In case you are reading this specific article before the Top 5 Point Guards Heading into 2017-2018 article, I will explain everything stated in the previous article. I have gone through each position and came up with my top five for each position heading into the new season that starts October 17. There are a couple things that came into the thought process of deciding the top five for each position. The stats for last year play a role in deciding their current position as well as the possibility of growth of their skills and stats. Facing a new role where they can thrive or decline is a factor as well. Just so we are clear, we will go over some of the terminology so there is no confusion later in this article. Abbreviations will be used throughout this article (ppg, rpg, apg, spg, bpg = points per game, rebounds per game, assists per game, steals per game, and blocks per game). Advanced statistics can get tricky so I will define them now before the article. Terms like win shares (offensive and defensive), Box Plus/Minus (Offensive and Defensive), Player Efficiency Rating (PER), and Usage Percentage are used in this article. Win shares is the estimate of the number of wins contributed by the player. So Offensive Win Shares would be the number of wins contributed by the player due to his offense. Defensive Win Shares works the same way. Box Plus/Minus is defined as a box score estimate of the points per 100 possessions a player contributed above a league-average player which is translated to an average. Player Efficiency Rating is a measure of per-minute production standardized such that the league average is 15.00. Lastly, Usage Percentage is kind of self explanatory but the definition of it is an estimate of the percentage of team plays used by a player while he was on the floor. Now that we have clearly defined the terminology, we can jump right in.
#5 C.J. McCollum — Portland Trail Blazers
His fellow teammate, Damian Lillard, made the top five point guard list. Now here McCollum sits. Lillard needed help in Portland and McCollum’s emergence is exactly what they needed. McCollum is just 26 years old and is ranked here as the #5 shooting guard heading into the new season. He finished last season with a 19.99PER after averaging 23.0ppg, 3.6rpg, and 3.6apg while shooting .480% from the field, .421% from the three point line, and .912% from the free throw line in 80 games last year. His 27.5 usage percentage is the second highest on the top five list. With that being said, we should see his numbers improve. His play translated to +6.2 Offensive Win Shares and +1.4 Defensive Win Shares totaling +7.6 Win Shares contributed. He also posted a +1.0 Box Plus/Minus with a +3.2 Offensive Box Plus/Minus and a -2.3 Defensive Box Plus/Minus. McCollum went on to average 22.5ppg, 6.0rpg, 1.0apg, and 1.0spg while shooting .400% from the field, .500% from the three point line, and .938% from the free throw line in four games of postseason action. The one-two punch of Lillard and McCollum is a nightmare for defenses to try to contain as both boast some of the top offensive skills in the league.
#4 Bradley Beal — Washington Wizards
After only appearing in 55 games the previous season, Beal played 77 games for the Washington Wizards, the most of his five year career so far. Beal played one of his best seasons thus far and is only 24 years old with room to improve. Beal averaged a career high 23.1ppg while also averaging 3.5apg, 3.1rpg, and 1.1spg while shooting .482% from the field, .404% from the three point line, and .825% from the free throw line with a 26.5 usage percentage. The sign of improvement is a healthy sign for Beal and should make the Wizards happy. His shooting in the playoffs was not as efficient but Beal still put up very solid per game numbers in 24.8ppg, 3.4rpg, 2.7apg, and 1.6spg. His shooting from the field only declined slightly to .471% but his three point shooting dropped to .287% and his free throw percentage dropped to .796%. With John Wall and Bradley Beal in the top five for their respective positions, the Wizards future is bright. Looking at the advanced statistics, Beal contributed +6.9 Offensive Win Shares and +1.6 Defensive Win Shares for a total of +8.5 Win Shares. He posted a +2.2 Box Plus/Minus with a +4.5 Offensive Box Plus/Minus and a -2.3 Defensive Box Plus/Minus. With John Wall leading the way as the Wizards #1 option, Beal will continue to thrive as the #2 option. As long as Beal stays healthy, the Wizards look to be in good shape with one of the best backcourts in the NBA.
#3 Klay Thompson — Golden State Warriors
Talent wise, Thompson is easily among the best shooting guards in the league. Stats wise, he does not measure up to the two shooting guards above him. Thompson is one of the best defenders in the NBA on the best team in the NBA. He is a selfless player, taking a backseat when Kevin Durant arrived and had no personal problem with it, even willing to take a pay-cut to keep this roster together. Thompson is the kind of player, on and off the court, that GM’s drool over. In 78 games, Thompson averaged 22.3ppg, 3.7rpg, and 2.1apg while shooting .468% from the field, .414% from the three point line, and .853% from the free throw line. Thompson finished the season with a 17.53 PER and a 26.1 usage percentage. Thompson contributed +7.1 Win Shares; +4.2 Offensive Win Shares and +2.9 Defensive Win Shares. Thompson cannot be left uncovered because he is one of the best and purest shooters in the NBA. That has a trickle down effect because it opens up driving lanes for Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and Draymond Green because Thompson’s defender has a hard decision on whether he should help off of Thompson and his deadly shooting. Put Thompson on another team in the NBA and his stats easily increase. In the playoffs, Thompson’s numbers do not jump off the page for you. In 13 games, Thompson averaged 15.0ppg, 3.9rpg, and 2.1apg while usually covering every team’s best player. He shot .397% from the field, .387% from the three point line, and .788% from the free throw line. Thompson will still continue to put up good numbers for this Warriors squad.
#2 Jimmy Butler — Minnesota Timberwolves
Jimmy G. Buckets and the G stands for Gets! Chicago Bulls fans heard that a lot during the games with Stacey King as their commentator. This season though, they will never hear it again. This offseason, Butler was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves during the draft, making this young roster very intriguing. Adding Butler’s 23.9ppg, 6.2rpg, 5.5apg, and 1.9spg to a team that has Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins to it creates an interesting trio. Butler shot .455% from the field, .367% from the three point line, and .865% from the free throw line. Butler had a 25.19 PER and contributed +13.8 Win Shares (+10.1 Offensive Win Shares and +3.8 Defensive Win Shares) last season. He also posted a +6.9 Box Plus/Minus (+5.8 Offensive Box Plus/Minus and +1.1 Defensive Box Plus/Minus). Butler has the third highest usage percentage on this list (tied with Bradley Beal) at 26.5% last season. That number can be subject to change as he no longer plays for the Bulls where he was the main focal point. Adding Butler’s offense, as well as his tenacity on defense, to the Timberwolves team led by his old coach, Tom Thibodeau, can cause fits for opposing offenses and defenses. Butler is going to be a key piece if the Timberwolves hope to end their long 13 year playoff drought.
#1 James Harden — Houston Rockets
Point guard Harden was an absolute success but now he’s back at his old position of shooting guard with the addition of Chris Paul this offseason. Harden was pretty close to averaging a triple-double of his own this past season with averages of 29.1ppg, 11.2apg, 8.1rpg, and 1.5spg while shooting .440% from the field, .347% from the three point line, and .847% from the free throw line, good enough for a 27.43 PER. Harden contributed +15.0 Win Shares (+11.5 Offensive Win Shares and +3.6 Defensive Win Shares), and a +10.1 Box Plus/Minus (+8.7 Offensive Box Plus/Minus and +1.5 Defensive Box Plus/Minus). His +15.0 Win Shares and +10.1 Box Plus/Minus is the highest among shooting guards on the list. Harden’s 34.2 usage percentage (also a high) will likely decline with the addition of a ball dominant Paul to the team. They must gel quickly to be able to challenge teams in the western conference. The Rockets had a meltdown in the playoffs last year and they hope to not have a repeat. Expectations are high in Houston; even higher with Paul on the roster. Even if the ball is not in Harden’s hand as often, he is still one of the most dangerous shooting guards in the NBA, hence why he is ranked #1.