In fact, Bryant, Wade and Monta Ellis are the only players over 30 to crack our top 10 rankings at the position.
James Harden, Klay Thompson and Jimmy Butler are the new – and younger – top dogs at the position.
DeMar DeRozan, Bradley Beal and Khris Middleton are three rising young stars listed that could vault within the top five by next season.
Therefore, we at SheridanHoops created a checklist to help evaluate the best shooting guards in the league.
Is the featured shooting guard playing at an All-Star level? Can he create his own shot with the clock winding down? Can he come off a screen and drill a 3-point dagger on the road? Can dunk over multiple defenders while driving down the lane? Is he a shutdown defender? Is he a ball hog that turns the ball over too much instead of moving it? Is he the guy you want taking the big shot with the game on the line?
Most importantly, if you wanted to win the title this season, which shooting guard would you take tomorrow?
With that in mind, we assembled a list of the top 10 shooting guards heading into this season.
1. James Harden, 6-5, 220 pounds, 6 years, Rockets: Harden is coming off career highs in PER (26.7) as well as points (27.4), rebounds (5.7), assists (7.0), steals (1.9) and blocks per game (0.7) while finishing second in the league’s MVP voting. After much criticism about his lackluster defense, Harden challenged himself to be a better defender and actually finished second in defensive win shares (4.2). If the Rockets want to take the next step as title contenders, Harden must have a similar MVP-type performance this season. Few players are as important to their team as Harden, who led the league in win shares (16.4) and total minutes played (2,981).
2. Klay Thompson, 6-7, 205, 4 years, Warriors: Thompson and Stephen Curry form the best backcourt in the game. While Curry gets most of the headlines as the reigning MVP, Thompson came into his own last season as a first-time All-Star and member of the All-NBA Third Team. He can take over a game as he did during his NBA-record 37-point quarter against the Sacramento Kings. Thompson finished second in 3-pointers made (239), fourth in 3-point percentage (.439) and 10th in points per game (21.7) and effective field goal percentage (.555). He also defends very well on the ball.
3. Jimmy Butler, 6-7, 220, 4 years, Bulls: Prior to the start of last season, Butler turned down a four-year, $44 million extension from the Bulls and bet on himself. The bet paid off as he earned a five-year deal worth over $90 million following a breakout campaign. Butler became an All-Star, won the league’s Most Improved Player award and was named to the All-Defensive Second Team for the second consecutive season. In addition, Butler led the league in minutes per game (38.7), was fourth in free throws made (386) and was sixth in offensive rating (122.3) and win shares (11.2). Chicago will lean heavily on Butler again this season with the hope of advancing past the Eastern Conference semifinals.
4. Dwyane Wade, 6-4, 220, 12 years, Heat: At 33, Wade may not be “Flash” anymore, but he can still score 20 points, grab five rebounds and hand out five assists on a given night. The question is whether Wade is healthy enough to do so. Over the past three seasons, Wade has missed 61 games. With that in mind, Wade still remains one of the top players at his position in a shallow overall talent pool and has been an All-Star for 11 consecutive seasons. For his career, Wade has not been an unreliable 29 percent 3-point shooter, but his career overall mark of 49 percent on all field-goal attempts is spectacular for a shooting guard. Wade is also one of my top 10 free agents heading into the summer of 2016. Playing alongside Goran Dragic for a full season should lighten his playmaking responsibilities and keep him fresher over the course of the season.
5. Kobe Bryant, 6-6, 212, 19 years, Lakers: At 37, Bryant is in the twilight of his career and this season could be his last. Many doubt Bryant can return to his All-Star form for the duration of an 82-game season. Over the past two seasons, Bryant has missed 123 of a possible 164 games. There won’t be enough basketballs to go around for Bryant, D’Angelo Russell, Lou Williams and Nick Young to shoot. However, that’s never stopped Bryant from scoring before. With the Lakers projected for the lottery again, it won’t be a Hollywood ending if one of the game’s all-time greats decides to hang up his sneakers.
6. DeMar DeRozan, 6-7, 220, 6 years, Raptors: At 26, DeRozan is entering his prime. The 2014 All-Star can score 20 points any night and has a knack for getting to the foul line often. Last season, DeRozan finished eighth in free throws made (361). New assistant Jerry Stackhouse, a career 17-point per game scorer, will work with DeRozan on his post game. To realize his full potential, DeRozan must develop a consistent jumper; his field goal percentage has dropped in three straight seasons, and he has only shot above 30 percent from downtown in one season. This is also a contract season for DeRozan, who has a player option heading into this summer. I expect him to opt out and become one of the top 10 free agents on the market.
7. Bradley Beal, 6-5, 207, 3 years, Wizards: Beal and John Wall form one of the top backcourt tandems in the league behind Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. At 22, Beal reminds some scouts of a young Ray Allen. For his career, Beal is a 40 percent 3-point shooter. However, he has missed 54 games over three seasons and is looking to play his first full season. Beal has elevated his game in the postseason, always a good sign from a young player. He will be one of the top restricted free agents to hit the market this summer should he and the Wizards not come to terms on a contract extension.
8. Monta Ellis, 6-3, 185, 10 years, Pacers: Indiana signed Ellis to a four-year, $44 million deal over the summer to provide scoring punch. Ellis is a volume scorer who can get 20 points while making plays for others, as his career 4.8 assists per game attest. He also is highly durable for a smaller player, having missed just 12 games in the last five seasons. The knocks against Ellis are his defense and shot selection; roughly 30 percent of his attempts are between 16-24 feet. Depending on Paul George’s return to form, Ellis could lead the Pacers in scoring this season. If Indiana wants to return to the playoffs, he will need to be a consistent scoring option on a nightly basis.
9. Danny Green, 6-6, 215, 6 years, Spurs: At 28, Green signed a four-year, $40 million contract to remain a Spur over the summer. Once waived by San Antonio, Green has transformed himself into a knockdown 3-point shooter and solid defender on the perimeter. Green takes 62 percent of his attempts from the arc and converts 43 percent of his 3-pointers. Green is in the perfect situation with San Antonio as a complementary shooter to spread the floor. When Manu Ginobili hangs up his sneakers, Green will be a bargain at $10 million per year playing increased minutes.
10. Khris Middleton, 6-8, 234, 3 years, Bucks: Middleton signed a five-year, $70 million deal this summer to remain with the Bucks. He has found a home in Milwaukee, where his 40 percent 3-point shooting is vital for a team that struggles to spread the floor on offense. Middleton’s length also allows him to be an effective defender at both wing positions. Along with the signing of Greg Monroe, the return of Jabari Parker and a full season with Michael Carter-Williams running the show, Milwaukee feels it’s a dark horse contender in the East.