OKC Thunder: Size is only drawback to Shane Larkin

At 5-foot-11, Shane Larkin isn't tall in stature.

But the Miami point guard sure knows how to play.

All he needs is an opportunity, a team to look past his size and give him a shot.

Perhaps the Thunder will be that team.

Oklahoma City is in the market for a third point guard behind Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson, and Larkin has an intriguing, if not spectacular, combination of skills that could fit well with the Thunder.

He's got speed and quickness, a sweet shooting stroke, exceptional range and a vast knowledge of how to run the pick-and-roll.

But … he's 5-11.

That could be a deal-breaker for the Thunder, which historically has preferred players with size, length and versatility.

“If you're doubting me in any way, that's just going to give me more drive, more motivation, more determination to go out there and do it,” Larkin said at the NBA Draft combine.

Larkin's size certainly will be his biggest barrier.

But he showed throughout the Hurricanes' run to the Sweet 16 this season that he has just about everything you would want in a point guard. He uses his speed to blow by defenders and get into the teeth of defenses. He makes good decisions, setting up teammates regularly and with pinpoint passes. He even is scrappy on defense.

Couple those traits with the new wave of small ball that's sweeping the NBA and you can see how Larkin could find success. Recent successful guards who stand less than 6 feet tall include Ty Lawson, J.J. Barea, D.J. Augustin, Nate Robinson and Isaiah Thomas.

Larkin, the son of baseball Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, thinks he's next.

“I think I'm very ready,” Larkin said. “My game I think will translate well to the NBA just because I ran so much pick-and-roll in college, and the NBA is so much pick-and-roll. … It really depends on the team in the NBA, but everybody runs pick-and-roll. So I think I can go in there and contribute as a pick-and-roll guard.”

According to draftexpress.com, 47 percent of Larkin's offense this season was from pick-and-roll sets. Defenders can't go under screens because Larkin can make them pay with his shooting. If they go over, he can use his speed to get to the basket. And if the defense collapses, Larkin can and will find the open man, either on a drop-off at the rim or a kick out to shooters.

“He's so good at what he does,” said Miami coach Jim Larranaga.

Larkin exploded onto the national scene this season as a sophomore on a senior-laden Hurricanes squad. He averaged 14.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists and two steals while leading Miami to both the ACC regular-season and tournament titles.

Larkin led Miami in minutes, points, assists and steals while shooting 47.9 percent from the field and 40.6 percent from 3-point range.

“I don't think there has been a more valuable player to any team,” Larranaga said of Larkin.

Thanks to Larkin's sharpshooting and world-class athleticism, his value figures to translate to the NBA level. He doesn't project to be a star player, but he could add depth to a team in need of an additional ballhandler and someone to help space the floor.

The obvious drawback would be Larkin's ability to defend. Bigger point guards like Derrick Rose, Deron Williams, John Wall and Jrue Holiday could have their way with Larkin in the post or simply shoot over him. But if used in tandem with a player like Westbrook in small-ball lineups, Larkin could be hidden on a lesser scorer.

But for Larkin to get an opportunity, he'll seemingly need two things: a freethinking general manager and a creative coach.

Will the Thunder be that team?

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