In reviewing the media day activities for various conferences, a lot of attention is getting paid to teams' point guard position. Whether a squad returns a great player, is bringing in a touted freshman or has suffered from attrition, opinions are boisterous.
That said, who are the best five high school point guards in the country, regardless of class? Rank them in order with a brief explanation.
Evan Daniels1. Derryck Thornton – If I could have any guard in the country to run my high school team, Thornton is who I’m taking. His feel and understanding for the position is special. Throw in his work ethic and the fact that he can score it when you need him to, and I think he’s one of the best players in high school basketball, regardless of class.
2. Jalen Brunson – Much like Thornton, Brunson has a high IQ and plays with a sense of confidence when he has the ball in his hands. He almost always makes the right pass on time and on target. He’s a capable shooter and a crafty driver as well.
3. Dennis Smith – Smith is different from Thornton and Brunson. He’s more athletic and quicker, than at least Brunson, but Smith is a dynamic scoring lead guard. He’s terrific in transition and a tremendous finisher at the rim.
4. Justin Simon – There’s a lot of upside wrapped in Simon’s 6-foot-5 frame. He’s reliable on defense, has good vision, is a talented passer and understands the position.
Brian Snow1. Kobi Simmons - He isn't the typical pass first guy, but to me he is the point guard in the country who does the most. Simmons has the size and athleticism to be dominant going forward, and though he scores first he also has good floor vision and is a willing passer. I am going with Simmons as being the best of the bunch going forward.
2. Derryck Thornton - He is not a great athlete, but Thornton has everything else. He can really pass the ball, is a solid defender, should get bigger and stronger as he gets older and has a tremendous idea of how to play the game. His upside isn't elite, but he is the type of kid you win a lot of games with.
|Thornton’s all-around game makes him an elite|
3. Jalen Brunson - Another kid who isn't a huge upside guy, but has elite feel and ability at the position. Brunson can really shoot it, but he also is a tremendous passer and someone who knows how to make plays for teammates. Add in that he competes on defense and knows how to lead, and he is the floor general who helps you in close games and is an extension of the coach.
4. Dennis Smith - A big time athlete and a high level scorer, at times Smith can look like a combo guard, but he is a point. Smith is a solid passer,and has the ability to be a big time defender as he gets older and learns how to play the position more. The physical tools are there, now it is all about refinement.
5. Jawun Evans - There is no substitute for speed, and no one is faster in the country than Evans baseline-to-baseline. He isn't a great shooter, but Evans can make shots when open. Still, it is his ability to breakdown a defense and make plays that is uncanny. Also despite not being an elite shooter, he knows how to score by finishing in traffic and getting to the foul line.
Josh Gershon1. Derryck Thornton, Jr. - Heading into the summer, there was an open competition for best point guard in high school basketball. Thornton saw the opportunity and jumped all over it. There are players who one could argue have more upside due to their physical tools, but this is a position where basketball IQ and skillset win out and given Thornton is elite in those two areas, while he's also one of the best on the ball defenders in the country. Thornton has more than good enough size and athleticism for the point guard, meaning he's someone any program in the country could feel comfortable building their team around.
2. Jalen Brunson - This kid doesn't have the highest ceiling in the world, but if you're a college coach trying to build a title contender, Brunson would be a very good place to look. Brunson is a big time passer who is also a very capable shooter, while he also has the handle, understanding of the game, toughness and scoring ability to be a leader. He's probably average athletically, but his intangibles more than make up for that and there's every reason to think he'll eventually be one of the top point guards in college basketball.
3. Dennis Smith, Jr. - While basketball IQ and skill set are important for the position, the bottom line is there are players at the highest level who earn their paycheck based on physical tools above everything else, and Smith has the chance to be one of those guys. An elite athlete with a big time handle and passing ability, Smith uses his overwhelming athleticism and ball handling to take defenders off the dribble at will, where he'll either come up with a high level finish or create for someone else.
4. Jawun Evans - If you wanted to have the fastest team in college basketball, this would be a great place to start. Evans is quietly one of the top point guard prospects in high school due to his elite speed, handle and ability to create. His jumper will keep coming around, but until then he's going to be a big time playmaker in transition, while getting into the lane when he wants in the half court.
5. Troy Brown, Jr. - If we were ranking based on upside, one could argue that Brown tops this list. While there's a chance he outgrows the position down the line, for now he's a 6-foot-5 point guard with above average athleticism, terrific vision, a good handle for his size and a much-improved three-point shot. He plays the right way and can defend and play multiple positions at the next level. He's one of the top prospects in high school basketball.
Rob Harrington1. Jalen Brunson — Out of all the guys I considered for the top spot, I opted in favor of the toughest. Brunson is a little small, average athletically, has stubby lugs, I get all that. But he’s also very skilled and intelligent, and he’s a lethal competitor who can blend in with outstanding teammates or dominant the scoring himself. I don’t think I’d answer this question the same way seven years from now, but if you’re going to create a mental profile for a player ready to run the show as a college freshman, Brunson fits it to a tee. He projects as a stud for Villanova from day one.
2. Dennis Smith — I regard Smith as the best one-on-one player on the point guard list, and for that reason he gets the nod at No. 2. Just picture a hotly contested NCAA Tournament contest in which a team desperately needs a bucket; Smith possesses the size, athleticism, ballhandling and leaping ability to provide the equalizer.
|Smith possesses unique body control around the rim|
3. Derryck Thornton — Thornton arguably is the country’s best all-around point guard. He has more strengths and fewer weaknesses than others, given that he’s such a strong playmaker and defender. Combined with improving offense, he has star written all over him.
4. Kobi Simmons — Given that my Nos. 2-4 are juniors, it’s obvious that the 2016 class is very fortunate to have such elite performers in the same class. I may be overly influenced by a killer game out in Las Vegas this past July, but Simmons is an electric fullcourt scorer and dangerous three-point shooter who simply needs to tighten up his command of the game. Physically, he’s as gifted as anyone.
5. Justin Simon — As with Simmons, Simon altered my perception of him in a positive way late this past summer. The future Arizona Wildcat is actually combo guard — and some consider him a wing — but he’s clearly able to defend the position and seems to grow into his own natural gifts all the time. I also love that he’s a clutch competitor, ideal teammate and impossible not to like off the floor.
Evan Daniels, Brian Snow, Josh Gershon and Rob Harrington contributed to this report