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!
NBA Daily: LiAngelo Ball Fighting For Place in the NBA
LiAngelo Ball has the name recognition but is trying to prove he belongs in the NBA based on his skills and abilities.
NBA fans are currently being treated to competitive Western and Eastern Conference Finals. The postseason is coming to a close and in roughly two weeks, the eventual 2018 NBA champion shall be crowned. With the NBA season nearly over, NBA draft season is revving up. On June 21, exactly sixty young men will hear their name called on draft night. This group will include highly sought-after NCAA collegiate prospects, international players and U.S. born players that have spent time improving their respectives games overseas.
Attention is most often focused on the top few picks. However, one name has had a conspicuous tendency to stick out, LiAngelo Ball. Like his older brother Lonzo Ball, Liangelo was recruited into the UCLA program amid the heightened attention surrounding the Ball family. Unlike Lonzo, Liangelo was unable to showcase his game on the U.S. collegiate level following a widely covered theft scandal overseas, his subsequent suspension from the UCLA program and the Ball family’s decision to then place LiAngelo and his younger brother LaMelo Ball into the Lithuanian league.
Now removed from overseas play, LiAngelo Ball is fighting to prove that his game (and not just his name) warrants the attention of NBA team officials. Many critics are quick to look past Lonzo’s clear NBA talent and whatever potential LaMelo Ball might have to quickly dismiss LiAngelo. LiAngelo Ball made it clear he sees himself as an NBA player. Ball spoke to Basketball Insiders recently to discuss a wide range of topics.
“I’m an NBA player, that’s why I declared for the draft. That’s why I’m here also,” Ball stated.
While those who question the potential for Ball to make the league via the draft, Ball has been busy doing his best to make a good impression in person. Ball spoke about the interviews he’s had so far.
“Team interviews were great. It wasn’t really an interview for me. I just started talking, vibing with the coach really. I felt like it went good for me,” Ball said and confirmed which teams he had spoken to. “I had two with [Oklahoma City] and the Suns.”
Alex Kennedy of Hoopshype confirmed that Ball also has private workouts scheduled with the Lakers, Clippers and Warriors.
Ball gave some insight into his approach to the workouts and whether there is a specific approach regarding the teams in attendance.
“I’m going to work out hard. I’m not really familiar with what they do so, I don’t know but I’m going to knock down my shots and show my endurance. Stuff like that,” Ball said.
Numerous videos have been posted of Ball shooting well in these workouts. The videos, as his past play would indicate, show that Ball is at least a capable outside shooter. Ball was quick to point this out, along with his defensive potential, as skill sets that make him a viable NBA prospect.
“I feel like I bring the team, I can knock down shots for a team. I’m real confident in that,” Ball said. “I feel like my defensive game is good. With the right coach and somebody lets me know the techniques, I feel like I’ll be a good defender in the league.”
Young players and prospects are often asked which players they have looked up to or emulated as it helps to give a bit of insight into the young player’s mentality. Ball didn’t admit to copying a particular player’s game but did name a few players he likes to watch while slipping in a flattering comparison he says he has heard about himself.
“I don’t really model my game after other players. I always just play my own way, my own style. I like to watch players as far as James Harden, LeBron [James], Klay Thompson. People say I play like [Thompson] sometimes. So, I just like watching that type of stuff. Pick up stuff from the game,” Ball said.
Ball also highlighted his time in Europe as a plus to his resume.
“I feel like it translates good into the NBA. I mean, I got a year of experience over in Europe, Europe basketball. [Because] they do a lot of the same sets, like I said, as far as coming off the screens, pull-ups and all that. I feel like it helped me out there,” Ball stated.
Also, Ball didn’t hesitate to show his interest in playing for any team beyond the Lakers, if that opportunity presented itself.
“I’m saying I’d like to play for the Lakers [because] my brother is on the team. I want to play with him. I’d love to play for any other team really. I don’t have like a set choice. Any other team, I’m ready to play for,” Ball stated
Ball needs to keep all options open. There are only so many spots in the draft and as Ball stated, he will have to be prepared to explore every opportunity in the draft, free agency or perhaps through the G-League. For now, he is focusing his attention on the task at hand and doing whatever he can to ensure his name is among the sixty called on draft night.
2018 NBA Consensus Mock Draft – Ver 4.0
Each week, four of Basketball Insiders’ experts take a look at the draft class and weigh in on what they are seeing and hearing in the march up to the 2018 NBA Draft.
Each week, four of Basketball Insiders’ top writers will break down the latest news and notes surrounding the 2018 NBA Draft. Included is an updated mock draft that reflects how each writer sees the draft landscape based on the latest news, workouts, and information from the pre-draft process.
Moke’s Notebook: One thing I can say for sure is that this is the most unpredictable draft I’ve seen in many years. The Kings and Hawks are each rumored to be open to moving the second and third pick in the draft, and I have a feeling that’s due to the intrigue surrounding Luka Dončić. At this point, the expectation is that the Suns will select DeAndre Ayton first, and I get the sense that there are many that believe that the risk of selecting Dončić is too great. Aside from that, Michael Porter, Jr. (whom I’ve been told is the “dream” scenario for the Knicks) and Mo Bamba each saw their stock rise pretty dramatically during the Combine in Chicago. I’ve seen some mocks having Porter as highly as third.
Aside from those two, there are a lot of questions about Trae Young. It was once thought that Stephen Curry and even Kevin Durant weren’t strong enough to make it in the NBA, and similar questions have been asked of Young. Between Dončić, Bamba, Porter and Young, we might be looking at four of the biggest risks that are consensus top seven picks in quite some time. Of the batch, I’d feel most comfortable selecting Bamba, whose maturity and outside shooting are both better than advertised, but again, with teams at the top willing to discuss dealing their picks and the appetite for risk playing a major role in how the draft shakes out, I only have confidence in my top seven, not necessarily where they’ll land.
As we get closer to the draft, I’d keep an eye on a few names: Aaron Holiday, Jalen Brunson and Donte DiVincenzo. Each of those guys have a shot to move up into the late teens, with Holiday, in particular, having lottery potential. Keita Bates-Diop and Jevon Carter are two second rounders who I wouldn’t be surprised to see sneak into the top 30, either.
Over the coming weeks, some guys will be called in for more individual workouts and as the weeks progress, our intel will get stronger.
Jesse’s Notebook: Though the NBA Lottery and Combine are behind us, there are still a lot of questions about how things will shake out on draft night. While Luka Dončić has been considered a consensus top-two pick for some time, some are now questioning whether he will drop a spot or two. I still believe that by draft night, Dončić will likely be picked either first or second, but that doesn’t seem to be a foregone conclusion anymore.
The mystery man of this year’s class continues to be Michael Porter Jr. Porter Jr. checks off all of the boxes for a top-tier draft prospect, but his injury history and long-term health are still major issues that teams need to consider. No one in the draft has a larger range of outcomes. Porter Jr. recently said at the Combine that he is the best player in the draft and it will only take one team with a top pick to agree with his assessment to roll the dice and take a shot on him. But if it looks like his athleticism or burst is limited because of his previous injuries, he could drop toward the end of the top-10.
As of now, there is a good sense of who will be picked with the top 15 picks or so. Once we get outside of that range, things become somewhat less clear. There is very little consensus on how teams will draft from 16-30, so I expect the upcoming workouts and other pre-draft processes to help add clarity on that front.
Benny’s Notebook: Since Basketball Insiders’ last set of Notebooks, much of the draft landscape has changed. From lottery leaps to combine crushers, we’re finally at the point in the process where things start to happen. I still believe Luka Dončić is this draft class’ best player — he literally won both the EuroLeague MVP and Final Four MVP this weekend — but we must deal with the reality that Phoenix (and perhaps others) may look elsewhere. Outside of swapping No. 1 and 2, most of my adjustments come in the lower half of the first round.
I’d banked high on Mitchell Robinson showing out at the Draft Combine and, instead, he pulled out of everything completely. Allegedly, this is because Robinson has earned a promise from the Los Angeles Lakers at No. 25, according to Aran Smith of NBADraft.net. So, with little else to go off of on Robinson, he slides for me. Additionally, after the strange week of Dennis Schröder news, it’s possible that the Atlanta Hawks could search for a future guard — and the stock-rising Aaron Holiday certainly fits the bill.
Lastly, I’ve begun to come around on Zhaire Smith, the 6-foot-5 prospect from Texas Tech that averaged 11.3 points and five rebounds per game. In the modern, positionless NBA, Smith can already guard multiple spots and his athletic abilities have been rated at the top of his class. He may need some G-League time next season, but he turns just 19 years old in early June. While he probably won’t rise much higher than I’ve had him in mocks thus far, he makes sense for plenty of rebuilding rosters.
Steve’s Notebook: With the official NBA Draft Combine in the books there has been a lot of draft chatter. While it’s important to state clearly that its still very very early in the process and lots of things can change, there is a sense at least in a few places where some teams seem to be heading and where some players might end up landing.
The Phoenix Suns did land the top overall pick, and there was almost no executive in Chicago who thought Arizona big man DeAndre Ayton wouldn’t be Phoenix’s pick. While there is real validity to the idea that new Suns head coach Igor Kokoškov has experience and a relationship with euro sensation Luka Dončić, the belief is the Suns will make their decision based on talent, not relationship.
There was also a buzz that both Sacramento and Atlanta seemed more interested in the domestic big men available at the top of the draft rather than Dončić. That could always change, but the thought process there was the risk that Dončić could opt to stay out of the draft if he didn’t like where he would land, and both teams seem to be higher on other players.
There were a few players who clearly had fans among NBA talent evaluators.
Duke’s Wendell Carter Jr, could go significantly higher than expected with Dallas being his likely ceiling. The Mavericks are far from locked in on anyone, but the belief is the Mavericks are looking at versatile bigs.
Kentucky’s Kevin Knox was something of a mystery in Chicago opting to do very little publicly and left town early. According to several teams, Knox could go as high as six to Orlando and has strong interest from the Bulls, Cavaliers, and Knicks.
UCLA’s Aaron Holiday is said to have a “soft” commitment in the late teens and has, at this point, turned away workouts with teams in the 20’s. There is a sense he could be gone before by the 19th pick.
Boise State’s Chandler Hutchison pulled out of the Combine with NBA Draft.net’s Aran Smith tweeting that he is believed to have gotten a commitment from the Chicago Bulls at 22. Smith also tweeted that Mitchell Robinson also got a promise from the Lakers at 25. One veteran executive labeled this draft class as being the most aggressive draft he can recall where agents were calling and pressing for commitments.
Villanova’s Donte DiVincenzo wowed athletically during combine testing and several executives before the testing sessions not only nailed where he’d measure and perform, they also suggested he’d be gone in the 20’s.
Executives were especially critical of the two notable international prospects Dzanan Musa and Rodions Kurucs, suggesting that both could slide into the second round.
IMG Academy’s Anfernee Simons has several fans, but the word on him is that he’s a long-term project that would need time. There was a considerable amount of fact-finding by scouts on Simons. A team to watch could be Orlando if Simons is there is there when the Magic select at 35 or 41.
Tulane’s Melvin Frazier came away with mixed reviews, some love his length and athleticism and see him as a defensive presence, other teams saw him as lacking defined NBA skill sets.
Maryland’s Kevin Huerter has some fans. One executive offered a friendly wager that Huerter would be gone by 40.
West Virginia’s Jevon Carter looks like he has a real shot to be drafted in the first round, with several teams at the bottom of draft expressing real interest.
There are a couple of sleeper types that seemed to have turned some heads through the process in Chicago, namely Kansas’ Udoka Azubuike, Louisville’s Ray Spalding, Dayton’s Kostas Antetokounmpo and West Virginia’s Sagaba Konate. All of them could go significantly higher than currently projected.
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NBA Daily: Porter Jr. Ready to Make Up For Lost Time in the NBA
Michael Porter Jr. played just 53 minutes of basketball in his lone college season, yet believes he’s the best player in the draft now that he’s seemingly healthy.
When Michael Porter Jr. stepped foot on Missouri’s campus, he was supposed to inject life into a basketball program that hadn’t made the NCAA tournament since the 2012-13 season.
After receiving his release from the University of Washington, following the firing of Lorenzo Romar, Porter Jr. decided to return home and play under Cuonzo Martin for the Tigers. The No. 2 ranked recruit in the nation, the near 6-foot-11 small forward possessed the scoring and versatility traits to suggest he would be a star at the college basketball level before making his jump to the NBA.
But that would not be so for Porter Jr., as a back injury and subsequent surgery would limit him to just 53 total minutes in three games coming at the end of the season.
In his brief stint as a student-athlete, Porter Jr. played how many would expect a teenager coming off of months-long injury rehab: rusty.
Thirty points and 20 rebounds in three games, on 10-for-33 shooting from the field, and 7-for-20 from beyond the arc. It was clear Porter Jr. was not up to the speed he expected to be on the college court just several months prior. But no matter, he wanted to get out there anyway, regardless of risking re-injury, so that he could help his teammates.
“I knew that I wasn’t gonna put on a show, or be the Mike that they saw in a few months,” Porter Jr. said at the NBA Combine. “The way I was thinking about was just, you know, they’ll know the player I am in a few months. Just trying to help my team and not be selfish with the decision. We had like six players on scholarship at the time because two had gotten injured. So, I was just trying to do what I could to be a part of the team.”
Porter Jr.’s return didn’t lift his team the way he had hoped, as Missouri fell to Florida State in the first round of the NCAA tournament 67-54. When the clock hit zeros, the smooth shooting swingman with a questionable injury history set his sights on the NBA.
However, Porter Jr.’s projection at the game’s highest level is much different in May than it was 10 months ago. From positioning himself to battle for the top overall pick, Porter Jr. is now somewhat of an enigma. His game is a bit of a mystery, and so are his medical records. Once considered a no-brainer to be picked top-three, Porter Jr. could find himself sliding near the back end of the top 10 on draft night.
Noting that he originally injured his back a few years ago in high school, when the injury finally caught up to him just before his college career was ready to tip off, Porter Jr. took a unique approach to otherwise disappointing news.
“When I had to have the surgery I kind of viewed it as a blessing,” Porter Jr. said. “A new start, and I could really reach my full potential. They had me as the number one player in high school, but I didn’t even feel like I was at 100 percent, and I do now.”
Being at 100 percent, as Porter Jr. says in his own words, just before he begins his NBA career has the forward excited for his future. Despite missing time on the court and falling behind other prospects in the draft conversation, Porter Jr. hasn’t lost his self-confidence.
“I’m just excited to show everybody the player that I am,” Porter Jr. said. “I’m still the best player … I played against all these guys, they’re all great players. But I’m the best player in this draft.”
Though his back is still a mystery, and his sample size is small, if Porter Jr. were to reach the potential scouts and NBA personnel pegged him as having when he was on the doorsteps of college basketball, then he has the makings of a franchise-caliber player.
With the opportunity of getting that kind of upside at a potentially discounted selection, Porter Jr. was one of the most popular names at the Cmbine. The forward mentioned meeting with just about every team picking in the top 10 come June’s draft. One team that Porter Jr. has been frequently linked to, the Chicago Bulls, were not exclusively mentioned on his list. But Porter Jr. noted the Bulls and his agent were in contact and he hoped to get a workout scheduled with Chicago.
No matter who Porter Jr. meets with or works out for from now until draft night, the versatile and skilled forward projects to be one of the most interesting players to follow. Could he impress throughout the draft process and reclaim his spot within the top-three? Or will he slide down draft boards and become a potential steal for a team in the back half of the lottery?
Whatever the outcome is, Porter Jr. will be ready.
“I was hoping to turn college basketball upside down like a lot of these players,” Porter Jr. said. “But this is just a step in my process in becoming the best player that I can be. It’s a little different, but I’m more ready than ever. I’ve been dreaming about this NBA stuff for so long, I feel like I’m ready.”