NBA draft expected to provide another talent influx to already-deep PG position

Point guard has become such a ridiculously deep position in the modern NBA that franchise players/floor generals Chris Paul and Damian Lillard weren’t even on the Western Conference All-Star team last season. Furthermore, the signer of the league’s largest-ever contract – Memphis’ Mike Conley – has never made the roster, with most objective lists ranking his as the sixth-best PG in the West.

On Thursday at Barclays Center, a position teeming with game-changing players will only get stronger. Based on nearly every mock draft on the Internet, five point guards are expected to be selected during the top 10 picks, a group headlined by Markelle Fultz (Washington) and Lonzo Ball (UCLA). The remainder of the quintet includes De’Aaron Fox (Kentucky), Dennis Smith (North Carolina State) and Frank Ntilikina (France).

In an interview with Sports Illustrated writer Andrew Sharp last week, Fox generated headlines for pointing out that Ball has “a target on his neck” due to Ball’s bombastic father LaVar, but it’s also true that no rookie point guard will get many easy nights in 2017-18.

Based on PER in ’16-17, four of the NBA’s top nine players were “1s,” topped by Russell Westbrook (30.70, easily the best rating among 400-plus players). James Harden (27.43) was fifth, while Isaiah Thomas (26.59, seventh) and Paul (26.25, ninth) also landed in the top 10. In addition to MVP candidates Westbrook and Harden, three other point guards earned All-NBA status, including recent two-time MVP Stephen Curry, Thomas and John Wall.

Among the 16 playoff teams this spring, virtually every squad boasted an above-average starter in that key role, making it a near must-have for contention. A handful of clubs picking in the lottery portion of the first round Thursday will believe they’re also now set long-term at a position that’s becoming increasingly imperative to a franchise’s success.

Dallas only Southwest Division team picking in top 28

For much of this decade, the NBA draft has had very little short-term impact on the Pelicans’ division, due to a combination of many choices landing in the 20s, as well as a series of trades that have kept New Orleans out of the first round. That remains the case in 2017, with only two Southwest squads picking in the first round.

Dallas is No. 9 on the board, the highest slot for the Mavericks on draft night since 1998, when they officially selected Robert Traylor, then pulled off a heist by trading him to Milwaukee for Dirk Nowitzki. San Antonio has the 29th pick, while Houston, Memphis and New Orleans all do not own first-round picks Thursday.

After the Mavericks and Spurs select in Round 1, no Southwest team picks again until the Pelicans at No. 40 (they also now own 52 as a result of Wednesday night’s trade with Washington involving Tim Frazier). The Rockets own the 43rd and 45th picks, while the Spurs choose second-to-last in the draft overall at 59.

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