With the 2014 NBA Draft just days away, here a few under the radar guards worth paying attention to on draft night.
1. Elfrid Payton (PG, Junior, University of Louisiana-Lafayette): Payton has been perhaps the biggest riser of the last month in the entire draft. Hailing from little known Louisiana-Lafayette, Payton flew way under the radar until he led the Ragin' Cajuns to an NCAA tournament berth this past March. Since then, he has dominated workouts and is now projected as one of the top point guards on the board.
A long armed, defensive-minded point guard with exceptional passing instincts, many scouts believe he could be the second coming of Gary Payton. While it is a little ridiculous to compare him to "The Glove" just yet, Elfrid projects as a player who can step in and provide excellent energy on both ends of the floor, from day one.
Projected Range: Mid-Late Lottery
2. Jordan Clarkson (PG/SG, Junior, Missouri): Clarkson, similar to Payton, has greatly benefitted from individual workouts with teams. During the process, he has shown his incredible athletic ability and versatility to play both guard positions. At 6'5, Clarkson can handle the ball and finish at the basket through traffic. Those are two traits that even the most elite lottery picks do not possess, so he is a hot commodity.
A team like the Memphis Grizzlies could use a guy like him, who attacks the rim and is capable of setting up teammates when the defense breaks down. If Clarkson can eventually extend his range out to the NBA three-point line, he will be a draft day steal for whoever grabs him.
Projected Range: Mid-Late First Round
3. P.J. Hairston (SG, UNC; Texas Legends- NBA D-League): It is surprising why Hairston is not getting major buzz heading into the draft, as he is a player who can flat-out score the ball. Even if you disregard his gaudy numbers in the defensive-challenged D-League, he has one key advantage over the rest of the prospects: a body of work against NBA-level talent.
Hairston translated well to the quicker pace, heightened physicality, and complexity of the next level. Already, he has an NBA body (6'4, 225 pounds), is lights out from deep and figures to get better at playmaking once he matures. If teams are able to overlook his character concerns, Hairston might end up as a top shooting guard in the entire draft.
Projected Range: Mid-Late First Round
4. Russ Smith (PG, Senior, Louisville): Believe it or not, Russ Smith might go undrafted next Thursday. Some scouts/GMs are not too high on him...they have said Smith is too erratic at times, does not have a true position, will struggle to defend opposing guards and so on. However, Smith has two things that cannot really be measured in a vacuum: the will to win and the ability to lead others.
A National Champion at Louisville, Smith showed how he could lead and compete at the highest level. In the NBA, there is no reason why he cannot be a leader of a team's second unit. He would be the perfect change of pace guard capable of making huge plays and shifting momentum. In a deep draft like this one, he will be a great choice late in the second round.
Projected Range: Mid-Late Second Round
5. Spencer Dinwiddie (PG, Junior, Colorado): Most people were shocked to see Dinwiddie enter the draft since he is recovering from a torn ACL that he suffered last January. With the ACL injury no longer being a death sentence for players in this era, Dinwiddie felt secure enough in his talent and body of work to make the jump. A tall (6'6), true point guard with a nice jumper, he is a very intriguing player with first-round talent.
Dinwiddie would be excellent alongside smaller guards (ex. Isaiah Thomas, Ty Lawson) since he has the size to defend opposing twos. Players such as Toronto's Greivis Vasquez and Brooklyn's Shaun Livingston are nice comparisons for him. Once he fully recovers, Dinwiddie has the talent to either be a starter or high-level sixth man off the bench.
Projected Range: Late First Round-Early Second
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