This is a great year to need a point guard. The 2017 NBA Draft is loaded at the position, with five projected lottery picks and at least one solid option who projects to be selected later. Here’s a look at some of the top floor generals as this college basketball season nears its end.
Markelle Fultz, Washington, 6-4, 195, Freshman
Of all the 2017 point guards, Markelle Fultz appears most ready for the NBA. He could fill out a bit more, but he is strong enough right now. Fultz can do it all: he is shooting 41.3 percent from deep and 47.6 percent from the floor and ranks 25th with a 34.9 percent assist rate despite also averaging 23.2 points per game. Only two players in the entire country -- South Dakota State's Mike Daum and Houston's Rob Gray -- have posted higher offensive ratings (ORtg) than Fultz's 114.0 while being used in a higher percentage of their team's possessions. Fultz's usage rate is 31.1 for a Washington team that has lost two-thirds of its games. The fact the Huskies have won nine games with Fultz should not scare anyone. It's not unreasonable to think they would have five wins without him.
Lonzo Ball, UCLA, 6-6, 190, Freshman
Doubters always find some reason to discredit Lonzo Ball, but the vast majority of basketball people see a bright future. Forget his thin frame and his unorthodox shot. Ball can play. It's no coincidence that UCLA is 24-3 with Ball a year after going 15-17 without him. With Ball pushing the pace and creating passes few can see let alone make, UCLA ranks first in Kenpom.com's adjusted offensive efficiency. He is averaging 7.6 assists per game. His 130.7 offensive rating ranks 23rd among all players, regardless of usage rate, and his 67.5 percent effective field-goal percentage ranks eighth. That's because he converts 71.6 percent of his two-pointers and 43 percent of his three-pointers. Yes, his shot is unorthodox, but it works. As for defense, he's long and capable of disrupting passing lanes. UCLA does not prioritize the defensive end, so Ball's ability is not always on display. However, his lockdown of Dillon Brooks was the key factor in the Bruins' late comeback to beat Oregon on Feb. 9.
Dennis Smith, N.C. State, 6-3, 190, Freshman
Fultz and Ball seem like the safest picks, but Dennis Smith may have the highest ceiling. He is lethal off the dribble, can explode past just about anyone and has a body that helps him finish through just about anyone. Would it be surprising to look up in a few years and see Smith averaging 25 points per game? Absolutely not. But the questions have focused on his work ethic. Just one year at N.C. State -- a program that has had its bouts with apparent apathy under Mark Gottfried -- should not damn Smith's draft stock. Maybe he'll get to the NBA and be the hardest worker on his team. If that's the case, watch out.
De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky, 6-3, 187, Freshman
De'Aaron Fox cannot shoot yet. He's not as strong as some of the other point guards in this class. But he is capable running the show and has displayed signs of being an elite defender. That means he is not as flashy of a pick, but some team could be really happy with Fox in the lottery. Though he's 9-for-52 (17.3 percent) from deep and 37-for-119 (31.1 percent) on two-point jumpers, a shot always can be improved. If that happens for Fox, he could be an NBA All-Star.
Frank Ntilikina, France, 6-5, 170
We don't know much about Frank Ntilikina yet, but the 18-year-old is widely considered a lottery pick. He is long and projects as a versatile defender with an improving jump shot and ability to run the pick and roll.
Monte Morris, Iowa State, 6-3, 175, Senior
If your team is not lucky enough to land in the lottery and have a shot at the young point guards, Monte Morris is a solid fallback option in the late first round or early second round. He will not impress you physically, but he is as steady as they come at running the show. He has 713 assists in his three-plus years at Iowa State and turned over the ball just 151 times for a ratio of 4.7 to 1. That is exceptional. Morris also can score off the bounce from deep (38.2 percent), mid-range (38.2 percent) and rim (68 percent). He'll make someone happy.