More so than ever before, the National Basketball Association has turned into a guards game. For the most part, the days of pounding the ball down low repeatedly are over. How often do we get to see two big men have post wars like we used to with players such as Shaquille O’Neal and Yao Ming?
Do not get me wrong, there are still some capable big men players, but the league emphasis is not the same as it used to be. For instance, take a look at Raptor big man Jonas Valuncunias. In my opinion, he is very capable of averaging 17 and 10, by banging in the post old school style (just look at his post-season play where he is a major part of the game plan). However, his touches down low are limited in the regular season, as we are now in an era of pick and pop where the ball usually remains in the hand of either the point guard or shooting guard (in this case DeMar DeRozan or Kyle Lowry).
With that being said, we are seeing some amazing guard talent in the NBA. Everyone knows that there are some great point guards, which makes it feel like shooting guards are sometimes being overlooked. Perhaps it is because in the olden days it seemed like the major role of many shooting guards was to play defense and be a spot up shooter, or a good complement to the forwards and center.
Of course, we cannot say the same about today’s NBA shooting guards. Some of the best players in the league are at the off guard position and this trend does not appear to be slowing down anytime soon, with great prospects coming into the league. Therefore, this article is going to rank the starting shooting guards from worst to best for every NBA team.
30. New Orleans Pelicans – E’Twuan Moore
When healthy, Tyreke Evans would be the New Orleans Pelicans starting shooting guard. The problem is that Evans has a very hard time staying healthy and has not started one game this season as a result of his injury problems. In addition, he only played in 25 games last season. As a result, E’Twuan Moore has taken over the starting shooting guard position for the New Orleans Pelicans.
Moore should not be a starter on a playoff caliber team and this is probably just one of the reasons the Pelicans are nowhere near being a successful playoff team. Moore would be a nice addition off the bench for any team, as he has some scoring ability. New Orleans better figure things out soon, or else you can say goodbye to Anthony Davis.
29. Philadelphia 76ers – Gerald Henderson
At this point in his career, Gerald Henderson is really nothing more than a holdover for the 76ers until they are able to find their starting shooting guard of the future. Henderson’s best days were with the Bobcats and those days are long gone. I guess you can argue that Henderson is still a good player for the rebuilding 76ers to have because he can mentor the younger players, but if the 76ers want to get out of the basement, they are going to need to find better options at the position.
I feel Henderson could be a decent player for a better team, playing 10-15 minutes a game, but with him and Sergio Rodriguez being your starting backcourt, your team is not going to get too far.
28. Sacremento Kings – Ben McLemore
Arron Afflalo has actually started more games than Ben McLemore at the shooting guard position for the Sacremento Kings this season. However, McLemore seems to have taken over that role and Sacremento is experiencing their most success of the season with McLemore in the starting lineup so he will be used for this article.
Thus far, like most Sacramento draft choices, McLemore has had a disappointing career. With his athleticism, I expected much more out of him. To be fair, he is still young and has time to turn things around, but he better get on that soon. Part of his struggles can also be blamed on the poor organization he is playing for, but I expect more from someone with that much raw talent. Overall, McLemore is in his fourth season and has regressed since his sophomore year. To justify his high status in the draft, he needs to turn things around with the remaining games left this season.
27. Miami Heat – Josh Richardson
Anybody could tell that Josh Richardson was going to be a good player after watching him play in the playoffs against the Toronto Raptors last year. His defense was amazing and there were times when he was playing full court defense on Kyle Lowry or Corey Joseph, which is a very uncommon thing to see in the NBA. Richardson has carried over this momentum to this season and has respectable numbers. Do you want him as your starter on a playoff team? Probably not, but he is still young and may develop into a legitimate starter.
Overall, at this point in his career, Richardson is not an ideal starter, especially for a good team, but he has time to turn things around because his career has just started.
26. Los Angeles Lakers – Nick Young
After last season, I did not expect Nick Young to turn around his career the way he has. He deserves a lot of credit for earning playing time under Luke Walton, especially with all of his personal life situations that were made public. Young has regained his scoring touch. He is averaging almost double in terms of points per game compared to last season. He is also shooting a very respectable percentage from the field and is one of the Lakers’ better defenders. In fact, Walton has stated that Young’s defense is what allowed Young to get out of the doghouse.
Now, do you want Young starting at shooting guard for a playoff team? Probably not, but he would certainly be a solid sixth or seventh man that can come off the bench and provide a spark. Good on Young for turning his career around.
25. Atlanta Hawks – Kyle Korver
The starting position at shooting guard has been a revolving door for the Atlanta Hawks. Tim Hardaway Jr. has started some games and Thabo Sefolosha has started some games. However, for this article we are going to use Kyle Korver, as he has started the most games for Atlanta at the position.
Korver has had a great NBA career, but his best days are clearly behind him. This should come as no surprise to anybody because Korver is now 35 years old. To be fair, Korver is still a good three-point shooter, just not what he used to be. Gone are the days where Korver would shoot in the high 4os.
At this point in his career, I believe Korver would be best suited for a role similar to a player like Richard Jefferson or Channing Frye. That is, come off the bench for a good team and be the recipient of great play makers and shoot wide open threes. Unfortunately, Atlanta does not have the talent to suit Korver’s aging game.
24. New York Knicks – Courtney Lee
Courtney Lee is a clutch player. He showed this last season in the first round while with the Charlotte Hornets. He also showed his clutch ability when he was a younger player with the Orlando Magic. He was one of those players you would love to have on your team during a big moment, or for a deep playoff run.
Despite all of these qualities, I feel Courtney Lee is more suited for a bench role at this point in his career, especially if we are talking about playoff teams. I know Lee can still play defense, shoot the three, and provide veteran leadership, but I feel he would be more effective in a limited role. He would still receive plenty of playing time and continue to provide clutch play during the playoffs. This move to the bench does not look likely at this time though, considering that the Knicks just paid him a bunch of money.
23. San Antonio Spurs – Danny Green
I am confused about Danny Green. I do not understand how his game dropped off so dramatically out of nowhere. He is only 29 years old and he was coming off some very productive seasons. Remember when he was setting records in the NBA Finals for three pointers? Remember when people were calling his contract a “discount?” Green is now a shell of that when it comes to offense. Hey, at least he is still a good defender.
Nonetheless, you still have to respect Green and the total picture. He was a second round pick bouncing around the league before he found a home in San Antonio. He has had some great playoff performances and will always be remembered by Spurs fans. We’ll see if he’s ever able to bounce back.
22. Milwaukee Bucks – Tony Snell
Tony Snell is not in the top half of starting shooting guards in the NBA, yet. However, he does have the potential to make his way up this list in the future. When I watched Snell play with the Bulls, there was just something there that I really liked. He did not have the biggest role, but you could tell that he had a change to be a good player. Now, with a bigger role on the Bucks he has improved a lot.
Overall, Tony Snell might be one of the better two guards in the game soon. He has great size for a shooting guard and he can play great defense. Snell might be one of the most underrated acquisitions of this past offseason when the Bucks acquired him for Michael Carter-Williams.
21. Indiana Pacers – Monta Ellis
Monta Ellis is not the player he once was. A lot of this can be attributed to mileage, as he is been in the league for a long time and played many minutes. Another factor to consider when discussing the decline of Ellis is his style of play. Ellis is undersized and to make up for that lack of size, these type of players have to play a little harder every possession. In addition, in his prime, Ellis was fearless. He attacked the rim like few in the NBA and this of course, has taken a toll on his body. These types of players seem to fade faster than the average NBA player.
In the end, I do not think that having Ellis as a starting shooting guard is going to help the Pacers contend in the playoffs. He will have trouble guarding others such as DeMar DeRozan and to me, Ellis can still be effective playing 20-25 minutes a game off the bench.
20. Dallas Mavericks – Wesley Matthews
There was a time when Wesley Matthews was one of the top five starting shooting guards in the league. Anyone else remember his days with the Trail Blazers alongside LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard? Matthews was the gritty player that guarded other teams top players and was capable of doing almost anything on the court.
Today, Matthews is not nearly as explosive as he once was, even though he is having a nice individual season. Most of this can be attributed to the torn Achilles he suffered in his final days as a Blazer. To be fair to Matthews, he is still a solid player. He can shoot the three and score the ball in general. I am just pointing out that he is nowhere near what he used to be and it is hard to expect him to get back to that level.
19. Memphis Grizzlies – Tony Allen
Everyone knows that Tony Allen has offensive deficiencies, including a very poor jump shot, but this does not mean he is not a capable player. It is hard to disrespect Allen because he has made a career out of hard work and grit. You do not see many offensively challenged players like Allen have long careers like Allen. Allen is such a great defender that many star players around the NBA have called him the best defender they have ever faced.
It is a shame that Allen was never able to develop a respectable jumper because it would have made him that much better and the Grizzlies that much more of a threat. Nonetheless, many teams would still love to have a player like Allen on their team and in my opinion, he would be a perfect sixth or seventh man for a true contending team at this stage in his career.
18. Denver Nuggets – Gary Harris
Gary Harris has shared a lot of time with Will Barton at the shooting guard position, but Harris is currently the starter and was the full-time starter last season, so he is going to be the focus of this article. It has been hard to judge Harris this year, as he has missed a lot of time with a broken foot. Nonetheless, the small sample size thus far has shown us that Harris is going to be a very reliable starting shooting guard in the NBA for years to come. He is only 22 years of age and has shown the consistency that you often do not see in young players.
Last season, he played and started 76 games and shot around 47 percent on his way to 12 points per game. This season, Harris is up to 49 percent. The next step for Harris is to help his team reach the playoffs.
17. Brooklyn Nets – Sean Kilpatrick
Sean Kilpatrick is not quite a full-time starter yet, but he has started the majority of the games at the shooting guard position for the Nets this year. Kilpatrick is quickly becoming a rising star for the Nets and what makes him easy to root for is the fact that he was undrafted. Before joining the Nets, Kilpatrick had short stints with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets. Oh, how they must regret letting Kilpatrick walk for nothing, as Brooklyn has found themselves quite a gem.
Kilpatrick was widely regarded as being too small and having a low ceiling coming out of college. He has certainly proved many people wrong and is averaging nearly 16 points per game. The next step for Kilpatrick to prove he is the real deal is to help make the Nets a relevant team again.
16. Utah Jazz – Rodney Hood
Rodney Hood has been a very solid player for the Utah Jazz and based on the roster around him, this solid is all he really needs to be. Utah is stacked with talent and if they are ever to get healthy, look out for them to be a dark horse in the Western Conference Playoffs. Hood has been a major part of Utah’s improvement, as he is able to do many different things on the floor. He has established himself as one of their offensive options, and on a team that has lacked offense at times, this is a big deal.
Like most young players, Hood can improve on his consistency. There are games where he will score over 20 points, then have games where he is held to single digits. He can also work on his three-point shooting, as he has been in the mid 30 percent area for most of his career.
15. Cleveland Cavaliers – J.R. Smith
J.R. Smith might be the most confusing player in the NBA. There are times when he can go off and score a bunch of points in a limited time frame. He has even looked like an All-Star worthy player at times. Then, there is bad J.R. He has some moments on the court where he makes you wonder what he is doing. Whether it is silly turnovers, poor shot selection, or shaking opponents hands during the middle of the game, Smith has made some questionable decisions. Bad J.R. is what puts him in the middle of this list.
To be fair, Smith has become a much more consistent/team player since moving to Cleveland (much of this can be attributed to LeBron). It might even be arguable that they would not have won a championship without his clutch shooting and defense on Klay Thompson. Overall, Smith certainly has talent but needs to improve some of his decision making.
14. Orlando Magic – Evan Fournier
Evan Fournier is still young and could find himself much higher on this list in the future with the way his game has been improving. I do not think he is good enough to lead a team to the playoffs as a number one option, but I can see him being a good second or third option on a good playoff team in the future. Fournier has great size for a shooting guard and uses it well to his advantage. He is a very good shooter from and can also score at the rim.
He needs to improve his defense, but this is something we can expect now that he is playing under defensive-minded coach Frank Vogel. Overall, Fournier can be a very helpful player for a good team and he still has time to improve, as he has not reached his prime yet.
13. Oklahoma City Thunder – Victor Oladipo
Victor Oladipo is a fine player. He just has not developed into the player I thought he was going to be. By now, I thought Oladipo would be a legitimate All-Star in the NBA and a legitimate number one or two option for his team. While he is a number two option for Oklahoma when healthy, he has not raised his game to that next level. He has been unable to top his points per game average that he achieved in his sophomore season and the most disappointing part is that he shows flashes of joining that next tier group, but he just cannot remain consistent.
Perhaps I am being over-critical, but I have had high expectations of Oladipo ever since his rookie season. Maybe playing with a superstar like Russell Westbrook will help Oladipo take his game to the next level.
12. Minnesota Timberwolves – Zach Lavine
Many people may feel it is too early to place Zach Lavine this high on the list. I understand those arguments, especially since Lavine has not experienced team success. However, Lavine’s improvement as a player and the potential he is starting to show is just too much to ignore. Lavine has improved every year and is having a personal breakout year this season by averaging over 21 points per game.
It may be a small sample size, but there is just an “it” factor that you see when watching Lavine and it makes you think that he is the real deal. He can get to the rim at ease, he can shoot jumpers, and he has solid play-making skills. Overall, we can expect the Minnesota big three of Lavine, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Andrew Wiggins to be title contenders in the next couple of seasons. That is how good these three young players are.
11. Boston Celtics – Avery Bradley
Avery Bradley is a self-made player. What I mean by this is that he did not have natural offensive skills like many other players in the NBA. I remember when he first came into the league, he could not shoot very well. Fast forward to the present, and he has become a very reliable jump shooter. He has also become capable of creating his own shot and if Isaiah Thomas is struggling Boston looks to Bradley to pick up the slack. Bradley is also probably the best defender at the shooting guard position in the NBA and we have seen him lock down opposing players many times.
Overall, Boston has Bradley on a very good contract. Bradley may not be a superstar, but he is a player many contending teams could use for his defense and scoring ability.
10. Charlotte Hornets – Nicolas Batum
Nicolas Batum is a very good all-around player. Many teams wish they could have a shooting guard like Batum on their team. Defensively, he is not a liability and his offensive game is very good. Batum is like a point-shooting guard in that he loves to get his teammates involved. He can run the pick and roll very effectively. Additionally, he is a very good floor general and picks his spots when it comes to scoring, which is the sign of a very good player.
Overall, Batum has had a very respectable career and his lived up to his potential. The next step for Batum and his team is to make a deep playoff run to prove that they are capable of winning in the playoffs.
9. Los Angeles Clippers – J.J. Redick
J.J. Redick may not be the flashiest player in the world, but he certainly is effective. Aside from being one of the best three-point shooters in the game, Redick is also a very good defender. He can also move extraordinary well without the ball and make himself open. Redick is also a great team player and never complains about his role. Redick will be crucial to the success of the Clippers and if they finally want to get over the hump in the playoffs, they are going to need Redick at his best.
Overall, it may have taken longer than many people expect, but Redick has developed into the NBA player many people thought he would be coming out of Duke. Look for Redick to receive a massive payday this off-season when he becomes a free agent.
8. Detroit Pistons – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope may be the most underrated player on this list. Caldwell-Pope always seems to have his best games against the better teams in the league, which is something you have to love about a player. Just look back to Detroit’s appearance in the playoffs last season against the Cleveland Cavaliers. It may be a small sample size, but Caldwell-Pope was very effective and he was a big reason the Pistons were able to take the Cavs down to the wire each game.
Skill wise, Caldwell-Pope can defend very well and he can also score in a variety of ways. He has a very nice stroke from the three point line and can even attack the rim and create his own. The best part about Caldwell-Pope for Pistons fans is that he is only 23 years old and will certainly be a nice building block for Stan Van Gundy.
7. Portland Trail Blazers – C.J. McCollum
It is hard to not respect C.J. McCollum. Just a couple of seasons ago, nobody knew who the guy was and now he is one of the top shooting guards in the NBA. This rise also included winning the Most Improved Player in 2016. McCollum averaged 21 points per game, 3 rebounds per game, 4 assists per game, and over a steal per game. This stellar play helped McCollum earn a big contract this offseason and made him one of the building blocks on the Trail Blazers team.
Unfortunately for McCollum and his team, they are underachieving massively this season and people will start to question the contract McCollum received. Do not fall for this, as McCollum is still having a good season. He can improve his defense, but remember he is only 25 years old and has lots of time to work on this.
6. Washington Wizards – Bradley Beal
Bradley Beal should be much higher on this list. He has the skills and the physical tools, but unfortunately for the Wizards and Beal, Beal has not been able to perform at an All-Star level consistently. We have seen him dominate at times, such as during the Wizards first round upset of the Raptors a couple of seasons ago. However, there have been other times where Beal has looked downright average. To be fair, Beal does look much better this season than in previous seasons, but I need a bigger sample size before I can say he has taken the next step in his career.
Part of me thinks that Beal could use a change of scenery, especially since he and John Wall do not get along too well on the court. Perhaps we would then see Beal develop into the player many people think he should be.
5. Phoenix Suns – Devin Booker
Devin Booker is one of the rising stars in the NBA. For a young player, he plays with so much calm and poise that you would think he was a veteran player and not a second-year player. No situation seems too big for him and he always looks like he is calm. This was especially evident in his time at Kentucky and a big reason why the Suns selected him even though they already had two pretty good guards in Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe.
Overall, Booker is a player the Suns can build their franchise around and all Suns fans hope that he can help lead the team out of the basement. In his prime, I can see him being a number 1A or 1B option on a championship caliber team. He’s probably going to have to get out of Phoenix for that though…
4. Chicago Bulls – Dwyane Wade
Five or six years ago, Dwyane Wade would have been the unquestioned number one player on the list. However, times have changed and Wade is longer the same player he once was. Most of this can be attributed to age and mileage. Wade has had a very long NBA career and he has also made so many deep playoff runs throughout the duration his career that his minutes are much higher than most people his age.
Do not get me wrong, I would still love to have Wade on my playoff team, or at the end of the game, as he can still get it done. I am just saying he is not at the same level. Overall, Wade still has a good mid-range game and has even improved his three-pointer. He is also a player that the Bulls can rely on when they need a big bucket and almost every team would still love to have him.
3. Toronto Raptors – DeMar Derozan
What I respect the most about DeMar DeRozan is that each season he comes back new and improved. For example, this year he has improved his passing and efficiency from the floor. To me, this shows he is dedicated to basketball and even with the huge contract he got, he is not going to stop working hard.
Overall, DeRozan is an old school guard and he is defying the trend. He does not shoot many three-pointers and does most of his damage with the mid-range game and it seems like he can get to the foul line anytime he wants. Also, DeRozan’s new found passing skills will be huge in the playoffs when teams trap him off the pick and roll. In the end, DeRozan needs to improve his defense, but with his work ethic, we can expect this improvement sooner than later.
2. Golden State Warriors – Klay Thompson
Klay Thompson is a great player on both ends of the court. First, I want to focus on his undervalued defensive ability. Golden State should be thankful that they have a player like Thompson. He never seems to get tired and can guard opposing star guards the whole game. Thompson also allows Stephen Curry to guard the weaker guard on the opposing team, helping Golden State hide one of their biggest weaknesses.
Offensively, Klay is a beast. I have never seen a player that can go off in any given minute like Thompson. Once he hits two or three shots in a row, you know he is going to shoot the ball every time he touches it and he makes for some of the most entertaining moments in the NBA. Overall, Thompson is a great player and one day, I would like to see him where he is the true number one option for a team.
1. Houston Rockets – James Harden
Some may refer to James Harden as a point guard, but for this article we are sticking with him as a shooting guard. Not only is Harden the best shooting guard in the NBA, but he has also turned himself into one of the top overall players in the game. Harden can do it all on the offensive end. He has a great ability to create his own shot, get to the free throw line, and hit jumper after jumper. He is also one of the best playmakers in the game, which can be reflected in his statistics this season. Harden is just reaching his prime, so we can expect big things from Harden for many years.
There are some areas where Harden can improve like limiting his turnovers and defensive play. However, overall, Harden is a great talent and will remain the best two guard in the game for a while.
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