With so many teams now implementing three guard line-ups, the 2 and 3 spots on the floor are often interchangeable. In fact many teams now use 4 guard alignments with as many as three players who fill wing/big guard qualifications on the floor at once.
Big guards and wings most are the two positions where the best athletes tend to gravitate.
Today we breakdown the high fliers, the sharpshooters, those who do both, and everything in between.
In no particular order, here is what to watch for from every team in the ACC at the SG/SF positions and a team rating for each squad (1-10):
Analysis: Talk about an embarrassment of riches! Rasheed Sulaimon has the look of a savvy NBA vet who can knock down open jumpers as well as get to the rim. He also has very nice touch in the lost art of the medium game, and his array of pull-ups and drives are sure to inflate his scoring average above the very respectable 11.6 ppg he averaged last year as a true freshman. He should be joined in the starting line-up immediately by all world true freshman Jabari Parker. Parker can truly do it all and has a game that is mature beyond his years. Look for the versatile one to make his most immediate impact both facing the basket and posting up. Sulaimon and Parker alone would make these two spots nearly indefensible, but Duke also has sharpshooting Andre Dawkins back healthy, following a medical red shirt. Oh yeah they also have Rodney Hood and Amile Jefferson, both of whom can play either forward spot with above average skill and athleticism. Matt Jones, who can flat out shoot, would be the jewel of most school's recruiting classes. At Duke he will hope to find the floor consistently. Ditto 6'7 Semi Ojeleye. Simply put the Devils are loaded at the 2 and 3 spots with future NBA players.
Rating 10 - It takes a lot to earn a perfect score in these rankings, but Duke has more talent than anyone in the country not named Kentucky. These 2 positions are the biggest reason why. Perhaps the only question is, will there be enough shots to keep all these guys happy?
Analysis: So much depends on whether immensely talented junior PJ Hairston is eligible or not. Hairston has no conscious nor any range as a shooter. He could easily surpass the 14.6 ppg he averaged last year IF he is eligible. (Hairston got into a boatload of trouble in July in a well documented issue involving a rental car, some pot, and a gun) Chances are UNC will have to give it a go with out their best player. The team has plenty of talent, but the depth on the wing is a slight concern. J.P. Tokoto looks like a future contestant in multiple slam dunk competions, but his overall game still needs work. Leslie McDonald also returns for what feels like his 8th year in Chapel Hill. Nonetheless if he can stay healthy, he is a solid performer.
Rating: 6.5 - If Hairston is cleared to play, no doubt this rating jumps up a few spots. Fortunately for UNC they have enough talent to still be pretty good, even if he has played his last game in the Dean Dome.
Analysis If there is a position on the floor where the 'Canes will be able to absorb the massive hits they took to graduation, the wing is it. Sure they will miss the clutch shooting of Trey McKinney Jones, but still plenty of talent remains in Coral Gables. Rion Brown is now a senior and will be counted on for leadership. Brown is also a very good shooter (despite an erratic junior campaign) and an outstanding defender. If RB has a weakness it is his inability to create his own shot. Garrius Adams is a 5th year senior with an outstanding floor game. The issue with Adams has been his health. He may also be called on to run the point, if UM's young PGs falter. Freshman Deandre Burnett is a combo guard with a scorer's mentality. Look for him to put up nice numbers immediately. Davon Reed is another freshman, who looks capable of playing the 1, 2, and 3 spots on the floor. Texas transfer Sheldon McClellan might be the best of the bunch, but he will not be eligible until next year. Nonetheless, he will push this group in practice.
Rating 7.5 - Brown needs to be more consistent and Adams needs to stay healthy. But young players like Reed and Burnett give Jim Larranaga plenty of options at the 2 and 3.
Analysis: C.J. Fair is easily the Orange's best player. He is so good he will be asked to play both forward spots. Trevor Cooney is a knockdown shooter who will probably get the first look at the big guard spot, but could be pushed by both 6'7 Duke transfer Michael Gbinje and talented 6'3 freshman Ronnie Patterson. Jerami Grant is another talented player who will see time on the wing. Jim Boeheim and staff have plenty of players who can put the ball in the bucket, but Fair is clearly the guy they need to be the straw that stirs the drink.
Rating 8 - Fair is going to be a force. Cooney, Grant, Patterson, and Gbinje will all get looks as complimentary players. All are talented.
Analysis: The Irish has a fantastic back court featuring 6'5 Jerian Grant. His running mate Eric Atkins is also a big time player. But ND will not exactly blow you away with their athleticism. 6'5 Junior Pat Connaughton can come in and play the 2 or the 3, and is a good shooter and defender. Cameron Biedscheid came to Irish with a lot of ability. He will need to be a fulfill his talent of the Irish hope to keep up with the plethora of talented wings they will face in the ACC.
Rating 7.5 - Notre Dame has arguably one of the better back courts in the conference if not the country. But do they have enough athletic ability to keep up with the Dukes and Carolinas? Time will tell.
Analysis: Joe Harris is an amazing player. There is no other way to describe him. Game in and game out you know he is going to be the focal point of the Hoos offense, and he still scores. Whether coming off a screen and popping immediately, or using his sneaky good handles to get to the rim, he is tough to stop. But he does need some help. Justin Anderson is a very good 6'6 sophomore who certainly can help take the focus off Harris. Malcolm Brogdon will split time between the point and the wing, and has a good all-around game. The wildcard of the group is Evan Nolte, who has good size at 6'8 and outstanding range as a shooter.
Rating 8.0 - Harris is as good as it gets. There are others who can supplement him but UVA's slow down style does not lend itself to the type of prolific scoring that would show it.
Analysis: Dez Wells, when on, can be unstoppable. Blessed with a very solid 6'5 frame, good touch, and a fearless mentality on the floor, he looks and plays like a future NBA off guard. 6'6 junior Nick Faust has plenty of talent but needs to improve his shot selection. 6'8 sophomore Jake Layman is another talented player, who despite a rough freshman year, has very good range on his jumper and underrated athletic ability. The question with the Terps remains whether or not they get good enough guard play to keep their scorers involved for 40 minutes.
Rating 8 - I love the way Wells plays. if Faust can match his intensity Maryland will have an outstanding 1-2 punch to match their very good interior game. Additionally Layman should improve significantly on his shooting.
Analysis: Senior Lamar Patterson averaged just over 10 a game last year and is Pitt's leading returning scorer, but his jumper is inconsistent. On the other hand Durand Johnson showed a very good stroke in limited minutes, and should get more shots this year. Jamie Dixon and the Panthers are also hoping 6'6 RS freshman Chris Jones will come in and pay dividends immediately. 6'2 Derek Mostella, a one time Oklahoma commit, also looks the part of a good scorer.
Rating 7 - As with most of the rest of the roster the Pitt big guards and wings do not wow you at first sight. But they get the job done with unselfishness and toughness. Do not underestimate this group.
Analysis: Okaro White is a 6'8 combo forward and the most proven scorer on the team. White could emerge as one of the better scorers in the conference and can put the ball in the hoop any number of ways. Last season 6'5 G Aaron Thomas had moments as a freshman, his improvement on both ends of the floor could be one of the keys to the Seminoles season. Montay Brandon is a versatile 6'7 performer who can play three spots on the floor. Xavier Rathan-Mayes has a very polished game for a true freshman. He should see time immediately. There are plenty of talented and versatile platers here, but who will take the role of leader and clutch shooter now that Michael Snaer is gone?
Rating 7 - Typically FSU puts a lot of pressure on their lead guards and wings (see Toney Douglas and James Singleton). Leonard Hamilton asks his big time players to be lock down defenders and clutch shooters. This group has potential, but will a star emerge?
Analysis: As a team BC has plenty of skill. At the same time they have often looked over matched athletically the past few years in the big time ACC. The hope is that 6'8 junior Eddie Odio can provide the defense and finishing ability they have sorely lacked. Olivier Hanlan can play with anyone. He is a sleeper for ACC POY. Patrick Heckmann and Lonnie Jackson are guards who will be counted on to provide a spark off the bench. Alex Dragicevich is a 6'8 transfer from Notre Dame who can really shoot the ball from the wing.
Rating 6.5 - Odio needs to be the guy who matches the swag that other ACC teams' wings bring to the table. BC has an all world back court and Ryan Anderson down low. If Odio can give them that added dimension the Eagles have a chance to be very very good.
Analysis: GT has an excellent starting point towards respectability in Marcus Georges-Hunt. The 6'5 sophomore led the team in scoring last year at 10.8 a clip. Chris Bolden has PG size but a SG mentality. When on, he can put up points in a hurry. Stacy Poole Jr. had a rough opening campaign in Atlanta after coming to the Yellow Jackets from Kentucky. But he has talent. Jason Morris is another guy who should get a long look on the wing.
Rating 6 - Georges-Hunt can play. Bolden will shoot GT in and out of a few games this year.
Analysis: T.J. Warren showed plenty of talent but also a ton of immaturity his freshman season in Raleigh. If the Pack hope to compete in the ACC this year they need a lot more of the former and a lot less of the latter from the 6'8 sophomore. Rodney Purvis took his talents to UConn, but 6'5 LSU transfer Ralston Turner is eligible and certainly can score. Lennard Freeman is a talented freshman from Oak Hill Academy who should also get a look, although he may do his most damage at the 4 spot.
Rating 7.5 - Is Warren a star in the making, or an overrated diva? His play could be the single biggest factor in what kind of season NC State has.
Analysis: Travis McKie continues to quietly put points on the board for a team that underachieves each year. 6'6 225 pound Arnaud William Adala Moto is not only a guy with a lot of syllables in his name, but also a bull in a china shop type force when he gets going. He needs to improve his outside shot though. Coron Williams arrives from Robert Morris as a proven shooter, who could fill the void of the departed C.J. Harris.
Rating 6 - Perhaps a bit low considering McKie's track record. But what good is scoring if it never leads to wins?
Analysis: K.J. McDaniels (10.9 ppg 5.0 rpg last season) will be counted on for a little bit of everything this season. Jordan Roper can really shoot the ball, but at 5'11 is smallish to say the least for a shooting guard. Clemson will need his scoring desperately to avoid another rough season. In their motion offense, the Tigers will be sure to get plenty of looks for Adonis Filer and DeMarcus Harrison as well.
Rating 6.5 - The good news is both McDaniels and Roper can fill it. The bad news is, everything else!
Analysis: 6'1 UNC-Wilmington transfer Adam Smith will be afforded plenty of chances to shoot the ball. Sophomore Marshall Wood was derailed last year by a broken foot. This year he will be counted on for production. 6'3 freshman Malik Mueller will get some looks. Ditto Ben Emelogu.
Rating 4.5 - The Hokies had arguably the best (or second best to Shane Larkin) player in the conference last year in Erick Green and still struggled. Their big guards and wings do not have the look of ACC caliber players.
Thanks to all for checking out this series. Be sure to check back in the coming days as we count down to the start of the season for Hurricanes Hoops with many more features.
Previously in the Series: