With the NBA season set to begin on October 17, it is time to break down the top players at the shooting guard position. With many good shooting guards across the league, it was tough to narrow down the list to five that deserved more recognition than the rest. However, it had to be done, and so here are your top-five shooting guards for the 2017-2018 season. Apologies to Andrew Wiggins and Devin Booker, two young studs who narrowly missed the cut.
5. C.J. McCollum
Welcome to the list, C.J. McCollum! After a breakthrough 2015-2016 season that saw McCollum average 20 points per game for the first time in his career, McCollum was even better last season, averaging 23 points per game and taking his team to the Western Conference playoffs. He also barely missed becoming just the ninth player in NBA history to be a member of the 50-40-90 club, shooting 48 percent from the field, 42 percent from three, and 91 percent from the free-throw line, good for best in the league. McCollum has developed himself into a top-five shooter in the league and it will be interesting to see what the 26-year-old has in store for this season. The biggest knock on McCollum is his defense, where he is league-average.
4. Bradley Beal
After four up-and-down seasons to start his career, the 23-year-old Bradley Beal had a career-best season in 2017. Beal averaged 23.1 points per game and shot over 40 percent from three. Coming into the NBA after one season at Florida, Beal was projected to be a great spot-up shooter. He finally became that player last season, and his game off-the-ball was deadly for the Washington Wizards. With all-star point guard John Wall dishing it to Beal, the six-foot-five guard hit a career-high 2.9 threes a game. Beal also averaged a career-high in assists at 3.5 a game and very nearly orchestrated an upset of the top-seeded Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Beal was even more effective in the playoffs, averaging almost 25 points per game. An extremely athletic player, Beal has the ability to drive, or spot-up for a good look and he has one of the most versatile games of any two-guard in the league. If Beal can continue to improve from last season, he will be even higher on this list by season’s end.
3. DeMar DeRozan
Last year, DeMar DeRozan enjoyed his best individual season as a pro, averaging 27.3 points per game on 47 percent shooting. A natural slasher, the three-time all-star set career-highs in free throws made per game (7.4) and attempts (8.7). DeRozan also averaged a career-best 5.2 rebounds a game. He seemed like a man on a mission, leading his team to its fourth consecutive playoff berth. However, things unraveled in the playoffs and after edging by the Milwaukee Bucks in six games, the Raptors were flattened by the Cleveland Cavaliers in a four-game sweep. There is also the question of whether DeRozan is a leading man. DeRozan has struggled without all-star point guard Kyle Lowry on the court, and his defeated attitude after losing to the Cavaliers was concerning. DeRozan is also one of the worst three-point shooters in the league (27 percent) which kept him at third on this list.
2. Klay Thompson
Three-time all-star, two-time All-NBA selection, and two-time NBA Champion. In just six seasons, Klay Thompson has become the best two-way shooting guard in the league, able to ignite for sixty points while locking down his man on the defensive end of the floor. Thompson has been an instrumental part of the Golden State Warriors’ trips to three straight NBA finals and was able to take a backseat last year with the arrival of Kevin Durant. However, that did not stop Thompson from averaging a career-high in points (22.3) while shooting 41 percent from three. Thompson is likely the third-best shooter in the league, with the two best also being on the Warriors. Thanks to the attention deflected to Steph Curry and Durant, Thompson will likely have even more opportunities this season and could have his most efficient year yet. Thompson is a free agent after the 2018-2019 season and fans should expect almost every team in the league to vie for his services.
1. James Harden
Hey, isn’t this guy a point guard? After one MVP-level season running the show, James Harden is back at his natural position, thanks to the Houston Rockets acquisition of all-star point guard Chris Paul. Arguably a top-three scorer in the league, Harden has been excellent since becoming a Rocket, averaging over 27 points per game in five seasons. Last season was his best, as Harden finished with a career-high 29.1 points per game to go along with a league-high 11.2 assists. The one knock on Harden over his career has been his lackadaisical effort on defense. However, his offense more than makes up for it. Harden is a very good outside shooter, a prolific driver, and he is excellent at drawing contact from his defenders, evidenced by his 9.2 free throws made per game last year. Harden has led his team to the Western Conference Semifinals in two of the last three seasons and finished runner-up for MVP twice in that span. With an upgraded roster, Harden will have even more opportunities to score and could average 30 points for the first time in his career.
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