Projecting the Top 30 shooting guards for 2018-19

Projecting the Top 30 shooting guards for 2018-19

Longform

Projecting the Top 30 shooting guards for 2018-19

At the moment, the shooting guard position is marked with wide-ranging skill sets, and is as diverse as any spot the league has to offer.

Some of the Association’s best 2-guards loathe dribbling, preferring to spot-up and drain threes instead; others are poor outside shooters, but use their ball-handling chops and breathtaking athleticism to get to the basket and finish effortlessly among the trees. Some of them take pride in their defense; others have merely improved in that facet only so far as they’re no longer making Shaqtin-A-Fool on a weekly basis. Some can be trusted with primary playmaking duties; others like to be set up on platters by their more creative backcourt partners.

Another important distinction regarding the shooting guard spot is that even though it’s quite top-heavy, it’s also a pretty deep position. Our list only ranks the Top 30, but spots No. 20 through No. 30 all may as well be interchangeable – and could even be considered replaceable by multiple guys who just missed the cut.

Last week, HoopsHype projected the Top-30 point guards in the NBA for the 2018-19 season. This week, we touch on the Top-30 shooting guards.

Without further ado, let’s get into it.

30. LUKA DONCIC, DALLAS MAVERICKS

Over the past few years, Luka Doncic became the most decorated teenager in European basketball history. Already, the young Slovenian ball-handler has a list of accolades to his name so vast that many overseas-based stars can only dream of one day matching them:

  • Euroleague champion
  • Euroleague MVP
  • EuroLeague Final Four MVP
  • 1st Team All-Euroleague
  • Three-time Liga ACB champion
  • Liga ACB MVP
  • Eurobasket champion

There’s more we could include in the list, too, but you get the gist of it.

Although many believed Doncic to be the safest bet in the 2018 draft, seeing as how he has years of evidence to prove he can be a difference-maker on the wing against top competition, the former Real Madrid guard still somehow fell to the No. 3 overall pick on draft night. And even then, the Atlanta Hawks, who held the pick originally, traded him to the Dallas Mavericks for the rights to Trae Young and a protected 2019 first-rounder.

We’ll see how well that trade ages in the years to come.

Nevertheless, for now, we choose to be conservative with our prediction on Doncic’s rookie season. He did dominate against grown men in Europe, but the NBA is, obviously, a different beast entirely. Then again, with the added spacing the NBA offers, and a monstrous pick-and-roll partner like DeAndre Jordan, Doncic’s special play-making abilities should really get a chance to shine Year-1 in Dallas, especially under a head coach as creative as Rick Carlisle, and playing next to another exciting young guard in Dennis Smith Jr.

That said, it’s still always smart to be cautious when dealing with rookies. Just don’t be surprised if Doncic ends up making this ranking look bad once 2018-19 kicks into full swing.

29. MALCOLM BROGDON, MILWAUKEE BUCKS

Due to the Milwaukee Bucks’ mid-season addition of Eric Bledsoe, and All-NBA forward Giannis Antetokounmpo commanding such a huge role as a primary playmaker, we moved Malcolm Brogdon from the point guard rankings to the shooting guards. That’s part of what makes Brogdon so unique anyway though, the fact he has the ability to thrive either on or off the ball.

2017-18 was an injury-plagued campaign for the Virginia product, who missed 34 regular-season contests throughout the course of the year, most of them due to a partially torn quad tendon injury. But when he was available, Brogdon was his usual solid self. He averaged 13.0 points, 3.2 assists and 1.3 three-pointers per contest on healthy 48.5/38.5/88.2 shooting splits.

Brogdon is a tough defender, a good spot-up shooter and has the distribution skills you would expect from a lead guard. And as he continues to acclimate to playing off the ball from Bledsoe, his nightly impact should only continue to improve.

28. JOSH HART, LOS ANGELES LAKERS

If you think Lonzo Ball was the only Los Angeles Lakers rookie to make a splash last season, Josh Hart (and a player who will surely come up in the power-forwards edition of this series) would like a word.

Despite missing some time due to to a broken hand late in the season, Hart put up an impressive rookie campaign. The Villanova product averaged “just” 7.9 points nightly, but he also chipped in 4.2 rebounds (6.5 per 36 minutes) and 1.2 three-pointers per contest, and shot 39.6 percent from beyond the arc. What’s more, over the last eight games of the year, Hart’s raw stats saw a significant bump – to 16.5 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.3 triples per game.

It would have been easy to label that late-year run of good form as merely a blip during the closing salvos of the season, when teams were resting starters while gearing up for the playoffs (or for their offseason). But Hart kept the inspired play going in this year’s Summer League by performing like a player who clearly didn’t need to be participating.

Now set to play with LeBron James, Hart’s output could flat-out explode, as his spot-up shooting and transition prowess will function as the perfect complement for the four-time MVP. It would be downright shocking if Hart didn’t blossom into a high-end shooting guard in 2018-19. In fact, we could very well be underestimating his upside with this ranking.

27. DWYANE WADE, FREE AGENT

Dwyane Wade is still available as a free agent not due to what he has left in the tank, but because he’s not sure if he wants to participate in a 16th season. (If he does decide to play for another year, the Miami Heat are the heavy favorites to keep his services.)

Wade’s return to South Florida midway through last season was one of the feel-good moments of 2017-18…

…and it didn’t happen just for good publicity, either: The 2006 Finals MVP can still contribute to winning basketball.

In the 2018 postseason, Wade averaged 16.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists per contest while shooting 44.3 percent from the floor, and 80.8 percent on 5.2 nightly free-throw attempts. He hit clutch shot after clutch shot in a Round 1, Game 2 road victory over the Phildelphia 76ers, and jawed with Kevin Hart and Allen Iverson about it afterwards.

So when the lights are brightest, Wade still manages to show up. Heck, the Cavs probably could have used him in the playoffs last year. Hopefully we get to see him in uniform for one more year, because it just wouldn’t feel right if the 12-time All-Star and future Hall-of-Famer’s career ended so abruptly.

26. BOGDAN BOGDANOVIC, SACRAMENTO KINGS

Another young European guard with promise, Bogdan Bogdanovic also had a huge amount of success overseas (though not quite on the Doncic-level) before arriving to the NBA. And in his first year with the Sacramento Kings, he didn’t disappoint. Bogdanovic averaged 11.8 points, 3.3 assists and 1.7 three-pointers per game last season, on efficient 44.6/39.2/84.0 shooting splits.

He’ll need to improve defensively and learn how to draw more fouls (just 1.5 attempts from the stripe per contest in 2017-18), but as is, he has one trait special enough that it helps set him apart from other 2-guards: his shooting.

According to Synergy Sports Tech, Bogdanovic ranked 22nd in spot-up accuracy (at 1.181 points per possession, or PPP) among players with at least 150 such attempts last year, which was a more accurate mark than Klay Thompson (1.175 PPP). What’s more, Bogdanovic placed 11th in pull-up jumper accuracy among men with at least 250 tries, outpacing the likes of Kemba WalkerDamian Lillard and Kevin Durant.

So yeah, that’s not bad. He’ll need to show he can translate more of the juice he had as a one-on-one scorer in Europe, but we believe he’ll do just that in his sophomore campaign – hence, his ranking.

25. EVAN FOURNIER, ORLANDO MAGIC

If he were just a bit more consistent, Evan Fournier would have fared better on this list. Even so, the French swingman is coming off a nice year (arguably his best as a professional), one in which he averaged a career-high 17.8 points and 3.2 rebounds per contest, on healthy 45.9/37.9/86.7 shooting splits.

He can shoot, handle the ball and is very comfortable using screens to set up buckets either for himself or teammates. And although the advanced metrics don’t love him, Fournier was the league’s sixth-best spot-up shooter (min: 175 possessions), and, with passes included, the 15th-best pick-and-roll point-producer (min: 250 possessions) last year, according to Synergy Sports.

His defense is far from perfect, but he’s got such an intriguing package for a 2-guard – thanks mostly to his 6-foot-7 frame and underrated distribution skills – that it would be fascinating to see how he’d perform in a different (i.e., more competent) team setting.

24. DANNY GREEN, TORONTO RAPTORS

In his first five seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, Danny Green played lock-down defense while adding plus-value as a three-point threat, hitting an impressive 42.3 percent of his triples over that span. More recently though, Green’s defense has still been good (though maybe not as great as it was in his peak), but his shooting has fallen off considerably. Over the past three years, the former North Carolina Tar Heel has hit just 35.7 percent of his looks from deep, which hovers just under league average.

Still, his point-stopping prowess on the wing for the Toronto Raptors, along with that of Kawhi Leonard, should make the Canadian team one of the stingiest in the league next season. As long as his three-point percentage can hover right around where it has been over recent campaigns, he’ll maintain his status as one of the Association’s top two-way 2-guards.

23. DION WAITERS, MIAMI HEAT

Back-to-back injury-plagued campaigns, all due to a bum ankle, finally forced Dion Waiters to shut things down and opt for surgery to strengthen the ailed area in 2017-18. Before his season ended, Waiters was averaging a meager 14.3 points and 3.8 assists per contest on lackluster 39.8/30.6/73.9 shooting splits.

Perhaps finally getting surgery on the bad ankle will help Waiters regain his 2016-17 form, when it looked like he was finally ready to realize his potential. The Syracuse product had a 22-game stretch that season in which he averaged 19.3 points, 5.0 assists and 2.7 triples on 46.4/45.0/62.9 shooting splits, leading the Heat to a 18-4 record in those outings. That hot streak is primarily what led to Miami offering Waiters the four-year, $52 million he’s currently signed to.

Whether that deal ends up looking foolhardy in hindsight will ultimately be answered by how Waiters performs in his 2018-19 return. If he regains that excellent 2016-17 form, his contract may wind up looking fair. But if it turns out it was just a hot stretch not indicative of who he is as a player (entirely plausible), the Heat could end up regretting the deal entirely.

22. JJ REDICK, PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

It goes without saying, but unless your 2-guard is a rim-slashing stud like a prime D-Wade, or a playmaker with flair like a Doncic, you ideally want them to be knock-down three-point shooters.

Well, over the past four seasons, few have been as accurate as the 76ers’ JJ Redick.

In that span, Redick ranks second league-wide in beyond-the-arc accuracy (at a whopping 43.9 percent), trailing only sharpshooting legend Kyle Kover (at an even more ridiculous 44.6 percent), who just barely missed the cut for our list.

Redick’s defense has never been great (it’s gotten even worse as he’s entered his mid-30s) and he’s never been much of a distributor, but his shooting is so pristine that it more than makes up for his deficiencies in other areas.

21. ANDRE ROBERSON, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

If there were a player who could be called the complete inverse of Redick, it would be Oklahoma City Thunder swingman Andre Roberson: He can’t shoot worth a lick, but his defense is so absurdly impactful that it doesn’t really matter.

Roberson was well on his way to a second-straight All-Defensive Team honor, and perhaps to his first career Defensive Player of the Year nod (an impossibly hard feat for a wing) before a patella injury ended his year abruptly in late January. To that point, the Thunder had the league’s fifth-highest net rating (+3.8) and fifth-best defensive rating (103.1), while posting strong offensive marks as well, as the NBA’s 10th-best team in offensive rating (106.9). According to NBAWowy, lineups featuring Roberson, Russell Westbrook and Paul George, sans Carmelo Anthony, allowed opponents to score an insanely low 91.7 points per 100 possessions, and boasted a very healthy +6.5 net rating, which, if prorated for the year, would have been the NBA’s fourth-best clip.

On the other hand, after Roberson went down, through the end of the season, the Thunder fell to 15th in defensive rating (107.0) and 13th in net rating (+1.6). It probably shouldn’t have come as a surprise when, afterwards, the Thunder were eliminated from the playoffs in a quick five-game series by the Utah Jazz.

At the end of the day, if last season proved anything, it was that Roberson is such an adept defender – one who can jump passing lanes and shut down positions 1 through 3, and even most 4s – that Oklahoma City was miles better when he was available. Thus, despite his ordinary counting stats (5.0 points and 4.7 boards per game last season), he should still be considered one of the most game-changing 2-guards in the league, even while lacking any semblance of a jump shot.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

More HoopsHype
Home