A few days ago the NBA Scholar met with some of the brightest NBA minds he knows. The conversations with them are always interesting and usually fuel a lot of debate. This time, the topic was quite simply: Who are the Top 3 Shooting Guards of the NBA right now? As always, the NBA Scholar listened carefully and participated in the heated debate. He took mental notes and when he went back home, organized all that input and started a “study” of who are the 3 best shooting guards at this moment. This is the list. Feel free to agree or disagree (in polite ways only). Most of all, read, analyze and construct your OWN opinion. Don´t follow the herd!
3. Jimmy Butler
“The Butler did it”, as they say. In fact, “the Butler” has been doing it since day 1 and he shows no signs of slowing down. From good player with an interesting potential to Bulls savior in merely 3 seasons. His progress has been nothing less than spectacular. After a shy start, averaging only 2.6 points in 8.6 minutes played in his rookie season, the next 3 seasons were a testament to this young man untapped potential: from 8.6 pts (2012-13) to 13.1 (2013-14) and finally 20.0 pts per game last season. Wow! An average of extra 6 points per game each season! Could we expect 26 pts per game next season then? That has to do with the Bulls coaching staff, now blessed with two diamonds at the backcourt. Some could say his improvement was a direct consequence from the more minutes he got, especially benefiting from D. Rose recurrent injuries but the NBA Scholar begs to differ. Just have a look at the graph below – you will realize there was exactly (!) the same number of minutes usage in the last 2 seasons: 38.7 minutes per game.
This is how Jimmy Butler described himself: Sorry to say, Mr. Butler, but you are very far from being a role player. At this point one wonders if he is the future of the franchise and not the unfortunate injury plagued Derrick Rose. Speaking of which, there were some reports saying they had some issues. Too big of a stage for 2 stars? Could this be the eternal conflict between a declining player (D.Rose, not because of his age but mainly because of his injuries) and an upcoming star? In all fairness, this is a “good problem” for the Bulls Head Coach. Too much talent is never bad. If they have issues or not, if they can coexist with their different styles, only time will tell. Jimmy Butler is already the third best Shooting Guard of the League. He can score in multiple ways – drives, shooting threes, using his quickness and athleticism – while defending the best players of the game. That is the quintessential definition of a perfect two way player. And to think he is still beginning his journey, about to enter his 5th NBA season… the sky is the limit for young Jimmy Butler.
2. Kobe Bryant
Do we still need words to explain why Kobe Bryant rules? Last year he managed to score 22.3 pts per game plus 5.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists in 35 games played. Old? Those numbers work just fine for the NBA Scholar. Moreover, he gives a lot in those “unstatable” aspects of the game: leadership, imagination, sheer to will, buzzer beater expert, clutch time Master. The NBA Scholar smiles at those who disregard Kobe for being older. Ambition, imagination, skills and fundamentals never get old. And they cannot really translate into a stat sheet. That´s what made him a recurrent winner (5 Rings out of 7 Finals). Curious thing, numbers… the NBA Scholar has placed Kobe Bryant 10th in his Top 10 NBA Players. Click on the link below and have a look at the graph: focus on the 10th game of the season, against the future champions… in only 31.22 minutes of work…
Amazing, no doubt… what more can be said about the current 2nd best Shooting Guard of the NBA (obviously, if healthy!) ? Maybe the best thing to do is to quote… the NBA Scholar itself 🙂 when he wrote this about Kobe Bryant in a related article: “The closer we got to watch a player with similar skills of the first of the class, the GOAT Michael Jordan. Kobe came to the league to win and made no secrets about it. Often regarded by his peers as relentless and not too joyful around practice, Kobe stands for pursuit of excellence. In one of his latest documentaries, he expressed his sadness for losing those Finals against the Celtics. That elusive 6th title… he´s still out there going for it. His set of skills made him one of the most prolific players ever, accumulating career points and several other milestones. He shut up many of his critics who said he could only win alongside Shaq by winning 2 more titles. A deadly snake around the court, Kobe, aka “The Black Mamba” has numerous buzzer beaters and single game performances able to amaze the most casual fan. 81 points in a single game is something not even His Airness accomplished. He always expressed his admiration for Michael Jordan, which, for NBA Scholar, is a sign of both intelligence and recognition. It is ok to pursue the Master. He got 5 titles out of 7 Finals. Not too shabby. One of the best offensive machines ever to play. Drives, dunks, post game, high basketball IQ…”
1. James Harden
Apart from untapping a huge publicity revenue along the line with his very own iconoclastic beard, James Harden needs no fancy “marketing skills” to “sell” his competence. At this point, he is the most lethal scorer from all the Shooting Guards in the NBA.
“His wicked ankle breaker plus his trademark slashing move into the paint – which always gets him a ton of free throws – are two of his areas of expertise. Ah, his outside shooting “isn´t too bad” as well. His rise to the top is backed up by his improvement year after year in ppg, rpg, apg and steals. Has he already reached his full potential?” – NBA Scholar asks.
James Harden is an offensive machine. Three-pointers, Iso moves, living in the free throw, creating havoc and chaos around hopeless defenders. The full package. Some could argue he is weak from a defensive standpoint but the NBA Scholar has to disagree. Firstly, he has been improving in this area. Secondly, 1.9 steals per game aren´t exactly a proof of his defensive lack of effort. Last but not least, now that he has mastered the way to break apart and dismantle team defenses, he will focus on improving his defensive skills. After all, it is a well known fact that offense wins games but defense wins Championships. And James Harden is all about winning titles. 10 Games with 40 points or more last season including one game with 50 points (against Denver) and another with 51 points (against Sacramento). Entering his 7h NBA season, about to turn 26 years old, fresh off a monster publicity deal, James Harden hopes to get a NBA Championship next season. In any case, the title of Best Shooting Guard in the game is already guaranteed. Fear the Beard!