On the Ball: Best of the Best—Top Five Shooting Guards
With Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade no longer being the alpha males among shooting guards due to age and injuries, there’s room at the top for the next great shooting star.
Right now James Harden makes the best case, though he’s not without his flaws. Maybe if the Thunder ever move Russell Westbrook off the ball (which could happen with the emergence of point guard Reggie Jackson), he could occupy the top spot.
Until then, here are the five best:
5. Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat—I didn’t expect Wade to make this list, especially after the Spurs showed how easy it is to guard him in last year’s finals—just put your slowest big man on him, camp out in the lane, and dare him to beat you with the three.
Only Gregg Popovich would think to do that. In his prime, Wade had an unbeatable first step to the rim and could finish at the rim better than anyone in the game. This year Wade is still going strong, ranking 20th in the league in scoring at 19.8 points per game.
Career averages: 24.3 points, 6.0 assists, 5.0 rebounds, and 1.7 steals per game.
4. DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors—Since entering the league in 2009 after his one-and-done season at USC, DeRozan has quietly become one of the better scorers in the game.
Last year he made his first All-Star appearance and finished 10th in scoring at 22.7 points per game. DeRozan is one of the best at drawing fouls, currently ranking fourth in free throws attempted (87) and second in free throws made (72).
Career averages: 16.8 points, 2.2 assists, 3.7 rebounds, and 0.9 steals per game.
3. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers—It’s a testament to Kobe’s hard work, dedication, and pure talent that the 36-year old is still one of the top shooting guards in the game.
The two-time scoring champ is actually at the top of the points-per-game leader board again this season at 27.3 points a contest, though he’s taken an absurd number of shots to get there.
Heading into Tuesday night, Bryant is the far and away leader in both field goal attempts (244) and misses (152), while his career-worst 37.7 field goal percentage is 119th among 124 qualifiers.
Career averages: 25.5 points, 4.8 assists, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game.
2. Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors—Thompson, now in his fourth season in the league, has seen his scoring go from 12.5 his rookie year all the way to 23.6 this season—seventh in the NBA.
The 3-point specialist was second in treys last year with 223 made and is currently fifth this season. What separates him from Kobe this season is his shooting percentage—46.6 from the floor overall and 46.5 percent from beyond the arc.
Career averages: 16.3 points, 3.3 assists, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game.
1. James Harden, Houston Rockets—The 25-year-old Harden, now in his third season in Houston, went from the best sixth-man in the game with the Thunder to the best off-guard in the league with the Rockets.
The 6-foot-5-inch guard from Arizona State finished fifth in scoring each of the last two seasons and is currently at sixth this season averaging 23.7 per game, despite not yet hitting his stride.
Through 11 games this year, Harden’s 27.4 percent three-point shooting is well below his career average of 36.5 percent. Consequently, his overall field goal percentage of 37.2 is even behind Kobe’s woeful rate.
Career averages: 18.1 points, 4.0 assists, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game.