Ranking The ACC Point Guards

Paul Abell-US PRESSWIRE

Back in September, Jerry Steinberg of State Of The U, Miami's SB Nation blog, wrote a post ranking the ACC guards. While many of his rankings were spot on, I think he missed the boat on Erick Green, ranking him the seventh eighth-best point, the lowest I have seen by far. So I thought I'd give my two cents by doing my own ranking of the ACC point guards and righting the ship on Green.

You may realize that I have only ranked 10 point guards, not the full 12 like State Of The U did. But, as Wake Forest and North Carolina both project to start freshman point guards (C.J. Harris and and Dexter Strickland/Leslie McDonald will be ranked with the shooting guards), I will not rank them. I don't think comparing their high school exploits or recruiting rankings is an equitable method of comparison. Freshmen often struggle, and this is even more stated in the ACC. So I will wait until there is a year under their belt before including them on this list.

10. Rod Hall, So., Clemson- Hall saw spot duty in 2011-12 as a freshman, averaging 3.8 points, 1.3 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game while shooting a .44/.80/.60 line. While those stats might look good, and the 80% 3-point shooting might jump off the page, keep in mind he only attempted five threes all season. He also posted a near 1-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.More importantly, he didn't pass the eye test. Hall looked awkward out there on the floor, a scrappy player with a football build, he looks more the part of Bryan Randall (no offense Bryan) than one of the conference's elite point guards. I'm not going to take away what he did do, but I would say quantify it. Can what Hall did be improved upon? Is it even repeatable? Yes his stats will probably increase with more playing time, but I don't know that he'll meet the efficiency he did a year ago. He is not a very good ball-handler and obviously he will not continue to shoot that high of a percentage from 3-point range. Luckily he does have some quality bigs in Devin Booker and Milton Jennings that should ease his transition into the starting role.

9. Jordan Daniels, So., Boston College- The Eagles played eight freshmen in 2011-12, and Daniels was one of the best of them. He had a positive assist-to-turnover ratio (though it was only 1.3-to-1), scored 6.4 points, 2.6 assists and 1.6 rebounds per game. He also recorded almost a steal per game. The negatives? Well, he only shot a .35/.34/.75 line, and got to the free throw line less than one time per game. For the Eagles to improve their standing in the conference, they'll need Daniels to reduce his turnovers and shoot a better percentage from the field.

8. Pe'Shon Howard, Jr., Maryland- Howard suffered through an injury-riddled sophomore campaign in which he missed the first and last nine games of the season due to a broken foot and later a torn ACL. With the latter injury, it might be a while before Howard is 100 percent again. As for the 14 games he did play, Howard regressed from his freshman year in every category except points, assists, rebounds and steals per game. He nearly doubled his turnovers per game from 2010-11 in which he put up one of the better assist-to-turnover ratios in the conference. He also shot a .37/.27/.66 line after shooting .42/.36/.68 in 2010-11. But that said, the Terrapins did much better in games that Howard played (8-6) than games he didn't (9-9). So he is valuable to them. If Howard can return to the player we saw in 2010-11, he may be the best point guard the conference has to offer in 2013-14, but based on his performance (albeit while carrying an injury), I think this is the place he belongs right now.

7. Mfon Udofia, Sr., Georgia Tech- Udofia is an experienced player who has improved marginally over his three years at Georgia Tech. As a freshman in 2009-10, Udofia averaged 5.9 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists and just under a steal per game while shooting .37/.30/.62 line. Two years later, Udofia averaged 9.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists and half a steal per game while shooting .38/.32/.66 line. He also took almost nine shots and almost four 3-pointers per game a year ago. So basically that tells us Udofia think he's a better shooter than his numbers indicate. In addition to his shooting woes, Udofia has been a 1-to-1 assist-to-turnover guy for his career, way to low for a point guard. So Udofia will have to improve his handle, shooting, passing and decision-making in 2012-13 to give the Yellow Jackets a viable point guard option, and not just a guy who can kinda shoot that is a guard.

6. Jontel Evans, Sr., Virginia- Evans has been the bane of the Hokies existence in the last few seasons. A 30% career 3-point shooter, Evans shoots 50% from behind the arc against the Hokies and has hit 25% of his career 3-pointers in six games against Virginia Tech. If not for his performance from downtown against Tech, Evans would be a 26% shooter from beyond the arc. Among his 3-point exploits against the Hokies, a prayer 3-pointer that was awarded to the guard despite video clearly showing the ball was still in his hands when the shot clock hit zero in a 61-59 Virginia win. It was not reviewed. Evans is a pass-first guard, but has improved his offense in each of the last two seasons. Evans has equalled or improved his shooting performance in every area from the previous year during that time. Last year he shot a career-best .47/.36/.62 line. Shooting 47% as a 5'11" guard in the ACC is a phenomenal accomplishment. But, Evans is still not a particularly a good shooter, just a great shot-selector. He does a great job running the offense, averaging 3.5 and 3.9 assists per game over the last two seasons. His turnovers went up considerably a year ago, but generally speaking, he's a good ball handler. He also rebounds the ball well for a 5'11" player (2.4 and 2 rebounds per game over the last two years) and is among the conference leaders in steals with 1.6 per game. He's the kind of player who will not win you a game (usually) but will not lose you a game. Solid if unspectacular, Evans makes the most of what he has and utilizes his high basketball IQ to be judicious and make the right play.

5. Shane Larkin, So., Miami- I disagree with State Of The U's assertion that he (or the combination of Larkin, the 5-10 minutes a game Durand Scott/Garrius Adams would play there) would qualify as the conference's second-best point guard or group of guards. Larkin was a competent ACC player a year ago, especially considering he was a freshman and eventually a starter on a team with NCAA Tournament aspirations. Because of his performance, Larkin made the All-ACC Freshman team. But that alone doesn't elevate him above the conference's elite point guards. Nor do his statistics. Granted we all know what they say about statistics, but statistical analysis can be useful when comparing players, especially when the gap is so stated. Larkin averaged 7.4 points per game while shooting a .36/.32/.86 line. Yes, he knocked down free throws, but the field goal percentage number has to be examined. As Run The Floor pointed out, Larkin only shot 39% from inside the 3-point arc. That's alarming. Also alarming is his 4-to-3 assist-to-turnover ratio. Larkin does have assets though. As mentioned above, he is a good free throw shooter, and often a good free throw shooting player is a good shooting player no matter where he is on the floor. He also recorded 50 steals, a large number given his class and minutes. So again, I won't knock him for what he did as a freshman. He's a promising young player. But that said, I also am not willing to call him better than Erick Green, Ian Miller or Quinn Cook now.

4. Quinn Cook/Tyler Thornton, So./Jr., Duke- Again, this is the only combo of players for the same team I will rank at the point guard spot as both will probably see plenty of minutes and it is unclear as of now which will start. If I had to put my money on it, I would bet Cook gets the nod (as the Duke Hoop Blog also suggests), or at least more playing time. But Duke with their talent has the capability to play three guard sets, two stretch fours or two back to the basket players in the post with both Plumlees. Cook excelled at times a season ago in his freshman campaign, shooting a .41/.25/.78 line, averaging 4.4 points per game. The 3-point number isn't pretty, but he attempted less than 2 shots per game, and Duke could use fewer attempts from range in 2012-13 than the 3-point shot happy 2011-12 team. He also had nearly a 4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. That's terrific for anyone, especially a freshman. Thornton as a sophomore averaged 4.1 points per game in almost double Cook's minutes while shooting a .38/.35/.75 line. He also had a good assist-to-turnover ratio at 2-to-1, but produced just 6 more assists than Cook. He also averaged a staggering 2.8 fouls per game for the amount of minutes he played. So based off of that, Cook was the much more productive and efficient player a year ago when he was on the court, and for a position which is all about efficiency, that makes him pretty good. If you double Cook's 2011-12 minutes and assume he posts the same averages over that period of minutes, he would be third on this list in my opinion. But as of right now, it's too early to say that. With more floor time he should be one of the top guards in the conference, and if he isn't the guy, Thornton, who provides more on defense could be a very good guard in his own right.

3. Ian Miller, Jr., Florida State- Miller is a lot like Green in the sense that he is more a scoring guard than a true point. He posted good statistics a year ago, and was the third-leading scorer at 10.3 points per game (fourth in total points) for the ACC champion Seminoles. However, Miller was also fourth on the team in assists per game with 1.3. That number will need to improve, even for a player who prefers to be a shoot-first guy. Granted with three other players dishing out assists at a higher rate a year ago, the argument could be made that they didn't really need Miller in that capacity. But this year as he takes over as the starting lead guard and as one of the only experienced players on the roster, Miller will need to assist more and improve his assist-to-turnover ratio, an even 1-to-1 ratio in 2011-12, and an even poorer rate in 2010-11 as a freshman. Miller was not allowed to play the first semester at Florida State a year ago and played in only 23 games as a freshman as well, so this will be an opportunity for him to play his first full season as a Seminole. His 3-point shot is his true strength, as he has hovered around 35-36% in his two seasons. He is also very good at the free throw line, a career 80% shooter. He does however also need to improve his overall shooting percentage, as he has been below 40% in both his seasons.

2. Erick Green, Sr., Virginia Tech- Green is the conference's best-scoring point guard, and maybe the best-scoring guard as well. Green played more like a true point in 2010-11 with Malcolm Delaney by his side, but in 2011-12, he ran the offense for himself a lot more. As the Hokies' top scoring option, Green eschewed some of the responsibilities of being a lead guard, borne of the necessity for him to be more of a combo-guard. After being one of the most improved players in the entire conference in 2010-11, Green improved upon every major statistic in 2011-12 (minus steals, blocks and turnovers), upping his scoring average by four points to 15.6 points per game and improving his 2010-11 shooting line of .41/.25/.78 (FG%/3-point%/FT%) to a .44/.38/.83 line in 2011-12. He also upped his rebounding average to 3.3 per game, although his steals per game fell to 1.3. Green still maintained one of the best assist-to-turnover ratio's in the conference among qualifiers (nearly 2-to-1), but his assists per game remained almost unchanged with more turnovers than 2010-11. In a way, that is to be expected to some extent, as the Hokies lost several scoring options from 2010-11. So while Green is a good ball-handler and one of the premier scorers in the ACC, he is not a point guard the ilk of Brown. Having said that, if the Hokies were given the choice between Green and Brown given their current roster makeup, I think they'd stick with Green. He's that important to their offense.

1. Lorenzo Brown, Jr., N.C. State- Brown is probably the best-passing guard in the conference (along with Jontel Evans), evidenced by his 6.3 assists a year ago. He does need to cut down on his turnovers, but even with a career-high 3.2 turnovers per game a year ago, he ended up with essentially a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Despite his penchant for setting up teammates, Brown is still a legitimate offensive threat as well, averaging nearly 13 points per game while shooting 45% from the field and 35% from downtown. At 6'5" Brown is also very good at rebounding, averaging 4.5 rebounds per game in 2011-12. He also had a very healthy 1.8 steals per game a year ago. Brown also significantly cut down his fouls from 2010-11 despite playing more minutes. He's a superb athlete, and I can agree with Steinberg's Rajon Rondo comparison on the basis of his completeness as a player. There is just not a better overall point guard in the conference than Lorenzo Brown.


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