Ranking the 2016 Point Guards

Jun. 9 -- The rising senior class boasts abundant backcourt talent, including UCLA commit Lonzo Ball...

Five of Scout’s top 13 overall prospects occupy the point guard spot, a number that bodes very well for college basketball — if relevant for only a season or two — as well as the NBA.

For perspective, only three of the top 25 prospects in the 2015 and 2014 classes projected as point guards. In fact, you have to trace a line back to the 2010 class — led by Kyrie Irving — when so many floor generals inhabited the top 25, and never before in Scout history have five point guards notched top-15 rankings.

A couple of qualifiers do apply. For one thing, we’re comparing the current 2016 rankings to final rankings for those historical classes, and no one can know yet how the final list for this group will shake out roughly 12 months from now. Moreover, most everyone expects Jamal Murray (No. 12) to classify forward and enroll at a college in time for the 2015-16 season.

On the other hand, we currently slot No. 15 DeAaron Fox as a shooting guard-oriented combo, but it’s possible he ultimately could man the point guard slot as well.

Irrespective of the numbers, the stage is set for excitement and drama to play out both on the court and in recruiting. Let’s take a look at each of the top five point guards.

Albeit by a slim margin, Dennis Smith (pictured at the top) ranks as Scout’s top point guard and the No. 4 overall prospect in the 2016 class. This North Carolina native opened his prep career to positive, yet measured reviews, then blew up prior to his junior season. Smith stands a legitimate 6-2 and possesses exquisite agility to score in traffic, either finishing over the top or with the kind of acrobatics that should make him a highlights mainstay for many years.

He also has improved his three-point shooting significantly and now possesses range to 25 feet. He has refined his form and, when he’s clicking from long range, wields too many scoring weapons to contain. Smith’s accomplishments include starring turns both on the Adidas and EYBL circuits, plus Adidas Nations and innumerable other events. Competing with consistent intensity is his next step.

NC State looms as a primary contender for his talents, while North Carolina, Duke, Louisville, Kansas and others also have maintained pursuit.

Kobi Simmons slots at No. 5 overall and would surprise no one if he ultimately claims the title as top point guard. For end to end speed, Simmons may be best of all the blue chip floor generals. He’s a dynamic athlete with excellent size and a capable, albeit streaky (and errant this spring), shooting stroke.

Meanwhile, Simmons also projects as a tremendous on-ball defender. His length and quick feet enable him to engulf opposing ballhandlers and to jump the passing lanes for steals and one-man fast breaks. His playmaking has become solid, even if not spectacular, but clearly he’s a scoring point and should be able to thrive in that capacity for his entire career.

The Georgia native naturally is entertaining a robust recruitment. He’s a regional and national priority and in April hosted sit down meetings with Kentucky, Ohio State, Georgia, Syracuse and North Carolina.

Utah has produced an increasingly relevant amount of talent in recent years, and Frank Jackson could develop into one of the best players the state ever has produced. He’s averaging 25 points per game for the Utah Prospects on the Adidas circuit, and he has fired in a lethal 43 percent on threes along with 88 percent from the foul line.

As you likely deduced, Jackson’s perimeter jump shot is a hallmark of his game. He’s excellent shooting over the top of high screens and also on kick-outs, and even more encouraging is the fact that he’s a slick, clever penetrator. Jackson has attempted 54 free throws in just eight games, including one monstrous performance in which he shot 17 free throws.

His recruitment has skyrocketed since he backed off an early pledge to BYU last fall, but it’s complicated. … Jackson ostensibly intends to undertake a two-year mission following high school, which effectively makes him a Class of 2018 prospect. In an era when most Tier I programs rebuild their teams from season to season, that makes Jackson’s prospective matriculation a more protracted affair and requires a patience coaches would rather not be have to employ.

Having established that, there appears to be an increasing chance that Jackson forgoes a mission and instead enrolls in college for the 2016-17 season.

Schools such as Arizona, UCLA, Duke, Maryland, BYU, Utah, Stanford and others remain committed to the chase.

Jamal Murray skyrocketed during the high school season, at times outplaying more heralded teammate Thon Maker. The Canada native is an explosive scorer who gets buckets via dynamic dribble moves and is truly exquisite from the middle areas. Murray also is another big guard who carries broad shoulders and should develop a more vital power component as his career progresses.

His outstanding play carried into the postseason, particularly at the Nike Hoop Summit this past spring. Colleague Evan Daniels described Murray as “the best guard prospect” at the event.

But while his talent is obvious, his recruitment is anything but straightforward. Murray strongly is considering a reclass to 2015, which would remove him from this list entirely. Kentucky, which is attempting to retool after its typical losses to the NBA and some atypical recruiting misses, would love to bring him in for next season. Oregon is slugging it out fearlessly with the Wildcats and would put Murray to great use as well.

Exceptionally tall and long for a point guard, Lonzo Ball ultimately could become an NBA scouts’ darling due to his physical attributes and style. Ball possesses uncanny court vision and is a jaw-dropping passer, tools that are even more effective because he’s able to pass over the top of nearly all his lead guard opposition.

Additionally, Ball is a dangerous perimeter shooter who lacks textbook form — something that could become problematic at the sport’s higher levels — but nevertheless buries threes with a quick release and deep range. He’s also a good athlete, not on par with Smith or Simmons but, at 6-5, easily possesses the quickness to thrive against elite competition.

Ball committed early to UCLA, and the California product delivered an immense boost to Steve Alford’s Bruins. He has gained noticeable strength over the past year and could emerge as an immediate sensation in Westwood.

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