It’s the start to the NBA season, so you know what that means; I need to rank my top 100 players in the NBA just like I did last year. I began creating the rankings until I realized just how ridiculous it was that I was comparing guys like Lou Williams to guys like Clint Capela. How exactly do you fairly rank them? While they each play their role perfectly, it’s hard to determine whose role is more important to their team, so I scrapped the top 100.
Now, I will be ranking the top 10 at each position (I used Basketball-Reference to determine the positions). Tonight, on the second night of the season, I will rank the top 10 shooting guards in the NBA based on my projections for the upcoming season. Tomorrow, I will rank the small forwards, then the power forwards, and so on.
1. James Harden – Houston Rockets
This shouldn’t surprise anyone too much. Last season’s MVP is quite possibly the best scorer and playmaker currently playing in the NBA. Harden is an unstoppable force, and he is truly the league’s only hope of dethroning the Golden State Warriors.
2. Victor Oladipo – Indiana Pacers
SURPRISE! If you know me, this shouldn’t come as a major surprise to you. Victor Oladipo is undoubtedly the most underrated player in the league. To understand my viewpoint, take look at an article I wrote a couple months ago explaining the greatness of Oladipo.
3. Donovan Mitchell – Utah Jazz
I placed Donovan Mitchell on this list for very similar reasons to Oladipo; he just isn’t as far in his development as the Pacer. In Mitchell’s rookie season, he singlehandedly lead the Utah Jazz offensively to a fifth seed in the intense Western Conference. Following the Jazz’s surprising season where they improved despite losing their star from the season prior, Mitchell carried his dominance into the playoffs while he and Ricky Rubio lead the Utah Jazz to a series victory over Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Before you criticize the choice, take a second to recognize the greatness of the runner-up rookie of the year.
4. Klay Thompson – Golden State Warriors
While Klay Thompson may be the ideal shooting guard in today’s NBA, he has one glaring weakness that allows Oladipo and Mitchell to edge him out- his lack of ball-handling. Klay is an elite scorer, shooter, and defender, but often times he does not create his own offense despite his underrated ability to do so. While you can never be sure, I don’t think you could depend on Klay to lead a team like Mitchell or Oladipo do.
5. Demar DeRozan – San Antonio Spurs
Demar DeRozan is interesting, as he also has one glaring weakness placing him below Klay, Mitchell, and Oladipo- his lack of a three-point shot. If Demar DeRozan were to play in the 1980s, he’d be the perfect shooting guard; athletic, not afraid to take the shot, and an elite MIDRANGE shooter. Midrange; that’s right, not three-point, but midrange. If DeRozan managed to add that three-point shot into his game permanently, there’s no reason why he couldn’t be regarded as one of the top three shooting guards in the league.
6. Jimmy Butler – Minnesota Timberwolves (For Now)
Jimmy Butler has had a controversial offseason. Once he decided he was fed up with the lack of effort shown by the Timberwolves’ youth, he demanded a trade. Following the request, he met with head coach Tom Thibodeau a couple times, following that up with an intense practice including calling out the GM in front of the rest of the team. Whether this shows you that he wants to win more or less, I haven’t seen Jimmy Butler be the go-to offensive player at the end of games, leaving him outside of the top five. I’d feel more comfortable with any of the guys above him with the ball in their hands at the end of the game than him, therefore Butler finds himself at six.
7. Bradley Beal – Washington Wizards
Bradley Beal has had an interesting career, somehow underperforming every year yet still putting together more than a solid career. After two seasons of playing the primary ball-handling role for a substantial part of the season (due to John Wall injuries), Beal has the opportunity to average over 20 points for his third season in a row. Despite the Wizards interesting chemistry issues, I like Beal’s chances.
8. Devin Booker – Phoenix Suns
While he may be young, Devin Booker already has a franchise built around him. Not to mention the fact that he scored 70 points in an NBA game, Booker is already consistently one of the best scorers in the league. To vault himself higher on the list Booker needs to win. While he can’t control his teammates, I haven’t seen enough winning in Phoenix over the past few years to justify Booker over Beal or Butler.
9. Jrue Holiday – New Orleans Pelicans
Jrue Holiday was undoubtedly the breakout player of last season’s playoffs. He constantly shut down the lead guard for the Blazers (whether that be Lillard or McCollum) while in the game. This season, look for Holiday to play a lot more off the ball as Elfrid Payton will assume a lot of ball handling ability. Holiday could become a more efficient and even a higher volume shooting player this season at the two guard spot.
10. C.J. McCollum – Portland Trail Blazers
The former most improved player of the year is the second piece to one of the best backcourts in the NBA. Unfortunately, the first piece (Damian Lillard) tends to overshadow McCollum. While I can’t definitively say McCollum would be better without Lillard, I think it’s easiest to see McCollum would be best as the number one perimeter player on his team. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen that yet, and we won’t know for sure until we do.