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Ranking the top shooting guards in the NBA

Gary Harris had a breakout season this past year, but where does it rank him among starting shooting guards going into the 2016-17 season?

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Last week's top point guard list was difficult and this week's top shooting guard list is nearly impossible.

The quality of play at the shooting guard position has weakened over the last decade. Gone are prime Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, Kevin Martin (lol). Also, different teams employ their shooting guards in different roles, and it truly is impossible to quantify the impact of Kyle Korver versus Tony Allen.

I enjoy doing these lists and welcome feedback. I'm not sure people will agree with where I rank many of these players, but the fact is, 11-30 could be randomly assigned and most people wouldn't know the difference. The position is flat behind the top level of shooting guards right now.

A quick note, the following players were not included because I believe they will play predominantly other positions in the 2016-17 season: Jimmy Butler, Andrew Wiggins, Andre Roberson, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.

Now, let's hop into the list.

1. James Harden - Houston Rockets

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .204 4.39 +6.7
Career .206 5.34 +5.3

James Harden is a tier above everyone else when it comes to advanced statistics, and if he put in a little bit more effort on defense, then there would be nobody questioning this ranking. He more than makes up for his defensive shortcomings though.

The list of players to put up 25 points, six assists, and six rebounds per contest is short and star studded. The only other players to achieve such numbers in the past 20 years are Russell Westbrook and LeBron James...who's done it 12 times.

2. Klay Thompson - Golden State Warriors

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .144 1.77 +0.7
Career .113 2.48 +0.6

Some people may disagree with the placement of Klay Thompson, but to me, he's one of the best shooters of our generation on incredibly high volume. With 1,060 made threes on 42.0 percent from beyond the arc, he's ranked 75th in career makes and 12th in efficiency.

At his current career pace, he will reach 2,000 made threes sometime before he turns 31. Only four other players have reached that benchmark over the course of their entire careers.

3. DeMar DeRozan - Toronto Raptors

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .169 -0.14 +1.4
Career .096 -0.16 -1.2

Some people will disagree with this ranking of DeRozan, but it really has to do with the lack of competitors rather than his own presence. That being said, he truly excels in combination with Kyle Lowry.

His combination of true shooting percentage, usage rate, and assist rate put him in the same category as Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, James Harden, Paul George, and Damian Lillard. He can struggle defensively, but he even shot 33.8 percent from three. He truly took the next step this past season, and he's earned his standing among his peers.

4. Khris Middleton - Milwaukee Bucks

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .103 3.76 +0.6
Career .096 2.51 0.0

I really like Khris Middleton, and while two of the statistics show him to be nothing special, his RPM proves how much he impacts the game. His defense is very good, but the combination of his outside shot and versatile offensive game make him a true weapon.

He played over 2,800 minutes last season, good for sixth in the entire NBA, so his defensive numbers struggled and doesn't show the quality defender he is. Look for him to play less minutes next season as the Bucks added some complementary pieces in the backcourt. I expect to see an even more efficient season from Middleton next year.

5. C.J. McCollum - Portland Trailblazers

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .104 2.25 +0.4
Career .091 0.89 -0.3

C.J. McCollum had himself a solid breakout last year, ranking seventh in RPM to go along with raw offensive output. He was worth the fourth most wins among shooting guards according to RPM, and he performed very well as a second option for Damian Lillard.

He also put in nearly 2,800 minutes last year, a far cry from the bench role he had during his first two years. He's who I want Jamal Murray to model his game after: a reliable offensive force who plays from the outside in, a style that plays well in today's NBA.

6. Danny Green - San Antonio Spurs

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .099 3.25 +2.7
Career .130 4.06 +3.5

It's pretty interesting that Danny Green had a "down" year and still ranked fifth in RPM. His perimeter defense truly is something to be behold, as he moves his feet so quickly and uses his hands so well.

He didn't have a good year shooting, but based off of his career percentages, this is likely an anomaly. He shot 50 percent from the beyond the arc in the playoffs and did an excellent job of providing spacing around Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge. I expect him to reestablish himself as a lethal offensive player this year.

7. Dwyane Wade - Chicago Bulls

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .105 -1.08 +0.8
Career .179 0.17 +5.3

Dwyane Wade had himself a down year, but most of the advanced metrics still gave him credit for being a positive player. He will always be a slasher and a scorer, but he's done a better and better job of setting up teammates as well.

The fit in Chicago is going to be more than awkward with Rajon Rondo and Jimmy Butler flanking Wade, and that combined with his age regression help me believe that he will never be ranked higher than this again in his career.

8. J.J. Redick - Los Angeles Clippers

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .154 0.31 +0.8
Career .134 0.74 +0.1

J.J. Redick had an incredible season last year. He was reasonably close to a 50/40/90 season, and there were many times where he was utilized as the first offensive option on a team with point god Chris Paul and above the rim threats in Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan.

Redick's effectiveness relies on his outside shot, as he has always struggled to impact the game in other ways, seeing as he's not a playmaker, rebounder, or defender. Even still, he was the best shooter in the NBA last year not named Stephen Curry, but can 400 threes really be contended with?

9. Victor Oladipo - Oklahoma City Thunder

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .099 2.59 +1.8
Career .063 0.57 +0.3

It's hard for people to give Victor Oladipo the benefit of the doubt given the struggles of the Orlando Magic. People have to remember that the Magic have had an anchor attached to them for two years named Elfrid Payton though, so they should take his numbers with a grain of salt.

He grades well using RPM and BPM, better than many other shooting guards, and when his raw numbers are taken into account, only James Harden can match him. He's basically a higher volume Gary Harris with better defense right now, which reflects well on his ranking here.

10. Rodney Hood - Utah Jazz

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .112 1.23 +0.7
Career .108 0.41 +0.2

Who's the best shooting guard in the 2014 NBA Draft class? Nik Stauskas, Zach LaVine, James Young, Gary Harris, and Jordan Adams were all drafted before the sweet shooting lefty out of Duke. Rodney Hood has proven his worth the past two years and has earned a place in my top ten.

Hood canned 161 three pointers this year, a number only 18 other players and six other shooting guards managed. He shot at about a 36 percent rate, and his combination of usage and efficiency reflects well in his advanced metrics. I'm buying stock in Rodney Hood continuing to climb this list next season given the addition of George Hill to the Utah Jazz backcourt.

11. Evan Fournier - Orlando Magic

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .106 -1.02 +0.7
Career .079 -0.75 -0.9

Evan "Don't Google" Fournier comes in at 11th on the list. He just missed the cut with 156 three pointers made last year, but he did so at 40 percent efficiency. Why does he fall lower than Hood then? His defense has not shown any signs of life.

Fours truly has improved in his time in Orlando though. He has become the first option offensively, and he earned a 5 year $75 million contract to re-sign with the Magic. As he looks to increase his usage, I'm hopeful he can maintain his efficiency with the help of Frank Vogel.

12. Bradley Beal - Washington Wizards

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .076 -2.24 -0.6
Career .080 -0.10 -0.4

Bradley Beal had a down year. There's no way around that. He wasn't healthy, he didn't play a lot of defense, and his offensive production was good, but not great.

I still have faith in Beal though. He needs to stay healthy though. He's only eclipsed 65 games once in his four year career so far. He will need to do that, along with getting back on track defensively, before he can become a top level shooting guard again.

13. J.R. Smith - Cleveland Cavaliers

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .111 1.34 +1.3
Career .094 0.96 +0.5

It's weird putting J.R. Smith this high on the list, and frankly he could probably go higher. I knocked him down a peg or two because he plays with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love, but he still earned recognition for his efforts.

He was asked to shoot throughout the season, and boy did he shoot well. He's one of 17 players in the history of the NBA to make 200 three pointers in a season on 40.0 percent efficiency. Even on such a star studded team, he has earned his place on this list with some incredible shooting and not awful defense.

14. Wesley Matthews - Dallas Mavericks

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .067 0.60 +0.5
Career .112 1.48 +1.5

Another player who had a down year, Wesley Matthews was ranked 17th in RPM last year after ranking seventh the year before. His shooting percentages fell off the map last year and he was a step slower defensively.

That being said, he was coming off of an achilles tear, and the Dallas Mavericks were pretty bad for a playoff team. I expect Matthews to have a Danilo Gallinari type bounce back this coming year. He's one of the forgotten shooters in the NBA, having made 1,078 for his career on 38.7 percent shooting. He will get back on track, and when he does, he may rise up this list.

15. Avery Bradley - Boston Celtics

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .090 0.08 +0.2
Career .056 0.57 -1.6

Avery Bradley has such a strong reputation as a 3 and D player, but when comparing him to some of his competitors, he's kind of average. RPM grades him reasonably well on offense, but there's no reason a player with his defensive reputation should grade out so poorly...unless of course it's unwarranted.

He needs to continue to shoot upward of 36 percent from three if he wants to be a positive offensively, given that he doesn't create for others. My guess is that defensively, he suffers from Gary Harris disease: an affliction for small shooting guards who are good at defense, but taller players simply shoot over them. He comes in at 15 on my ranking, and he could go up or down from there depending on who's asked.

16. Kyle Korver - Atlanta Hawks

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .081 1.69 -0.2
Career .116 3.46 +1.0

Oh look, another player on a down year. Kyle Korver's value is similar to J.J. Redick's value. He spaces the floor, draws the defense away from the paint, and makes the defense pay if they don't stay locked to him at the three point line.

Here's the problem for Kyle Korver though:

Player (2015-16) True Shooting % 3P Attempt % Usage Rate
Kyle Korver .578 .674 13.7
J.J. Redick .632 .478 22.6

Korver has become so one dimensional that he can't impact the game inside the arc anymore, and while his three point shot is still very, very good, it's not the weapon it was the year before. Korea is on a one year deal, so expect him to play well next season as a starter, but it may be time for Korver to got the Ray Allen route and become a bench sniper after this year.

17. Tony Allen - Memphis Grizzlies

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .072 0.81 -0.1
Career .107 2.65 +1.2

And here's where the opposite to Kyle Korver falls: right behind him. Tony Allen has long been the gold standard of defensive guard play, shutting down some of the best scorers in the league through constant aggression and excellent instincts.

But like Korver, he's so one dimensional that it hurts his overall impact. For the last few years, RPM has loved him, but he's coming back to earth, and the other statistics aren't exactly helping his case. He has never developed a three point shot, or an efficient game around the basket, and that has hurt him.

18. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope - Detroit Pistons

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .092 1.37 +1.1
Career .069 0.49 -0.4

KCP is a breakout candidate of mine for next season. He's in a contract year, plays excellent defense, and he's starting to find his rhythm offensively. He's an athletic guy, and his advanced metrics reflect a solid level of impact.

He almost played 2,800 minutes last year, which will be great for his continued development. His three point shot got worse last year, so that will be the next step in his game. If he wants to eventually become a top ten shooting guard, he will either improve his defense to elite levels, or he will improve his jump shot. With his tools, I would say that both are within the realm of possibility.

19. Monta Ellis - Indiana Pacers

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .075 0.58 +0.3
Career .073 1.30 -0.2

Monta Ellis regressed last year, but he still made some important contributions for the Indiana offense. He averaged 4.7 assists to go along with 13.8 points and 1.9 steals. The problem with his steals is that they grade well using RPM, but they really aren't a good measure of defense.

The rest of the numbers reflect this. He had one of the lowest true shooting percentages of his career, and the only reason he stays above the next player on this list is that his gambling defense turned out to be more effective overall. He gets the benefit of the doubt here, but he may slip fast if he has another season like he did.

20. Gary Harris - Denver Nuggets

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .079 -1.64 +0.2
Career .050 -4.35 -0.8

Denver's own Gary Harris slots in at number 20 in the shooting guard rankings, and this was difficult for me to do. I decided to mostly focus on this past season rather than factor in his rookie year, but even doing that resulted in this decision.

His WS/48 number ranks 17th among this group, while his RPM ranks 20th and BPM ranks 17th, so it's not like 20th is outlandish at all. Harris achieved these numbers on a pretty bad team, so it's likely that the advanced metrics improve as the entire team improves.

I have Gary in a reasonable ranking among other starters on a rookie contract, ranking fifth out of ten guys. As he improves his usage rate and efficiency from behind the arc, he will turn into a solid offensive player. The real question will be defensively. He has elite instincts and great hands, but next season may be a determining factor if he can be a defensive lynchpin for this team.

21. Courtney Lee - New York Knicks

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .080 -0.44 -0.6
Career .088 -0.55 -0.2

Courtney Lee takes a hit on this list, even if he may deserve to be higher. His advanced metrics are very similar to Harris right above him, but Harris is 22 years old, and Lee will turn 31 before the season starts.

He has a lot of responsibility on his new team, the New York Knicks. He will need to provide spacing for Derrick Rose and Carmelo Anthony to operate. He has a pretty strong shot from distance, but it's not lethal enough, efficiency or usage wise, to really change the game. He also doesn't do anything else. As he gets older, look for him to transition to a bench role.

22. Jordan Clarkson - Los Angeles Lakers

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .039 -2.42 -1.4
Career .054 -2.39 -1.0

Here's an interesting member of the list for me. Jordan Clarkson had a great rookie year, one in which he deserved a larger opportunity to shine this year. Unfortunately, Kobe Bryant happened, and he had an obscene usage rate of 32.2 percent, good for absolutely destroying game flow for the younger players.

Jordan Clarkson didn't exactly help matters though. His defense was horrific at times, and he nearly cut his assist rate in half. He's never going to be a full on point guard, but in order for him to be effective, he must be willing to play a combo guard role and distribute for others. D'Angelo Russell came in at 29th on the point guard rankings, so Clarkson needs to help make up for some of those struggles in the backcourt if the Lakers want to be a good team immediately.

23. Devin Booker - Phoenix Suns

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .043 -4.60 -3.1
Career .043 -4.60 -3.1

So many Phoenix Suns fans are going to scrutinize me, but that's okay. Devin Booker showcased some superstar level tools this past season, but when comparing his advanced metrics to other shooting guards, he was awful. It's okay to be awful though. He was still a dang teenager.

He was the third worst rated starting shooting guard using RPM, so consider this placement a gift. I believe that Booker will continue to get better this season, but he doesn't warrant a ranking higher than this right now.

24. Zach LaVine - Minnesota Timberwolves

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .054 -3.71 -1.4
Career .022 -5.29 -2.8

And now Minnesota Timberwolves fans will raise pitchforks. That's okay. Zach LaVine was better last year, but still bad. He showed tremendous improvement in the second half when he played more shooting guard than point guard, but he was still a negative player.

He gets a bit of a bump based on his second half performance, but I have Booker ahead of him because LaVine played with Ricky Rubio, Andrew Wiggins, and Karl-Anthony Towns. Booker played with Brandon Knight and P.J. Tucker.

25. Arron Afflalo - Sacramento Kings

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .055 -3.25 -2.4
Career .083 -3.12 -0.8

I can't believe the Nuggets got Will Barton and Malik Beasley for this guy. Great job Tim.

26. Gerald Henderson - Philadelphia 76ers

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .068 -3.21 -3.3
Career .064 -1.82 -2.1

Gerald Henderson was a backup last year in Portland, and while he wasn't a great piece, he will continue to provide veteran leadership for the Philadelphia 76ers.

I don't see Henderson being very effective in this role, as the projected starters in the frontcourt are Ben Simmons, Nerlens Noel, and Jahlil Okafor. Henderson and Jerryd Bayless will be asked to space the floor entirely for Philly, and that's bad news considering Henderson shoots 31.9 percent from three for his career.

27. Marco Belinelli - Charlotte Hornets

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .014 -4.87 -4.2
Career .074 -3.72 -1.6

I don't know whether Marco Belinelli is being graded based on the Sacramento Kings effect, or the San Antonio Spurs effect. Either way, he graded very poorly in RPM during the last three years with both teams. He was quite possibly the worst starting shooting guard in the NBA last year, and while he may be a flex starter in Charlotte,he's likely to be the opening night guy. Bad news for Charlotte.

28. Dion Waiters - Miami Heat

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .046 -1.85 -2.1
Career .034 -1.81 -2.7

#GoodLuckGoran.

29. Bojan Bogdanovic - Brooklyn Nets

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 .021 -4.93 -3.4
Career .040 -4.51 -2.7

Bojan really struggled as the starter in Brooklyn, but it doesn't help that his backcourt running mate was Shane Larkin. Will he recover? We will see. For now, he earns the worst ranking not reserved for rookies.

30. Buddy Hield - New Orleans Pelicans

Time Period WS/48 Real +/- Box +/-
2015-16 NA NA NA
Career NA NA NA

Buddy Hield fills this spot by default.

This in no way reflects on how I feel on his ceiling, but I'm a firm believer in rookies earning their way up the rankings ladder, meaning they have to prove they belong with the big boys. I expect him and Jrue Holiday to have many good games this year for the Pelicans in the backcourt, but for now, Hield brings up the rear in my shooting guard rankings as the only rookie expected to start.

***

That's it for this edition of the rankings. The shooting guard is a weak position right now, and that won't change in one year. That being said, ten players on rookie contracts are projected to start at shooting guard, compared to just four players at point guard. There may be better things to come from the shooting guard position during the next five years.

What say you Nuggets nation? This is where I ranked Gary Harris, but I can see him as high as 15 and as low as 22. Did I get this one right? Where will our young shooting guard be ranked going into next season? Will he even be our starting shooting guard going into next season?