J&J’s Top 5: NBA Shooting guards

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J&J’s Top 5: NBA Shooting guards

Houston Rockets James Harden has had an MVP worthy season. Do you think he's considered one of the top-five shooting guards in the NBA? Photo courtesy of Tribune News Services

Houston Rockets James Harden has had an MVP worthy season. Do you think he's considered one of the top-five shooting guards in the NBA? Photo courtesy of Tribune News Services

Houston Rockets James Harden has had an MVP worthy season. Do you think he's considered one of the top-five shooting guards in the NBA? Photo courtesy of Tribune News Services

Houston Rockets James Harden has had an MVP worthy season. Do you think he's considered one of the top-five shooting guards in the NBA? Photo courtesy of Tribune News Services

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Jordan’s Top 5 Shooting Guards

5. DeMar DeRozan: Despite DeRozan missing 21 games this year he has proven his top-five case. His presence was knowingly missed. DeRozan has continuously improved since he entered the NBA, including a break out year last season which earned him his first All Star nod. Last season he averaged career highs in points (22.7), rebounds (4.3) and assists (four). This year in 30 games he is averaging 18 points, four rebounds and three assists in 30 games, which are All Star caliber numbers. If you don’t believe so, read Doc Rivers comments. From outstanding defense, shooting, ball handling, ability to perform in clutch situations and overall consistency, DeRozan has answered the questions skeptics had against him coming out of USC.

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4. Kobe Bryant: You hear this question more and more, how is Kobe Bryant a top 5 shooting guard? My answer is simply because he’s KOBE BRYANT. At 36-years-old with a lot of mileage on his body, Bryant proved he could return from a horrific injury and show this Mamba has some bite left. At this stage in his career he shouldn’t have to carry a team like he once did, but Kobe was dealt the hand Jim Buss gave him. Before his eventual season ending shoulder injury Bryant was top 10 in scoring, averaging 22 points-per-game while posting 5.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists. He had multiple triple doubles, 30 point games, late game heroics and showed flashes of vintage athleticism. He did this with a below average supporting cast, astounding for someone who has been in the NBA 19 years. This Kobe Bryant we are watching is still a top-five shooting guard and not just on his career merit.

3. Jimmy Butler: Not only is Jimmy Butler a top-five shooting guard, but he’s easily my vote for Most Improved Player of the year. This year he is posting career highs in points (20.6), rebounds (six), assists (3.2) and minutes per game (39.7) which is an NBA high. With Derrick Rose’s injuries these last few years, saying Butler has stepped up is an understatement. Butler is a rare player who can carry the offensive responsibilities while guarding the best perimeter scorers the NBA has to offer. If that doesn’t qualify you top-five, then what does?

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2. Klay Thompson: What makes Klay Thompson the second best shooting guard is 37 points in one quarter. How impressive was that performance? But seriously, what makes him second is the overall impact he has on the game. Though he’s shooting 17 field goalss and seven three pointers per game, Thompson is shooting amazing career high percentages in those field goals (.476) and 3-pointers (.445). Like Butler, Klay is defending the best perimeter players every night, but he’s actually top 10 in scoring (22.4) only two spots behind his backcourt mate Curry. Despite being the most valuable player on the Warriors, until Thompson is looked at as “the guy” for a team, it’s hard to put him ahead of who I have number one.

1. James Harden: Harden is arguably the most prolific scorer in the NBA today. He leads the NBA in scoring with 27 points-per-game and gets to the free throw line at a league high nine attempts. When you combine those with his ability to shoot the ball extremely well, assist (6.7), rebounds (5.5) and the potential to take over games at any moment makes him a matchup nightmare. Harden is up for league MVP honors, carrying an underachieving talented Houston Rockets team. The final test for Harden to solidify his number one spot is performing great in the playoffs, which he has not done thus far.

Honorable Mentions: Bradley Beal, Monta Ellis, Dwayne Wade

Julius’s Top 5 Shooting Guards

5. Kobe Bryant: As erratic as Kobe Bryant has been on the floor this season, it’s difficult say that Kobe isn’t one of the five best shooting guards in the league. Yes, he was shooting under 30 percent from the 3-point line and shooting a career-worst from the floor, but Bryant still managed to average 22.3 points per game when every opponent his team played knew that he was the only real threat on the roster. At some point, he has to be given some leeway because of the embarrassment of a roster that he has to work with. Had Bryant had a supporting cast like Wade, he probably would be in the neighborhood of Wade, statistically speaking. There’s no denying that Bryant still strikes fear into the hearts of opposing defenders like no other two-guard in the league does. All he does is make plays, simple as that.

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4. Dwyane Wade: Contrary to popular belief, Dwyane Wade isn’t washed up. He may not be the same lightning quick Dwyane Wade that we saw in 2009, but to suggest that he is over the hill? That’s preposterous. The oft-injured Wade was still selected to another an all-star game this season, due in large part to his sustained excellence on the offensive end. When Wade went down with a thigh injury, he was leading the NBA in fourth quarter points per game, demonstrating his effective cerebral approach on the offensive end. He has used a myriad of pivots, head-fakes, floaters and up-and-unders to average 21.4 points per game this season, his best average since the 2011-2012 season. Like it was mentioned before, Wade does not crash into the paint like he used to, but his headiness still allows him to snake into the paint and get fouled, as he averages 5.9 free throw attempts per game. We may never see the Dwyane Wade that averaged 34.7 points and 7.8 rebounds per game in the 2006 finals, but he is still one of the smartest and gutsiest players in the NBA, and that paired with his scoring ability, still makes him elite.

3. Jimmy Butler: : When I think of Jimmy Butler, I automatically think of the term “two-way player.” Butler may not be the explosive scorer that a James Harden or Klay Thompson, but he is head and shoulders above them in terms of defensive effectiveness and reliability. Butler is currently second among shooting guards in steals per game and has a very respectable 105 defensive rating (points allowed by his team while he is on the floor per 100 possessions). The allure with Butler, particularly this season, is that he has become a more rounded offensive player who has been able to score effectively through post-ups, drives and spot-up jump shots. It’s almost as if Butler has accepted the fact that the Bulls cannot rely on Derrick Rose to be the sole creator and scorer, so he’s stepped up big time, averaging career-bests points per game (20.7), PER (21.5) and usage percentage (21.5). Butler may not have the explosiveness and flash of the other players at his position, but his completeness makes him a top-tier shooting guard.

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2. Klay Thompson: The second half the revered “Splash Brothers” has shown significant growth over the past 3 seasons and is now an elite shooting guard. Thompson is recognized for his superb ability to score, and more specifically, shoot. That recognition is fair because Thompson is currently fourth among eligible shooting guards in 3-point percentage, by shooting 44.1 percent, in spite of the fact that he attempts seven shots from beyond the arc per game. Although he excels from deep, Thompson is not a one-trick pony as he is beginning to develop an off the dribble game as well. In addition to his offensive repertoire, Thompson is also one of the better wing defenders in the league. And in terms of usage and PER, Thompson has seen those two categories rise over the years, including an impressive 7.3 improvement in PER. Right now the Warriors look as dangerous as any team in the league, but for them to be dangerous in April and May they will need Thompson to be the devastating offensive force he is capable of being.

1. James Harden: Even though James Harden is a pedestrian defender for the most part, his offense outweighs any negatives that accompany him on the other end of the floor. Harden has truly mastered the offensive end of the floor, as he maximizes the quality of shot attempts he gets. For instance, 90.1 percent of his points come from either the 3-point line, in the paint or off of free throws. That means that he does not take ill advised midrange jump shots, but instead uses his craftiness to manufacture makeable shots (points in the paint and free throws) or he higher-value shots like 3-pointers, a shot in which he converts an impressive 38.9 percent of attempts. Harden’s offensive mastery does not end there though. Despite his loaded scoring numbers, Harden averages 6.8 assists per game, making him is the best shooting guard when it comes to creating for his teammates. Because teams key in and collapse on Harden when he drives, he is able to dish it out to wide open teammates, for open looks. Furthermore, Harden creates open looks for the bevy of shooters on waiting on the 3-point line, meaning that Harden’s assists are more valuable than most passers in the league. Harden may catch a lot of flak for his defensive effort, but his defensive rating is actually the highest it has ever been in his career. In addition to his defensive Harden has proven to be the most effective and efficient shooting guards, as leads all shooting guards in PER by a wide margin. It’s difficult to imagine that a guy who was backing up Thabo Sefolosha three seasons ago is now the best player at his position, but he has flourished in a starring role.

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