The Era of the Mediocre Shooting Guard
What happened to the shooting guard position over the last 3-5 seasons? The shooting guard position has changed drastically over the years due to the rapid development of the point guards and small forward’s offensive production.
In the 80s and early 90s the point guards main responsibility was to set the offense up, score about 12-15 points, and not turn the ball over. Also, small forwards main skillset typically was a great on-ball defender with elite athleticism and usually limited offensively. In the modern era both positions are usually the best players on their teams and are expected to handle majority of the team’s offensive production. The talent from top to bottom of the shooting guards position has significantly declined in various ways such as All-Star appearances, overall statistical value and pure talent. However, throughout the history of the NBA the shooting guard position has given us some of the greatest players of all time, from Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant to Allen Iverson and Ray Allen. Furthermore, you could argue that shooting guards are not only the most valuable but, possibly even the most popular position in the history of the NBA.
You may ask the question what defines a great shooting guard? Is it the competitiveness and heart of Michael Jordan or the work ethic and flat out scoring ability of Kobe Bryant? Maybe its quickness and athleticism of Allen Iverson or Ray Allen’s uncanny ability to shoot the ball.
In today’s NBA, the top 4 best shooting guards are considered by many to be James Harden, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, and DeMar DeRozan. These 4 players have combined for 10 NBA All-Star Appearances, 2 NBA championships and 5 All-NBA selection teams. Although these players combined to average a solid 23.8 PPG, none of them have claimed the leagues scoring title. Since the decline and retirement of Kobe Bryant’s career, the league is waiting on the next hall of fame caliber shooting guard.
Where is this type of player? Per CBS sports 9 of the top 50 greatest players of All-Time players were shooting guards. However, out of the top 10 shooting guards in the league today, only 2 may be considered Hall of Fame worthy. Although these 2 players (Harden and Thompson) are affective their skill sets differ drastically. Harden is elite on the offensive end, averaging 27 PPG over the last 4 seasons along with 7 assists. Although he is a great offensively he struggles on the defensive and as a leader of a franchise. Thompson, who averages 19.1 PPG over his six-year career is an elite sharpshooter and defensively specialist with great height and length for his position. To his detriment Thompson, like many of the other shooting guards, isn’t considered the best player on his team. In fact, only 2 teams (Raptors and Rockets) can definitively say their best player resides at the shooting guard position. This is stark contrast to the previous era where we saw the players such as Kobe Bryant, Brandon Roy, Michael Redd, Tracy McGrady, and Vince Carter dominated the league.
Fortunately for the shooting guard position there is hope, up and coming superstars such as Devin Booker and C.J. McCollum are steadily improving and have unbelievable potential. This season Booker scored 70 points in a game, which is the most points since Kobe Bryant scored 81 in 2006. McCollum is also coming off a great season, averaging 23 PPG while shooting 42 percent from three. Also, new draftees such as Markelle Fultz and Malik Monk have the potential to resurrect the dying shooting guard position.
Until then where do the current shooting guards go from here? They must continue to develop their games, win championships, and turn back the clock to continue the legacy of the great shooting guards that came before them.