 draft. A solid outside shooter, Harris is also capable of using his exceptional strength an athleticism to get to the hoop and finish. The 19 year old really excels on the defensive end, averaging 2.2 steals per 40 pace adjusted minutes. Consistently tasked with defending the opponent’s best backcourt scorer, Harris will certainly be asked to do the same in the NBA and is more than capable of excelling in that role.

The only thing that could hold Harris back from being a solid all-around contributor is his size and explosiveness. A good - not great - athlete, Harris may have a hard time beating some of the bigger, faster athletes at the next level (see Dante Exum). While his shot selection left something to be desired in college, he won’t be asked to be as much of a focal point on offense at the next level.

Player Comparison:

Bradley Beal – Harris possesses a similar body type and shooting ability to the young guard who blossomed into a star for Washington in the playoffs. The Michigan State product should even be a better, more consistent defender than Beal as well.

Draft Pick Projection:

Philadelphia 76ers – The 76ers will take a look at Stauskas here, but I believe they will take Harris instead due to his ability help them on the defensive end, where they ranked 26th in the NBA in Defensive Rating and last in points per game.

4. Zach LaVine

School: UCLA
Height: 6’6”
Weight: 181 lbs.
Age: 19

The UCLA connection isn’t the only reason Zach LaVine is getting compared to Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook. In a workout with the Los Angeles Lakers, he reportedly showed off an absurd 46-inch vertical leap. Undoubtedly one of the most athletic players in the entire draft class, LaVine excelled at scoring in transition in his one year at UCLA. The 6’6” guard also showed the ability to shoot from long range and has incredible upside on the offensive end.

Unlike Westbrook however, LaVine struggles mightily on defense. He often plays flat-footed and is rarely in a good defensive position. Wiry thin at 6’6” 181 pounds, he lacks the strength and toughness to defend opposing guards at the NBA level. LaVine also tends to play out of control in the half-court and needs to improve his decision-making if he ever wants to be more than an athletic shooting guard.

Player Comparison:

Gerald Green – While many people want to point to Westbrook as a comparison, LaVine is nowhere near as polished as a playmaker or strong defensively. His athletic prowess and shooting ability are reminiscent of a younger Gerald Green.

Draft Pick Projection:

Atlanta Hawks – The Hawks nearly knocked off the Pacers in the first round of the playoffs with a solid backcourt of Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver. They lack athleticism and explosiveness however, and taking a chance on LaVine with the 15th pick could pay huge dividends down the road.

5. Jordan Adams

School: UCLA
Height: 6’5”
Weight: 209 lbs.
Age: 19

UCLA enjoyed the luxury of having three potential first round picks last season in LaVine, Kyle Anderson, and Jordan Adams. Adams is one of the most underrated players in this draft class and posted an outstanding 12.6 win shares per 40 minutes in 2013-2014, a full 3.1 win shares ahead of the next shooting guard in the draft. The 19 year old uses his strong frame and 6’10” wingspan to get to the rim and score, and he also possesses quick hands that lead to 3.3 steals per 40 pace adjusted minutes. Adams is also one of the best guards in the draft at attacking the boards on both ends of the floor.

While he shot a solid percentage last season, Adams is still inconsistent from behind-the-arc with some hitches in his mechanics. He excels due to his high motor, however he lacks the explosiveness and athleticism that many an NBA shooting guard possess. He has all the tools to be a great perimeter defender, although he tends to take unnecessary risks and often gets burned when he gambles.

Player Comparison:

Wesley Matthews – Another strong, lengthy guard who was underrated out of college, Matthews has found himself a nice home in Portland. Both players are exceptional defenders as well, and Adams has the potential to develop a similarly consistent perimeter shot as Matthews.

Draft Pick Projection:

Los Angeles Clippers – The Clippers would be ecstatic if Adams fell to them at the 28th pick, and he would be an excellent bench option for them. Adams would fit nicely into their fast-paced style of play, and he would give them two above-average backcourt defenders with Chris Paul.