So, the Dallas Mavericks finally picked someone!
That someone is "Sugar" Shane Larkin, the diminutive point guard from Miami. You can see his draft express scouting video here, and here are a few more videos to check out:
As you have likely heard by now, Shane is the son of Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin. His uncle, Byron Larkin, was a basketball player at Xavier, where he won Conference Player of the Year twice before going on to play overseas.
Shane initially committed to DePaul, but transferred to Miami before his freshman season due to a medical issue, one that has not been fully disclosed.
Shane's first year in Miami was a bit rocky, though he was named to the ACC All-Freshman team, and by the end of the season he had taken hold of the starting point guard spot. Larkin's second year went much better.
In what was likely the best season for college basketball in school history, Larkin led the Hurricanes to their first ever regular season ACC championship, in a great season highlighted by an absolute trouncing of #1 ranked Duke. The Hurricanes went to the Sweet Sixteen for just the second time in team history before losing to Marquette. Overall, Larkin led the team in points, assists, and steals, cementing his status as one of college basketball's most productive players.
At the combine, Larkin was the undisputed star. He posted the highest vertical at 44 inches, and the highest 3/4 sprint time, with both rating as some of the best scores in recent combine history. Though questions remained about his size, Larkin had proven he was athletically capable of being in the NBA.
For Dallas, the move has obvious merits. The team had a hole at point guard that by all accounts won't be filled by Chris Paul, who now has his coach in L.A. Larkin has the speed, leaping ability, and bloodlines that scouts typically love. He also shot over 40% from the college three as a sophomore, suggesting he won't have to rely purely on speed.
A few blurbs from noted draft pundits:
Larkin is one of the best, if not the best, pick-and-roll point guards in the draft. He also is one of the two or three best athletes and can shoot it, too. Sounds like an All-Star, right? Maybe, but he's also the smallest guard in the draft with an even smaller wingspan.
Quick fact: Larkin averaged 6.4 points per game (sixth in nation) as the pick-and-roll ball handler and operated on such plays 46.7 percent of the time (first in nation) he was on the court.
Shane Larkin's value proposition at the next level is simple, he created more combined points on the pick and roll for himself and his teammates last season than any prospect in the country at 14.3 points per-game. Playing in a pick and roll heavy, pro-style offense, Larkin kept defenses honest with his jump shot, which ranks second most efficient in this group at 1.137 points per-shot, and showed excellent command of the ball, turning the ball over on just 11.3% of his possessions creating in the two-man game. While scouts will scrutinize his size, his efficiency as a scorer and prolific shot creating ability seem tailor made for the NBA game.
A winner. Tough nosed, confident, competitive PG with solid leadership abilities ... Quickness and leadership gives him a real chance to overcome size deficiencies ... In today's NBA game, being able to effectively run the pick and roll is crucial, and that's Larkin's greatest strength
You'll notice a trend here. It seems universally recognized that Larkin is proficient in the pick and roll, which will obviously help him in the NBA and with the Dallas Mavericks. Being fast enough to beat the opposing big on the switch, and a good enough shooter to make the guard pay for going under the screen, Larkin's skillset conjures images of former Mavericks point guard and tiny sparkplug, J.J. Barea.
Of course, with the positive aspects of that comp also come the negatives. Shane Larkin is 5'11, weighs under 180 pounds, and has short arms(infact he had one of the shortest wingspans of any first round draft pick in combine history), meaning many opponents will be able to shoot over him, or simply overpower him on the way to the basket. Larkin blocked just six shots in his entire college basketball career, thanks to the aforementioned wingspan. This also caused him trouble finishing at the rim, and drawing fouls. Larkin will need to master the floaters and contorted layups that Barea was so good at, or he's going to be an exclusively perimeter oriented guy.
Larkin has the reputation as a high basketball IQ guy, though his turnover rate was fairly high and his assist-turnover ratio pretty pedestrian relative to recent first round point guards. Statheads seem a little divided on Larkin's true statistical profile: Bradford Doolittle had him rated 50th; Pelton had him 13th. My subjective opinion is that Larkin is a low ceiling guy who, at 21 and physically limited, won't improve much. The Barea scenario shouldn't be seen as a sure-thing: afterall, Barea went undrafted, and cut his teeth in the NBDL. Players at that size aren't often first round picks and it's not by accident.
Like Barea, I think he's a good, not great, shooter(shot 32% from three as a freshman, and 77% from FT as a soph), and a good, not great, decision maker. He'll need all that speed and vertical to survive, and all of Barea's craftiness and moxy to succeed. Overall, I think he's a career backup, though we'll all be hoping he's the next Chris Paul, rather than the next D.J. Augustin.