The shooting guard position is not what it was earlier this century. It used to be that the shooting guard was the team’s best scorer who could put the ball in the hoop a variety of ways. The shooting guards were more volume shooters than specialists, which the position has now become.
Today, the players who play shooting guard are generally the team’s third option offensively — behind the point guard and either the small forward or a big. The reason being is that shooting guards are now three-point specialists who generally compete on the defensive end. In other words, the shooting guard and small forward’s have switched role importance from which was between late 1980’s-mid 2000’s.
Here is my list of top-10 shooting guards for the 2017-18 campaign. I have also included a few honorable mention candidates.
Honorable Mention (no particular order)
Wesley Matthews, Mavericks: Mathews was once seen as an upcoming 3 and D wing as he was dangerous beyond the arc and would “get into an opponent on the defensive end.” However, he has struggled since rupturing his Achilles. Still, the 30-year-old can stroke the ball from deep, knocking down 2.4 triples at a 36.3% clip in 2016-17. Mathews ranks 44th on the NBA’s all-time list with 1,252 three-pointers and 90th all-time in three-point percentage (36.3%).
Eric Gordon, Rockets: The reigning Sixth-Man of the Year can start or come off the bench and one thing who know you will get is instant offense. Gordon, who is ranked as the second Most Valuable Role Players by Fadeaway World, is a dangerous spot-up shooter with good handles. He averaged 16.2 points — of which 7.2 points came on catch and shoot situations — a game while making 3.3 three-pointers a game at 37.2% clip last year. Gordon’s 21.0 points per 40 minutes were his highest since 2013-14. The 28-year-old ranks 90th on the NBA career three-point list, where he has shot at a 38.0% clip from beyond the arc for his career.
Gary Harris, Nuggets: Harris has made major strides in each of the two years after doing very little as a rookie in 2014-15. The 22-year-old had a phenomenal season in 2016-17, tallying 14.9 points along with 3.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists. Harris, a former first round selection, shot an incredible 50.2% from the field and 42.0% on three-point attempts. Among shooting guards, he finished third in true shooting percentage (61.1%) and 11th in PER.
Nic Batum, Hornets: Batum is a long and versatile wing who possesses an efficient jump shot though he is not a great shooter. He has the ability to play three positions and is a skilled enough passer to have the offense run through him. Batum is coming off one of his best seasons of his nine-year career. The 28-year-old set career-highs in points (15.1) and assists (5.9) per game. He also hauled in 6.2 rebounds a game, grabbing a defensive rebound at an 18.4% rate and a rebound at a 10.1% clip — which ranked fourth and seventh among shooting guards, respectively.
Dwyane Wade, Bulls: Not sure if Wade’s inclusion this is a lifetime achievement honor or it says really how bad the shooting guard class is. Wade is certainly a Hall of Famer and perhaps one of the top 20-30 players to ever play the game. But the 35-year-old and has been on the decline the past three years. Still, he averaged 24.5 points, a career-high 6.0 rebounds and 5.1 assists per 40 minutes in 2016-17.
Top 10 Best Shooting Guards For The 2017-18 NBA Season
10. Lou Williams, Clippers
Williams is the perfect sixth man for a team as he is a capable shooter who scores points in bunches. The 2014-15 Sixth Man of the Year has produced over 20 points per 40 minutes in each of the last three years, including a career-high 28.5 points in 2016-17 as he posted a 59.5% true shooting percentage. He is also an excellent free throw shooter and can get on a roll on at times from beyond the arc. Williams, who is not a very good defender, is too small to guard opposing shooting guards so he generally gets switched to guard point guards.
Williams started out last season on fire with the Lakers, averaging 18.6 points on 44.4% from the field and 38.5% from beyond the arc in just 24.2 minutes over 58 games. He scored in double figures 55 times, including 24 games of 20 or more points. He topped the 30-point plateau on four occasions, pouring in a season-high 40 points against the Grizzlies on December 3.
Williams cooled down after being traded to Houston though he still put up 14.9 points in 25.7 minutes of action. Overall, he produced 17.5 points along with 2.5 assists while shooting 42.9% from the field, 36.5% from beyond the arc and 88.0% from the charity stripe.
The 30-year-old ranked fourth among shooting guards in PER and sixth in value added. Williams was also sixth in real plus-minus and third in offensive real plus-minus. He ranks 92nd all-time in offensive plus-minus.
Williams should get a lot of shots up for the Clippers as they don’t have any other perimeter scorer other than Austin Rivers.Williams has averaged at least 10 points every year since 2007-08.
9. J.J. Redick, 76ers
Redick, a three-point specialist, is one of the preeminent perimeter shooters currently in the NBA. The 33-year-old made 42.9% of his attempts from beyond the arc and 45.2% of his shot between 16 and 23 feet in 2016-17. However, what Redick does best is moving without the basketball, which in turn, allows frees him up for open looks. Redick is also a good finisher at the rim and is one of the best free throw shooters in NBA history. Additionally, while he is not necessarily a great individual defender he does a good job helping and recovering to the shooter.
Redick has averaged over 20 points per 40 minutes the last four years as he has registered 59% true shooting percentage in each of those seasons. He averaged 15.0 points per game last year, marking his lowest point total since 2012-13, as he topped 20 points 17 times and was held to single digits 14 times.
Among shooting guards, Redick finished eighth in true shooting percentage, 28th in turnover ratio and 20th in PER though he was 16th in value added in 2016-17. He was also 28th in real plus-minus.
Redick ranks in the top-40 in NBA history in several offensive categories. He is 40th in offensive rating, 40th in three-pointers made, 24th in true shooting percentage as well as effective shooting percentage, 14th in three-point percentage and 10th in three-point percentage. He also has 26th best turnover ratio at 9.6%.
Redick should get a lot of open shots this upcoming season with Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz being the primary playmakers. Along with Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor and Dario Saric, who is a stretch-4, in the frontcourt.
8. Avery Bradley, Pistons
Bradley is an ace defender who has become a reliable scorer. The 6-2 combo guard is capable of shutting down point and shooting guards alike though he does not total a lot of steals or blocks. Bradley is a two-time NBA All-Defensive Team selection who was named to the first team All-Defense in 2015-16.
Bradley has averaged over 15 points over the last two seasons with his biggest improvement coming from beyond the arc. The 26-year-old set career-high in several categories last season as he produced 16.3 points and 6.1 rebounds along with two three-pointers a game while shooting 46.3% from the field and 39.0% from beyond the arc. He doesn’t register too many assists but is a capable ball-handler who doesn’t commit a ton of turnovers.
7. Devin Booker, Suns
Booker is a pure shooter who is only 20 years old and entering his third NBA season. Booker does not provide much else besides scoring and is not currently highly efficient. But he has the ability to be one of the top-scorers and shooters for years to come. In order for him to move up the list, he has to better on the defensive end, cut down his fouls, and improve turnover rate.
Booker is a good finisher at the rim and did a better job at drawing fouls and finishing through contact in 2016-17 — he drew 178 shooting fouls and had 52 And1’s last season. However, he does have to do a better job with body control as he was whistled for 31 offensive fouls. Booker is at his best when he shoots off the dribble though he needs to improve his mid-range game. Booker is an excellent free throw shooter.
Booker averaged 22.1 points a game last year as he topped the 30-point plateau, 14 times. His best game came against Boston on March 24 when he exploded for 70 points. He finished the game 21-of- 40 shooting from the field, 4-of-11 from beyond the arc, and 24-of-26 from the charity stripe. He is the 11th player to score 70 or more points in NBA history.
Booker shot 42.3% from the field and 36.3% from beyond the arc last year. He ranked 21st among shooting guards in PER and 45th in real plus-minus as he was 18th in offensive real plus-minus.
6. C.J. McCollum, Trail Blazers
McCollum has become more efficient in each of his four seasons. The 2016 NBA Most Improved Player has developed into one of the best scorers in the league — he has been a good shooter since Day 1.
McCollum is not just a shooter/scorer as he also has the ability to facilitate the offense as he is an outstanding ball-handler. McCollum has a silky smooth jumper and is solid from 10 feet out. He is a dangerous three-point shooter though he is at his best after putting the ball on the floor once or twice — whether for a two or three-pointer. In fact, he ranked fourth in the league in mid-range field goal percentage (47.7%) last season. However, McCollum doesn’t get to the free throw line nearly enough.
McCollum tallied 30 or more points 14 times during 2016-17, hitting the 40 point mark twice. He then opened the playoffs with a 41-point outburst on 16-of-28 shooting from the floor against the Warriors. He also had a 32-point showing in Game Three of the series.
For the season, McCollum set a career-high with 23.0 points per game –1.23 points per shot — on a personal-best 48.0% shooting from the field. He also pulled in a career-best 3.5 boards a game. He averaged 2.3 three-pointers a game last season at a 42.1% clip. McCollum led the NBA with a 91.2% free throw percentage, ranked seventh in the league field goals made and was seventh in three-point percentage. He ranks 16th on the league’s all-time three-point percentage (41.3%) list.
5. Bradley Beal, Wizards
Beal would likely have been higher on this list had he been healthy through most of his career so far. But, as it is, Beal has missed 86 games over five years.
The 24-year-old guard is a knockdown shooter who has become increasingly more efficient. He posted a true shooting percentage of 60.4% last year, marking the first time he recorded a TS% over 55, and improved his points per shot to a career-best 1.34 — which is.155 better than his career average.
Beal can score on all three levels though he needs to get to the foul line more often. He is a superb finisher at the rim and ranked fifth in the league in field goal percentage on mid-range shots. Beal pumped in a career-high 23.1 points a game on 48.2% shooting from the field and 40.4% from beyond the arc as he made 2.9 triples a game (a new career-high). The former Florida Gator had 13 games of 30 or more points, including four games topping the 40-point plateau.
Beal, who does not turn the ball over a lot, is an average defender though he did record 83 thefts and 21 blocks in 2016-17. The thing is he really can only guard other shooting guards. Among players at his position, he finished in the top-five of the league in both PER and real plus-minus.
4. Klay Thompson, Warriors
Thompson is perhaps the second best shooter in the league, behind teammate Steph Curry, and thrives in catch-and-shoot situations — producing a league-high 11.5 points per game. Thompson is also a lockdown defender.
The three-time all-star recorded his third straight season of topping the 20 point plateau, tallying 22.3 points a game as he had two 40 point contests. Thompson scored 60 points on an incredible 21-of-33 shooting, including 8-of-14 from beyond the arc, against Indiana on December 5. He ranked second in the league in three-point field goals and 10th in three-point percentage (41.4%) last season.
Thompson has ranked in the top-three in three-point field goal makes in each of the last five seasons and his 1,328 career treys rank 34th all-time. He also ranks 11th on the all-time list for three-point percentage at 41.9%.
Thompson ranked eighth in PER though fourth in real plus-minus among shooting guards in 2016-17.
3. DeMar DeRozan, Raptors
DeRozan is an elite scorer who is able to maintain efficiency due to his ability to get to the free throw line. He is not a real threat from outside the arc, but is an above average rebounder for a shooting guard and does not turn the ball over. He is also a poor on-ball defender.
DeRozan thrives in isolation and getting to the hoop — finishing second in the league in points off his drives per game (9.0) in 2016-17. He also has a wonderful mid-range game, producing 9.4 points a game which was the third most in the league last year.
Last season, DeRozan set a career-high with 27.3 points a game as he topped the 40-point plateau five times. He also set a personal-best with five double-doubles and 5.2 rebounds a game. His 46.7% shooting percentage marked his best since 2010-11.
The 28-year-old is a three-time all-star. DeRozan finished in the top-seven in the NBA in field goal makes free throws and points per game last season. The 2016-17 third team All-League selection ranked third in PER though just 23rd in real plus-minus among shooting guards.
2. Jimmy Butler, Wolves
Butler is one of the best two-way wings in the game. He can score at all three levels though he is at his best in pick-n-rolls as well as isolation as he is a really good ball-handler. He is also very good at getting to the basket where he looks to create for others as well as himself. Butler is not a great three-point shooter.
Butler recorded 15 double-doubles and two-triple doubles last year. He also averaged a career-high 23.9 points a game to go along with career-best 6.2 rebounds and 5.5 assists. The 27-year-old topped the 30-point mark 17 times, including the playoffs, and did not reach double figures six times.
Butler can be a shutdown defender when he gets up for the matchup. The 2016-17 All-NBA third team selection has been named to the second team All-Defensive Team three times. He came up with a new season-best 143 steals (1.9 per game).
Last season. Butler finished seventh in real plus-minus as he had the eighth highest offensive real plus-minus. He was also 58th in the league in defensive real plus-minus. However, he finished 14th in PER.
His scoring may take a little bit of a dip with Timberwolves this year as Minnesota now has several players who can score. As a result, Butler could decide to become a distributor and re-focus some energy to the defensive end of the floor.
Butler has compiled 20 points, five rebounds and three assists in each of the last three years.
1. James Harden, Rockets
Harden is the perfect player to orchestrate Mike D’Antoni’s offense as he is an offensive juggernaut. He can score on all three levels and is an excellent ball-handler.
The 27-year-old likes to pound the ball a lot though he is one of the best at creating offense for himself, even if he is not the most efficient player. Harden is very good at slithering to the basket and forcing contact to get to the foul line.
Harden registered a league-high 64 double-doubles as well as 22 triple-doubles. He also posted career-highs in points (29.1), assists (11.9) and rebounds (8.1). Including the playoffs, Harden had over 40 games of 30 points or more, 11 games of 40 points and twice scored 50. Harden finished fifth in the league in PER, second in value added and 13th in real plus-minus.
Harden is a good shooter, with a true shooting percentage around 60%, but he takes a lot of difficult and contested shots. Harden also makes way too many bad decisions and gets sloppy handling the ball at times. And he is awful on defense, ranking 400 out 468 players last season in real plus-minus. Opponents shot 45% from the field when Harden was the primary defender.
Harden, who is at his best when the ball is in his hands, will likely not be the primary ball-handler for Houston this year with the addition of Chris Paul this offseason. Which likely means his career-high point and assist total will likely decline this year.