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Six Underrated Shooting Guards

James Blancarte takes a look at six underrated shooting guards who deserve your attention.

James Blancarte



The modern NBA game is built around pace and space. Point guards tend to score more, three-guard lineups are frequently used and prototypical wing-players are commonly asked to play as undersized power forwards and even centers at times. Accordingly, positional designations have become less concrete.

Regardless, the position of shooting guard is still an appropriate designation for a number of off-ball players. Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson and Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal are well recognized for their strong contributions at the two-guard position. However, several other shooting guards are somewhat overlooked. Below are six shooting guards who don’t get enough attention or credit for their respective skill and impact.

Rodney Hood, Utah Jazz

After nearly losing the ball in the backcourt in a close game last week, Hood rose to the occasion with a pull-up three-pointer with 50.3 seconds remaining. Hood stepped up in the absence of All-Star forward Gordon Hayward and sealed the game for the Utah Jazz.

“I can come out and be aggressive, especially tonight with Gordon out and [Derrick Favors] still out,” Hood remarked. “My teammates were looking for me to do that tonight.”

This win came at a time when the Utah Jazz are fighting to keep home court with a likely first-round matchup with the Los Angeles Clippers looming. For a team that must fight for a piece of the national spotlight, most attention is given to defensive star Rudy Gobert and team centerpiece Hayward, but let’s now give credit to the underappreciated play of Hood.

For the season, Hood sports a 2.1 plus/minus individual rating and he has a 106.7 offensive rating and a 101.9 defensive rating. Both the offense and defense are better with him on the court and in 27.1 minutes, he has a 23 usage percentage. Hood is a solid ball-handler who can both makes plays for others off the dribble and effectively attack the basket. His combination of size, mobility and shooting makes him a valuable contributor for a Jazz team that is powered primarily by its defense.

As covered in this space last week, the team is poised to make some noise in the playoffs and Hood can play a big part in that. If Hood can play solid defense and knock down some big shots in the postseason, he may start receiving the recognition he deserves amongst other shooting guards.

Eric Gordon, Houston Rockets

Houston Rockets guard Eric Gordon has been playing at a very high level this season. Gordon, once seen as a potential cornerstone player for the Los Angeles Clippers next to a young forward Blake Griffin and later a potential cornerstone for the Hornets/Pelicans, has struggled with injuries for years, only playing an average of 44 games a season in New Orleans. Now in his ninth season, Gordon has become a reliable, valuable and underrated contributor and a key reason for the unexpected success of the Rockets, who like to get to the rim and shoot a massive number of three-pointers.

In 31 minutes per game, the second lowest average in his nine NBA seasons, Gordon sports a career-high 53.7 effective shooting percentage. This includes increasing his three-point attempts to a ridiculous 8.8 per game, by far a career-high, while maintaining a 38 percent average, which is on par with his better shooting seasons. In fact, 65.6 percent of his shots are three pointers, by far a career high. Gordon knows how valuable his three-point shooting is to the Rockets, so when he has an open look from distances, he’s taking and making them. Gordon also managed to win this year’s Three-Point Shootout at All-Star Weekend, knocking out other marksmen like Klay Thompson and Kyrie Irving.

Gordon’s contributions this season are somewhat overlooked because of James Harden’s incredible season, his injury history and his lack of national exposure on the postseason stage. Gordon played in four playoff games in 2014-15, where he performed well individually but New Orleans suffered a sweep. Accordingly, most NBA fans have only seen him play sporadically in regular season games and may not be familiar with how effective he has been this season. Now Gordon will have a chance to make his mark in the upcoming playoffs alongside Harden. If Gordon can spread the court, knock down three-pointers consistently, make the occasional play off the dribble and play solid perimeter defense, his profile should get the boost it arguably already deserves.

Seth Curry, Dallas Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks shooting guard Seth Curry is a player that has received plenty of attention for many reasons, starting as early as his NBA debut in the 2013-2014 season. These include simply being the brother of Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, and a curiosity as to whether he could eventually become a viable NBA player.

Last season, fans wondered whether his surprising play in 44 games for a losing Sacramento Kings squad foreshadowed a bright future, or whether he simply succeeded in putting up empty statistics for a team that never had a realistic shot of winning at a high level or making the playoffs.

This season, Curry’s minutes have nearly doubled (29, up from 15.7) and he has been able to maintain high shooting marks despite drawing much more attention from opposing defenses as a main offensive weapon for the Mavericks. He is shooting 48.1 percent overall, 42.5 percent from three and sports a 57.8 percent effective shooting mark. His effective shooting ranks seventh among all guards this season with at least 25 games played.

Curry still has his shortcomings. He is not an elite athlete and can be physically overmatched by his opponents at times. But he has really developed his ability to create space with his ball handling abilities, jabs, fakes and ability to utilize screens from teammates. Curry has come a long way since he first entered the NBA scene, and it looks as though he still has room to keep developing and improving.

In less than two seasons, Curry has not only silenced the critics of his late season play with Sacramento, but is now being treated as a foundational player for the Mavericks. Not bad for a guy who gained recognition early on primarily for being Steph Curry’s brother.

Austin Rivers, Los Angeles Clippers

Like Curry, Los Angeles Clippers guard Austin Rivers has found himself talked about by NBA fans for reasons other than his actual play on the court, including having a more well-known NBA family member. Rivers’ father, a former NBA player himself, is the coach and general manager for the Clippers and authorized the move to acquire his son a few seasons ago.

Doc Rivers has been properly chastised for failing to consistently support the Clippers star players with supplemental talent over the last few seasons. However, Austin Rivers has blossomed into a two-way player and critical bench player for the team. Although Rivers failed to live up his draft status in New Orleans (drafted 10th overall in 2012), he is now thriving with the Clippers. In 27.8 minutes, Rivers has a 20.3 percent usage and is shooting 44 percent from the field, 37 percent from three, while recording 2.8 assists and shooting 69 percent on free throws — all career highs.

Unfortunately for the Clippers, Rivers recently suffered a hamstring strain that will cause him to miss the rest of the regular season and at least some of the playoffs.

“I was looking forward to this year’s playoffs. The goal was game one of the playoffs, but it’s looking like hopefully mid-first round, early second round. We’ll see. You never know, I might heal faster than I think,” Rivers stated.

Now, the team must enter a high stakes first round match up with the Jazz without Rivers and test how far this team can go without his contributions.

Gary Harris, Denver Nuggets

Gary Harris of the Denver Nuggets doesn’t get the notoriety of other big name guards. Teammate Nikola Jokic has commanded much of the attention in Denver this season for his stellar play, but Harris is deserving of recognition as well. In his third season, Harris has been playing quite well for the Nuggets, who still have hopes of making the playoffs.

The Nuggets play high scoring basketball and Harris is a key contributor with a 114.9 offensive rating, a top mark amongst all guards in the league. His superb shooting certainly plays a huge part in this effort. In 30.8 minutes, Harris is shooting 49.8 percent from the field, 41.8 percent from three with an effective field goal rate of 58.1 percent, nearly tops amongst all guards and ahead of Steph Curry.

Coach Michael Malone explained what Harris has done to be so effective this season.

“Gary Harris, if you had to give grades for the offseason, Gary Harris had a phenomenal offseason. He was in our gym almost every day. He worked on his body. He worked on his shooting. He worked on his handles. I think that all of that hard work pays off and you see his confidence at a very high level right now,” Coach Malone stated.

With the Nuggets in ninth place and in a tight playoff race, Harris may miss out on the opportunity to show off his talents in the postseason. But as a key members on an up-and-coming Nuggets squad, Harris shouldn’t be overlooked for much longer.

Buddy Hield, Sacramento Kings

At this point, Sacramento Kings guard Buddy Hield is best known for being the primary asset received in exchange for superstar big man DeMarcus Cousins, and for being compared to Steph Curry by owner Vivek Ranadive. Either way, the rookie guard has been subject to criticism largely out of his control. Without Cousins, the spotlight has been off of the Kings and Hield. What has he done since? He has quietly put together an impressive finish to his rookie year in Sacramento.

Since being traded, Hield has improved his scoring (8.6 up to 14.4 points per game), shooting (39.2 percent up to 49.3 percent), and three point shooting (36.9 percent to 42.5 percent), with additional increases to his field goal attempts, rebounding, assists and steals. This increase in production is notable, as he has become more efficient while playing more minutes and taking on a larger role on offense. Additionally, over this period his effective shooting mark of 60.9 percent with the Kings is seventh amongst all guards in the NBA with at least 10 games played.

Hield has been a pleasant surprise for the Kings since the trade, but eventually he will have to prove that he can perform at this level when surrounded by more talent and while playing on a team that is competing for a playoff position. But for now, it’s fun to see a player thrive in what many considered to be a no-win position. Although the Kings gave up on their mercurial franchise player, the team may still be rewarded if Hield continues to display such impressive, rapid improvement.


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Update: Eric Bledsoe Trade Talks

Michael Scotto updates the ongoing Eric Bledsoe trade saga.

Michael Scotto



The sun has set on the 2017-18 season for Phoenix three games into the year.

The Suns fired head coach Earl Watson and promoted Jay Triano as the team’s interim head coach, as ESPN first reported. The Suns suffered an embarrassing 124-76 loss in the home opener against the Portland Trail Blazers. The final straw came during a 130-88 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on the road to drop the team to 0-3.

Then things went from bad to worse rapidly after a tweet from guard Eric Bledsoe.

General manager Ryan McDonough spoke with Bledsoe. Bledsoe told McDonough he was at a hair salon with a girl and the tweet wasn’t related to the Suns. McDonough didn’t believe that to be true and said the 27-year-old guard “won’t be with us going forward.”

Bledsoe spoke with McDonough and owner Robert Sarver privately several weeks ago. During that conversation the desire for a change was expressed, a league source told Basketball Insiders.

Since then, Phoenix has discussed trades involving Bledsoe around the league, sources told Basketball Insiders. In addition, Tyson Chandler has continued to be shopped by the Suns during that time.

Trade talks have rapidly picked up since Bledsoe’s desire to be traded was made public.

The Suns and Denver Nuggets have discussed a trade of Eric Bledsoe for Emmanuel Mudiay and other pieces, league sources told Basketball Insiders.

Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried has emerged as part of the trade package with Mudiay, league sources told Basketball Insiders.

Denver has shopped Faried for years. The 27-year-old forward is owed $12.9 million this season and $13.7 million next season. Mudiay is owed $3.4 million this season and $4.3 million next season. Mudiay will then become a restricted free agent if given a qualifying offer in the summer of 2019. For more information on Denver’s salary cap situation, click here.

The Suns also spoke to the New York Knicks and asked for No. 8 overall pick Frank Ntilikina and Willy Hernangomez in exchange for Bledsoe. The Knicks are not interested in that package, however.

Kyle O’Quinn is a candidate to be traded. Several teams have called the Knicks expressing interest in O’Quinn. New York wants to retain Hernangomez for the foreseeable future despite a lack of playing time early in the season. It’s also worth noting Hernangomez is a close friend of Kristaps Porzingis. Ntilikina is currently the point guard of the future in New York.

In addition, New York would need to add a salary filler to make the trade work financially. For more information on New York’s salary cap situation, click here.

The Milwaukee Bucks have also expressed interest in trading for Bledsoe, according to the New York Times. The Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers also have interest in Bledsoe, according to Amico Hoops.

Bledsoe is owed $14.5 million this season and $15 million next season before entering unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2018.

Bledsoe has averaged 18.8 points, 6.0 assists, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.6 steals per game with Phoenix. In addition, Bledsoe shot 45 percent from the field, 34 percent from downtown, and 81 percent from the foul line.

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NBA PM: Greek Freak Off to an MVP-Caliber Start

Giannis Antetokounmpo is the Bucks’ MVP and looks primed to be in the actual MVP race this season.

James Blancarte



The NBA season is officially underway. Although each team has only played a few games so far, it has helped illuminate where many teams and players are in their development. For example, last night’s game in Oklahoma City gave a glimpse into how the Thunder will handle a late-game situation now that the team has three previous number one options. In the final minute, Russell Westbrook scored two of the Thunder’s last three baskets and assisted Carmelo Anthony on the final basket just before Andrew Wiggins hit a game-winning buzzer beater from well beyond the arc.

After three games, Giannis Antetokounmpo’s individual development has been one of the most exciting storylines to follow. A number of positive and far-reaching questions can be asked of Giannis. What is the ceiling for him? Can a player of his considerable talents continue to improve after winning Most Improved Player last season? Remember, Giannis was drafted in 2013 and is still only 22 years old.

When told in August that although he could win most valuable player, he could not also win most improved player as well, he responded with a simple, yet telling response.

“Why not?” Antetokounmpo responded.

While he continued to be lighthearted and moved on to the next topic, it’s fair to ask, “why not?” when it comes to Giannis. Through three regular season games, he is averaging 38.3 points, five assists, 9.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. These averages will likely regress to more sustainable numbers as the season continues. For now, however, his averages are in elite territory. In addition, his ability to impact the game is already getting to the point where LeBron James may be the only other player who can similarly fill up the stat lines while physically terrorizing opponents on both the offensive and defensive end of the court.

When asked who the “biggest freak in the NBA” is, Giannis elaborated that it was James due to his ability to impose himself on the game.

“The things [James] does, the veteran leadership he brings to the team, how big he is, how quick, how strong,” Giannis stated. “And at the end of the day, how smart he is. He can put his team in the right spots, make the right decision.”

In Saturday night’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers, Giannis willed his team to victory. It was Giannis demonstrating how big, strong and smart he was, putting his team on his shoulders and carrying them to an impressive win.
With less than a minute left in a close game, Giannis closed in with a well-timed double team on Damian Lillard and came away with a clean steal. The steal got the Bucks the ball back and Giannis was fouled, which put him on the free throw line. Unfortunately, he came up short on both attempts and the Bucks remained a point behind.

Despite missing the free throws, Giannis came up huge on the very next play. Giannis took on C.J McCollum one-on-one at the top of the key and created yet another steal. He then leaked out to receive the pass for a breakaway dunk that quickly gave the Bucks the lead with 11.4 seconds remaining.

On the next play, when Jusuf Nurkic set a high screen and roll, he received the pass on the roll and headed to the basket. Giannis’ primary responsibility was the shooter in the corner and yet he read the action correctly and was ready and waiting at the rim for Nurkic. Giannis times Nurkic’s shot perfectly and rejected him at the rim, which effectively ended the game in favor of the Bucks.

Giannis’ ability as defensive Swiss Army Knife was instrumental in the Bucks’ close win over Portland. In addition, Giannis has also made further improvements in an area of his that has received a lot of attention over the years. He continues to shoot a below average three-point percentage for his career (27.6) and has had a rocky start to this season as well (16.7). It’s likely that Giannis’ three-point shooting will be a significant limitation in his game for the foreseeable future. However, over his career, Giannis has shown an ability to improve his shooting percentage on two-point shots consistently, especially shots from 0-3 feet and 3-10 feet, per basketball-reference. As Giannis has gotten stronger and more explosive, he has developed a strong desire to attack opponents off the dribble and absorb contact at the rim. Whether he blows by his opponent outright or scores through opponents at the rim, Giannis has developed into an offensive force that few players in the league could hope to slow down.

In addition to his scoring, Giannis continues to display his unique ability to handle the ball in transitions and run the Bucks’ offense in the half court as a point forward. This sort of ability separates Giannis from the other elite wings in the league who don’t have the skill or vision to act as a primary playmaker. Giannis is doing much of what he did last year, but seems more aggressive and physically dominant through the first three games of this season. That sort of improvement of course puts Giannis in the MVP discussion (though it is incredibly early in the season to even start this sort of discussion).

Giannis was recently asked about his ability to win the MVP and wasn’t shy about his desire to win the prestigious award.

“I’m going to be one of the players that hopefully dominates the game. But I’ve got to still make sure that my team wins, that my teammates get better,” Giannis stated. “I’ve set the goal since the last game against Toronto last year, at the playoffs. I want to be the MVP this year.”

What helps solidify Giannis’ ability to be such a strong MVP candidate is also what makes his team less dangerous. The Bucks are woefully dependent on their star and, at least for now, lack the necessary depth to be a true contender in the East.

Through three regular season games, it’s clear that the Bucks will only go as far as Giannis can take them. And that is the key to Giannis’ budding MVP campaign. Let’s take a look at last year’s top five MVP candidates. Last year’s winner, Westbrook, has two new star-caliber players (Paul George and Carmelo Anthony) to share the spotlight, and the ball, with. James Harden is sharing the ball with Chris Paul, who is currently struggling with a knee injury. LeBron James and the Cavaliers are almost exclusively concerned with the postseason. Kawhi Leonard is similarly crucial to the San Antonio Spurs on offense and defense but has lingering health concerns and has yet to play this season. Finally, Isaiah Thomas is coming off a major hip injury and is not projected to play until January.

With so much uncertainty, Giannis has the opportunity to continue to draw attention as not only the most important player on the Bucks but perhaps the most valuable player in the league. Giannis’ early play this season indicates that this is possible. Despite his early-season outburst, Giannis is giving deference to LeBron James — though he admits he hopes to reach James’ level at some point in the future.

“Definitely [James is] the best player in the NBA. For a few years to come,” Giannis stated. “But I think a lot of players are getting better. Even myself. And hopefully one day we can get to that spot from him.”

Perhaps Giannis will take the spot as the best player in the NBA as early as this season. Considering how dominant he has been so far this season, it’s fair to ask “why not?”

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Wright Primed To Take Next Step With Raptors

Third year Utah alum Delon Wright is showing flashes of what he can do in an expanded role for Toronto.

Spencer Davies



Backup point guards are essential to a team’s success.

They’re the floor generals of the second unit. They create for themselves to score. They collapse defenses in order for the others to get opportunities.

In some cases, these players perform so well that they outgrow the role they provide and force their way into the starting five—on that same team or elsewhere. Just look at past examples: Darren Collison, Eric Bledsoe, Reggie Jackson, Dennis Schroder, etc. The list goes on.

Kyle Lowry was 20 years old when he was drafted late in the first round of the 2006 NBA Draft by the Memphis Grizzlies. He studied the position behind veteran guards Chucky Atkins and Damon “Mighty Mouse” Stoudamire.

But even after showing promise in his rookie season, management decided to take Mike Conley Jr. the very next year. Though the two were about even in playing time, it was clear the Grizzlies favored youth over anything else, so in 2009, Lowry was dealt with the Houston Rockets in a three-way trade at the deadline.

At this point, Lowry had started in only 30 games over two-and-a-half seasons, so the keys to the car weren’t ready for him just yet. Aaron Brooks was a unique talent that Rick Adelman loved to throw out there along with Tracy McGrady and Kevin Martin.

Brooks started all 82 games in the 2009-10 campaign and blossomed into a scoring machine. He was shooting the lights out that year, and because of that, it was tough to sit him. Lowry still took advantage of his playing time, though, with plenty of floor run. He averaged nearly 14 points and seven assists per 36 minutes.

To the misfortune of his teammate and the advantage to Lowry the next season, Brooks struggled mightily with the jump shot that made him so deadly. After 34 games, the Rockets moved him in a deal to Phoenix for Goran Dragic and a first-round pick. Dragic was on his way to carving his niche in the league, but it opened up a door for Lowry to really take hold as “quarterback” of the team.

Circumstances arose once again, however. Houston had let go of Adelman and hired Kevin McHale in June 2011. Lowry and his new head coach did not have the same rapport. He unfortunately suffered from a bacterial infection and missed out on the beginning of the season, and towards the end, the emergence of Dragic led to his demise.

That summer, the Rockets sent Lowry to the Toronto Raptors for Gary Forbes and a future first-rounder. Once again, it was a fresh start for him, but also a brand new team with a different head coach.

It didn’t take long for the man to realize his true potential there. Aside from shuffling a bit with Jose Calderon as the starter in Toronto, Lowry found a home. The jump he made between that season and the next one was impressive.

Lowry got paid after that 2013-14 season and re-signed with the Raptors for four years. He earned three All-Star appearances and—aside from the postseason disappointments—led the team to new heights with his fellow All-Star backcourt partner DeMar DeRozan.

Toronto and its star point guard agreed to a three-year, $100 million deal over the summer to keep him running the show and to honor that contract well as he has always had. But now there’s somebody behind Lowry waiting to break out, and could very well be the one who gets the torch passed to him.

Delon Wright is ready to make his mark. When he entered the league, he was a reserve behind Cory Joseph and had to observe and soak in the experience of NBA life. For some rookies, they get the chance immediately, and for the others, they have to wait their turn. In this case, it was the latter.

Playing the waiting game ended up working out well for him. In the offseason, the Raptors went out and traded Joseph for C.J. Miles due to the loss of DeMarre Carroll. It was a move that not only addressed a need for depth at the wing but also opened a door for Wright.

So here we are, two games in. The Raptors are 2-0 and have outscored their opponents by 51 points. In those combined, Wright has received 55 minutes of playing time.

Despite the competition being the rebuilding Chicago Bulls and a Philadelphia 76ers team trying to find an identity, he looks extremely comfortable. You don’t want to take too much out a sample size as small as that, but neither the numbers nor the eye test lies.

Wright has played the third-most minutes on the team thus far. He’s done a great job on both sides of the floor but has truly made a difference on the defensive end. As of now, the Raptors are only allowing 83 points per 100 possessions with him on the hardwood. When he’s not, that number blows up to 98.9 using the same scale.

Offensively he’s almost been just as good. Wright has been aggressive as a facilitator and as a shooter, putting up 13- and 14-point games early on. He dished out five assists in the season opener and nabbed five rebounds in the second game. He has a higher offensive rating than both Lowry and DeRozan.

According to, Toronto’s net rating with him off the court (12.9) is the second lowest to his lifelong teammate Jakob Poeltl (12.8). Take it with a grain of salt because it’s one week into the season, but Wright has the best net rating in the league (37.6) among those playing at least 25 minutes per game.

Call it garbage time play or whatever you want: He has the tools to succeed. The stature is there. The intangibles are evident. It’s all about putting it together over the course of an entire season.

If the trend continues, there’s no way Casey can keep him off the floor for long. We don’t know where Wright’s career could go. It’s way too early to tell. The Raptors are likely hoping for him to be the successor after this era of basketball has come and gone.

Lowry is the man in Toronto, as is DeRozan. Nothing is changing that anytime soon. But rest assured, Wright’s primed to take a big step this year and it’s going to be fun to watch.

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