Here is the second installment of our NBA Positional Preview, where we rank each positional group according to tiers. While Michael Jordan is not walking through that door, there are plenty of quality options as we’ll highlight the thirty best NBA shooting guards in today’s preview.
Also Receiving Votes: “The Sixth Man”
Jamal Crawford – Los Angeles Clippers
Lou Williams – Los Angeles Lakers
Mario Hezonja – Orlando Magic
Hezonja is a great sleeper pick for NBA Rookie of the Year. He impressed last year playing in the Liga ACB in Spain, where he carved out a vital role for Barcelona in the league’s second best basketball league. If Scott Skiles (Who has a penchant for burying rookies; just ask Tobias Harris) has turned over a new leaf and gives Hezonja significant minutes, expect the confident Croatian to be an impact rookie.
Alec Burks – Utah Jazz
Tier #8: “The Make or Break Year”
This small tier is reserved for younger players who need to make a significant leap forward to stay in their respective rotations for 2016.
25.) Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – Detroit Pistons
Caldwell-Pope was drafted by the previous regime, so current coach/GM Stan Van Gundy has no ties to KCP. Caldwell-Pope, however, has the requisite 3-point shooting and athleticism to fit into Van Gundy’s spread pick and roll game. Expect a mediocre FT% near 70% but also improvement upon his 34% from deep.
24.) Ben McLemore – Sacramento Kings
Tier #7: “The Gunners”
This group of guards will see time with starting units and headlining second units, with their main goal being an infusion of offense. Expect bouts of streakiness and inconsistency.
23.) Evan Turner – Boston Celtics
22.) Zach LaVine – Minnesota Timberwolves
Known more for his highlight reel dunks than his all around ability, LaVine was good for over 20 PPG and nearly 7 assists starting at the point for eight games last season. With Minnesota continuing their youth movement, LaVine will be starting at shooting guard and be given ample opportunity to succeed (and fail) with the young pups. LaVine averaged 16.4 points and 5.8 assists per 40 minutes.
21.) Tyreke Evans – New Orleans Pelicans
Evans, like Kyrie Irving, would normally be ranked higher but will miss significant time at the beginning of the season.
20.) J.R. Smith – Cleveland Cavaliers
Tier #6: “The MASH Unit”
This is a talented group full of big names and big questions surrounding durability, age, and effectiveness.
19.) Eric Gordon – New Orleans Pelicans
18.) Wesley Matthews – Dallas Mavericks
17.) Arron Afflalo – New York Knicks
16.) Kobe Bryant – Los Angeles Lakers
15.) Dwyane Wade – Miami Heat
Wade and Bryant are two aging former superstars who play for big-name, big market teams, with very different questions heading into upcoming season. Bryant is 37 years old with nearly 47,000 minutes played and has only appeared in 41 games the past two seasons, all while posting a career low 37% from the field last year. Wade is an old 33, with a body battered by a reckless style of play during his prime. Wade is still a top 10 player when he plays (2nd in PER amongst SG’s last season), but it will be an upset for DWade to play more than 70 games this season (Wade played 62 last season, 54 the season before, and 69 previously).
Tier #5: “The Up and Comers”
This group of guards is a year or two away from being all star caliber players but are in the right situation to be valuable stat stuffers. Each of these players has potential to make the leap to the top 10, perhaps as soon as this season.
14.) CJ McCollum – Portland Trail Blazers
13.) Khris Middleton – Milwaukee Bucks
12.) Bradley Beal – Washington Wizards
Despite slowing in last year’s regular season due to injuries, the former Florida Gator looked like the real deal during the playoffs. Beal averaged 23.4 PPG during last year’s postseason while shooting 36% from behind the arc. Expect Beal’s 2016 season to be closer to his postseason line of 23.4 PPG & 4.6 APG, as coach Randy Wittman has embraced a faster pace and space offensive style the Wiz used in the playoffs.
Tier #4: “The 3 & D Guards”
This group of shooting specialists is going to be highly effective from 3-point land and solid but not spectacular from everywhere else.
11.) Kyle Korver – Atlanta Hawks
10.) J.J. Redick – Los Angeles Clippers
9.) Danny Green – San Antonio Spurs
While Green can’t match Redick’s 16.4 PPG, Green fills up fantasy lines with a higher contribution of steals, blocks, and rebounds. Green is as reliable as it gets from 3, as he sports an elite 44% mark.
Tier #3: “Something to Prove”
A group of consistent floor generals who will give you good numbers across the board with limited durability questions.
8.) Monta Ellis – Indiana Pacers
7.) DeMar DeRozan – Toronto Raptors
6.) Brandon Knight – Phoenix Suns
All three of the players on this tier are borderline max players in today’s NBA, however only DeRozan is in a contract year. DeRozan is a relic of previous NBA eras, a ball-stopping and high usage shooting guard who is below average from 3 (28.4% last season) but still manages to average over 20 PPG. DeRozan will have to get more efficient as a shooter (Only Bryant was less efficient at SG) to be worthy of a max deal or a high draft slot. Both PER (17.46) and True Shooting Percentage (51.0) rate DeRozan as a league average player.
5.) Victor Oladipo – Orlando Magic
4.) Gordon Hayward – Utah Jazz
3.) Jimmy Butler – Chicago Bulls
2.) Klay Thompson – Golden State Warriors
Thompson may be the most underrated player in the NBA due to the shadow cast from his back court mate Stephen Curry. Klay has improved his PPG and his APG every season since joining the NBA and will give you steals on the defensive end. Expect Klay to continue to stroke from distance (44% from 3 last season) with a usage rate (25.5 in 14-15) in the top 10 for his position. Would be an MVP candidate on any other team and may carve out an even bigger role with his continued growth as an all around playmaker.
Tier #1: “The MVP Candidate”
1.) James Harden – Houston Rockets
While Steph Curry was awarded Most Valuable Player last season, it could be argued that Curry was the best player and Harden was the most valuable to his team. Coming in 8th in usage rate (30.5) and 5th in PER (26.76) despite being the only legitimate scoring option on his team for much of the season, Harden is a shooting guard who plays like a point guard. Although Houston has recently acquired troubled point guard Ty Lawson via trade, Harden should continue his ball dominant ways while combining scoring prowess (27.4 PPG in 14-15) with 5+ dimes (7.0 APG in 14-15). Harden is in a group by himself at the 2 and your draft strategy should be adjusted accordingly.