2016 NBA Draft: Jamal Murray Tops Shooting Guards

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Mar 28, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; McDonalds High School All American athlete Malik Newman (14) poses for pictures during portrait day at the Westin Hotel. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Freshmen: Jamal Murray (Kentucky), Malik Newman (Mississippi State), and Antonio Blakeney (LSU)

Jamal Murray has been known about for a while, but really exploded into the mainstream after dropping 30 points at the 2015 Hoop Summit game for the World squad. Murray followed up that performance by dominating the Pan-Am Games with Team Canada, leading his nation to a silver medal. He was originally a part of the 2016 class, but re-classified to 2015 and committed to Kentucky.

He’s a versatile guard that really does everything well. Great floor vision and has really improved his ball handling from 2014 to 2015. He’s a natural scorer, capable of scoring off threes, from the mid-range or finishing around the basket. While he doesn’t have elite athleticism or quickness, he’s crafty and apt at changing his speeds to gain an edge over the defender.

Murray’s longterm position has yet to be decided. Some think he’s a point guard, others think he’s a shooting guard. Really, he’s a combo guard — like Kyrie Irving or current future Sixer D’Angelo Russell — that can legitimately play both. It will really just depend on the system, and what players he’s surrounded with. No matter what position he ends up at, I’m a massive fan. He’s a mid-lottery type player with the chance to go even higher. He’s that good.

Malik Newman will head to Mississippi State this season as Ben Howland’s biggest coup on the recruiting trail, and Newman should find himself in a position to do exactly what he’s best at — score. He’s an elite scorer, being able to score from anywhere on the floor. He has deep range on his jump shot. Add in his ball handling, quick first step and finishing ability in the paint, and you can see why he’s already rated as a lottery prospect.

I have concerns with his athleticism and length. He’s not an Evan Turner-esque athlete, but he’s not an explosive athlete either. When you add that into his mediocre 6-foot-5 wingspan, I start to have major concerns about his transition to the next level. And while the possibility is there that he can make the switch to point guard, that possibility — in my opinion — seems highly unlikely.

I don’t like taking strong negative stances on guys before they enter college because we know so little right now outside of a couple games, but Newman’s a guy I find myself bearish on compared to the rest of the basketball blogging world. He’ll have a great opportunity at Mississippi State, but I have him outside the lottery, closer to being a late first round pick.

Antonio Blakeney heads to LSU as a part of a very strong recruiting class, and should find himself as an immediate contributor with the Tigers. He has a wiry frame that will need to add mass, but he’s a good athlete. Great when attacking. Able to get to the rim and finish exceptionally well when he gets there. Doesn’t have the purest jump shot yet, but it’s solid nonetheless.

While his attacking ability is a strength, it does come back to bite him. He plays selfish, and may end up needing some time to adjust to the college game. And like Malik Newman, he’s a tweener. He’s a better athlete than Newman and also has more length, but still on the smaller side of shooting guards. Should be in the mix for the first round, but could also see him return to LSU.

You can follow Patrick Koerbler on twitter: @GoodDudePat.

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