No position was tougher to rank than the shooting guards. Honestly, the sixth ranking could be swapped out to No. 14 and it wouldn’t cause too much of an uproar. No question there have been stars entering the league as two guards, the unfortunate part is they haven’t had a chance to be called the best at the position. Ever since 1984, the shooting guard position has been dominated by two players. The only thing for certain is the league already has a clear-cut favorite to take over the title when the top-ranked player on this list decides to call it quits.
30. Arron Afflalo– Denver Nuggets
Only a starter because J.R. Smith has never fully tapped into his potential, both Smith and Arron Afflalo averaged 27 minutes per game last season. If Denver could somehow fuse these two players together, they’d have a solid shooting guard, but individually they are two players that simply shouldn’t start for an NBA team, let alone a playoff squad.
29. Mike Dunleavy– Indiana Pacers
It’s never a good sign when your point per game production is the identical number as your annual salary. Mike Dunleavy doesn’t even have the excuse of being an outstanding defender to try and justify his performance. The Pacers have just 82 games remaining on his horrendous contract.
28. Francisco Garcia– Sacramento Kings
A broken right forearm suffered while working out last season limited Francisco Garcia to only 25 games. Fully healed, the Kings need Garcia to step up and be the teams top three-point threat (no player shot 40 percent last season) and allow point guard Tyreke Evans more room to operate around the basket.
27. DeMar DeRozan– Toronto Raptors
Trying to avoid becoming the next talented high flier that can’t do much else other than dunk, DeMar DeRozan is hoping his debut season was just a bad first step. The 9th overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft wasn’t even invited to the Rookie-Sophomore game during All Star weekend.
26. Anthony Parker– Cleveland Cavaliers
The most jarring stat about Anthony Parker is simply his age. The 35-year-old has never averaged more than 12.4 points per game during his seven-year career and Cleveland is counting on someone to pick up the scoring load left behind by LeBron James. Parker just isn’t the guy to do it.
25. Terrence Williams– New Jersey Nets
New Jersey failed to make a splash during the summer and hope Terrence Williams can start the season on fire to be the centerpiece of a blockbuster trade. Hoping to land Carmelo Anthony, the Nets will provide every chance for Williams to shine, so look for some big numbers during his sophomore campaign.
24. Wesley Johnson– Minnesota Timberwolves
There haven’t been many 23-year-old rookies in the NBA over the past few seasons, but Wesley Johnson is out to prove he’s worth the wait. A gifted scorer, Johnson should blend in seamlessly with Minnesota’s young roster.
23. Ronnie Brewer– Chicago Bulls
Any concerns about the defensive void left on the perimeter by Kirk Hinrich were quickly solved when Chicago signed Ronnie Brewer. Standing at 6’7 he can guard three positions and averaged 1.5 steals per game in just 3o minutes of play.
22. Evan Turner– Philadelphia 76ers
As one of two rookies on this list, Evan Turner needs to prove his struggles during Summer League play were just a rough five-game patch and not a sign of things to come. It’s never good when the general manager has to defend a players performance over the summer. Turner is too talented to not make an impact for Philadelphia this year.
21. Kelenna Azubuike-New York Knicks
Desperate for some production from the shooting guard position, Kelenna Azubuike, an afterthought in this summers blockbuster trade with Golden State, was tabbed to fill the role. Still experiencing pain in his surgically repaired left knee, Azubuike is a question mark heading into training camp and New York can’t afford him to miss significant time this year.
20. C.J. Miles– Utah Jazz
Utah has a knack for finding gems in the second round of the NBA Draft and with C.J. Miles inserted into the starting lineup, the Jazz once again are counting on a forgotten player to become a commodity. Miles averaged 14.4 points per game in the playoffs and Utah needs him to consistently be the third scoring option on the team.
19. Richard Hamilton– Detroit Pistons
Last season in Detroit the entire team couldn’t hit a shot. Richard Hamilton, the resident sharp shooter on the club, shot five percentage points below his career averages from the field and from long range. Hamilton needs to knock down his jumpers if the Pistons want to avoid the cellar in the Central Division.
18. Marcus Thornton– New Orleans Hornets
After posting a quietly effective rookie season, Marcus Thornton is being touted as the second best player in New Orleans. Playing a full season with point guard Chris Paul will only increase his scoring average from 14.5 points a night from a year ago. Thornton will command a higher ranking the next time around.
17. Thabo Sefolosha– Oklahoma City Thunder
Named to the All-NBA Defensive Second Team, Thabo Sefolosha won’t have his name called by the public address announcer too many times a night, but the player he’s guarding won’t have too much of an impact on the box score either. Sefolosha’s presence is necessary for Oklahoma City to take the next step towards become an elite team.
16. Jason Richardson– Phoenix Suns
Last season, if Jason Richardson was having a big night, the Suns were going to win. Thirty times Richardson scored 20 or more points and Phoenix went 26-4 in those games. With their leading scorer from a year ago now playing in New York, Richardson needs to become a dominant scorer every night for the Suns to succeed.
15. Vince Carter– Orlando Magic
A miserable debut season in Orlando already has the Magic shopping Vince Carter and his expiring contract. Averaging just 16.6 points per game (the lowest total of his career) Carter was even more inefficient during the post season. If the Magic wants to make a return to the NBA Finals, Carter has to be moved.
14. Stephen Jackson– Charlotte Bobcats
Becoming just the second player to average over 20 points per game in franchise history, Stephen Jackson helped carry the Bobcats to their first ever playoff appearance. It’s crazy to think both Jackson and Ron Artest have put the brawl in Detroit behind them and now are significant contributors to playoff teams.
13. Caron Butler– Dallas Mavericks
Playing his first full season in Dallas, Caron Butler is making more news for what he thinks his former team is capable of this season. Butler is the best player the Mavericks have added in years and makes Dallas a threat in the Western Conference.
12. O.J.Mayo– Memphis Grizzlies
Trying to make the shift to point guard, O.J. Mayo debuted his new position for Memphis during summer league play. A talented player, Mayo is a threat no matter where he plays on the court. Averaging 17 points a game for the Grizzlies last year, Mayo may be entering his final season in Memphis.
11. John Salmons– Milwaukee Bucks
Boasting a solid offensive game and the sweetest goatee in the league, John Salmons turned the Bucks from a borderline playoff team into a legitimate threat. Playing his first full season in Milwaukee in 2010-11, Salmons could have the Bucks vying for home court advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.
10. Eric Gordon– Los Angeles Clippers
Just give Eric Gordon the ball. That should be the entire offensive philosophy for first year coach Vinny Del Negro. Last season, Gordon averaged the second most points on the team even though he took the fourth most field goal attempts. Somehow, Rasual Butler took nearly 100 more shots than Gordon. Given a chance to shine, Gordon was the offensive spark plug for Team USA in the FIBA World Championship.
9. Monta Ellis– Golden State Warriors
Maybe he forgets the other four guys wearing the same jersey are actually on his team, but there is little doubt Monta Ellis is one of the more talented scorers in the league. Suiting up for the most injury-ridden team in the NBA last season, the Warriors needed someone to score the ball and Ellis wasn’t a bashful shooter.
8. Kevin Martin– Houston Rockets
Incredibly efficient from the field, Kevin Martin lights up the scoreboard with an offensive skill set that can only be described as weird. Martin doesn’t have a picture-perfect jump shot, lacks the athletic explosiveness most of the players on this list have but every night, Martin can be penciled in for 20 or more points.
7. Ray Allen– Boston Celtics
It’s easy to see why Ray Allen has been so effective throughout his career. On any given night, Allen can launch a perfect jump shot from anywhere on the court. Allen captured Game 2 of the NBA Finals by himself, knocking down 8-of-11 shots from three-point range. While he can’t do it every night like he used to, Allen remains one of the best shooting guards in the league.
6. Manu Ginobili– San Antonio Spurs
If he could stay healthy, Manu Ginobili has the ability to put together one of the finest seasons in NBA history. By consistently driving full force to the basket, the best aspect of his game, Ginobili often takes himself out by disregarding his safety for two points.
5. Gilbert Arenas– Washington Wizards
Gilbert Arenas wears the number 0 because that’s how many minutes he was told he would play while in college at Arizona. Now that number represents how many people expect him to succeed this year. Arenas played his final game of the season on Jan. 7 to serve a suspension for the remainder of the year for threatening a teammate with a gun. Arenas is still one of the most talented players in the game, but needs to prove himself quickly to receive any playing time.
4. Joe Johnson– Atlanta Hawks
The financial winner of the summer, Joe Johnson is out to prove he’s worth $120 million. Atlanta took a big chance, signing a 29-year-old to a max contract, on a player who struggled so badly in the post season, his hometown fans were booing him when he had the ball. Johnson is a good player, the Hawks are banking on him being great.
3. Brandon Roy– Portland Trail Blazers
No team had less possessions than the Trail Blazers last season and Brandon Roy wouldn’t have it any other way. Still scoring 21. 5 points per game, Roy doesn’t need many opportunities to torch his opponents. If he can remain healthy for the full season, Portland will be the top challengers to the Lakers in the Western Conference.
2. Dwyane Wade– Miami Heat
No one carried a team like Dwyane Wade did in Miami last year. Keeping its season alive another day, the Heat needed all 45 points from Wade to capture just one game against the Celtics. Wade won’t be facing that problem this year as Miami retooled itself into a championship contender.
1. Kobe Bryant– Los Angeles Lakers
The top shooting guard torch was passed from Michael Jordan to Kobe Bryant sometime during Jordan’s stint in Washington. Ever since, Bryant has refused to give it up and Dwyane Wade needs to dominate this season to take it from him by force.
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