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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.

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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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