Michael Jordan, through his spectacular play, made shooting guard the most intriguing, and perhaps most important position in the NBA. His gravity-defying dunks, game-winning shots, and ability to score the ball at will captured the attention of sports fans for years. Younger players like Kobe Bryant, and Dwyane Wade have been compared to Jordan throughout their careers, their every accomplishment stacked up next to Jordan’s.
In recent years, the attention given to the shooting guard position has shifted to the small forward position. Players like LeBron James and Kevin Durant, the two best players in the league today, impact games on a nightly basis more than anyone else. This is especially true with players like Bryant and Wade entering the final stages of their careers. Even the point guard position has overtaken the shooting guard position in terms of importance. Because of this shift, many of the league’s most effective shooting guards are overlooked and not given the credit they deserve for their contribution to their team’s success. Here, we take a look at some of the shooting guards who make a significant impact for their team’s overall success, but don’t receive the credit or recognition they deserve:
J.J. Redick, Los Angeles Clippers –
J.J. Redick was acquired by the Clippers last offseason to slot in as the starting shooting guard and play the role of Ray Allen in Doc Rivers offense. This includes running off the ball, forcing defenders to chase him off of screens, and knocking down jump-shots. What many people may not realize, is that Redick played the role of Allen just about as well, and even better in some regards, than Allen did in previous years with the Boston Celtics.
While Allen is the superior player overall, Redick has landed with a team whose offensive system is tailor-made to maximize his skill-set. Even when Redick isn’t scoring the ball, or shooting particularly well, his off-the-ball movement creates fluidity within the Clipper’s offense and forces defenses to make tough switches. Redick is even sneakily effective in running pick-and-rolls with bigs, using his underrated ball-handling and passing skills to find easy scoring opportunities for the Clippers big men. In short, without Redick, the Clipper’s offense is one of the best in the league; with him they are elite.
And Redick is no slouch on defense either. At just 6’4, 190 pounds, Redick gives up size to a lot of the guards he faces on a nightly basis. But Redick is a smart team defender, knowing when to switch, and how to funnel his opponents towards DeAndre Jordan for a potential block. Redick will occasionally get burned by bigger shooting guards, but he holds his own on most nights.
Last season, Redick averaged 15.2 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game, and shot 45.5 percent from the field and 39.5 percent from beyond the arc. Coupled with a 91.5 percent free throw shooting percentage, Redick registered an impressive 59.8 true shooting percentage, which is very good for a shooting guard.
Unfortunately for Redick, he only managed to play in 35 regular season games last season as he suffered through a serious back and elbow injury. However, he returned in time for the playoffs, and contributed 13.3 points per game and 40 percent shooting from beyond-the-arc. If Redick can stay healthy next season, and if the Clippers can push past the second round of the Playoffs, Redick may finally get some of the recognition he already deserves.
Arron Afflalo, Denver Nuggets –
At age 28, Afflalo is one of the best two-way shooting guards in the league. He plays tough perimeter defense, often guarding opposing teams’ best wing-players, while spreading the floor on offense with his three-point shooting. Last season, Afflalo averaged 18.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game, and shot 45.9 percent from the field, and 42.7 percent from three-point range. Much like Nicolas Batum, Afflalo contributes just what his team needs, and is one of the best glue-guys in the NBA.
Afflalo often gets overlooked, especially after playing the last two seasons with the rebuilding Orlando Magic. However, with Orlando, Afflalo was one of the veteran leaders, and takes that experience with him for his second run with the Denver Nuggets.
Earlier this offseason, Afflalo told Basketball Insiders that he hopes the move back to Denver will help make him an All-Star this upcoming season.
“It’s next level for me, hopefully that entails [becoming an] All-Star,” Afflalo said. “I learned firsthand last year that it’s somewhat of a team goal as well. You have to be on a good team and you have to be playing competitive basketball while being a good player a well.”
Afflalo, arguably, should have been selected as an All-Star last season, but was left off in favor of Joe Johnson. Now that Afflalo is back in Denver, alongside talented played like Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, and Kenneth Faried, he has the chance to get back into the Playoffs and show the league that he is one of the most underrated shooting guards in the NBA.
Wesley Matthews, Portland Trailblazers –
Wesley Matthews started his NBA career with the Utah Jazz after going undrafted in the 2009 NBA Draft. Throughout his career, Matthews has been a very solid shooting guard, but has never been in the discussion as one of the better two-guards in the league.
Each season, Matthews has steadily improved. Last season, Matthews averaged 16.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 0.9 steals per game, and shot 44.1 percent from the field and 39.3 percent from beyond-the-arc. While everyone acknowledges Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson as the best shooting backcourt in the league, the fact is that Matthews, alongside Damian Lillard, were not that far behind the Splash Brothers.
Matthews is also an underrated defender. While he may not be a lock-down defender like Tony Allen, he is a tough competitor and takes each defensive assignment as a personal challenge. And while Matthews stands at just 6’5, he is strong enough to switch onto small forwards and hold his own periodically.
Matthews may not be the flashiest shooting guard in the NBA, but he is rock solid and is a big reason why the Portland Trailblazers were one of the surprise teams of last season.
Gerald Green, Phoenix Suns –
Gerald Green flies under the radar because he has bounced around the league, playing for seven teams in seven seasons in the NBA. Green made a name for himself early in his career by winning the 2007 NBA Dunk Contest, and was the runner-up in the 2008 NBA Dunk Contest. Unfortunately for Green, he could never translate his athletic ability into the actual games, and earned the reputation as being little more than an elite athlete. However, last season in Phoenix, Green thrived in Jeff Hornacek’s uptempo offense, and was one of the main reasons the Suns were the surprise team of the league last year.
Everyone knows that Green is a high-flyer, but many people don’t realize that he made the fourth most three-pointers in the league last year (204), falling behind only Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Damian Lillard. And don’t think he was just a volume shooter either, as Green connected on 40 percent of his shots from beyond-the-arc; a percentage that is higher than other noted three-point shooters like Lillard, Kevin Durant, and Kevin Love.
Last season, Green averaged 15.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 0.9 steals, and shot 44.5 percent from the field. Green had a career game last season on March 6, scoring a career-high 41 points, and connected on eight three-pointers (another career-high).
Green seems to have found a home in Phoenix and, with Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas, and presumably Eric Bledsoe, is a part of one of the most dynamic back-courts in the NBA.
Danny Green, San Antonio Spurs –
Danny Green is another shooting guard that is a perfect fit with his team. Over his career, Green has transformed himself into an elite three-point shooter, and effective 3-and-D player. The San Antonio Spurs were the sixth best offensive team during the regular season (108.2 points per 100 possessions) and much of that has to do with Green.
Last season, Green averaged, 9.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game, while shooting 41.5 percent from beyond-the-arc. While Green’s per game numbers aren’t eye-catching, his contribution to the Spur’s offense and defense isn’t really reflected in the box-score. Basic box-score numbers won’t show the times Green shuts down an opposing wing player, or point guard, or the times he makes the extra pass to a teammate for a wide open shot. Nor will it show the times his off-ball movement forces an opposing defense to rotate, creating opportunities for his teammates to find open shots.
On a team of selfless stars like Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard, Green’s contributions at times go unnoticed. But when people wonder how the Spurs are always so good, a big part of the answer lies in the significant contributions from selfless players like Green.
Honorable Mention –
Tony Allen, Memphis Grizzlies–
Tony Allen for many years has been considered one of the league’s best perimeter defenders, but that is often diminished since he is also known as a poor-to-average offensive player. However, on the Memphis Grizzlies, Allen represents more than any box-score or advanced statistic could ever convey. He is the heart and soul of the Grizzlies’ grit-and-grind defense that is so vital to their success. Allen manages to impact the game, by slowing down players as small and crafty as Chris Paul, and as tall and lethal as Kevin Durant. He even has had the indirect effect of getting players like Zach Randolph to buy into the team defense-first philosophy. And Allen has done this throughout his career while never averaging more than 27 minutes per game in a single season.
Yes, Allen is given recognition for his defensive prowess and is rightfully viewed as a below average offensive player. But it is often overlooked that without Allen, the Grizzlies lose more than just a wing-stopper; they lose a significant part of their collective identity, and that is something that is worth recognizing.
Today’s NBA lacks the superstar shooting guards from years ago. Now, players like James Harden, and Klay Thompson stand at the top, while all the other shooting guards are in a sense jumbled together in the same mid-tier category. Among that jumbled group are guards whose production and contributions go largely unnoticed, or unappreciated. While the golden age of the shooting guard may have passed by with Jordan’s retirement and the twilight years of Kobe and Wade upon us, there is still plenty of talented players that deserve recognition, including the players mentioned above.
Which shooting guards do you think are the most underrated in the NBA? Let us know below!
Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team
Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.
“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”
Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN
NBA PM: Patrick Beverley Set the Tone for Clippers in Season Opener
Patrick Beverley set the tone for the L.A. Clippers with his aggressive defense in their season opener.
“The LA Clippers are going to the Western Conference Finals. Guaranteed.”
That bold statement was made by Charles Barkley during TNT’s coverage of last night’s matchup between the Lakers and Clippers.
While Barkley may have had his hot take canon primed and in mid-season form, that should not overshadow the fact that the Los Angeles Clippers put together a strong showing in their first regular season game since the departure of Chris Paul.
Blake Griffin logged 29 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, two steals and knocked down three of his six three-point attempts. Griffin was aggressive and showed no hesitation on his jumper, which seemed to open up lanes for him to drive to the basket (where he is most effective). DeAndre Jordan was fantastic as well, contributing 14 points, 24 rebounds, one assist and one steal.
While the Clippers lost some significant contributors from last season, including J.J. Redick, Luc Mbah a Moute and Jamal Crawford, the team had some returning and new players show that they are capable of filling the void.
Milos Teodosic was just 2-9 from the field, but knocked down two three-pointers and looked comfortable and effective running the team’s offense. Danilo Gallinarni shot just 3-13 from the field but looked healthy and spry, displaying the kind of mobility that is necessary to play the small forward position. His ability to act as a secondary playmaker wasn’t on full display, but there were moments where it was apparent that he could be a big help in generating open looks for his teammates. Lou Williams also looked good in his Clippers debut, scoring in a variety of ways off the bench and contributing six assists as well. Wesley Johnson continues to look confident and aggressive, a continuation from his preseason performances, and is starting to knock down the open shots his teammates are creating for him (which has been a problem for him in the past).
While the Clippers looked solid in their opening act without Paul, it should be noted that the Lakers are a young team overall and their defense has been a major problem for the last few seasons. While the Lakers have added some promising young talent over the offseason, like most young teams, they are going to struggle to slow down veteran teams with potent offenses. It would be a mistake to think the Clippers can replicate this sort of offensive performance every night, especially against the better defensive teams in the league. However, perhaps the most promising part of the Clippers’ season debut was the fact that they seemed to feed off of and embrace the gritty demeanor and style of play that Patrick Beverley brings to the court each and every night.
Last night’s game was the NBA debut for rookie point guard Lonzo Ball, who many predict will develop into a star player. Unfortunately for Ball, his opening night matchup came against Beverley, who earned a spot on the 2017 All-Defensive First Team. Beverley repeatedly guarded Ball past half court, pushed him around and did everything he could to throw him off of his game. He held Ball to three points, nine rebounds and four assists in 29 minutes of action.
Beverley, like every NBA player, has heard the hype and noise surrounding Ball and his future in the league (most of it from his outspoken father, LaVar).
“I just had to set the tone,” Beverley said. “I told him after the game that due to all the riffraff his dad brings, that he’s going to get a lot of people coming at him. I let him know that after the game. What a better way to start than spending 94 feet guarding him tonight — welcome the young guy to the NBA.”
Beverley is one of the more aggressive defenders in the NBA and is known for trying to get under the skin of his opponents, so Lonzo may not face this level of intensity in every game. But based on Beverley’s comments, it’s clear that he expects other players around the league to defend Lonzo aggressively as well.
Snoop Dogg, the rapper and passionate Lakers fan, summed up the issue for Ball arguably better than anyone else has so far.
“His father put him in the lion’s den with pork chop drawers on,” said Snoop.
For his part, Lonzo complimented Beverley on his aggressive defense.
“[Beverley] plays hard. He knows his job. He does it very well,” said Ball. “He gets under people’s skin and plays defense and does what he can to help his team win.”
Beverley set the tone for the Clippers, who looked crisp and confident throughout the game. Griffin’s three-point shot looks like it could finally be a reliable part of his offensive arsenal. Jordan was very active on the glass, pulling down 24 rebounds (possibly inspired in part by his commitment to donate $100 per rebound this season to help the effort to rebuild his hometown of Houston after the damage inflicted by Hurricane Harvey). The rest of the supporting cast played with the sort of cohesion and confidence that takes at least a few weeks into the season to develop. Again, the Clippers’ performance could have stemmed primarily from the Lakers’ shaky defense, but it was encouraging to see the team play with such force and confidence in the absence of Paul.
The Western Conference is extremely talented and deep, so it’s unlikely that the Clippers will make it to the Western Conference Finals as Barkley predicted. However, challenging for a spot in the playoffs and perhaps even doing some damage once there seems to be in the realm of possibility. This is especially the case considering how much of an impact Beverley had Thursday night, both defensively and in setting the tone for the rest of his new teammates.
Morris Bringing Leadership To Celtics
Marcus Morris chats with Basketball Insiders for a one-on-one exclusive.
Returning just one starter from last year’s top-seeded team in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics underwent wholesale changes this past offseason.
Gordon Hayward signed a super max contract. Danny Ainge pried Kyrie Irving away from the Cleveland Cavaliers in a blockbuster deal. Jayson Tatum was selected with the third overall pick in the NBA Draft.
In early July, though, there was an under-the-radar trade executed that hasn’t been mentioned much. Surprisingly, Celtics guard Avery Bradley was sent to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Marcus Morris, a heady wing with size and versatility to add to a revamped core of players.
Bradley was a mainstay with the franchise for seven years and played a vital role as a part of Brad Stevens’ system, but Boston decided to move in a different direction. As for the man they got in return, he’s thrilled to be there.
“It makes me feel good,” Morris told Basketball Insiders of Ainge dealing one of his best former players for him. “It makes you feel wanted.
“This is my first time since I’ve been in the NBA I’ve been on a team with a bunch of guys that [are] All-Stars. With the maturity of the team being this high and having them high expectations on us, I’m excited to get the season going and see how far we can take this.”
The Detroit Pistons likely wanted to keep him, but the organization clearly felt Bradley’s skill set was too good to pass up. For Morris, he insisted there was no indication that his old team would send him away, but he hasn’t been bashful about talking up his new home.
“Had no idea that I was gonna be a Boston Celtic, but I’m ready for the challenge, you know?” Morris said. “I’m excited. Boston, being a Celtic—it’s something that growing up you don’t really see happening, but when it happens it’s an amazing thing.
“It’s like playing for the Patriots, you know what I mean? One of the most heralded teams and most heralded franchises, and Boston is one of those.”
Entering the seventh season of his career, Morris has remained a steady part of the league. During his time in Detroit, he started nearly every game for the Pistons and found a comfort zone that he believes will carry over in Boston.
“Just continue to be consistent, continue to build on my last past couple of years,” Morris said of his personal goals. “I really felt like I carved my spot in the NBA the last two years—averaging 14 a year and helping my team get to the playoffs one of those years, so I really think I’ve carved a niche in this league.”
The success has come thanks to his versatility and the NBA’s current direction pointing towards that type of game. All of a sudden, not having a defined position makes a player more valuable, something Morris is thankful for as he continues to bring a little bit of everything to the table.
“For guys like me, it’s great,” Morris said. “Coming into the league, I had this ‘tweener’ thing on my back and now it’s like [freaking] great to be a ‘tweener’ at this time. I’m actually happy that it’s switching to my position and guys that can do multiple things are being utilized more in this league.”
Putting the ball in the basket has come fairly easy for Morris, who averaged 14.1 points per game on 42.6 percent from the field over 159 games with Detroit. He’s able to stretch the floor and provide solid spacing offensively, and he envisions doing more than that for this Celtics group.
“And leadership,” Morris said. “I’m not too much of a vocal guy, but I’m a passionate guy on the court. I think that’ll rub off on guys. I love scoring. I love shooting the ball. But that’s not the only thing I do.
“I’ve been a tough defender around this league for the last past years and I’m really looking forward to hanging my hat on that again and just doing whatever it takes for my team to get to that next level.”
Stevens is aware of the impact Morris can bring in the locker room and on the floor. When he returns from a sore knee to make his debut for Boston, that’ll show through his play.
“He’s a guy that can stretch the floor at the four,” Stevens said. “He’s a guy that can guard two through four. He’s tough. He’s smart. He works the right way. We’ll be better with Marcus Morris for sure. The versatility is a very important part of what we want to be.
“Whether he is starting in a couple of weeks or whether he’s coming off the bench, at the end of the day he’s gonna be a critical, critical part of our team.”
While he’s waited to come back, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have stepped up in his absence. With Hayward likely sidelined for the rest of the season, that success will have to be sustained. Morris is a big believer in this promising duo and sees how grounded they are to make that happen.
“They’re mature guys for their age,” Morris said. “Jaylen, I think he’s 20. He’s definitely a lot more mature than I thought. Jayson, too. He’s way more mature than your average 19-year-old.
“At the end of the day, it’s just basketball. I think those guys, they’re ready for the challenge. They love the game. They always in the gym, so I think it’ll be easy for ‘em.”
Part of Morris’ role is guiding those two and the other younger pieces that Boston has as they try and establish themselves as professionals. He’s kind of a coach per se, which is somewhat fitting considering what he did this summer.
Most basketball fans are aware of “The Basketball Tournament” that takes nationwide. For those that aren’t, it’s a single-elimination competition between 64 teams in which the champion receives a $2 million prize. Morris was the head coach of Team FOE—standing for Family Over Everything.
Along with his fellow Kansas alums, including his brother Markieff and Thomas Robinson, Morris coached his team to the final game. Team FOE was in front most of the game but ultimately fell to Boeheim’s Army, a squad filled with former Syracuse Orangemen.
“I was on my way man,” Morris said of coming close. “I actually liked it. I’m a smart guy. Me and basketball stuff, I can put it together real well. I was kinda upset we lost in the fashion that we lost, but we’ll be back next year.
“I’m a smart player,” he said regarding a potential future on the sidelines. “I know the game really well. Coaching comes easy for some guys and I’m just one of those guys.”
You could hear “Coach Morris” down the line, but for now and for years to come, Marcus is focused on his first year with Boston. It’s a team that surely has the talent to be the top team in the East it’s pegged to be. Stevens is a basketball savant with great leadership.
Even without an All-Star like Hayward and a 0-2 start, the Celtics should still be a force to be reckoned with. There’s an even greater demand for them to achieve their potential, especially knowing eyes will be on them, but Morris welcomes the challenge.
“Man, it’s pressure on every team,” Morris said. “It ain’t like it’s just all on the Boston Celtics. It’s pressure on every team. What’s a game without pressure anyway?
“Pressure makes it the best thing. That’s what we need to do anyway. I enjoy the pressure. Me personally.”
Shouldering the load won’t be easy, but if it comes down to it, Morris will be swimming instead of sinking. When all is said and done, he shares the same aspirations as most players do—raising the Larry O’Brien trophy in the summer.
“I want to the win the championship,” Morris said. “You put this type of team together to get to those positions. I’m looking to be playing in June and trying to get to a championship.”