NBA draft preview: Point guards

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo! Sports

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Chris Paul will not be the No. 1 pick in Tuesday's NBA draft. That honor will go to Andrew Bogut or, maybe, Marvin Williams.

It says here, though, that the sophomore point guard from Wake Forest will be the best player from this draft class.

He's that good.

Paul led the Demon Deacons to a school-record 27 victories last season and only a heartbreaking overtime loss to West Virginia in the NCAA tournament dampened the season. He averaged 15.2 points and 6.6 assists per game and shot .474 on three-pointers.

He was a consensus first-team All-American and clearly the best point guard in an Atlantic Coast Conference loaded with great ones (Raymond Felton, Jarrett Jack, Julius Hodge, Daniel Ewing).

But it is more than what he's done; it is how he did it. At 6-foot, Paul resembles such NBA greats like Isiah Thomas and Allen Iverson with his game. He can change direction in the open court like few dare to dream. He can score but looks to use his court vision and feel for the game to set up other players.

He also is extremely intelligent and a natural leader.

"I said many times if Chris Paul never scored a basket at Wake Forest, never made an assist, or played a minute of basketball, our school would be a better place for him having gone to school here," Wake coach Skip Prosser said.

The NBA hates drafting small guards first, which is why the 7-foot-1 Bogut and the long, athletic Williams, both great players in their own right, will go ahead of Paul. But so often the little guys can control the game. That's why Paul's impact will be immediate.

"He's a natural point guard," Prosser said. "You felt very comfortable with handing him the basketball."

With the Portland Trail Blazers, who drafted promising high school point guard Sebastian Telfair in the first round last year, slotted at No. 3, expect the pick to be dealt to a team that wants Paul.

For his part, Paul realizes his lack of size is a question mark, but at 175 pounds, he is not a frail young man, nor is he averse to working to add strength.

"[I] definitely [need to] get stronger and increase my range," Paul said. "That NBA three-point line is pretty deep."

For a kid whose development at Wake was dramatic in his two seasons, this entire thing seems incredible.

"I mean this is all still so surreal," Paul said. "I had no idea I would even be in this situation after my sophomore year. It just came from working hard. I always thought I would come in here, play four years, and then God willing have the opportunity to someday play in the NBA. It's just the way God works. I'm just so thankful to be in this situation."

And one lucky NBA team is going to be thankful to draft him.


1. Chris Paul, 6-0, Wake Forest, sophomore.

2. Deron Williams, 6-3, Illinois, junior – The Illini great has tremendous strength, size and deceptive speed. A gifted passer with a deadly outside game, Williams won't slide out of the top five picks.

3. Raymond Felton, 6-0, North Carolina, junior – The general of the national champion Tar Heels, Felton is a blur with the ball and in most seasons would be the first point guard taken. Could be a late lottery steal.

4. Jarrett Jack, 6-3, Georgia Tech, junior – Another tough, talented ACC point guard, Jack has the physical tools for the NBA and has shown steady improvement year to year. He was a key to Tech's title game run in 2004.

5. Nate Robinson, 5-8, Washington, junior – If you think Paul's height scares people, Robinson, who's a ridiculous athlete and almost impossible to guard offensively, may slide all the way to the second round. Don't be fooled. He'll be in the league a long, long time.

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