Most teams rely heavily on their shooting guard to produce points. A two-guard is expected to be one of the team’s better outside shooters and also have the ability to penetrate the lane, draw fouls and finish around the rim. Defensively, they are tasked with stopping some of the best athletes in the game. It’s a position that has produced some of the most talented and entertaining players the game has ever seen. Over the past 25 years, the NBA has been fortunate enough to witness some exceptional play from shooting guards. The late 80s and 90s were dominated by Michael Jordan, but he wasn’t the only great two-guard, as Clyde Drexler and Reggie Miller among others also excelled before passing the torch to Kobe Bryant and Co. Bryant, who will look to continue his successful career this year, went on to win five titles. More recently, Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen have dominated the position, and both appear to be locks for the Hall of Fame.
The position continues to produce some of the top scorers in the game today. James Harden has excelled scoring the ball in Houston’s uptempo style of play. Harden, a two-time All-Star and a two-time All-NBA team member (first team in 2014 and third team in 2013), currently holds the title as the best shooting guard in the game. In Toronto, DeMar DeRozan has really come on strong, making his first All-Star appearance this past season. Both players have been recognized by the league for their strong play, but there are number of young two-guards attempting to catch them, eager to prove that they deserve the same type of respect.
Here are five shooting guards on the rise:
Stephen Curry may be the most recognizable name on the Warriors, but his backcourt mate Klay Thompson certainly deserves some praise as well. After only three seasons as a pro, Thompson has already developed into one of the most prolific three-point shooters in the league. He finished third in three-point shots made in both 2012-13 and 2013-14, shooting 40.9 percent from downtown over those two seasons. The combination of Thompson and Curry gives the Warriors the most dangerous perimeter shooting duo in the league. While Thompson has made a name for himself shooting the ball, he is more than just a one dimensional player. Thompson has shown the ability to be a solid defender, with the Warriors even citing his defense as a reason why they were hesitant to include Thompson in a deal for Kevin Love. He also has the ability to get to the rim should his defender over commit to contesting his jump shot. Thompson has had the chance to further his game this summer as a member of Team USA, playing with and against some of the best players in the world as Team USA prepares for the FIBA World Cup. Thompson will be a key contributor for the Warriors this season, and for many to come.
After spending the first four years of his career in Indiana, Lance Stephenson now finds himself with the Charlotte Hornets. The Hornets struggled mightily on offense this past season, finishing 23rd in the league in points scored per game, relying heavily on their defense to win games. Stephenson will look to bring the same play-making ability he showed with the Pacers to help spark the Hornets’ stagnate offense. His addition gives the Hornets another player not named Kemba Walker who has the ability to create shots, not only for himself, but for his teammates as well. Stephenson has steadily improved every year since entering NBA and has developed into one of the more complete shooting guards in the league. His ability to contribute in a number of different ways makes him one of the more valuable additions of the summer.
It didn’t take long for Oladipo to break through with the Magic last season, cracking the starting lineup in just his 11th game as a pro. He had his ups and downs during his rookie campaign, as most rookies do, but on the whole the Magic had to be very encouraged by what they saw. His athleticism is undeniable, jumping off the screen in a league overflowing with magnificent athletes. Oladipo was able to use that elite athleticism to make plays on both sides of the floor. He finished year averaging 13.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.6 steals. He spent time playing both point guard and shooting guard as the Magic experimented with a number a different lineups. However, this season, with the addition of rookie point guard Elfrid Payton, Oladipo figures to see the majority of his minutes at his more natural position, shooting guard. With Payton now expected to be the primary ball handler, Oladipo should see his turnover rate decrease. Look for Oladipo to continue to build off his strong rookie season with an even stronger showing in 2014-15.
It was a busy offseason for Gordon Hayward, as the restricted free agent agreed to a four-year, $63 million max offer sheet with the Hornets in early July before Utah matched the offer as expected. Hayward also spent time under the tutelage of Coach K, among others, while trying out for Team USA before just recently being cut. It’s pretty clear why Utah made keeping Hayward a top priority; he led the team in scoring at 16.2 PPG, was second in assists at 5.2 APG and finished third in rebounding at 5.1 RPG. The Jazz are relying heavily on Hayward to contribute in multiple ways. Going into the 2013-14 season, Hayward was a career 40.1 percent shooter from three. However, he struggled last season shooting just 30.4 percent. Expect him to bounce back this upcoming year and shoot much closer to his career average. Hayward will be a cornerstone piece for the young Jazz going forward. It will be up to him, along with new head coach Quin Snyder, to lead a young and talented group to the next level.
Of all the players listed, Beal might just have the highest ceiling of the group. After only two years in the league, it’s already evident that he is on his way to having a very long and successful career. He started in all 73 of the games he played in this past season and was a key contributor alongside star point guard John Wall. While Beal may have had a strong season, the playoffs were where he really put his name on the map; in 11 playoff games, he averaged over 41 minutes per game, scoring 19.2 points per game on 41.5 percent shooting from three. With Wall struggling at times, Beal stepped up and provided valuable production from the backcourt. He was unnerved by the weight of the moment and that is something he can take confidence from as he looks forward to next season. At just 21 years old as of this past June, the sky is really the limit for Beal.
With all of the Cavaliers’ newly added firepower, Waiters will presumably receive significantly less attention defensively. He should really benefit from the number of open looks that will be created for him playing alongside LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. Don’t be surprised to see Waiters continue to improve his field goal percentage and become even more efficient playing with the Cavs’ new weapons.
With Thabo Sefolosha now in Atlanta, Lamb will compete with newly acquired Anthony Morrow for the starting shooting guard spot. Lamb will be the favorite heading into training camp and should provide the Thunder with more offense from the position than they had been getting in the past.
Tim Hardaway Jr.
Hardaway looks to be one of the better picks of the 2013 draft. He showed a nice shooting stroke from three and gave the Knicks quality minutes all season. He gives new head coach Derek Fisher a talented option at shooting guard outside of the enigmatic J.R. Smith and inconsistent Iman Shumpert.
KCP was the star of the Orlando Summer League, averaging 24 PPG and 7.4 RPG. The combination of KCP and Jodie Meeks should give the Pistons plenty of shooting from the two-guard spot.
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