With the preseason already underway and the regular season only weeks down the road, it is the perfect time to project who the best shooting guards in the NBA will be for 2014-15. After a down year in 2013-14, this season should be a much better for the 2-guard spot for numerous reasons. Some good young talent has started to develop, some players have found new teams with more opportunity to shine and one of the best players in recent memory is back on the floor and looking to regain his spot as the best shooting guard in the league.
Here is a look at who the best shooting guard in the league will be for the 2014-15.
Note: the reason why Gordon Hayward doesn’t make the list is because he will more than likely play much of the upcoming season at the small forward position.
15. Arron Afflalo, Denver Nuggets: after a career-year in his second season with the Magic, Afflalo is back in Denver where he first proved he could be a contributor in the NBA. Now that he is on a playoff contending team look for Afflalo to improve on his 18.2 points per game playing next to Ty Lawson.
14. Dion Waiters, Cleveland Cavaliers: Waiters had a solid second year, but it wasn’t enough for the Cavaliers to make the playoffs. This time around he has plenty of help thanks to the arrival of Kevin Love and LeBron James. With so many offensive weapons on the floor, Waiters should have plenty of clean looks and space to operate in the open floor. If he can improve his outside shooting numbers, that could lead to a big year.
13. Jamal Crawford, Los Angeles Clippers: The reigning sixth man of the year showed that he had plenty of game left in the tank in his second year with the Clippers. Playing next to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin allowed Crawford the freedom to take and make big shots which led to his third highest scoring average (18.6) in his 14-year career. With more time available, Crawford should have another impressive year coming off the bench.
12. Wesley Matthews, Portland Trail Blazers: after the best scoring output of his young career (16.4 points per game), helped the Blazers reach the playoffs, Matthews proved he could compete with the best guards in the league. In a first round match-up with the Houston Rockets, Matthews had a pair of 20-point performances against James Harden, including a 27-point outburst as the Blazers won in six games. With another year of experience, Matthews should be even better this year.
11. Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs: Ginobili isn’t the kind of player he used to be, but he still knows how to get it done in the clutch. He was one of the best players for the World Champion San Antonio Spurs a year ago after averaging 12.3 points and 4.3 assists in less than 23 minutes a game. Even though the Spurs will most likely limit his regular season minutes once again, he will still play a huge role in the success of the Spurs.
10. Joe Johnson, Brooklyn Nets: with so many weapons surrounding him in Brooklyn, Johnson hasn’t been asked for the same kind of production since he left Atlanta, but he still has the ability to play at an all-star level. In fact, he made his seventh all-star game in eight years in 2013-14 after he averaged 15.8 points a game. With a new coach and a new system, look for Johnson to have an even better year in 2014-15.
9. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards: in two seasons, Beal has proved to be one of the best young wing scorers in the league (17.1 points per game). He has is a great outside shooter (40.2 percent from 3-point range), who has given the Wizards exactly what they need to play along side John Wall. Look for Beal to be more aggressive off the bounce and to become an all-star level player in year three.
8. Monta Ellis, Dallas Mavericks: Ellis is great off the dribble because he has a solid mid range game and can get to the rim as quickly as anyone in the game this side of Russell Westbrook. He was a great fit in his first year in Dallas (19 points and 5.7 assists per game) as he helped the Mavericks return to the playoffs. With a newly rebuilt roster in 2014-15, look for him to be even better as he takes on even more responsibility as a facilitator with the departure of Jose Calderon.
7. Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix Suns: the Suns saw enough in just 43 games to lock him up with a long-term deal in the off-season and for good reason. He is an explosive young guard with as much upside as any guard in the league. In his limited time with Phoenix in ’13-14, he showed the ability to score the ball, 17.7 points per game, get to the glass (4.7 rebounds per game and find the open man (5.5 assists). He is also a terrific defender because of his quickness. With a year under his belt with Jeff Hornacek look for Bledsoe to continue to get better this time around.
6. DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors: DeRozan had his best season in 2013-14 playing next to Kyle Lowry when he averaged a career-high 22.7 points a night. That earned DeRozan his first trip to the all-star game. He was also good enough to earn a spot on Team USA for the World Cup beating out the likes of Bradley Beal, Chandler Parsons and Gordon Hayward along the way. With the added international experience and the return of Lowry, expect another huge year for DeRozan.
5. Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors: Thompson isn’t the most well-rounded player on the list, But he just may be the best pure shooter of the bunch. He has a smooth stroke from the outside (41.7 percent from 3-point range) and an excellent midrange game. After a solid season, he had a good summer as the main weapon coming off the bench for Mike Krzyzewski and Team USA. During that time, he showed that he is more than willing to take and make the big shot. With that added confidence, Thompson will have an even better season in ’14-15.
4. Lance Stephenson, Charlotte Hornets: after playing four seasons with the Indiana Pacers where he showed a great deal of progress, Stephenson earned a big contract to play for the up-an-coming Charlotte Hornets. In his new situation, he should have more opportunities on the offensive end of the floor (11.2 field goal attempts per game in ’13-14, according to Basketball-reference.com). With more chances to thrive offensively and some nice pieces surrounding him (namely Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker), look for Stephenson to have his best season by far on offense to go along with some outstanding defense.
3. Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat: LeBron James passed the torch back to Wade when he decided to return to the Cavaliers and there is no way that Wade will let it distinguish without a fight. Although he has been limites by injuries the last few years, he is still one of premier perimeter players in the game. The 10-time all-star will need to carry much more of the load with the Heat and he still has enough left to do it.
2. James Harden, Houston Rockets: Harden has one of the most effective offensive games of any player in the NBA. He has nice outside touch, can take even the best defenders off the dribble and draws an unreal amount of fouls (665 free-throw attempts in 73 games in ’13-14), because of his creativity. Even with a next-level offensive game, the reason he doesn’t land at the No. 1 spot is because he struggles on the defensive side of the floor. Neither of those things will change this year as the Rockets will try to make it out of the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.
1. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers: Bryant appeared in only six games in ’13-14 and finished with just 13.8 points, 6.3 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 5.7 turnovers a night before his season ended in December. Dont expect him to repeat that kind of output now that he is healthy. The 16-time all-star has far too much drive and determination to let that happen. While he may not return to the form he had two years ago (27.3 points, 6 assists and 5.6 rebounds in 78 games), he will still put up great numbers as the Lakers try to rebound from a very tough year.