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04-28-2003, 12:56 PM
2003 NBA Draft: Top 15 point guards
By Chad Ford
NBA Insider

It's been three pretty long years since the point guard explosion of 1999 brought us Steve Francis, Baron Davis, Andre Miller and Jason Terry in the lottery. Since then, only 11 point guards have been drafted in the first round. Only two, Jay Williams and Jamal Crawford, have been drafted in the lottery.

We spend a lot of time talking about centers being a dying species. But is the pass-first point guard also heading toward the evolutionary abyss? "Who knows?" one prominent GM answered Insider. "Last year, I would've told you that smallish point guards were a thing of the past. Teams were obsessed with big point guards who could shoot the ball. Now, with the emergence of Earl Boykins and Tony Parker, who knows? There just isn't a protypical point guard anymore. To each their own."

This year you have your choice of the 5-foot-10, pure point from Texas or the skinny, 6-foot-3 kid from Iowa who does everything; or maybe you'd like the Nene Hilario of point guards (a Brazilian you've never heard of) or a 6-foot-6 shoot-the-lights-out combo guard from the Rick Pitino school of basketball. Everyone has his place. With one major caveat.

"I think there's still a major fear of the tweener," the GM said. "Nothing scares a team off more than an undersized 2-guard trying to make the switch to point guard in the pros. It's already the hardest position to learn in the NBA -- and that's if you've played the position your whole life. Gilbert Arenas is a great story this year. But he's the exception not the rule." Here's a look at what should be the best point-guard class since 1999. Tuesday we'll tackle the Top 15 shooting guards.

Note: The list includes all players seriously considering entering the 2003 draft. An asterisk (*) by a player's name indicates he is an underclassman who has officially declared.

1. T.J. Ford, Texas
The line: 5-10, 165, Sophomore
The skinny: Ford is the top point guard in college hoops despite being only 5-foot-10. He may be the fastest player in basketball, pro or college. Has an uncanny ability to see the floor and deliver it with laser-like accuracy. Call it a kind of point guard sixth sense -- the same stuff that fuels Jason Kidd's mojo. His only real weakness is his size and lack of a consistent jumper. Still, some teams feel he's the best playmaker to come out of college since Kidd. He's not for everybody, but there's almost no way he falls out of the Top 10.

2. Kirk Hinrich, Kansas
The line: 6-3, 190, Senior
The skinny: If seniors are out and young kids with 40-inch verticals are in, how does a skinny kid from Iowa sneak into the lottery? Poise. Savvy. Intelligence. A killer jumper. Surprising athleticism. Hinrich has the size, floor vision, ball handling, unselfishness and long-range jumper that scouts beg for in a point guard. While some worry about his strength and lateral quickness, most teams feel he's a lock for the mid-to-late lottery.

3. Leandrinho Barbosa, Brazil*
The line: 6-4, 220, 21 years old
The skinny: Considered the best player in Brazil. He's very long and is an explosive athlete. The thing that has scouts buzzing is the speed at which Barbosa plays for someone his size. He's constantly attacking the basket on offense, and aggressively harassing his man on defense. With his long arms (6-foot-10 wingspan) he gets an unusual amount of steals and blocks for a point guard. Only a few teams have actually been to Brazil to see Barbosa play. He averaged 29.6 ppg, 7.8 apg, 4.2 rpg, 2.6 spg and 0.8 bpg while shooting 57 percent from the field, 47 percent from beyond the arc and 85 percent from the free-throw line. Several NBA scouts who have seen him feel he could move into the late lottery with strong workouts.

4. Reece Gaines, Louisville
The line: 6-6, 205, Senior
The skinny: He's 6-6, has legitimate point-guard skills, is a great athlete and has developed into a legit 3-point marksman. Several scouts used words like "slick" and "savvy" to describe his play. If teams are convinced he can be a full-time point guard in the pros, he's got a great shot at the late lottery. If he they think he's a combo guard, he's looking at a mid-to-late first-round selection.

5. Luke Ridnour, Oregon*
The line: 6-2, 185, Junior
The skinny: Ridnour is a point guard with a flair for the dramatic. Despite his frail-looking frame, scouts say he's tough. Ridnour has great floor vision, is a natural leader and can really shoot. Still, concerns about his ability to create his own shot in the pros and his athleticism will hurt him. He's tough to gauge. Several scouts still prefer him to Hinrich and Gaines. But most feel he could be in for a Dan Dickau-like draft day drop.

6. Maurice Williams, Alabama
The line: 6-1, 183, Sophmore
The skinny: Williams is a slick point guard with all of the requisite tools. He has great ball-handling ability, superb handles and a killer crossover that helps him get the ball to the basket. Loves to drive and dish and is also solid running the pick and roll. Plays in control. Has a nice mid-range game. He's a strong floor leader. He does have his flaws, however. He gets abused at times on the defensive end. He has the strength and size to be a good defender, but hasn't shown the effort. He isn't a great athlete. He's quick, but not explosive. He needs to work on his jumper, especially his 3-ball. Scouts think he should stay in school, but they admit he's a mid- to late-first-round pick if he comes out.

7. Marcus Moore, Washington State
The line: 6-6, 208, Junior
The skinny: Size. Size. Size. Scouts love his explosiveness and claim he's a legitimate point-guard prospect, but his 35 percent shooting from the field may scare many of them off. Moore averaged 18.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg and 4.7 apg this season. He scored a career-high 42 points against Gonzaga and also had a 35-point effort against Arizona. Rumors have been circulating for a month that he's considering the draft. Will he declare? Scouts want him to stay in school under the tutelege of new head coach Dick Bennett. However, Moore is worried that his offense will suffer in Bennett's more conservative system. Right now he's looking at a mid- to late-first-round pick. That could go up or down depending on he works out.

8. Marcus Banks, UNLV
The line: 6-2, 200, Senior
The skinny: Think a poor man's Baron Davis. Banks already has an NBA body and an NBA-type game. He's strong, can get to the basket at will and already plays solid defense. He's got great court vision and can really run the break. However, he has issues. He's an inconsistent shooter from the perimeter, is turnover prone, and scouts fear he's closer to 6-0 than 6-2. He's on the late first round, early second round bubble.

9. Zoran Planinic*
The line: 6-6, 215, 21 years old
The skinny: Gets a lot of comparisons to Jiri Welsch. He plays both guard positions, but his NBA future is at the point. Unlike Welsch, he's more of a 1 than 2. He's coming off an injury, which has limited his exposure a bit. But now that he's healthy, scouts are flocking to Cibona, Croatia, to check him out. He's very thin, but teams will always take a risk on a 6-6 point guard. Should be a late first-rounder.

10. Chris Thomas, Notre Dame
The line: 6-1, 182, Sophmore
The skinny: Thomas is one of the few "true" point guards in the draft. Like Ford, he's a 2001 McDonald's All-American alum. However, that's where the comparison's end. He doesn't have the speed or the floor vision of Ford. He's a better shooter, but scouts consider him just an average athlete. He's anxious to put his name in the draft this year, but he's probably making a mistake. Scouts say he's probably a second-rounder, due in part to the unusual number of top point guards in this year's draft.

11. Troy Bell, Boston College
The line: 6-1, 183, Senior
The skinny: A gifted college scorer who is going to have to prove to scouts he's not a 2-guard trapped in a point-guard's body. He doesn't really have the size or the body to play the 2 in the NBA on consistent basis like Juan Dixon. Could be a Bobby Jackson-like spark plug off the bench, if he commits to playing good defense. He's a second-round pick.

12. Paccelis Morlende, France
The line: 6-3, 190, 21 years old
The skinny: The next Tony Parker? Morlende was actually once ranked higher than Parker in France. He's a great athlete with good size for a point guard. However, he doesn't have Parker's "knack" for running the point. Still, he's intriguing.

13. Kristaps Valters, Latvia
The line: 6-3, 185, 22 years old
The skinny: When NBA scouts start traveling to Latvia, you know there's something to his game. Valters is a good athlete who likes to drive and dish. He's got good speed and is an expert finisher around the basket. However, he's been playing in a pretty weak division in Europe. How will he fare against NBA players? There's a pretty big difference between Cleveland and Latvia, believe it or not. Someone will take a chance on him in the late first round.

14. Jermaine Boyette, Weber State
The line: 6-1, 183, Senior
The skinny: Made a name for himself in Portsmouth when he shot 70 percent from the field. Some scouts still believe he's an undersized 2, but he showed some nice court awarness at Portsmouth. If he could learn to play the point, he'd be a steal in the second round.

15. Marcus Hatten, St. Johns
The line: 6-1, 165, Senior
The skinny: Size. Size. Size. If he were 6-foot-5, he'd be a lottery pick. He's an explosive scorer who can absolutely dominate a game when he gets it going. But is he a point guard? Hatten passed up the opportunity to prove it to scouts in Portsmouth. With the new underclassmen rules in effect at Chicago, there's a chance he could get shut out there, too.