December 27, 2014

Ranking The NBA's Best Shooting Guards Heading Into 2015

#24, Kobe Bryant, SG, Los Angeles Lakers

The shooting guard play in the NBA has taken some heat over the last few seasons. In no particular order, you had Harden, Kobe, and Wade... then everyone else. Now? While Kobe and Wade are still playing like all-stars, some young bloods have begun to challenge them, and the future of the position looks very bright. The criteria for these rankings isn't complex. Which shooting guards in the NBA are playing the best, putting up the best numbers, are the most efficient, and are the most important to their team's success right now. If a player is listed lower than you think he should be, it's probably because his defensive play isn't up to par right now, which is also very, very important.

(Kevin Martin and DeMar DeRozan have both been out for longer than a month, so they aren't included in these rankings).

*Stats as of 12/26/14

(PER = Player Efficiency Rating / ORTG = Offensive Rating / DRTG = Defensive Rating)

Tier 4: The "Starting Caliber" Shooting Guards

There aren't a ton of consistent, reliable shooting guards in the league. While they aren't the top scoring options on their teams, these players are very good role players who can come of the bench and give their team a needed scoring spark, or fit right in a starting lineup.

20. Alec Burks, Utah Jazz

12.9 PER / 106.0 ORTG / 113.7 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
33.3 MPG: 13.9 PPG, 3.0 APG, 4.2 RPG, 0.6 SPG, 1.9 TO (40% FG, 38% 3P, 82% FT)
PER 36: 15.0 PPG, 3.3 APG, 4.6 RPG, 0.7 SPG, 2.1 TO

Analysis: Burks has quietly been a solid player in the NBA over the past couple of seasons. He doesn't do anything great, but he does several things well. He's a pretty good jump shooter, and has put up some decent numbers so far this season.

19. Dion Waiters, Cleveland Cavaliers

12.8 PER / 97.2 ORTG / 107.2 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
23.4 MPG: 10.5 PPG, 2.1 APG, 1.5 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 1.4 TO (41% FG, 29% 3P, 80% FT)
PER 36: 16.2 PPG, 3.2 APG, 2.4 RPG, 2.0 SPG, 2.1 TO

Analysis: Dion Waiters is getting used to a different role in Cleveland this season, but it doesn't look like it's paying off. I compared Waiters to Dwyane Wade coming out of Syracuse, but he hasn't lived up to that comparison just yet. His ceiling is still very high, but he has a long, long way to go before he reaches it.

18. Shabazz Muhammad, Minnesota Timberwolves

20.7 PER / 114.9 ORTG / 115.3 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
21.4 MPG: 13.4 PPG, 0.9 APG, 3.8 RPG, 0.5 SPG, 0.8 TO (50% FG, 38% 3P, 69% FT)
PER 36: 22.6 PPG, 1.6 APG, 6.3 RPG, 0.8 SPG, 1.3 TO

Analysis: The 14th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft is starting to look like a future star in the league. He's averaging 23 points a game per 36 minutes, and he's shooting the ball very well. As his minutes increase and defenses begin to focus on him more, we'll find out if Muhammad can keep this level of play up. In order for him to make a big jump in these rankings, he'll have to pick up his defensive play and remain consistent.

17. Arron Afflalo, Denver Nuggets

11.7 PER / 106.9 ORTG / 111.4 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
32.6 MPG: 14.6 PPG, 1.6 APG, 3.6 RPG, 0.4 SPG, 1.4 TO (43% FG, 34% 3P, 83% FT)
PER 36: 16.1 PPG, 1.8 APG, 4.0 RPG, 0.4 SPG, 1.5 TO

Analysis: Aaron Afflalo always seems to fly under the radar. For some reason his defense seems to have regressed over the last few seasons, but, he's a solid 2 way guard who is capable of having a few big nights every once in a while. He's struggled in his last few games, but is shooting the ball well overall.

16. Rodney Stuckey, Indiana Pacers

13.1 PER / 98.5 ORTG / 105.7 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
25.7 MPG: 12.0 PPG, 2.9 APG, 3.7 RPG, 0.7 SPG, 1.6 TO (41% FG, 35% 3P, 78% FT)
PER 36: 16.8 PPG, 4.1 APG, 5.2 RPG, 0.9 SPG, 2.2 TO

Analysis: Stuckey never quite lived up to the hype in Detroit, but, he's flying under the radar in Indiana, having a solid season. He's putting up good numbers in limited minutes, and is doing pretty well on both ends of the floor.

15. J.J. Redick, Los Angeles Clippers

14.6 PER / 117.6 ORTG / 112.0 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
29.6 MPG: 14.8 PPG, 1.6 APG, 1.7 RPG, 0.4 SPG, 1.2 TO (46% FG, 43% 3P, 85% FT)
PER 36: 18.0 PPG, 1.9 APG, 2.1 RPG, 0.5 SPG, 1.4 TO

Analysis: J.J. Redick isn't known for his defense, passing, or rebounding... and for good reason. However, Redick is an excellent shooter. Coming off of curls, screens... even creating his own shots. His shooting percentages are always really good, and this season is no different. So far, Redick is averaging 17 points per game and shooting over 50 percent from three and from the field in general in the month of December.

14. Kyle Korver, Atlanta Hawks

16.3 PER / 129.3 ORTG / 106.4 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
32.8 MPG: 13.0 PPG, 3.1 APG, 4.0 RPG, 0.7 SPG, 1.4 TO (50% FG, 53% 3P, 95% FT)
PER 36: 14.3 PPG, 3.4 APG, 4.4 RPG, 0.8 SPG, 1.5 TO

Analysis: Whether he's catching and shooting or curling off of screens, Kyle Korver is the best shooter the NBA has to offer. He's having the most efficient year of his career to date, shooting well over 50% from deep and 95% from the foul line. Korver is also a better defender than he gets credit for, and has become a pretty decent all around player.

Tier 3: The "Rising All-Star" Shooting Guards

These shooting guards are underrated players who are having really good seasons despite not receiving the attention that they deserve. They aren't all-star players quite yet, but with continued success, will be in the discussion.

13. Lou Williams, Toronto Raptors

20.5 PER / 117.4 ORTG / 108.1 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
23.0 MPG: 14.6 PPG, 1.5 APG, 1.6 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 1.1 TO (42% FG, 37% 3P, 88% FT)
PER 36: 22.9 PPG, 2.3 APG, 2.5 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 1.7 TO

Analysis: Lou Williams has been incredible coming off the bench for Toronto this season. He's in the perfect role from them. He's been much more efficient as a shooter than he was last year, averaging over 14 points in just 23 minutes per game.

12. Gerald Green, Phoenix Suns

16.7 PER / 104.3 ORTG / 107.3 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
22.2 MPG: 14.0 PPG, 1.3 APG, 2.9 RPG, 0.9 SPG, 1.7 TO (43% FG, 38% 3P, 87% FT)
PER 36: 22.7 PPG, 2.0 APG, 4.7 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 2.8 TO

Analysis: Gerald Green is known for being a high-flying finisher at the rim, but he's also become a pretty good shooter as well. He's been very productive coming off the bench in less than 23 minutes per game, and averages nearly 23 points per 36 minutes. If he can become a better all around player, he'll move up this list.

11. Goran Dragic, Phoenix Suns

17.3 PER / 113.1 ORTG / 109.6 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
32.5 MPG: 16.3 PPG, 4.2 APG, 3.3 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 2.1 TO (49% FG, 35% 3P, 83% FT)
PER 36: 18.0 PPG, 4.6 APG, 3.6 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 2.4 TO

Analysis: Goran Dragic is one of the most fun players to watch. With two other point guards that like to handle the ball on his team, Dragic's touches and numbers are down as expected. However, he's still having a really good season. He's so creative with the ball in his hands. He's very good at getting to the basket, and displays Steve Nash-like passing ability. He's a true combo guard.

10. Jamal Crawford, Los Angeles Clippers

18.4 PER / 110.7 ORTG / 108.5 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
26.8 MPG: 16.4 PPG, 2.8 APG, 1.9 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 1.5 TO (42% FG, 35% 3P, 90% FT)
PER 36: 22.1 PPG, 3.8 APG, 2.6 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 2.0 TO

Analysis: Jamal Crawford has never been known for his efficiency or his defense, but both have been for the most part acceptable. His bread-and-butter is breaking down the defender one-on-one with his incredible ball handling skills to create a good shot. He still knows how to make those high degree difficulty shots as well.

9. Wesley Matthews, Portland Trail Blazers

16.0 PER / 116.3 ORTG / 104.9 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
33.6 MPG: 16.4 PPG, 2.2 APG, 3.5 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 1.5 TO (48% FG, 40% 3P, 70% FT)
PER 36: 17.6 PPG, 2.3 APG, 3.7 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 1.6 TO

Analysis: Wesley Matthews is arguably the most underrated two guard in the Association. He's a very good shooter, and is really in the perfect role as the third scoring option on a team with two star players. He's also a pretty solid defender.

8. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards

14.0 PER / 103.0 ORTG / 104.2 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
33.2 MPG: 15.3 PPG, 3.1 APG, 3.4 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 2.2 TO (43% FG, 46% 3P, 80% FT)
PER 36: 16.5 PPG, 3.4 APG, 3.7 RPG, 1.7 SPG, 2.4 TO

Analysis: Beal really reminds me of a young Ray Allen. He moves so well without the ball, and knows how to get open and create his own looks from deep. He isn't strictly a jump shooter though. He can score in a variety of ways, and continues to improve on defense. Hopefully he continues to round out his game, because the young two guard has star potential.

Tier 2: The "All-Star" Shooting Guards

Though they may or may not be the types of shooting guards you look to build around, these players are still capable of being the top scoring option on any team, and are players you can count on night in and night out to deliver for your team. Even if they've lost a step, they're still All-Star caliber players.

7. Monta Ellis, Dallas Mavericks

18.7 PER / 106.1 ORTG / 109.3 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
34.1 MPG: 20.7 PPG, 4.6 APG, 2.2 RPG, 1.7 SPG, 2.6 TO (46% FG, 32% 3P, 76% FT)
PER 36: 21.9 PPG, 4.9 APG, 2.3 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 2.8 TO

Analysis: Monta Ellis is having a great season. With so many great guards out west, he could get snubbed from the All-Star game. He's always been known as an inefficient shooter/scorer who takes questionable shots, but, he's been more efficient this season than any other season that I can remember. He's one of the better scorers the league has to offer, and he doesn't get much credit for his play making ability, averaging almost five assists per game. He'd be higher on this list if he was a better defender.

6. Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs

16.2 PER / 104.1 ORTG / 105.2 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
25.5 MPG: 12.8 PPG, 5.2 APG, 3.0 RPG, 0.8 SPG, 2.4 TO (41% FG, 36% 3P, 75% FT)
PER 36: 18.0 PPG, 7.3 APG, 4.2 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 3.4 TO

Analysis: At first glance, Manu Ginobili's averages on the season aren't very impressive. However, considering he only averages 25 minutes a game, he's been much better than his numbers say he's been. Ginobili can still get to the basket, and steps his game up in clutch moments. He'll occasionally have those moments that make you go "WHY MANU?!" But, he has plenty of games that make you say "WOW MANU!"

5. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers

17.5 PER / 96.6 ORTG / 113.4 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
35.5 MPG: 24.6 PPG, 4.9 APG, 5.1 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 3.5 TO (37% FG, 27% 3P, 81% FT)
PER 36: 25.0 PPG, 5.0 APG, 5.2 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 3.6 TO

Analysis: You have to admit it... Kobe Bryant averaging almost 25 point a game at age 36 is very, very impressive. And statistically, he's still one of the best all-around two guards in pro basketball. He's essentially the best point guard on his team, and consistently one of the top rebounders at his position. Unfortunately, Kobe has become an inefficient jump shooter. He's obviously not the same athlete or defender anymore, which is to be expected. Even on a team with almost no talent, Kobe needs to shoot the ball better. He's still an All-Star shooting guard almost by default, but, that isn't an indictment on the future hall-of-famer.

4. Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat

23.5 PER / 106.3 ORTG / 111.0 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
32.9 MPG: 23.2 PPG, 5.5 APG, 3.9 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 3.6 TO (51% FG, 39% 3P, 69% FT)
PER 36: 25.3 PPG, 6.0 APG, 4.2 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 3.9 TO

Analysis: Dwyane Wade has been doing his best to prove his doubters wrong this season. Currently sixth in the NBA in scoring, Wade is still getting to the rim almost at will, is still deadly as a mid-range shooter, and his having his best year as a three point shooter. Though he's no longer a two way star, Wade is still an offensive superstar, and a stat sheet stuffer.

Tier 1: The "Elite" Shooting Guards

These are the stars you build your team around. They are elite on both ends of the court. Capable of impacting the game a variety of ways on offense, taking over games as a scorer, and playing lock down defense. These players are the future of the position.

3. Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors

19.5 PER / 111.0 ORTG / 102.2 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
33.9 MPG: 21.3 PPG, 3.3 APG, 3.5 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 2.1 TO (45% FG, 43% 3P, 87% FT)
PER 36: 22.6 PPG, 3.5 APG, 3.7 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 2.2 TO

Analysis: Klay Thompson came into the league as an excellent jump shooter, but's he's quietly worked on his all around game, and has become one of the better two way players in the NBA. He's an efficient scorer, an excellent shooter, and a lock down defender. He's an all-star lock at this point.

2. Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls

22.0 PER / 126.2 ORTG / 105.9 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
40.1 MPG: 21.6 PPG, 3.4 APG, 6.2 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 1.5 TO (48% FG, 34% 3P, 83% FT)
PER 36: 19.4 PPG, 3.0 APG, 5.6 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 1.3 TO

Analysis: Jimmy Butler has become one of the best two way players in the league, and is having a career season that will earn him a well deserved max contract at season's end. He's becoming the go to scorer for he Bulls, and has displayed a knack for hitting clutch shots and making big plays. The fourth year player out of Marquette is starting to become a very well rounded guard.

1. James Harden, Houston Rockets

26.5 PER / 117.4 ORTG / 99.0 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
37.7 MPG: 27.2 PPG, 7.1 APG, 6.3 RPG, 1.9 SPG, 4.0 TO (43% FG, 34% 3P, 89% FT)
PER 36: 26.0 PPG, 6.8 APG, 6.0 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 3.8 TO

Analysis: At this point, James Harden may be the favorite to win the MVP award. He's leading the league in scoring, and has the best defensive rating of any guard in the league this year. Now, defensive rating can be a bit misleading, but make no mistake, Harden has been locked in on that end of the floor this season. He's an elite scorer and play maker, and one of the best all-around stars in the NBA.