John Schmeelk ranks three Knicks guard options at No. 8 overall in the 2020 NBA Draft

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Earlier in the week, I took a look at some of the wings that could be on the Knicks’ radar with the eighth overall pick in the NBA Draft. Today, we are going to look at potential point guard prospects and rank them in different categories:

Killian Hayes: 6’5, 215 pounds, 18 years old, Ulm, France
Tyrese Haliburton: 6’5, 175 pounds, 20 years old, Iowa State
Kira Lewis Jr.: 6’3, 165 pounds, 19 years old, Alabama

Shooting

1.       Tyrese Haliburton shot 42.5 percent from behind the arc in his two seasons at Iowa State, shooting 5.6 threes per game in his sophomore season. He is excellent on catch-and-shoot but needs to improve shooting off the dribble, which has been poor partly due to a funky shooting form.

2.       Kira Lewis Jr. has shot 36 percent from three in his two seasons at Alabama on just under five attempts per game. He can shoot off the dribble and has shot 79 percent from the free throw line throughout his career. He is an adept shooter off the dribble.

3.       Killian Hayes only shot 29 percent from behind the arc in his 2019-2020 season in Germany. He has shown proficiency shooting off the dribble, and is developing a nifty step-back. His 88 percent free throw rate indicates his poor catch and shoot game has potential to improve.

Playmaking

1.       Killian Hayes can make every pass in the book, including difficult one-handed passes (with his left hand) on the move off of the pick-and-roll. He has good vision and is unselfish. He did have issues with turnovers in his first season playing point guard in Germany as a teenager against seasoned pros, which should surprise no one.

2.       There is an argument to be made that Tyrese Haliburton should be first in this category, but his inability to put pressure on the defense by penetrating keeps him a notch below Hayes. In his own right, Haliburton is a fantastic passer with excellent vision and rarely makes bad decisions.

3.       Kira Lewis Jr. is an improving playmaker and there is still room for growth. He doesn’t make some of the advanced reads and passes as consistently as Haliburton or Hayes, but he is a competent passer off of the pick-and-roll and is not shy about throwing lobs or drop-off passes to cutting teammates.

Penetration

1.       Kira Lewis Jr.’s speed and ability to create separation puts him first on this list. He has the best tools to consistently get around the corner and accelerate to the rim. He is more adept at using his speed in the full court, and has to do a better job creating separation in crowded areas in half-court sets. He is fast to get vertical but isn’t as quick laterally. He also has to work on gaining strength to finish through contact at the rim. He is adept at varying his pace and stride in the paint to free himself from sticky defenders.

2.       Killian Hayes landed slightly behind Lewis for a couple of reasons. Hayes does not have elite athleticism to beat his man off the dribble consistently with quickness or agility. He is also extremely left hand dominant and rarely goes right. But he is adept at using his body to work himself into the paint consistently to create looks for himself and others in the paint. He is a strong finisher, though questions about whether he can get all the way to the rim and finish against superior NBA athletes is fair.

3.       This is one of the biggest weaknesses in Tyrese Haliburton’s game. He is not sudden or explosive off the dribble and rarely gets all the way to the rim. This ranking is why many question whether or not he will be a lead guard or an impressive secondary ball-handler.

On-Ball Defense

1.       Killian Hayes has the size and strength to defend one through three in the NBA. He was an impressive defender in Europe, and it should continue to be an asset for him in the NBA.

2.       Tyrese Haliburton has the tools to be a good on-ball defender, but his lack of quickness might hurt him against point guards. Meanwhile, his slim frame might prevent him from guarding stronger wings. Who do you put him on?

3.       At Alabama, Kira Lewis Jr. was listed at only 165 pounds, though there are reports he has added as much as 15 pounds of muscle since. His strength combined with his 6’3 height limits his defensive upside, though he has the tools to guard smaller, quicker point guards.

Off-Ball Defense

1.       Tyrese Haliburton is an extremely smart basketball player and it shows with his off-ball defense. He consistently makes the right reads and rotations, and fills the box score with steals and rebounds.

2.       Killian Hayes is a strong off-ball defender, he just doesn’t do it as well as Haliburton. He should be an excellent rebounding point guard, and his ability to switch onto multiple positions should give flexibility to a team’s defensive strategy.

3.       Kira Lewis Jr. is once against a victim of his frame here. He will grab some steals and hustle for loose balls, but his versatility off the ball is limited.

Athleticism/Body Type Upside

1.       The best combination of size (6’8 wingspan) and athleticism in this group belongs to Killian Hayes. He is limited as a raw athlete (quickness, speed, jumping) but he knows how to use his size to navigate to where he wants to go on the court. He will not wow you, but the package is good enough for him to be a lead ball-handler.

2.       I had Kira Lewis Jr. atop this group, but decided to put him second. He has the best combination of speed and quickness, but at only 6’3 with an extremely slight frame, there are fair questions as to whether than limits his upside and versatility.

3.       Tyrese Haliburton has plenty of length (6’8 wingspan) but his flame is so slender, it is fair to question whether he can bulk enough to guard NBA wings. He also lacks the start and stop raw athleticism to create consistent separation off the dribble.

Overall Rankings

1.       Killian Hayes: Some teams might like Hayes more than Lamelo Ball due to a firmer foundation of skills and traits that are unlikely to bust. There is a chance his lack of athleticism and inconsistent jumper limits him to a high-end backup, or low-end starter. If his shot becomes consistent, however, he could become a dynamic lead point guard due to his excellent playmaking ability.

2.      Tyrese Haliburton: The lack of elite movement skills and ability to get to the rim makes critics wonder if Haliburton will ever be able to be the primary facilitator for a good NBA team. It doesn’t mean he won’t be an extremely valuable role player for a very long time, as a spot-up shooter, secondary ball-handler, and playmaker, and strong team defender.

3.      Kira Lewis Jr.: A smaller and less-versatile player than the first two on this list, Lewis could end up being the most dynamic of the three players. He is not far behind Haliburton here, and if a team wants to end up with a pure point guard, he should be the choice over Haliburton. If Lewis can more consistently take defenders off the dribble with a creative handle in the half-court and finish, I would rate him above Haliburton here. He could develop those skills, which makes his upside intriguing, and could also develop into a better finisher if he is able to add strength.

Check out the most recent episode of my Knicks Podcast, The Bank Shot, where I talk to Prez from The Strickland about the Knicks and the 2020 NBA Draft. You can also subscribe on Apple Podcasts and Sticher.

Follow John Schmeelk on Twitter: @Schmeelk

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