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!
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