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Who’s Got Next in 2014-2015: Shooting Guards

Who are the league’s up-and-coming shooting guards? Here are several two-guards to watch.

John Zitzler

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Kobe Bryant has set the standard for shooting guard play throughout his Hall of Fame career. Bryant exemplified the type of play expected from the position. He may have lost a step in the latter stages of his career, but he remains a model of what teams look for at the position. He has proven year after year that he is one of the best in the league. Of course, he isn’t the only one. Dwyane Wade has put together a great career, winning multiple rings, and now will be counted on to keep the HEAT in contention. James Harden has proven that he is one of the best scorers, not only at the shooting guard position but in the game today. Still in the prime of his career, Harden will be mentioned among the best at the position for years to come. Other top shooting guards include DeMar DeRozan, Monta Ellis and Manu Ginobli. Those guys have all established themselves as some of the best at their position. Now let’s take look at some younger shooting guards poised for big things.

Bradley Beal

Beal burst onto the national scene last postseason with his terrific play during the Wizards’ playoff run. In fact, it was his back-court mate and the more experienced, John Wall, who had his struggles while Beal led the team in scoring. During the Wizards’ 11-game playoff run, Beal averaged 19.1 points per game on 42.4 percent shooting from the field and an exceptional 41.5 percent from three. His ability to knock perimeter shots played a huge role in the Wizards’ postseason success. His strong play in the postseason shouldn’t come as a total surprise after he put together a very strong sophomore campaign where he averaged 17.1 points per game and shot 40.2 percent from three point range.

Beal, at only 21 years old, has already proven that he has the talent to be a terrific NBA two-guard. He has an ideal compact and consistent release on his jump shot, which he is capable of shooting off the dribble or off the pass. There is no reason to believe that Beal won’t continue to grow over the next few years and develop into one of the top perimeter scorers in the league. The back-court duo of Wall and Beal has the chance to be among the best in the league for years to come.

Klay Thompson

Like Beal, Thompson has quickly shown that he can shoot the ball at an elite level. Under former coach Mark Jackson, the Warriors did a great job creating open looks for Thompson by constantly setting off-ball screens to free him up. This, in part, led to Thompson finishing second in the NBA in three point attempts this past season, shooting on average over six threes per game. Despite shooting such a high volume of outside shots, Thompson still remained a very efficient scorer for the Warriors. This past season he shot career highs in both field goal percentage, 44.4, and three point percentage, 41.7.

New coach Steve Kerr will surely look to find ways to replicate the same perimeter production from Thompson. The pairing of Thompson and Stephen Curry gives the Warriors two of the most dangerous threats from deep in the league. Thompson is best known for his three-point shooting but that certainly isn’t the only thing he brings to the table. He has developed into a good defender and is becoming better at attacking off the dribble. Look for him to keep improving those areas while continuing to be one the top three point shooters in the league.

Lance Stephenson

The Hornets made one of the bigger offseason signings by bringing in Stephenson from the Pacers. Stephenson signed a three-year deal, worth $27.4 million to join the Hornets. While with the Pacers, Stephenson showed his ability to influence the game in a number of different ways; he has a unique combination of strength and quickness that makes him a difficult matchup for most players. He has no problem blowing past bigger defenders but also can muscle his way to the rim against smaller guards. Stephenson doesn’t just rely on his impressive physique to make plays; he is a more than capable ball handler and is able to create scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates. Last season with the Pacers, he led the team in assists per game (4.6), finished second in rebounding per game (7.2) and was third in scoring (13.2).

The Hornets will hope that Stephenson can have the same type of impact on their emerging squad. The team, at times, struggled to score the ball and those problems were magnified in postseason play. Stephenson will come in and give the team another play-making guard outside of Kemba Walker. The addition of Stephenson will take a lot of pressure off Walker on the offensive end as he was relied upon heavily to create scoring chances. Stephenson also brings playoff experience to a team that is looking to take the next step. It seems like a great fit for both sides and one that should prove to be mutually beneficial.

Dion Waiters

By now, everyone is aware of the Cavs’ big offseason. The team was able to not only reunite with LeBron James, but bring in another superstar in Kevin Love. Those two along with Kyrie Irving will make for a dynamic offensive attack in Cleveland. However, one player who may be a bit overlooked after the team’s big additions is third-year guard Dion Waiters. In his brief time in the NBA, Waiters has shown that one thing he can do is score the ball. Despite only starting in 71 of the 131 games he has played in, Waiters has a career scoring average of 15.3 points per game. That number may take a dip as he will certainly lose shots to James and Love, but he should become a much more efficient player.

The biggest concern for Waiters is his shot selection. With James and Love now at his disposal, along with Irving, it will be important that Waiters doesn’t force up bad looks. Having such talented players around him will undoubtedly create some open shots for Waiters. He may have to be patient, but those shots will be there. He will be counted on to capitalize on the opportunities created for him and if he can do so, will make the Cavs nearly impossible to stop. Having the chance to play with and learn from some of the league’s best should really help elevate his game to the next level.

Victor Oladipo

The Magic added another young and talented piece to their roster during the 2013 draft by landing Oladipo. The explosive guard out of Indiana has rare physical gifts and is able to use his impressive athleticism to impact the game on both ends of the floor. During his rookie season, Oladipo started in 44 of the 80 games he played in and displayed the talent that led to him being picked second overall. Among rookies, he finished the season second in scoring at 13.8 points per game, second in steals per game at 1.61 and third in assists per game at 4.1.

The Magic played Oladipo at both point guard and shooting guard during his rookie year, experience that should prove beneficial this year. However, with the addition of rookie Elfrid Payton, Oladipo figures to settle into his more natural position at shooting guard. Oladipo will play a major role on the young Magic and will be counted on on both ends of the court. Look for Oladipo to make a nice jump in his second year and make improvements across the board.

Gordon Hayward

The Jazz made it known just how important they felt Hayward was to their future, matching Charlotte’s lucrative four- year, $63 million offer. With the big contract will come big expectations. Hayward led the team in scoring this past season and will be counted on to be the team’s top scorer going forward. He has prototypical size for the position, which also allows him to play small forward and allows him to get his shot off even when he is tightly guarded. However, Hayward must work to be a more consistent threat from three after shooting only 30.4 percent from deep this past season. That is far below his career average of 36.5 percent; expect him to be much closer to that number this coming season.

Hayward will now be looked at as a cornerstone piece for the Jazz, as they hope to turn things around. Hayward will be penciled in as the team’s go-to player for the duration of his contract. If the team hopes to build a winner, production from Hayward will be paramount. Hayward will have every chance to break out and have a big year for the Jazz.

Honorable Mention

Tim Hardaway Jr.

Hardaway Jr. quickly proved to be one of the steals of the 2013 draft. He dropped all to the way to the Knicks, picking at 24, before being selected. It didn’t take long to see that many teams missed on a very good outside shooter. Hardaway Jr. developed into a valuable piece coming off of the Knicks’ bench, providing the team with another three-point threat behind J.R. Smith. He led all rookies in three point shots made, knocking down 130 in his first NBA season. He has room to improve in terms of his efficiency (he shot 36.3 percent from deep), but for a rookie you could do a lot worse.

Hardaway Jr. will likely start this season coming off the bench again behind Smith. While he may come off the bench he will play an important role for the Knicks and new coach Derek Fisher. Don’t be surprised if Hardaway Jr. works his way into the Sixth Man of the Year conversation when the season wraps up.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

With Jodie Meeks sidelined for up to two months with a back injury, KCP will have the chance to prove he can be the starter. Caldwell-Pope excelled this July playing on the Pistons’ Summer League team. He led all scorers in the Orlando league, averaging 24 points per game. He will now have the chance to build off that momentum as he will likely see significant minutes for the Pistons. If he can step up and provide the team with consistent production, it may be hard for Meeks to get into the starting line-up upon his return.

These players all have the chance to have big seasons and establish themselves as great shooting guards. Make sure to leave a comment and let us know who you think the next great shooting guard will be.

This is John's second year with Basketball Insiders, after spending last season working as an intern. Based out of Milwaukee, he covers the NBA with a focus on the Milwaukee Bucks and the Central Division.

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NBA

NBA Daily: Danuel House Optimistic About Future

David Yapkowitz speaks to Danuel House about life as a two-way player for the Houston Rockets & what he hopes comes out of his time in the G League with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

David Yapkowitz

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Opportunity is everything in the NBA. Last season’s implementation of two-way contracts gave a lot more players potential opportunities in the league that may not have been previously available.

One player who has used two-way contracts to showcase himself and really prove that he belongs in the NBA is Danuel House Jr.

House actually began his career two years ago as an undrafted rookie with the Washington Wizards. However, he suffered a wrist injury only about a month into the 2016-17 season.

He was subsequently cut by the Wizards and used the summer to heal up before joining the Houston Rockets for training camp prior to the start of last season. He ended up being one of the final cuts in camp, and he joined the Rockets’ G League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

His strong play earned him a two-way contract with the Phoenix Suns after only two months of G League play. This year, he rejoined the Vipers, only to earn another two-way contract with the Rockets. Having had some experience now with a two-way, it’s something that House sees as being beneficial.

“It’s got its good perks and its bad perks. But then the NBA is just trying to open more doors for more guys to be seen and have an opportunity,” House told Basketball Insiders. “I think it’s a good idea, it’s gonna work the kinks out so it can be more beneficial to the players. It’s still new and it’s still trending and working itself through the NBA.”

This season has been a bit of a whirlwind for House. He initially joined the Golden State Warriors for training camp, only to have them cut him before the start of the season. After spending about a month with the Vipers, the Rockets called him up, only to cut him and then eventually re-sign him to a two-way deal.

Due to injuries in the Rockets lineup, House saw meaningful minutes right away, even being placed in Houston’s starting lineup. He had some solid performances down the stretch of last season with the Suns, but this season he really looked the part of a legitimate NBA rotation player.

When a player signs a two-way deal, they are allotted a maximum of 45 days of NBA service, meaning that the rest of the time they must remain in the G League. If a player exceeds the 45-day limit, they must be sent back down to the G League unless they’re able to reach an agreement on a standard contract with the NBA team.

Because of the Rockets’ necessity of House in the rotation, he used up his NBA days last month. He and the Rockets were unable to agree on a contract, so he returned to the G League with the Vipers. While there haven’t been many updates as of late, he’s still hopeful that something can work out with the Rockets.

“Hopefully I can go back to Houston and compete for a title. There’s nothing like learning from James [Harden] and Chris Paul, Gerald Green, Eric Gordon and those guys,” House told Basketball Insiders. “And now with the additions of [Iman] Shumpert and Kenneth Faried, I’m just excited to hopefully get something done so I can be out there and competing with those guys.”

Initially, House wasn’t playing with the Vipers upon returning to the team. But he made his return to the court a few weeks ago on Feb 8. In that game, House shook off some initial rust and ended up having a solid performance including hitting the game-winning free-throws.

In the past, the G League was often times seen as a punishment for NBA players. The league didn’t have that great of a reputation, but over the past few years that image has started to change. The competition has gotten a lot stronger, and according to House, there are plenty of guys who are that close to making it to the NBA.

“The competition here is real. There’s a lot of dudes out here that got a lot of talent that they can showcase. They just want their one opportunity, their one chance that I was so fortunate and blessed with,” House told Basketball Insiders. “I know not to come out here and take it for granted, that’s why I’m playing hard and of course still trying to be a student of the game and learn.”

Recently, during a media availability session, Rockets star and perennial MVP candidate James Harden expressed hope that the Rockets and House could work something out. Harden told reporters that they all know how good House is and what he brings to the team.

In 25 games for the Rockets this season – including 12 starts – House put up nine points per game while shooting 45.8 percent from the field and 39 percent from the three-point line. He’s in the mold of a three-and-D type player, but he also moves well without the ball on cuts to the rim and can attack the basket as well.

“My role was to play defense and make the right read,” House told Basketball Insiders. “Shoot when I’m open, drive, attack the rack, and run the floor. Of course, defend and rebound and make good reads. It was easy.”

As it stands, the Rockets have 12 players on their roster, and a pair of two-way deals for House and Vincent Edwards. House is not eligible to rejoin the Rockets until the G League season concludes. Even then, he won’t be eligible to play in the playoffs as per two-way deal restrictions.

The Rockets will need to add at least two players to get up to the league-mandated 14 players on the roster. House would appear to be a good candidate for one of those spots, but that remains to be seen. But regardless of whether or not it works out in Houston, House is confident that he’s done enough to prove he belongs in the NBA.

“It gave me the utmost confidence, but my hard work, my passion, and my faith in the man upstairs gave me the ability. I asked him to guide me through the journey and he’s been taking care of me,” House told Basketball Insiders. “I’m so grateful that the opportunities and I used my ability to perform and do something I love to take care of my family.”

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PODCAST: Checking In On Clippers & Lakers, East Arms Race, Warriors’ Challengers

Basketball Insiders Deputy Editor Jesse Blancarte and Writer James Blancarte evaluate the L.A. teams after the trade deadline, break down the Eastern Conference contenders, and look for the Warriors’ biggest challengers.

Basketball Insiders

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Basketball Insiders Deputy Editor Jesse Blancarte and Writer James Blancarte evaluate the L.A. teams after the trade deadline, break down the Eastern Conference contenders, and look for the Warriors’ biggest challengers.

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NBA

NBA Daily: Ujiri Leading Golden Era of Raptors Basketball

Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri has taken big risks in going all in for the 2019 season and – with a potentially shortened window – it’s the right move, writes Lang Greene.

Lang Greene

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The Toronto Raptors (43-16) are on pace for their fourth consecutive 50-plus win season and barring a collapse of epic proportions will shortly secure their sixth straight trip to the playoffs.

Make no mistake, this is the golden era of Raptors basketball. Period.

The easiest thing in the world to do is play a situation safe. Minimize risk and accept the near certain outcome. Heading into the season, as previously constructed, the Raptors were already on a trajectory to reach 50 wins and secure a playoff berth. However, Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri made the risky decision to turn off cruise control and go all in on a championship this season.

The reason was simple – five straight trips to the Eastern Conference playoffs netted only one trip past the second round and some seriously embarrassing postseason eliminations. So sure, the franchise could have stayed the course with the previous roster framework, but realistic title aspirations were a stretch at best.

To begin the roster reconstruction, the Raptors traded All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan, big man Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first round pick to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for 2014 NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and veteran guard Danny Green.

Green and Leonard immediately provided Toronto with championship heart and grit, something lacking from the team in year’s past. The trade was a huge risk for Ujiri with free agency looming this summer for Leonard (and Green) and having to say goodbye to DeRozan, a homegrown talent and the franchise’s all-time leading scorer.

Toronto rolled early this season and have remained near the top of the Eastern Conference standings, but Ujiri doubled down at the trade deadline by acquiring former Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol in exchange for Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, C.J. Miles and a 2024 second-round draft pick.

In just over six months, Ujiri was able to acquire two former Defensive Player of the Year award winners while gutting his roster of familiar faces fans came to know during the team’s recent run to prominence.

The Raptors currently sit one game out of the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The moves are driving results and most believe the Raptors are legitimate title contenders. But the risk for the franchise is most definitely real. Gasol, Leonard and Green are all expected to hit the unrestricted free agency market this summer which could leave the franchise facing a real possibility of losing all for nothing in return.

The prospect of losing Leonard and Gasol would undoubtedly take Toronto from the top of the East to a club scrapping to even make a playoff run in 2020. Ujiri went all in for a title this season. Leonard’s future is uncertain and so is Gasol’s. But the prospect of truly competing for a title was too tantalizing to pass up after years of setbacks around playoff time.

Inevitably all teams must go through a time of rebuilding or reloading. Despite Toronto’s previous success, their window was limited in nature and closing rapidly, so you have to admire Ujiri’s daring to be great mindset.

For reference, the Atlanta Hawks reached the postseason 10 consecutive times from 2008-2017 but the franchise’s front office played it relatively safe during their run devoid of any major moves. The Hawks watched All-Star performers Al Horford and Paul Millsap ultimately leave for nothing in return. Atlanta’s rebuild is in good shape with guard Trae Young, big man John Collins and an additional lottery pick this season.

However, the team never swung for the fences during their run – something Ujiri wouldn’t let happen – despite the huge risks needed to be potentially a champ.

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