Most teams rely heavily on their shooting guard to produce points. A two-guard is expected to be one of the team’s better outside shooters and also have the ability to penetrate the lane, draw fouls and finish around the rim. Defensively, they are tasked with stopping some of the best athletes in the game. It’s a position that has produced some of the most talented and entertaining players the game has ever seen. Over the past 25 years, the NBA has been fortunate enough to witness some exceptional play from shooting guards. The late 80s and 90s were dominated by Michael Jordan, but he wasn’t the only great two-guard, as Clyde Drexler and Reggie Miller among others also excelled before passing the torch to Kobe Bryant and Co. Bryant, who will look to continue his successful career this year, went on to win five titles. More recently, Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen have dominated the position, and both appear to be locks for the Hall of Fame.
The position continues to produce some of the top scorers in the game today. James Harden has excelled scoring the ball in Houston’s uptempo style of play. Harden, a two-time All-Star and a two-time All-NBA team member (first team in 2014 and third team in 2013), currently holds the title as the best shooting guard in the game. In Toronto, DeMar DeRozan has really come on strong, making his first All-Star appearance this past season. Both players have been recognized by the league for their strong play, but there are number of young two-guards attempting to catch them, eager to prove that they deserve the same type of respect.
Here are five shooting guards on the rise:
Stephen Curry may be the most recognizable name on the Warriors, but his backcourt mate Klay Thompson certainly deserves some praise as well. After only three seasons as a pro, Thompson has already developed into one of the most prolific three-point shooters in the league. He finished third in three-point shots made in both 2012-13 and 2013-14, shooting 40.9 percent from downtown over those two seasons. The combination of Thompson and Curry gives the Warriors the most dangerous perimeter shooting duo in the league. While Thompson has made a name for himself shooting the ball, he is more than just a one dimensional player. Thompson has shown the ability to be a solid defender, with the Warriors even citing his defense as a reason why they were hesitant to include Thompson in a deal for Kevin Love. He also has the ability to get to the rim should his defender over commit to contesting his jump shot. Thompson has had the chance to further his game this summer as a member of Team USA, playing with and against some of the best players in the world as Team USA prepares for the FIBA World Cup. Thompson will be a key contributor for the Warriors this season, and for many to come.
After spending the first four years of his career in Indiana, Lance Stephenson now finds himself with the Charlotte Hornets. The Hornets struggled mightily on offense this past season, finishing 23rd in the league in points scored per game, relying heavily on their defense to win games. Stephenson will look to bring the same play-making ability he showed with the Pacers to help spark the Hornets’ stagnate offense. His addition gives the Hornets another player not named Kemba Walker who has the ability to create shots, not only for himself, but for his teammates as well. Stephenson has steadily improved every year since entering NBA and has developed into one of the more complete shooting guards in the league. His ability to contribute in a number of different ways makes him one of the more valuable additions of the summer.
It didn’t take long for Oladipo to break through with the Magic last season, cracking the starting lineup in just his 11th game as a pro. He had his ups and downs during his rookie campaign, as most rookies do, but on the whole the Magic had to be very encouraged by what they saw. His athleticism is undeniable, jumping off the screen in a league overflowing with magnificent athletes. Oladipo was able to use that elite athleticism to make plays on both sides of the floor. He finished year averaging 13.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.6 steals. He spent time playing both point guard and shooting guard as the Magic experimented with a number a different lineups. However, this season, with the addition of rookie point guard Elfrid Payton, Oladipo figures to see the majority of his minutes at his more natural position, shooting guard. With Payton now expected to be the primary ball handler, Oladipo should see his turnover rate decrease. Look for Oladipo to continue to build off his strong rookie season with an even stronger showing in 2014-15.
It was a busy offseason for Gordon Hayward, as the restricted free agent agreed to a four-year, $63 million max offer sheet with the Hornets in early July before Utah matched the offer as expected. Hayward also spent time under the tutelage of Coach K, among others, while trying out for Team USA before just recently being cut. It’s pretty clear why Utah made keeping Hayward a top priority; he led the team in scoring at 16.2 PPG, was second in assists at 5.2 APG and finished third in rebounding at 5.1 RPG. The Jazz are relying heavily on Hayward to contribute in multiple ways. Going into the 2013-14 season, Hayward was a career 40.1 percent shooter from three. However, he struggled last season shooting just 30.4 percent. Expect him to bounce back this upcoming year and shoot much closer to his career average. Hayward will be a cornerstone piece for the young Jazz going forward. It will be up to him, along with new head coach Quin Snyder, to lead a young and talented group to the next level.
Of all the players listed, Beal might just have the highest ceiling of the group. After only two years in the league, it’s already evident that he is on his way to having a very long and successful career. He started in all 73 of the games he played in this past season and was a key contributor alongside star point guard John Wall. While Beal may have had a strong season, the playoffs were where he really put his name on the map; in 11 playoff games, he averaged over 41 minutes per game, scoring 19.2 points per game on 41.5 percent shooting from three. With Wall struggling at times, Beal stepped up and provided valuable production from the backcourt. He was unnerved by the weight of the moment and that is something he can take confidence from as he looks forward to next season. At just 21 years old as of this past June, the sky is really the limit for Beal.
With all of the Cavaliers’ newly added firepower, Waiters will presumably receive significantly less attention defensively. He should really benefit from the number of open looks that will be created for him playing alongside LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. Don’t be surprised to see Waiters continue to improve his field goal percentage and become even more efficient playing with the Cavs’ new weapons.
With Thabo Sefolosha now in Atlanta, Lamb will compete with newly acquired Anthony Morrow for the starting shooting guard spot. Lamb will be the favorite heading into training camp and should provide the Thunder with more offense from the position than they had been getting in the past.
Tim Hardaway Jr.
Hardaway looks to be one of the better picks of the 2013 draft. He showed a nice shooting stroke from three and gave the Knicks quality minutes all season. He gives new head coach Derek Fisher a talented option at shooting guard outside of the enigmatic J.R. Smith and inconsistent Iman Shumpert.
KCP was the star of the Orlando Summer League, averaging 24 PPG and 7.4 RPG. The combination of KCP and Jodie Meeks should give the Pistons plenty of shooting from the two-guard spot.
A Breakout Season for Joe Harris
Brooklyn Nets swingman Joe Harris talks to Basketball Insiders about his second chance with the Nets.
The NBA is all about second chances. Sometimes players need a change of scenery, or a coach who believes in them, or just something different to reach their full potential. They may be cast aside by several teams, but eventually, they often find that right situation that allows them to flourish.
Such was the case for Joe Harris. Originally drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the 33rd overall pick in the 2014 draft, Harris rarely saw the court during his time in Cleveland. He averaged about 6.4 minutes per game over the course of about one and a half seasons with the Cavaliers.
During the 2015-16 season, his second in Cleveland, he underwent season-ending foot surgery. Almost immediately after, the Cavaliers traded him to the Orlando Magic in an attempt to cut payroll due to luxury tax penalties. He would never suit up for the Magic as they cut him as soon as they traded for him.
After using the rest of that season to recover from surgery, he would sign with the Brooklyn Nets in the summer of 2016. He had a very strong first season in Brooklyn, but this season he’s truly broken out.
“I think a lot of it has to do with just the right situation in terms of circumstances. It’s a young team where you don’t really have anybody on the team that’s going out and getting 20 a night,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a collective effort most nights and it can be any given person depending on the situation. It’s one of those things where we’re real unselfish with the ball. A lot of guys get a lot of good looks, so your production is bound to go up just because of the system now that we’re playing.”
Known primarily as a sharpshooter in college at the University of Virginia as well as his first stop in Cleveland, Harris has started developing more of an all-around game. He’s improved his ability to put the ball on the floor and make plays as well as crashing the glass and playing strong defense.
In a relatively forgettable season record-wise for the Nets, Harris has been one of their bright spots. He’s putting up 10.1 points per game on 47.3 percent shooting from the field while playing 25.4 minutes per game. He’s up to 40.3 percent from the three-point line and he’s pulling down 3.3 rebounds. All of those numbers are career-highs.
“My role, I think, is very similar to the way I would be anywhere that I was playing. I’m a shooter, I help space the floor for guys to facilitate,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “I’m opportunistic offensively with drives and such. I’m out there to try and space the floor, knock down shots, and then play tough defensively and make sure I’m doing my part in getting defensive rebounds and that sort of stuff.”
Although Harris didn’t play much in Cleveland, he did show glimpses and flashes of the player he has blossomed into in Brooklyn. He saw action in 51 games his rookie year while knocking down 36.9 percent of his three-point attempts.
He also saw action in six playoff games during the Cavaliers’ run to the 2015 Finals. But more importantly, it was the off the court things that Harris kept with him after leaving Cleveland. The valuable guidance passed down to him from the Cavaliers veteran guys. It’s all helped mold him into the indispensable contributor he’s become for the Nets.
“Even though I wasn’t necessarily playing as much, the experience was invaluable just in terms of learning how to be a professional,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “The approach, the preparation, that sort of stuff. That’s why I learned a lot while I was there. All those good players that have had great, great, and long careers and just being able to kind of individually pick their brains and learn from them.”
When Harris came to Brooklyn two years ago, he initially signed a two-year deal with a team option after the first year. When he turned in a promising 2016-17 season, it was a no-brainer for the Nets to pick up his option. Set to make about $1.5 million this season, Harris’ contract is a steal.
However, he’s headed for unrestricted free agency this upcoming summer. Although he dealt with being a free agent before when he first signed with the Nets, it’s a different situation now. He’s likely going to be one of the most coveted wings on the market. While there’s still a bit more of the regular season left, and free agency still several months away, it’s something Harris has already thought about. If all goes well, Brooklyn is a place he can see himself staying long-term.
“Yeah, it’s one of those things that I’ll worry about that sort of decision when the time comes. But I have really enjoyed my time in Brooklyn,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a great organization with a lot of good people, and they try and do stuff the right way. I enjoy being a part of that and trying to kind of rebuild and set a good foundation for where the future of the Brooklyn Nets is.”
NBA Daily: 2018 NBA Mock Draft – 3/20/18
With most of the major NBA draft prospects eliminated from March Madness, things in the mock draft world are starting to get interesting.
A Lot of Mock Movement
With the race to the bottom in full swing in the NBA and the field of 64 in college basketball whittled down to a very sweet sixteen, there has been considerable talk in NBA circles about the impending 2018 NBA Draft class. There seems to be a more consistent view of the top 15 to 20 prospects, but there still seems to be a lack of a firm pecking order. Arizona’s Deandre Ayton seems like to the prohibitive favorite to go number one overall, but its far from a lock.
It’s important to note that these weekly Mock Draft will start to take on more of a “team driven” shape as we get closer to the mid-May NBA Combine in Chicago and more importantly once the draft order gets set. Until then, we’ll continue to drop our views of the draft class each Tuesday, until we reach May when we’ll drop the weekly Consensus Mock drafts, giving you four different views of the draft all the way to the final decisions in late June.
Here is this week’s Mock Draft:
Here are some of the pick swaps and how they landed where they are currently projected:
The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this past summer. The Brooklyn Nets traded several unprotected picks to Boston as part of the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trades in 2015.
The Philadelphia 76ers are owed the LA Lakers’ 2018 Draft pick, unprotected, as a result of the 2012 Steve Nash trade with the Suns. The Suns traded that pick to the 76ers as part of the Michael Carter-Williams three-team trade with the Milwaukee in 2015. The 76ers traded that pick to the Boston Celtics as part of the draft pick trade that became Markelle Fultz before the draft; it has 2 through 5 protections and based on the standings today would convey to Philadelphia.
The LA Clippers are owed the Detroit Pistons first-round pick in 2018 as a result of the Blake Griffin trade. The pick is top four protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Phoenix Suns are owed the Milwaukee Bucks’ first-round pick as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The pick only conveys if the Bucks pick lands between the 11th and 16th pick, which based on the standings today would convey.
The Phoenix Suns are owed the Miami HEAT’s first-round pick as part of the Goran Dragic trade in 2015, it is top-seven protected and would convey to Phoenix based on the current standings.
The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Minnesota Timberwolves’ first-round pick as part of the Adreian Payne trade in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Chicago Bulls are owed the New Orleans Pelicans first-round pick as a result of the Nikola Mirotic trade. The pick is top-five protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The LA Lakers are owed the Cleveland Cavaliers first-round pick as a result of Jordan Clarkson/Larry Nance Jr. trade. The pick is top-three protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Jazz/Wolves Ricky Rubio trade this past summer. The Jazz acquired the pick as part of the Thunder’s deal to obtain Enes Kanter in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Brooklyn Nets are owed the Toronto Raptors’ first-round pick as part of the DeMarre Carroll salary dump trade this past summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Houston Rockets’ first-round pick as part of a three-team deal with the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets involving Danilo Gallinari and taking back Jamal Crawford and Diamond Stone. The pick is top-three protected and based on the current standings would convey.
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NBA Daily: Jonathan Isaac Proving to be Key Part of Orlando’s Future
Basketball Insiders spoke with Jonathan Isaac about his rookie season, injuries, areas to improve on, his faith and more.
On January 13, the Orlando Magic were eliminated from playoff contention. This date served as a formality as the team has known for quite some time that any postseason hopes had long since sailed. The Magic started the year off on a winning note and held an 8-4 record in early November. However, the team lost their next nine games and never really recovered.
Many factors play a role in a young but talented team like the Magic having another season end like this. Injuries to franchise cornerstone Aaron Gordon as well as forward Evan Fournier and forward Jonathan Isaac magnified the team’s issues.
Isaac, a rookie selected sixth overall in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft, started the season off reasonably well. On November 10, in 21 minutes of action, he registered an 11-point, six-rebound, one-assist, one-steal, two-block all-around effort against the Phoenix Suns to help the Magic get to that 8-4 record. Isaac then suffered an ankle injury midway through his next game and wouldn’t play again until December 17, by which time the team was already 11-20 with the season quickly going sideways. From November until March, Isaac would only play in three games until finally returning to consistent action in the month of March with the season all but decided.
Basketball Insiders spoke to Isaac recently to discuss how he has pushed through this season, staying healthy, his impressive skill set and more.
“I’ve had a lot of time off from being injured so, I think my body is holding up fine along with how much I’ve played. I haven’t played a full season,” Isaac told Basketball Insiders “I feel good. I feel good.”
Isaac talked about what part of his game he feels strongly about and has improved on.
“I think defensively,” Isaac said. “I didn’t expect myself to make strides defensively like I have. I’ve been able to just be able to just do different things and help this team defensively and I didn’t expect that coming in so, that would be the one thing.”
Magic Head Coach Frank Vogel was effusive in his praise of Isaac’s defense and also focused on the rookie’s great defensive potential.
“His defense is out of this world. I mean it’s really something else,” Vogel said. “Just watch him play and everybody’s getting a taste of it right now. They haven’t seen him a whole lot but he’s an elite defender right now at 20-years old and the sky’s the limit for what he can be on that end of the floor.
While Isaac hasn’t logged a huge number of minutes on the floor this season, he has impressed in his limited action. As Coach Vogel stated, anyone who has taken the time to watch Isaac play this season has noticed his ability to guard other big men and his overall defensive impact.
“I think I’ve been able to do a good job on most of the people that I’ve had to guard,” Isaac said.
Missing Isaac’s defense impact and overall contributions partially explains why the Magic cooled off after their hot start. However, with the playoffs no longer an option, younger players like Isaac now have the opportunity to play with less attention and pressure. While it can be argued that the Magic aren’t really playing for anything, the truth is these late-season games can be an opportunity to develop these younger players and determine what to work on during the offseason.
There is more to Isaac than just basketball, however. Isaac discussed other parts of his life that are important to him, including religion and his faith.
“[M]y faith in Jesus is something that I put a lot of emphasis on,” Isaac told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a part of me.”
Isaac did not hesitate to credit his faith when asked if it helped him push through his injuries.
“I would say definitely,” Isaac said. “Especially with getting injured so early in the season and being out for 40 games. That’s a lot on somebody’s mental capacity and then just staying positive, staying joyful in times where joy doesn’t seem like it’s the right emotion to have. And I definitely [attribute] that to my faith.”
Looking forward, both Vogel and Isaac discussed the future and what the young big man can improve on.
“Offensively, he’s grown in confidence, he’s gained so he’s going to give us a big lift and our future’s bright with him,” Vogel stated.
Isaac gave a hint of his offseason training plans when asked what he looks forward to working on.
“I would say consistency with my jump shot. Really working on my three-ball and I would say ball-handling,” Isaac stated.
When asked if there was anything more he wanted to add, Isaac simply smiled and said, “Oh no, I think I got to get to church right now,” as the team prepared to play later that evening.