Ranking the Top 5 Shooting Guards in the NBA

By Jordan Foote
Oct. 22, 2017

Welcome to the second installment of The Best Foote Forward's "Top 5 in the NBA" series. This week, we'll be ranking the top 5 players at each position in the NBA. I've developed a scoring system for each position that varies based on the importance of each category to the position at hand. Today, we'll be focusing on the shooting guard position. The scoring system is explained below (out of 55 points):

Shooting: Out of 10 points. Ability of the player to efficiently shoot the ball from inside and outside the three-point arc.

Inside Scoring: Out of 10 points. Ability of the player to get to the rim and finish with contact, along with being able to score points under the rim in rebounding situations.

Athleticism: Out of 10 points. Overall athletic ability of the player. Graded based on top-end speed and quickness while handling the ball and vertical ability on jump shots, layups and dunks.

Defense: Out of 10 points. Ability of the player to guard opposing players. Graded based on technique, ability to steal the ball from opponents, overall IQ on defense and defensive real plus-minus.

Passing: Out of 5 points. Ability of the player to make routine passes, difficult passes and distribute the ball on offense. Graded not solely based on assist numbers, but the ability of the player to find the open man and make his team better. This number is out of 5 for shooting guards instead of the 10 used for point guards because these guys aren't called upon to distribute the basketball as much as point guards are.

Rebounding: Out of 5 points. Ability of the player to grab offensive and defensive rebounds.

Durability/Toughness: Out of 5 points. Ability of the player to avoid injuries or play through them.

Understand the system? Good: let's get to the rankings!

5: Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards)

Trust me, it was very tough choosing Beal over CJ McCollum, among other shooting guards, for the fifth spot in these rankings. Beal and McCollum had identical stat lines last season (23 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists per game), but Beal graded out as a better defender than CJ (both graded as negative defenders overall). Beal gets the nod here because he had a career-best season, is two years younger than McCollum and is a better defender (although not by very much). Beal should take another step forward this season and solidify his place in the top 5 among all shooting guards in the league. He brings athleticism, youth and tremendous shooting ability to the table - all very attractive characteristics for folks watching the potential all-star. Beal's ratings on the 55-point scale are as follows:

Shooting - 8

Inside Scoring - 8

Athleticism - 7

Defense - 6

Passing - 2

Rebounding - 2

Durability/Toughness - 3

Overall - 36/55

Strongly Considered/Close Call: CJ McCollum (Portland Trailblazers)

4: DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors)

I am going to get some flak for making this pick, but I'm not too worried about it. Many will point to DeRozan's terrible defense and iffy shooting from behind the arc and immediately write him off. The problem with that is he's so good at everything else. DeRozan is generally regarded as one of the best athletes in the game, and he uses it to his advantage. The 28-year-old guard scored 27 points a game last year on a horrid 26.6% percent from three. Imagine how dominant he could be if he got that shot from deep to even an acceptable level. He's getting by right now on being super athletic and having one of the best mid-range games in the league and so far - it's working out just fine. Throw in 5 rebounds and 4 assists a game, and you've got an all-star. Here are DeRozan's ratings on the 55-point scale:

Shooting - 7

Inside Scoring - 9

Athleticism - 10

Defense - 5

Passing - 2

Rebounding - 3

Durability/Toughness - 4

Overall - 40/55

3: Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)

Klay Thompson is one of the most underrated players in the NBA. Not very many guys can score 22+ a game on 40+ percent from behind the arc, consistently move the ball on offense and play elite defense. Thompson does all three as well as almost anyone in the league. One of the best shooters we've ever seen, Klay makes a perfect running mate for Steph Curry and should have another great year for Golden State. If he can improve on his rebounding and turn some passes into assists, he may jump to the second spot in the rankings next season. Thompson's ratings on the 55-point scale are below:

Shooting - 9

Inside Scoring - 8

Athleticism - 8

Defense - 8

Passing - 2

Rebounding - 2

Durability/Toughness - 5

Overall - 42/55

2: Jimmy Butler (Minnesota Timberwolves)

Jimmy Butler is sometimes looked at as a poor man's Kawhi Leonard, and that's perfectly fine. 24 points a game? Check. Improving three point shot? Check. 6 rebounds and 5 assists per game? Check. 2 steals a game and lockdown defense? You got it. Butler is the complete package at shooting guard. He played small forward for the Bulls last season but will slide to the 2 with Andrew Wiggins playing the 3 in Minnesota. Butler isn't a fantastic shooter and doesn't have an elite offensive arsenal, but he's getting pretty darn close. Take a look at Jimmy Butler's ratings on the 55-point scale:

Shooting - 7

Inside Scoring - 8

Athleticism - 9

Defense - 8

Passing - 4

Rebounding - 4

Durability/Toughness - 4

Overall - 44/55

1: James Harden (Houston Rockets)

Who else did you expect? Harden was the point guard last season for the Rockets but with the addition of Chris Paul, he'll be spending the majority of his time at his natural position once his running mate returns from injury. Harden averaged a career-high 29.1 points per game last season and led the NBA with 11.2 assists per game. Oh yeah - he grabbed 8 boards a game, too. Harden is great at everything but defense. Perhaps the addition of CP3 can take some of the offensive burden off Harden and help him conserve energy for the other end of the court. Without improving on anything at all this season, Harden is still the best shooting guard in the NBA. Anything else is icing on the cake. Here are the Beard's ratings on the 55-point scale:

Shooting - 7

Inside Scoring - 10

Athleticism - 9

Defense - 5

Passing - 5

Rebounding - 5

Durability/Toughness - 5

Overall - 46/55

That's it for the top 5 shooting guards in the NBA. All 5 of these guys are hard to game plan for, but tons of fun to play with. From blazing-fast athleticism to point guard-like passing to, in some cases, elite defense, each player possesses a different skill that makes them unique. Some possess more than one skill. If you started a team today and had any of these five players starting at shooting guard, you'd be in amazing shape moving forward.


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