No Kobe Bryant on this list. I fully believe Kobe will bounce back and all, but it’ll be disrespectful to Kobe to compile a list without seeing what he’s capable of doing after such a serious injury. Only four shooting guards (Harden, Wade, Ginobili and Dragic) had a 20 or higher PER. Obviously PER isn’t the only statistic when determining how good a player is, but it helps paint a picture. There’s other deciding factors, especially how well a player improves his team. Monta Ellis had an average PER, but he definitely made Dallas a better team, and helped his teammates in the process. The San Antonio Spurs were the NBA’s best regular season team, but they were even better with Manu Ginobili on the court. Evaluating shooting guards proved to be the most difficult out of every position I’ve researched. There’s so many great point guards, small forwards and power forwards, and then there’s enough well-rounded big men to figure out the actual 10 best centers. Shooting guards are a totally different animal, though. There’s still shooting guards who lead their team in scoring (Harden, Ellis, Dragic), but there’s more shooting guards who are asked only to defend, and/or shoot threes. Teams like the Clippers have two very solid shooting guards who can play together, or in different line-ups.
Here’s my best effort to rank the best 10 (or 11) shooting guards.
10. Wesley Matthews – Portland Trailblazers
16.4 (PPG)/ 3.5 (RPG)/ 2.4 (APG)
Matthews did a great job covering James Harden during last season’s postseason (I touched on Harden here). Portland was +4.9 per 100 possessions with Matthews on the court. He shot nearly 40 percent from 3 last season, and is considered one of the better two-way shooting guards in the NBA. Portland’s building something special, and Matthews is a major reason why.
9. Jamal Crawford – Los Angeles Clippers
Crawford won sixth man of the year last season. I originally had Crawford and Redick together since they both play large minutes at shooting guard for the Clippers, but for the sake of an accurate top-50 player list, I’m going with Crawford over Redick.
8. Klay Thompson – Golden State Warriors
18.4/3.1/2.2 41.7 3FG%
I forgot Thompson. I had Afflalo at No. 10, but I forgot Klay Thompson. Thompson has a below league average PER (14.32), but he great size (6’7”) to defend multiple positions. Thompson is definitely on the rise, and it’s a major reason why Golden State wouldn’t include him in the Kevin Love trade talks.
7. Monta Ellis – Dallas Mavericks
19/3.6/5.7 45.1 FG%
Ellis had a real solid year in Dallas. He shot and passed well. He ran the pick and roll with Dirk Nowitzki effectively. Rick Carlisle, like usual, brought out the best in Ellis. Ellis is only 28, so there’s room for him to improve.
6. DeMar DeRozan – Toronto Raptors
22.7/4.3/4 42.9 FG%
DeRozan is not a good outside shooter. He’s a career 26 percent 3-point shooter. DeRozan is a great slasher, and a very capable free throw shooter. He shoots in the low 80s for his career. DeRozan’s also a solid defender. He had 3 defensive win shares last season (46th in the League), and posted a defensive rating of 107. DeRozan finished 20th in win shares (just ahead of Mike Conley and Wesley Matthews).
5. Lance Stephenson Jr. – Indiana Pacers
13.8/7.2/4.6 49.1 FG%,
I wrote about Stephenson here.
Stephenson was the second youngest player (Paul George) in the top-10 in defensive win shares last season.
4. Goran Dragic – Phoenix Suns
20.3/3.2/5.9 50.5 FG%, 40.8 3FG%
Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Dragic were the only players to average at least 20 points, five assists while shooting above 50 percent from the field. Dragic played a little more point guard than shooting guard, but only because Eric Bledsoe missed so much time. With Isaiah Thomas under contract, Dragic will be more of a two-guard next year.
3. Manu Ginobili – San Antonio Spurs
12.3/3/4.3 46.9 FG%
Ginobili redeemed himself after last year’s Game 6 debacle. He proved how good he is during the postseason. He made big shot after big shot during the Spurs championship run. Ginobili trailed only James Harden in regular season offensive real plus-minus for shooting guards. San Antonio was +12.8 per 100 possessions with Ginobili on the floor.
2. Dwyane Wade – Miami Heat
19/4.5/4.7 54.5 FG%
You can say what you want about Wade’s Finals performance, and it’s true. He played poorly. But you can’t take away what he did in the regular season (even if he only played 54 games). Wade was the most efficient NBA shooting guard last season. It helped having LeBron as a teammate, but Wade should still post solid numbers this year.
1. James Harden – Houston Rockets
25.4/4.5/5.8 45.6 FG%
Harden is the best shooting guard in the NBA. I wrote about Harden enough right here.