Top of the Class: Shooting Guards

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While the NBA has become a point guard’s league, there are still some quality shooting guards that make a big impact on the game.

In Basketball Insiders’ latest series, we are evaluating the top players at each position. We recently looked at the elite point guards in the league. Today, we’ll break down the NBA’s best two-guards.

6. Danny Green (San Antonio Spurs)

Veteran sharpshooter Danny Green cashed in on his consistent production on both ends of the court when he re-signed with the Spurs on a four-year, $40 million deal. That was less than what he was projected to receive on the open market, but who would pass on a chance to be a part of the winning Spurs culture, especially with LaMarcus Aldridge and David West now on board as well?  He shoots nearly 42 percent from deep, which is so valuable in the Spurs’ system. He also plays tenacious and smart defense and is therefore the ultimate 3-and-D guy for San Antonio. His TS% is fifth among two-guards at 59.6 percent.

5. DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors)

DeRozan has been the face of the Raptors for quite some time and has been moving up the ranks of shooting guards over the years. Last year, he was fourth among shooting guards in points per game at 20.1. He is ninth in PER at 17.46. DeRozan was fifth in rebounding, averaging 4.6 boards per game, and 10th in assists at 3.5. With the addition of DeMarre Carroll and DeRozan continuing to make big strides, the Raptors could get to the next level.

4. Dwyane Wade (Miami HEAT)

Though Wade is by far the oldest of all these shooting guards, he is still competing at a high level. Last season, Wade was third among all shooting guards in points per game, averaging 21.5 points a night. He was second among shooting guards in PER at 21.44. He has shown some signs of decline and has had some issues staying healthy, but he’s still a well-rounded, two-way threat. He can impact games on both ends of the floor, while also providing leadership and a high basketball IQ, keeping Wade among the top-tier shooting guards. Alongside Goran Dragic, Chris Bosh, Luol Deng and Hassan Whiteside, Wade leads a talented Miami team that should be a playoff team in 2015-16 if they can stay healthy.

3. Jimmy Butler (Chicago Bulls)

Butler is securely entrenched as the best defender of these shooting guards and was third among two-guards in PER at 21.33. He was named an All-Star in his fourth NBA season and also won last year’s Most Improved Player award. In other words, all signs point to Butler being a star in the league for many years to come (barring injury). His steady demeanor on the court and lock-down defense along with his selective scoring punch put him third on this list. Last year, he averaged 20 points (third among shooting guards) and 5.8 boards (most among SGs) along with 3.3 assists.

2. Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)

Like Butler, the sharpshooting Thompson became an All-Star at age 25. He shot a 59.1 percent TS% (sixth-best among shooting guards). He was second in scoring among two-guards, averaging 21.7 points per game alongside MVP Stephen Curry as part of the Warriors’ famous “Splash Brothers.” Thompson cashed in on his excellent play with a new contract that starts this year. The way he defends, does the little things, runs around screens, comes off picks and drains shot after shot make Thompson so good. He will be a mainstay in this league for quite some time.

1. James Harden (Houston Rockets)

“The Beard” is the best shooting guard in the league and, after his breakout campaign last year, it’s not particularly close. He was first among two-guards in PER (26.76), points per game (27.4) and assists (7.0). He was second in rebounds at 5.7 per game (only 0.1 behind first-place Jimmy Butler). He was third in TS% at 60.5 percent. He is significantly better than the next best shooting guard and his defense has really improved. While he lost out on the MVP award this year to Stephen Curry, there’s no denying he had an excellent season and carried the Rockets.

Honorable Mentions:

Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers) – Kobe is the ultimate honorable mention. If he is healthy, he could potentially still be in the top six somewhere, but he’d have to stay healthy for a while. Last year in limited time, he had the seventh-best PER among two-guards at 17.69. He led this list for over a decade, but is just over his peak now.

Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks) – Middleton used to extremely under the radar, but not anymore. He had a breakout 2014-15 campaign and will get $14.7 million from Milwaukee this upcoming year. He averaged 13.4 points per game for the Bucks last year on 56.3 TS%, while playing excellent defense. Oh yeah, and he is only 23 years old and going into his fourth year in the league. Keep an eye on him.

Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards) – Beal averaged 15.3 points for the Wizards alongside his backcourt partner John Wall last year. His PER was 14.02 (which is just below average), which is one reason he falls to the honorable mention list. He is a year younger than Middleton at only 22 years old, also going into his fourth year in the league. His arrow will be pointing up for many years to come.

Lou Williams (Los Angeles Lakers)- After winning Sixth Man of the Year last season with the Toronto Raptors, Williams heads to Los Angeles where he will likely have an even bigger role on this young Lakers team. He is fifth among all shooting guards in player efficiency rating (PER) at 19.90. His 56.4 true shooting percentage (TS%) is 13th among two-guards. Williams is a potent bench scorer who averaged 15.5 points per game for Toronto last year and might even get more shot attempts in Los Angeles in 2015-16. His spark for the second unit will be quite valuable for the Lakers.

Tyreke Evans (New Orleans Pelicans)– Last year, Evans’ PER was 17.77 and he averaged 16.6 points per game for the emerging Pelicans. His versatility allows him to play multiple positions, and we’ll see if he can continue to expand his game this season.

J.J. Redick (Los Angeles Clippers)– Last year, Redick’s TS% was an impressive 62.2 percent. He is the perfect two-way role player for a contender like the Los Angeles Clippers.

Wesley Matthews (Dallas Mavericks)– Matthews certainly cashed in on DeAndre Jordan’s change of heart, as Dallas increased his contract to $70 million over the next four years once the big man returned to the Clippers. The above-average “3-and-D” guy will turn out to be a solid addition to the Mavericks and he will be heavily featured as a cornerstone of their team. It remains to be seen how he’ll recover from his Achilles injury.

Victor Oladipo (Orlando Magic)– An up-and-coming two-guard, Oladipo is a great defender, improving scorer and the young leader of the Magic’s squad. He was sixth in scoring among shooting guards last season at 17.9 points per game and is just starting to blossom. He played very well toward the end of last season.

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