October 24, 2006

Shooting guards more than just scorers

When analyzing the three shooting guards on the Rivals.com Elite Team, the similarities between Eric Gordon, Austin Freeman and Jerryd Bayless stick out much more than any differences between the three.

For starters, all three stand in the 6-foot-3, 200-pound range. Gordon, the top shooting guard, as the biggest at 6-foot-4, 205-pounds.

All three are fast with the ball, and a coast-to-coast drive is always a possibility.

Once they get to the rim, they all have the athleticism to finish over bigger players. Bayless is an exceptional one-foot and two-foot leaper. Freeman is better off two feet, while Gordon is better off one foot.

All three have NBA 3-point range and a nice shooting stroke. Bayless ranks behind the other two as far as being a pure shooter, but the Arizona commit has an outstanding pull-up jump shot. No guard on the circuit elevates on his pull-up like Bayless does. In fact, a knock on Bayless' game is that he is too prone to settle for the shot instead of attacking the basket.

Freeman is as good as most at shooting off the catch from 3-point range. Where he separates himself is with his ability to hit tough shots in the mid-range and short-range area. With deft body control and a soft touch, Freeman can drive hard to the basket and score while avoiding the charge.

Gordon, like Freeman, has an economical and automatic release off the catch. But unlike his counterparts, Gordon has the fullback-like power to bull his way to the basket. He picks up a lot of points at the free-throw line and finishes well against the basket. As he advances in levels of play, Gordon will need to become more willing to take the jumper instead of continually forcing the issue on the drive.

Offensively, these guys are not just scorers. All three are capable of running the point when needed. In fact, when projecting them as NBA players, it is likely that they will spend a good amount of time at the point guard position.

What they essentially are is playmakers. They can get a team into the offense and then work to get the ball back. They can work off the ball as the primary scoring threat in the possession. And when the shot clock runs down, they can create a shot for themselves or a teammate.

Defensively, they can easily guard the No. 2 spot. Gordon and Bayless, however, are more capable at extending up the court and guarding the primary ballhandler. Not that Freeman is a poor defender, he is just not as quick laterally as the other two. Yet, Freeman might be the better off the ball defender of the three.

Bayless has the legs and feet to be a defensive stopper, but he is not known for consistently being an intense defender.

Gordon, with his combination of strength and quickness, is capable of frustrating ballhandlers while also being able to defend a bigger guard or forward around the basket.

So what can the fans of Arizona, Georgetown and Indiana expect when these elite shooting guards hit the floor in college?

Expect Bayless to thrive in the up-tempo, spread attack of Arizona. He'll spend some time at the point, but more at shooting guard. He should put up big scoring numbers, but the question will be whether his defensive intensity will improve in the loose Arizona system.

Expect Freeman to immediately mesh with the Princeton-style offense that Georgetown employs. He has a high basketball IQ, knows how to move without the ball and is an efficient scorer. Like Bayless, he will likely be the No. 1 perimeter scoring option. As his conditioning improves, so should his defense.

Expect Gordon to be a dominant force immediately in the Big Ten. He very likely could be Indiana's leading scorer. With his strength, explosiveness and all-around skill set, he will likely be the best overall player on the Hoosiers' roster.




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