“Top 5 Shooting Guards” or “I can’t wait for NBA to return, offseason stinks….”

In an earlier blog I stated that the small forward position was the worst one in the NBA. In my defense I had just decided to classify Lebron and Melo as PF’s and may have gotten ahead of myself. After writing last week about that position and then having the pleasure of looking through shooting guards in the NBA I want to restate my opinion…

 

Ahem….

 

SHOOTING GUARD IS BY FAR THE WORST POSITION IN THE NBA!!! It’s turrrrrible.

This rag tag bunch of bums almost inspired a Top 4 only before I decided to cop out last second (you’ll see later).

I would rather have this guy than Nick Young

 

But before I get to the players here’s a my quick theory for the drop in 2 guards. 10-15 years ago, there was a much more rigid dichotomy[1] amongst guards. Point guards were expected to pass first, run sets, and control tempo. Scoring was optional. Their first (and sometimes only) job was to get teammates involved by setting up others to score. Conversely, shooting guards were the ones that could “score!”. They could put the ball in the basket and excite the crowd. 10-15 years ago, guys like Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose probably would have been shoehorned into the 2 spot and asked to play alongside a more traditional PG. This influx in hyperathletic point guards has syphoned away from their backcourt mate’s talent pool leaving it to be filled with (on MOST teams) role players. Many teams employ a guy that is a great 3-point shooter OR a great defender but rarely both. And seldom are they better overall than their lead ball handler[2].

 

Played their way out of contention in the playoffs

Manu Ginobili (San Antonio Spurs) and J.R. Smith (New York Knicks)

Both cases were pretty sad to watch. Manu, a playoff staple for the past decade, finally seems to have lost “it”. He couldn’t seem to get any separation, his shot wouldn’t fall, and even his decision making seemed a second too late. In the Finals alone he had four single digit scoring games. Smith was coming off his best season, had earned some hardware as the league’s best Sixth Man, and was in the fast lane towards a huge contract at the end of the year. But then came the elbow to Jason Terry[3], a one game suspension, and 29% shooting to until the Knicks were eliminated. But hey at least he was having a good time, allegedly.

Too many Zima’s last night…

“Best” of the Rest

Yes, we are already to the point of talking about these guys. Yikes. Think about it, if any of the following four guys was your 3rd best player, your team would be a fringe playoff team. That’s how shallow this talent pool is.

Joe Johnson (Brooklyn Nets)- His assists and rebounds have dropped each of the past four years, he’s no longer a 20 point scorer and he shot 42% from the field last year. And he’s starting shooting guard on the All-Terrible-Contracts-Team. Ya know what no, Joe Johnson just get off this list entirely. If I want your production I’ll sign OJ Mayo for half the cost.

Tyreke Evans (New Orleans Pelicans)- What do this guy, Lebron James, Michael Jordan, and Oscar Robertson all have in common? They are the only players to ever average 20, 5 and 5 as a rookie. What do they not have in common? The other three went on to become some of the best players of all time while Tyreke’s production has dropped every season. Hopefully his career can get a jumpstart from leaving the slop show that is the Kings organizations.

Monta Ellis (Dallas Mavericks)- Off the dribble, Ellis is one of the most dangerous guys in the NBA. Once in the lane he can finish, dish it out with underrated efficiency and…uhhhh.. that’s about it. Unless you count low shooting percentage, an inability to exist without being the top ball handler, and a complete helplessness on defense as traits. I hope Dirk is ready to play with Jason Kidd’s antithesis.

Tony Allen (Memphis Grizzlies)- I personally love Tony Allen’s game. He’s a nightmare on defense (and a dream to watch) who can match up against any outside scorer in the NBA. He’s been a crucial role player on playoff teams for his entire career in this role but, with that being said, he is becoming more of a liability in later playoff rounds. Wing players NEED to be able to shoot it right now in the NBA and, plain and simple, Tony Allen cannot. He has successful scoring games but it’s mostly because of hustle plays and a sixth sense when it comes to cutting. At the arc, he’s useless (3 for 20 in the playoffs since joining Memphis three years ago) which allows defenses to collapse on Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.

 

The Top 5

5. Victor Oladipo OR Ben McLemore OR Jimmy Butler OR Bradley Beal

By the end of the 2014 season one of these guys will emerge as the 5th best shooting guard in the league. Point/Counterpoint for each guy:

I loved watching this guy play in college….except against State.

Oladipo (Orlando Magic)

Why he will: From game one he will play 30-35 minutes per game. Orlando has no one better to take minutes from him[4]. He will be a GREAT defender and he’s incredibly athletic.

Why he won’t: He’s a rookie and will experience the typical learning curve associated with playing at the next level. Also, his jumper is a bit shaky.

McLemore (Sacramento Kings)

Why he will: Like Oladipo he will get massive minutes from the get go. Unlike Oladipo he has a picturesque jump shot. Seriously, the kid can shoot the lights out.

Why he won’t: At times in college he was too timid or too wild with his shot selection. At least Sacremento has a recent history of helping its young players mature into better pros. Just ask Tyreke Evans, Demarcus Cousins, or Thomas Robinson.

Butler (Chicago Bulls)

Why he will: Came out of nowhere and became arguably the biggest building block on Chicago not named Derrick Rose. If he can build off his late season/playoff success, those two will be a formidable backcourt to say the least. On top of that, he will never have to deal with double teams playing alongside Rose.

Why he won’t: Now there’s tape out there and he won’t catch any teams off guard. Now that the NBA knows he’s coming, can he still bring it every night?

Beal (Washington Wizards)

Why he will: He kept improving as the season went on before getting hurt in February. He won Rookie of the Month twice.

Why he won’t: He shot 41% from the field last year. That needs to improve if Washington is going to get over the hump and finally make the playoffs in the John Wall era.

 

The Top 4

 

4. Avery Bradley (Boston Celtics)

GIMME DEM COOKIES!!!

Yeah I said it! Remember when I said I love Tony Allen. Well that love pales in comparison when I talk about Avery Bradley. He’s one of my favorite players in the NBA. Just watch him, he’s an absolute bulldog on the ball. I can’t wait to see Bradley and Rondo (with Lee off the bench) play an entire season together. Defensively that backcourt will be fierce. If Bradley can develop a better jumper (not out of the picture considering his form isn’t that bad) he would be on a lot more people’s radar.

 

3. Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)

As the other half of the Splash Brothers, Thompson is really only known for his shooting. True he can bomb it from anywhere but he is much better than that. He’s tall (high release point), a pretty decent defender, he’s proven he can play a ton of minutes and stay healthy (a must need with Curry’s track record), he doesn’t turn it over often and seems to have happily accepted his role on the team as Steph Curry’s sidekick. I can’t wait to see how Golden State falls in the pecking order of the West now that they have Iguodala. They could be dangerous for years to come.

 

2. Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat)

I ain’t jealous…..Ok I’m jealous.

I’m not going to waste time talking about how awesome Dwyane has been. We all know that. And there really isn’t a debate he’s not the second best shooting guard in the league (I’m not counting Kobe but if I was Wade would be third) and there is ZERO debate he’s number one. But this is where I think his next couple years are going to go.

Since coming into the league he’s been on a war path with the basket. This makes his 31 drive a little more like 34. So I think Wade is going to fall off quicker than other players do (think more Allen Iverson than Paul Pierce). So this upcoming offseason is important. Will Lebron—who is smart enough to realize that DWade is a sinking ship of a superstar—resign with the Heat if they resign Wade to another max-like deal? That’s a legitimate question. I know those two are boys but Lebron is a business man. He’s said that he wants to be the first billionaire dollar athlete. I don’t think continuing his pairing with Wade will do that.

With that being said, what will happen to Wade? He cannot win a title by himself anymore that’s for sure and I’m predicting a big drop off in his ability in the next two years. It won’t be outwardly apparent at first because he’ll always have another superstar to lean on[5] but, what I’m saying is, at some point you’re going to say “Man, Wade hasn’t really been “DWade!!” in a long time” and then you’ll realize it’s been two seasons since it’s happened and that another appearance will never come. I can think of one comparison from my life that is similar: Adam Sandler’s acting career. He was an A-lister and my favorite actor for the longest time until one day in 2012 I woke up and realized “Shit, he hasn’t made a good movie since 2007[6].” Who cares if I was upset and everyone else had already had this realization. I didn’t care…no I still don’t care!…..I love Billy Madison and Click and he still has it in him to make more! Right after Grown Ups 2 he’s going to pump out another classic I know it, I just know it! But yeah….anyway where was I?….yeah you’re going to have that realization with Dwyane Wade in the next two years.

 

1. James Harden (Houston Rockets)

I want to go spelunking in that thing.

The man, the legend, the beard. Do you remember questioning whether or not James Harden could be “the guy” on his own team? Exactly two games in to the season we stopped talking about that[7] and 80 games later Harden has cemented himself amongst the games’ elite. He can score, pass, AND he can take games over offensively. His defense took a step back but that can be expected as his responsibilities elsewhere grew exponentially. With OKC he was the third option, in Houston he was having game plans written based on stopping him. That is a drastic change and he still averaged a hair below 26, 6 boards and 5 assists. Those are big boy numbers.

And speaking of big boys he now has Dwight Howard as a running mate which could make James Harden that much more dangerous. The past couple seasons James Harden has proven to be one of the most deadly pick and roll ball handlers in the league. Now add a monster pick from Dwight and a possible lob finish as an option and yikes. If Dwight can stay healthy and find that athletic bounce he had in Orlando these two could turn the team into a legitimate contender. I just hope the “Dwight at PF” experiment doesn’t completely implode[8].

One last thing….nobody makes better commercials than James Harden.

 

You didn’t think I would leave out Kobe did you?

 

Wildcard: Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers)

If any person on Earth has the work ethic to come back from this injury it’s Kobe Bean Bryant. But the sad part is, what is coming back to? The Lakers are completely buried in the West race with ZERO chance of competing for a title. Their roster, top to bottom, is one of the worst in the West. I mean, Gasol and Nash are over the hump, Blake and Kaman are nothing more than white guys role players, and even the Charlotte Bobcats wouldn’t celebrate the signings of Nick Young, Wesley Johnson, and Jordan Farmar. I don’t want to see Kobe come back and drown on a lottery team but I also don’t want to never see Kobe again. I hope they can make a move (Gasol maybe?) that gives them the players to compete….next year. This year is lost.


[1] Yeah, I know words.

[2] I counted 4 teams who’s backcourt leans towards the shooting guard: Heat, Rockets, Magic (Oladipo will already be better than Fatso Nelson), and Lakers. Past that the only teams you could even argue were the Mavericks, Knicks, 76ers (and if you argue for J-Rich then shame on you anyways), Raptors, and Bucks. Notice how most of them are lottery teams….

[3] Jason Terry?!? Really? He seems so nice in those thank the veterans commercials.

[4] How else do you think they got the 2nd overall pick?

[5] By this I mean he would never sign with a team that didn’t already have at least one superstar on it and was a title contender. He has no reason to. He won’t need the money so there’s no reason to play on the Bucks or Suns late in his career. Sorry Bucks and Suns.

[6] I’m talking about Reign Over Me mostly but Chuck and Larry was decent too. And if you haven’t seen Reign Over Me stop reading immediately and go watch it.

[7] If you don’t remember he started the season with 37 points and 12 assists against the Pistons and then 45 and 7 rebounds against Atlanta in back-to-back games.

[8] Let’s be honest that is going to back fire tremendously. With D12 and Asik on the floor the paint is going to more packed than a Dwight Howard child support envelope. Neither player has ever shown the ability to step any farther than 10 feet from the basket and command a defender. Asik will be traded before midseason.

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