San Antonio Spurs Top 5 Preseason NCAA Prospects: Guards
Bryce McGowens is Nebraska's highest-profile basketball recruit in the school's history, and it's understandable why. He's another lanky bucket-getter that reminds me a bit of Bones Hyland or a young Dejounte Murray (in terms of size and length), but with astronomical three-level scoring upside. Being the go-to guy on a relatively weak Nebraska team could ultimately help or hurt him this season.
Nolan Hickman will definitely be a guard to watch this coming season as he's already received some comparisons to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and for good reason. He's an incredibly skilled ball-handler that can score at will and pass with both hands. He generally looks very calm and collected for a player of his age and plays with a swagger that won't go unnoticed for long.
Although he isn't the most athletic guard on this list, if his lights-out shooting from high school translates to college, he could quickly become one of the best guards in his class. I advise you not to allow the other two Gonzaga Bulldogs on this list to totally steal the show from Hickman this season.
Leonard Hamilton and Florida State have done a truly outstanding job of finding and recruiting NBA-caliber talent in recent years, and I fully believe that Jalen Warley will be the player to carry that torch for them this coming season. He's already going a bit under the radar but has the tools to put together an impressive season.
Supposedly now standing at 6'6", Warley is the definition of a two-way guard that has a high IQ and impressive feel for the game on both ends of the court. He's advertised as a very good shooter that also excels in the pick-and-roll, and while he's struggled at times with turnovers in the past, Leonard Hamilton's system will be perfect for him to highlight his strengths and become more disciplined.
When it comes to being a projectable lottery pick, this McDonald's All-American is probably the safest guard on this list. He's an incredibly comfortable and confident shooter off the catch and the dribble with deep range. At 6'3" with only okay athleticism, he won't be a very impactful or versatile defender, but it may not matter.
Compared to other guards in his class, his jump shot and touch near the basket make his value on offense far more projectable. Barring some sort of disaster or incredibly poor performance, Tyty Washington should be a lock for the lottery. If the Spurs don't like any of the wings or bigs that will be available toward the top, Washington would not be a bad choice at all.
Between Nolan Hickman, Hunter Sallis, and Chet Holmgren (who I'll speak on later), Gonzaga will once again be a must-watch team in college basketball both for Spurs fans and fans of good basketball in general. Personally, outside of Holmgren, I am most interested in Sallis. To be clear, though, I think he's also the most volatile guard on this list.
Sallis is 6'5", an explosive athlete, and has an elite ability to accelerate and stop on a dime. His athleticism, defensive switchability, basketball IQ, and age give him an extraordinarily high ceiling on both ends of the court. The final step for him will be to become a more reliable three-point shooter, as he only hit about 35% of his threes in his senior year of high school.
The potential issue with Sallis, though, is that he'll be competing for minutes with both Nolan Hickman and Andrew Nembhard. If he isn't able to consistently prove that he's more valuable on the floor than at least one of those two, then he may have to wait in line. If he can carve out a role for himself, though, Sallis can quickly become a high riser in next year's draft.