The NBA’s Top Ten Shooting Guards

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Celtics news is still slower than Arvydas Sabonis in quicksand, and yesterday – as has been the pattern - the news was that there may be Marquis Daniels news in the near future. Due to the painfully slow nature of Celtics news, we’ve started a little something that will be an annual rite of summer – the Celtics Town positional rankings, where we will rank the top ten current players at every position. Without further ado, check out the shooting guards, where Michael Jordan established his throne and transformed a shooting guard’s role.

Honorable mention

In no particular order: Andre Iguodala, Michael Redd (without injuries, he’d be in the top ten), Tracy McGrady (prior to injuries, he was easily in the top five), Tony Allen (maybe in the top 100), Jason Terry

10. Ben Gordon

If scoring were the only criteria for a good shooting guard, Gordon would be a lot higher than number ten. The former UConn Husky can score, and score in bunches. He has little to no conscience but, for Gordon, that’s a good thing – he makes tough shots seem mighty easy, especially when he’s playing well.

Sadly, the game isn’t only about scoring, and other aspects of basketball, such as defense, rebounding, and passing, are where Gordon falls below the rest of the elite shooting guard competition. For a one-trick player, I’d say $58 million over five years is a little, maybe even a lot, too much. But he’ll certainly give the Pistons some scoring punch.

9. Richard Hamilton

The second position in the top ten, the second Detroit Piston. With Rodney Stuckey, Ben Gordon and Rip Hamilton all in the same backcourt, I don’t know how rookie head coach John Kuester will divvy out the minutes, but I do know this…

If Kuester decides to cut Hamilton’s minutes, he’ll be making a mistake. The long-time Piston does so many things well on a basketball court, and always seems to be in the right spot. He comes off screens as well as anybody in the NBA, scores efficiently, and is a very good defender, too. On top of all that, Hamilton’s a proven winner and a selfless player. Memo to Kuester: Just play Rip.

8. Kevin Martin

It must be hard for Martin, saddled in Sacramento without much (any?) talent surrounding him. I wanted to fault Martin for not winning enough, and then I looked at his roster: last year, Martin was flanked in the starting lineup by Francisco Garcia, Spencer Hawes, Jason Thompson and Beno Udrih. Martin would be better off playing with my grandmother and my three dogs.

Playing with the seriously talent-deprived Kings, it’s hard to blame all the losses on Martin - Michael Jordan couldn’t even have led that team to the playoffs. Martin has an ugly game - have you ever seen that jumper? – but gets the job done. Year after year, Martin raises his point totals while maintaining his efficiency. It’d be nice to see Martin with some decent NBA talent around him, but for now we’ll just have to say that Martin is one hell of a solid player.

7. Vince Carter

If basketball were all about talent, Vince Carter would undoubtedly be well on his way to the Hall Of Fame, and surely would be one of the best shooting guards of all-time. As athletic as any player ever to play in the NBA, Vince also possesses an advanced offensive game, with a nice three-point shot and above-average playmaking skills. It’s really too bad he has to have the heart of The Grinch.

Vince, for much of his career, has coasted through games, failing to exert his best effort and never reaching his vast potential. He’s had a great career, but one that nevertheless has left fans, analysts, coaches and teammates yearning for more. If he ever wants to change his legacy, his time with Orlando might be his last chance, but, for now, Vince Carter is an underachiever.

6. Ray Allen

The guys behind Ray may have scored more points last season, but were they helping their teams be championship contenders? Didn’t think so. Ray can still score the rock (in his last season before joining the Celtics, Allen scored a career-high 26.4 points), but has successfully sacrificed his game, just like the other members of the Big Three, to help Boston win games.

In Boston, Ray’s scoring totals are down, but he can still shoot the ball with the best of them, and has proven to be a better all-around player than advertised. Beyond his scoring, Allen’s defense has been pivotal in the C’s quest for championship 17, and now, championship 18. When his time in the NBA is over, Ray Allen will have a plaque in Springfield, MA, but right now he’ll have to settle for being one of the NBA’s best shooting guards.

5. Manu Ginobili

Manu Ginobili tends to get injured – a lot – and, even when he does play, he often comes off the bench. He doesn’t score as much as a lot of the other guys on this list, and doesn’t play as many minutes. So why is Ginobili rated so high?

Because he has been pivotal in three Spurs championship seasons and, when healthy, is their go-to guy in crunch-time. Last season, while the Spurs were getting hammered by an equally old and washed-up Dallas Mavericks team, Ginobili proved his worth just by sitting on the sidelines in street clothes.

Tim Duncan has been the Spurs’ best player for a long time and Tony Parker was arguably their best player last year, but Ginobili may be their most important. Gregg Popovich said about Ginobili, “He is an amazing competitor... one of the most unbelievable competitors I have ever seen.” And he’s right – Tim Duncan may be the Spurs’ best player and Tony Parker their floor general, but Manu Ginobili is their heart and soul.

4. Joe Johnson

It was really worth it when the Celtics traded Joe Johnson away for Rodney Rogers and Tony Delk, huh? Years later, after the Celtics found a way to swindle the Minnesota Timberwolves and win a championship, I can laugh about the trade, but for years that trade was proof of the Celtics’ inept front office.

Since that trade, Joe Johnson has been ho-hum in becoming one of the NBA’s best all-around players, a 6’7” 240 lb. package of skill and physicality. Johnson, in his ever-steady demeanor and play, has helped to transform the Hawks from laughingstocks of the NBA to a team banging on the door of championship contenders. Johnson, by all accounts, is a quiet person, but his game does a lot of talking for him.

3. Brandon Roy

Brandon Roy plays basketball seemingly effortlessly, with a smooth game that camouflages his world-class athleticism. Whenever I see Roy glide past a defender for an easy, and breathtaking, dunk, I never fail to be surprised. “How did he do that? He doesn’t even seem athletic! That came out of nowhere!”

But that’s how Brandon Roy plays. He lulls you to sleep with his smoothness, and then, in a flash, he’s by you and scoring a bucket. Roy has one of the most visually pleasing games in the league, and is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with.

2. Dwyane Wade

An absolute wrecking ball with the ball in his hands, Wade is as relentless a basketball player as I’ve ever seen play the game, living by his commercial’s mantra “Fall seven times. Stand up eight.” Battling severe injuries, it often seemed like Wade’s glory years might be behind him, like the 2006 championship might have been the peak of Wade’s short but brilliant run at the top.

Instead, Wade stood up one more time, returning to the old Dwyane Wade and taking home a scoring title while leading an undermanned Heat team to the East’s fifth seed and a berth in the playoffs. Once again, Wade is one of the league’s best players, and a joy to watch for his tenacity, athleticism and bold competitiveness.

1. Kobe Bryant

There will never be another Michael Jordan. The NBA’s best player ever, Jordan was, perhaps, the most competitive man to ever play in the NBA, its most electric performer, and one of the best winners, too. All that said, Kobe Bryant has come as close as anybody else to reaching MJ’s superhuman level.

The most polished player in today’s NBA, Bryant has an array of moves unmatched by anybody else. He has the league’s best footwork and can get any shot he wants, whenever he wants. Often times, I find his shot-creating ability to be his greatest weakness as well as his greatest strength, as Bryant often settles for jumpers that mere mortals wouldn’t even think of attempting. Still, he manages to make a high percentage of those shots and remains, unquestionably, one of the NBA’s top two players.

With an unparalleled work ethic to go with his world-class athleticism, it’s no wonder Kobe Bryant has accumulated four rings, an MVP trophy and a couple scoring titles. There will never be another Michael Jordan, but Kobe Bryant has done a great job of attempting to match Jordan’s accomplishments.


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