B/R NBA 200: Ranking the Top Shooting Guards of 2013-14 Season
In the past, the order has been a tossup, but not in 2013-14.
One member of the trio clearly rose to the front of the pack, a change that was aided by the injury woes plaguing the Mamba throughout the season (more on him later). Additionally, the position got significantly deeper, as young players started to make their marks and a few veterans reestablished themselves as elite or semi-elite players.
The NBA 200 metric identifies the players who performed best during the 2013-14 season. Potential doesn't matter, and neither does reputation. It's all about what happened this season and this season only. All positions are graded using the same criteria (though rim protection was added into the equation for bigger positions), but the categories are weighted differently to reflect changing roles, with max scores in parentheses:
- Scoring (25)
- Non-Scoring Offense: Facilitating (10) and Off-Ball Offense (10)
- Defense: On-Ball (20) and Off-Ball (20)
- Rebounding (5)
- Intangibles: Conduct (5) and Durability (5)
For a full explanation of how these scores were determined, go here. And do note these aren't your father's classification schemes for each position. Players' spots were determined not by playing style, but by how much time they spent at each position throughout the season, largely based on data from 82games.com, and we're expanding the traditional five to include four combo positions.
In the case of ties, the order is determined in subjective fashion by ranking the more coveted player in the higher spot. That was done by a voting committee comprised of myself, NBA Lead Writer D.J. Foster, National NBA Featured Columnist Grant Hughes, NBA Lead Writer Josh Martin and Associate NBA Editor Ethan Norof.
Below, you can find the publication schedule for the rest of the NBA 200 series. Remember that we're not using traditional positions, but rather subdividing those to account for the positionless schemes used by many NBA teams.
- Swingmen: Wednesday, April 30
- Small forwards: Monday, May 5
- Power forwards: Wednesday, May 7
- Combo bigs: Monday, May 12
- Centers: Wednesday, May 14
- Combo forwards: Friday, May 16
- Top 200 Players: Monday, May 19
Notable Injury: Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant played in six games during the 2013-14 season, and he struggled to make much of a positive impact for the Los Angeles Lakers. The Mamba averaged just 13.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists per contest, shooting 42.5 percent from the field and failing to do much damage at all from the perimeter.
On top of that, the Lakers were just 2-4 when he played.
Those numbers—coupled with a lack of defensive presence—wouldn't have allowed Bryant to rank very high at all. I'm just guessing here, but he presumably would have graded out in a manner that left him outside the top 10 2-guards in the Association.
Of course, the story would be different if he'd been healthy.
He and Dwyane Wade have battled it out for the top shooting guard slot over the last few years, and he absolutely would've been a part of the elite trio that also includes a certain bearded shooting guard.
I'm not exactly spoiling anything by revealing those names, seeing as there's a clear drop-off after them and a relative dearth of elite players at this position.
An Achilles injury and subsequent fracture near his knee hid Bryant's elite status, but there's no doubt he remains one of the best players in the NBA. He just won't be ranked as such this year, nor will he be ranked at all.
27. Thabo Sefolosha, Oklahoma City Thunder
Thabo Sefolosha is an athletic cutter who can knock down the occasional triple for the Oklahoma City Thunder, but he's never been much of an offensive option for a team that also boasts the services of Russell Westbrook and this guy named Kevin Durant. In 2013-14, Sefolosha's shot deserted him and made him even more of an afterthought.
At least he doesn't turn the ball over. That's about the only positive for Sefolosha when the Thunder have possession and he's not doing the scoring. Defenses don't have to pay much attention to him on the wings unless he makes a violent cut to the basket, and he's a terrible distributor.
This has always been the 2-guard's biggest strength, but his off-ball defense has declined as Father Time starts to sap some of his excessive athleticism. Though he can track players through screens, past teammates handing the ball off and on cuts, he's been unable to make quick directional changes and close out on shooters.
There's nothing to complain about here, as Sefolosha is a consistent contributor on the glass. During his first 55 games of the 2013-14 campaign, he never exploded for double-digit boards, but he also failed to produce even a single goose egg.
Sefolosha is always a quiet, behind-the-scenes figure for the Thunder, so he rarely makes headlines, much less negative ones. However, a severely strained left calf knocked him out of the lineup down the closing stretch of the season, thereby lowering the amount of on-court impact he could make.
As the young players in OKC continue to develop, Sefolosha is starting to be phased out of the lineup. He's still a valuable defensive contributor with a penchant for the athletic play, but it won't be long before his stranglehold on the starting 2-guard spot is loosened rather significantly.
26. James Anderson, Philadelphia 76ers
The fourth-year pro had never played even a dozen minutes per game prior to this season, but he routinely received around 30 with the Philadelphia 76ers. That gave him more of an opportunity to showcase his scoring skills than ever before, and he was adequate, excelling only when he was able to lose a tailing defender with plenty of movement.
Defenses were forced to respect Anderson when he was cutting to the basket or using screens and handoffs to free himself. However, his inadequacy as a spot-up shooter was problematic, as were his limited distributing skills.
Those off-ball skills didn't translate to the other end of the court. Anderson was terrible when trying to prevent points against a man without possession, and he was even worse when playing on-ball defense. How's that for a brutal combination?
If there's an area in which Anderson truly excels, it's this one. Not only does he pull down quite a few rebounds each game (given his position), but he also isn't afraid of contact when fighting for a loose ball among the trees.
Healthy and free from distractions, Anderson just went about his business in 2013-14, reveling in his opportunity to spend a lot of time on the court for an NBA team. Well, a kind-of NBA team.
Anderson was a decent enough stopgap option for the Sixers during a year filled with tanking. But he didn't distinguish himself in any notable way, which is going to make it awfully difficult for him to have a repeat season going forward. Hopefully he enjoyed this one.
25. O.J. Mayo, Milwaukee Bucks
The regression to the mean began during the second half of O.J. Mayo's 2012-13 season with the Dallas Mavericks, and it continued on into 2013-14. Though the 26-year-old has some serious microwave potential, his shot just isn't consistent enough for him to carry an offense night in and night out.
Defenses have to respect Mayo's jump-shooting ability, but his passing is only mediocre for a shooting guard who likes to spend a lot of time with the ball in his hands. After showing flashes of distributing potential last year, he was unable to replicate his success in that facet of the game during his first year in Milwaukee.
While the shooting guard has a toolset conducive to playing decent defense, he sometimes looks completely unmotivated on the less glamorous end of the court. Just look at his rapidly declining steals totals as evidence, as well as his flat-footed play when his man isn't in an immediately threatening position.
This is another area in which Mayo has regressed, and it could once more be due to waning effort levels. The first-year Buck put himself in a lot of positions that could lead to rebounds, but he was strangely unable to come away with the boards when other players were in his general vicinity.
Uninspired play can be contagious, and that was much of went so wrong for the Bucks throughout 2013-14. Fortunately for his teammates, though, Mayo's injury-riddled season wasn't contagious as well.
Mayo didn't decline in 2013-14. He plummeted. Once a promising offensive spark plug, he was more of a liability than anything else during his first season with Milwaukee, which helps explain why he lost his starting gig about a third of the way through the year.
24. Iman Shumpert, New York Knicks
Iman Shumpert made progress during his sophomore season with the New York Knicks, but he regressed rather significantly as a third-year player. His perimeter game deserted him at times, and he just wasn't as aggressive—partially because he received fewer opportunities—when it came to attacking the basket.
Even though his scoring declined, Shumpert was still a threatening off-ball presence because he could knock down perimeter looks and function as a dangerous cutter. The Knicks 2-guard wasn't much of a distributor, though, which prevented him from earning a higher score in the category. At least he staunchly refuses to turn the ball over.
Defense has been Shump's calling card in the past, but he struggled to make much of an impact for a Knicks team that sometimes flat-out refused to rotate and play anything that even resembled help defense. While the team fared much better when he was on the court, that seemed to be more a function of the lineups he was used in than his overly ballyhooed on-ball work.
One of the best rebounders at the position, Shumpert routinely grabbed four or five boards during his time on the court. That's impressive for a full-time starter and even more so for a player who didn't usually hit the 30-minute mark.
Much was made of his relationship with Mike Woodson, and for good reason. The two personalities clashed, as Shumpert found himself in trade rumors early and often, and it translated to some lackluster effort levels at various points throughout the season. On top of that, No. 21 missed some time with a sprained MCL.
Is it time to start reevaluating Shumpert's potential? He's always been viewed as a high-ceiling player, but three seasons in, we're still a few stories shy of that ceiling. A regression on both ends of the court didn't allow him to change that.
23. Tony Allen, Memphis Grizzlies
Even though Tony Allen's scoring has never been his forte, he was a moderately valuable offensive contributor for the Memphis Grizzlies when healthy. Not only did he connect from the perimeter with more frequency, but he was able to finish plays in transition. Allen doesn't create much offense and is a non-factor in half-court sets, but at least he knows that.
Let's put it this way: The Grizzlies have to feel lucky when Allen is able to generate more assists than turnovers during any given game. And since he's not much of a shooting threat either...
A two-time reigning placeholder on the All-Defensive First Team, Allen would likely have earned a third consecutive nod if he'd played in enough games to earn more consideration. Though his individual numbers aren't eye-popping, Allen is always involved in the defensive proceedings and routinely makes an already stellar Memphis defense that much better.
One of the most impressive aspects of Allen's game is his gritty rebounding. He has a nose for the boards, and he tracks the ball regardless of how many bigger players are between him and where it's going to end up. Volume and rebounding in traffic is a nice combination for a 2-guard.
Only health works against Allen here. A ligament injury in his wrist knocked the Memphis shooting guard out of action for a few weeks during the middle portion of the 2013-14 campaign, so he's being docked points here regardless of past iron-man status.
A defensive ace with a self-aware offensive game, Allen remains a valuable piece of the Memphis puzzle. Without him in the lineup, the "grit and grind" mentality wouldn't be as applicable, and he remains one of the true mental leaders within the organization.
22. Rodney Stuckey, Detroit Pistons
Rodney Stuckey was lighting up scoreboards and looking like a late-developing star early in the 2013-14 season, but he fell back to Earth throughout the rest of the year. Without a consistent shot from the perimeter, his game just wasn't multifaceted enough to threaten defenses into respecting his driving ability.
The 6'5" shooting guard has just enough shooting skills and cutting instincts that defenses can't pretend he's nonexistent when he doesn't have the ball. But when he does, they don't typically have to worry about him turning into a true point guard and racking up the assists while making the whole distributing thing look easy.
Defense is just a gigantic struggle for Stuckey, both when he's guarding a man with the ball and when he's following an off-ball threat around the half-court set. The only saving grace—even though the Detroit Pistons are significantly worse when he's on the court—is his strange ability to anticipate handoffs.
Adequate in the past, Stuckey has sunk to a new low on the boards. Due partially to the presence of a rebound-grabbing frontcourt, the Pistons guard struggled his way to career-worst efforts on both the offensive and defensive glass.
If only he'd stayed completely healthy. A fractured right thumb, injured shoulder and twisted knee all affected him at various points in the 2013-14 season.
Stuckey wasn't able to live up to the excitement he produced at the beginning of the season, but he was still a valuable offensive contributor for the Pistons. His driving ability suits him well, even if he'd become all the more dangerous with the development of an outside shot.
21. Courtney Lee, Memphis Grizzlies
Courtney Lee can flat-out stroke the ball. Regardless of where he's shooting from, chances are the ball is going to end up finding the bottom of the net when he fires away with confidence. Problem is, he's not able to maintain those percentages when counted on for points in bunches, because he needs to pick and choose his spots to maintain that impressive efficiency.
Defenses are forced to pay attention to Lee whenever he's on the court, which makes him a valuable commodity even when he isn't lighting up the scoreboard. But unfortunately for Memphis, which acquired him midway through the season from the Boston Celtics, he's not much of a passer. The games in which he records at least five dimes are quite scarce.
Is Lee on the same level as Tony Allen when it comes to playing defense? Absolutely not, though few players are. Nonetheless, he's a quality off-ball defender who thrives closing out on spot-up shooters and following players around the court, so long as he's able to do so without too much frequency.
Though Lee was slightly better as a rebounder once he joined the Grizzlies, he still wasn't very good. The shooting guard spends so much time on the perimeter that he doesn't even feel the need to go to work on the glass during most possessions.
Both with the C's and the Grizz, Lee hasn't caused any trouble and has remained healthy. There's no reason for anything but a perfect score here.
It should say a lot that Lee managed to displace Tony Allen from the starting lineup. He's a solid defender and an offensive contributor, one that Memphis sorely needed thanks to a complete dearth of quality outside shooting. He's by no means a star, but he's a star among role players.
20. J.J. Redick, Los Angeles Clippers
J.J. Redick—even though he spent the year posting career-best numbers as a scorer—still isn't much of a go-to player. But he's about as good as it gets for a non-featured option, knocking down three-pointers, creating his own looks and rarely missing a freebie from the charity stripe.
Leaving Redick alone beyond the arc is pure craziness. He's such a deadly sharpshooter that defenses are forced to account for his whereabouts at all times, and that's only aided by the fact that he's spent time serving as a combo guard in the past. If the ball does end up in his hands, he can do a lot with it.
Don't make the mistake of expecting much from Redick on the point-preventing end of the court. While he's a smart defender who often makes the right split-second decision in pick-and-roll sets, he just doesn't have the physical tools necessary to make a positive impact against quicker players.
Rarely does Redick venture too far within the paint unless he's driving with the ball. That prevents him from racking up too many rebounding opportunities, and it's generally hard to excel on the glass without those.
Health, health, health. A bulging disk in his back knocked the former Duke phenom out of the lineup for nearly two months, and it was a bit surprising he was even able to return before the end of the regular season.
Redick might have enjoyed an even more impressive season if he'd been able to avoid the pesky clutches of the injury imp. But even with the back injury shortening his 2013-14 season, he was still able to showcase his offensive value, both as a spot-up shooter and as a capable ball-handling scoring threat.
19. Eric Gordon, New Orleans Pelicans
Remember when Eric Gordon was viewed as a future scoring stud, one who could either terrorize an opponent with outside shooting or posterize a defender with an aggressive drive and finish? He still has those skills, but they just haven't resulted in a finished product at this stage of his career.
Though he has yet to remind folks in New Orleans of the distributing work he did during his final go-round with the Los Angeles Clippers, Gordon remains a solid passer, especially for a shooting guard. He tends to show decent care for the ball, except for when he's trying to squeeze it into tight spots, which happens far too often.
Defense has never been a strength for Gordon, even as experience at the professional level gives him access to those veteran tips and tricks. He lacks the constitution to settle down and play at 100 percent on that end of the court, choosing instead to save his limited reserves of energy for the offensive end.
At 6'3", Gordon is a bit undersized for his position, and it shows on the glass. While he's not particularly afraid to chase after a board when there's another guy in the vicinity, those pursuits aren't often successful, unless the ball has already travelled quite a long way from the rim.
Is Gordon ever going to stay fully healthy? A sprained left knee was the source of the problem in 2013-14, just lending itself to the reputation Gordon has earned as an injury-prone player. Now he's due for knee surgery No. 3 in the last three years.
Gordon might be one of the most disappointing players in the NBA, assuming you still remember the 2010-11 campaign in which he averaged over 22 points per game for the Clippers. He still has a few years left to live up to his egregiously high salary before he hits the open market again, but the expectations now have to be severely lowered.
18. Randy Foye, Denver Nuggets
It's all about the jumper here. Randy Foye doesn't have the most versatile offensive game, especially at the shooting guard position, but his three-point stroke and ability to connect from mid-range both serve him well. He was a valuable scoring piece for the Denver Nuggets during his first season playing home games in the Pepsi Center.
Not only did Foye prove he could handle the distributing duties—especially when he became a de facto point guard while Ty Lawson, Nate Robinson and Andre Miller were all out of the lineup—but he's become such a potent shooter that defenses have to keep an eye on him whenever he's on the court.
Slow of foot and (kind of) short of height, Foye doesn't have the physical tools necessary to make a big impact on defense. It's not for lack of effort, though, as the veteran is more than willing to spend his time on the court in constant pursuit of an off-ball threat.
Foye is perfectly average as a rebounding 2-guard. Generally compiling either three or four boards during the average game, he doesn't stand out either in a positive or negative way when it comes to rebounding volume, producing opportunities on the glass or grabbing contested rebounds.
Foye hasn't clashed with first-year coach Brian Shaw, instead remaining quiet and constantly giving it his all on the court. He's also stayed quite healthy throughout the 2013-14 season, so there's no reason for him to lose intangible points.
It's amazing what happens when Tyrone Corbin isn't calling the shots. After escaping from his limited role with the Utah Jazz, Foye proved he was still a valuable commodity, one capable of improving into a quality supporting piece on the offensive end.
17. Jodie Meeks, Los Angeles Lakers
Somewhat surprisingly, it wasn't Jodie Meeks' outside shooting that stood out during the 2013-14 campaign. He was a great marksman, just like always, but elevated ability to handle the rock and score with a burst to the rim is what pushed him over the top as a scoring threat. For the first time in his career, Meeks actually made over half of his looks inside the arc.
A tremendous off-ball threat, Meeks still has some developing to do as a distributor. While he doesn't ever turn the ball over, the assists he does generate are often few and far between. For example, it took him 16 games to record three dimes in a single contest for the first time this season.
Though the overall futility of the Los Angeles Lakers' defense can hide individual efforts, Meeks did make some strides as an on-ball stopper. Perhaps "stopper" is too strong, but his isolation skills and ability to navigate past picks at least made him a hindrance on many possessions.
Meeks might have improved around the rim as a scorer, but that doesn't mean he had a better knack for the boards as well. Somehow, he rarely found himself around the ball after it caromed off the rim or backboard.
During an injury-plagued season for the Lake Show (again), Meeks managed to stay healthy. And while remaining a near-constant fixture in the lineup, he avoided creating negative headlines for a struggling organization.
Mike D'Antoni is great at making role players seem like something more, but Meeks is here to stay as a quality rotation member. It was his development around the basket that allowed him to break into a new realm of value, not three-point shooting enhanced by a coach's system.
16. Gerald Henderson, Charlotte Bobcats
Gerald Henderson is the perfect representative scorer for the Charlotte Bobcats. Good but not great, he excels around the basket but has an inordinate amount of difficulty knocking down shots from the perimeter. Unfortunately, the bald-headed look just didn't help him connect from the outside.
If Henderson is going to score from an off-ball position, it'll come through a cut to the basket. He's extremely adept at finishing plays in that manner, but his spot-up game still needs a lot of work. Again, it all boils down to the lack of jump-shooting prowess in his game.
Henderson is perfectly fine when he's allowed to defend an opposing guard (or a swingman or small forward, even) who has the ball in his possession. When he settles into that defensive stance and isn't forced to chase players around a half-court set, he can be a tough man to get around.
Not only does the Charlotte 2-guard put himself in position to pull down a lot of rebounds, generating far more opportunities than most other players at his spot in the lineup, but he grabs a high percentage of them. It's an elite combination for an elite rebounding guard.
Henderson carries himself professionally on and off the court, so there's no cause for concern there. Additionally, he stayed quite healthy throughout the run to the playoffs, which gives him a perfect durability score as well.
The perimeter shooting—or lack thereof—still makes Henderson a limited player, but he's been a valuable commodity for the upstart 'Cats. Solid on-ball defense and an attacking mentality when his team has the ball have both aided him rather significantly.
15. Alec Burks, Utah Jazz
If you only look at Alec Burks' scoring volume and efficiency, you'll be left wondering how he deserves such an impressive score in this category. However, part of what made him special was his ability to create shots for himself in the half-court set, as he did so far better than most offensive-minded 2-guards.
The efforts to turn Burks into a facilitating guard have been relatively futile. Even though he's improved his assist numbers each year, he's become more reckless with the ball while doing so, and that puts a serious damper on his status as a burgeoning assist man.
Burks uses his intelligence to remain competent on the less glamorous end of the court. Though he struggles to close out on spot-up shooters, off-ball work is his strength, as he's good at acting like a shadow. Few players in the NBA were better at navigating both screens and handoffs.
The 22-year-old was a great rebounder at Colorado, and that skill has stuck with him during his time in the Association. Having a 6'6" frame surely helps, but so too does his ability to fight through contact.
No complaints and no injuries. That's a great recipe for success in this category, even though the latter portion of the statement is a bit of a lie for Burks. A sprained left ankle kept him out of the lineup for a short stretch, but he didn't miss enough games to be docked a point.
Has Burks lived up to the expectations associated with being a lottery pick in the 2011 NBA draft? Not really, but he's getting better and better as his career progresses and becoming a valuable part of the Utah Jazz rotation. This season wasn't truly special, but it was nothing to scoff at either.
14. Kevin Martin, Minnesota Timberwolves
Kevin Martin is still a remarkably efficient offensive producer, even if he's not quite as worthy of stat-geek obsessions like he was during his athletic prime. Thanks to his outside shooting and penchant for working his way to the charity stripe, Martin can put up points in bunches without sacrificing any sort of efficiency.
Martin isn't spectacular as a distributor, but he's not exactly solid either. Though he does manage to generate more assists than turnovers, the difference isn't that large. When the ball is in his hands, he's either going to play hot potato with it or try to produce points for himself.
Forced into playing defense because Rick Adelman couldn't possibly hide both him and Kevin Love during the average sequence, Martin flashed some previously unseen skills. He was a decent off-ball stopper, and he tended to work intelligently around pick-and-roll sets.
If there's another player within reaching distance of a loose ball, you can basically forget about Martin coming away with it. He does a decent enough job of putting himself in position to grab rebounds, but contact is something he tends to shy away from when he's not trying to score.
Martin almost stayed completely healthy in 2013-14, but he wasn't able to do so. A thumb injury knocked him out for a handful of games in February, and that was enough for him to lose a single point in the intangibles category.
Martin continues to cement himself as a secondary scorer, even though he's now starting to move out of his prime. Given his three-point shooting and ability to work his way to the free-throw line before sinking those ensuing foul shots, the shooting guard remains an efficient point producer capable of exploding for gaudy totals every once in a while.
13. Wesley Matthews, Portland Trail Blazers
Wesley Matthews has continuously gotten better as a scorer throughout his professional career, and that trend continued in 2013-14. While he remained a potent three-point sniper for the Portland Trail Blazers, he also continued developing his mid-range game. That allowed Matthews to become an all-around scorer, not just a player who thrived beyond the arc and right at the rim.
Matthews isn't much of a distributor, but defenses have to respect his three-point shooting. When he's spotting up on the perimeter, the issue is forced, as he can't just be left alone to light up the scoreboard and singe the nets with his potent stroke.
Even though he has a reputation as a "three and D" standout, Matthews' abilities as a perimeter stopper are slightly overblown. Perhaps it's because the rest of the Rip City defense struggled around him and couldn't provide much help for his lapses, but the shooting guard neither excelled as an on-ball stopper nor provided much positive impact off the ball.
Matthews is another perfectly average rebounder at the shooting guard position. He doesn't stand out in any significant way, instead just doing what's expected of most players who thrive on the perimeter regardless of which team has possession.
The Portland 2-guard has stayed healthy throughout the 2013-14 season, and he's avoided anything even resembling a negative headline. No reason for anything less than a 10-of-10 score in this category.
Although the Blazers managed to shock the world—especially early on in the season's proceedings—that wasn't due to a complete explosion from Matthews. He did manage to improve and become an even more valuable player, but his defensive reputation was a bit overblown when compared to other standout stoppers.
12. Gerald Green, Phoenix Suns
Gerald Green's scoring value skyrocketed when he developed an insane amount of confidence from beyond the arc. Even though the number of times fired away nearly doubled his previous per-game career high, Green was one of the more efficient snipers in the Association. And we all know what kind of athleticism he brings to the table.
There weren't many better off-ball threats in 2013-14. Not only did Green excel as a spot-up shooter, but that much-vaunted athleticism forced defenses to fear his cutting prowess. The combination left him as one of the few players in the Association to earn a perfect score for off-ball offense, but his facilitating just wasn't up to snuff.
While Green thrived as an isolation defender, more complicated plays tended to give him trouble. His athletic tools and instincts allowed him to excel in physical situations, but bringing more players into the equation was problematic. And given the complicated offenses that many NBA teams run, that's not exactly a positive.
Given his hops, you'd think Green would pull down an elite number of rebounds for a shooting guard. But unfortunately for the Phoenix Suns, that wasn't really the case in 2013-14, as he was fairly average across the board (pun intended).
Healthy and happy throughout the season, Green didn't do anything deserving of a loss of points. He was never a distraction in the desert, instead acting thrilled to be receiving such a large opportunity and thriving on a surprisingly effective team.
Green was easily one of the most improved players in the Association, showcasing a stellar stroke from the perimeter and maintaining the springs-for-legs athleticism that has allowed him to thrive for limited stretches in the past. He was one of the true keys to Phoenix's remarkable season.
11. Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls
Jimmy Butler broke out as an offensive player during the second half of the 2012-13 campaign and carried that success over into the postseason. But his three-point shooting plummeted this year, rendering last season's developments as a potential fluke, and the rest of his offensive game followed suit.
This is still a weak point for the Chicago Bulls 2-guard. Without a threatening jumper, defenses need to pay attention to other players rather than focus on him, and he's not much of a passer. That's never been a point of focus for Butler, though it'll have to change if he keeps settling in as a shooting guard rather than a small forward.
It's not easy to make the Bulls even better on defense than they already are, but Butler did exactly that. His reputation for preventing points is an impressive one, though it's in no way overblown. Only a handful of players in the league are blessed with a better combination of physical tools, defensive instincts and that oh-so-necessary lockdown mentality.
An extremely aggressive rebounder, Butler goes out of his way to crash the boards no matter how many players are in his way. He always seems to be in the vicinity after a missed shot comes falling out of the sky, and he's not afraid of contact when that's necessary.
There's nothing to complain about when Butler is on the court; he's filled with passion, energy and tempered aggressiveness. However, injuries popped up during the 2013-14 campaign, namely those to his foot, ankle and ribs.
Was Jimmy Butler overhyped going into the season? Absolutely, but don't let that detract from your evaluation of the promising, young 2-guard. He's an incredible defensive player who's still getting his sea legs on offense, and the Bulls should feel lucky to have control of his services going forward.
10. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
Bradley Beal drew plenty of Ray Allen comparisons when he was still balling for the Florida Gators, and it's becoming more and more apparent why as he continues to hone his three-point stroke. The overall game is still coming along, but he just has textbook form when he elevates and fires away from downtown.
Anyone who leaves Beal alone on the perimeter deserves to be benched. He's that potent from beyond the arc, and the rest of the NBA already knows it, even though he's been shooting triples for just two seasons. Additionally, he's showing nice development as a distributor who's more willing than ever to give up a good look for a great one.
Beal doesn't have much of a defensive reputation, but he's a quality player on the less glamorous end of the court. Perhaps because he possesses an intuitive understanding of how to position himself when trying to score off the ball, the second-year member of the Washington Wizards does a great job beating offensive players to advantageous spots on the wings.
Capable of grabbing the available rebound if he's in the right spot, Beal doesn't do much to make himself look like an exemplary player in this facet of the game. Some players take what they're not given; Beal is content just to take what he is given.
Only injuries come into play here. A sprained right ankle that looked far worse than it was knocked him out of the lineup for a little while in the middle of March. Thus far in his NBA career, he has yet to shake the "injury-prone" tag.
It's hard to believe that Beal still won't be able to legally consume adult beverages until late June. He's already finished two seasons in the NBA and established himself as a high-quality offensive contributor, but he's nowhere near reaching his lofty ceiling. Keep following this kid.
9. Dion Waiters, Cleveland Cavaliers
Dion Waiters is going to be an elite scorer one day, but he has to figure out when to be aggressive and when to tone it down. He started to do exactly that during the second half of the 2013-14 season, especially when Kyrie Irving was out of the lineup. Waiters has all the tools to thrive on this end, but they've rarely been taken out of the shed at the same time.
A tremendous off-ball threat with a knack for both cutting and spotting up, Waiters is quite adept at drawing defensive attention away from a teammate with the rock. He's also a solid passer, capable of making both simple and flashy deliveries as he attacks the basket. Once he cuts back on the turnovers, he'll look even better.
While the Syracuse product can play adequate on-ball defense, he often helps out teammates and makes rotations like he's wearing ear plugs. There just isn't much communication, which means that the shooting guard is often out of position and unable to up the Cleveland Cavaliers' chances of preventing points.
If you just look at Waiters' rebounding numbers, it would be awfully hard to distinguish him from many other 2-guards throughout the Association. And yes, that applies to his per-game numbers, per-minute marks, percentages and SportVU stats.
Clashes with teammates. Benchings by Mike Brown due to a lack of effort. Plenty of frustration. Waiters has the talent, but his intangibles weren't all that great during a difficult season with the Cavs.
Waiters is a roller-coaster ride for the Cavaliers. During both his rookie and sophomore seasons, he was incredibly frustrating before the All-Star break before breaking out in a big way after it. If he ever figures out how to maintain that performance for a whole season, the All-Star break might not be, well, a break.
8. Jamal Crawford, Los Angeles Clippers
The dribbling. Oh, the dribbling. Jamal Crawford is so incredibly potent off the bounce thanks to those flashy handles that have basically made his career. They allow him both to create separation on the perimeter and to drive into the teeth of the defense where he either finishes or draws contact.
You'd think a 34-year-old veteran who has spent plenty of time throughout his career running the point would be a quality distributor. But you'd be wrong. Crawford just doesn't often look to pass, instead doing everything he can to create his own shot and heat up. On the flip side, though, he's just about as threatening as an off-ball presence gets at this position.
The Los Angeles Clippers often have to hide Crawford on lesser offensive players, because he can be taken to school and taught a few lessons if he ever gets caught in a one-on-one situation. His off-ball work is passable, but disaster often results when he's asked to guard someone in isolation.
Rebounds? What are those? Crawford averages just over three rebounding opportunities per game. Not actual rebounds, but opportunities.
While he's a quality leader who gets crowds and teammates excited, Crawford wasn't able to remain healthy throughout 2013-14. A strained left calf and Achilles injury knocked him out of the lineup down the stretch.
One of the best bench scorers in basketball, Crawford remained the same player he's been for years—a dynamic shot creator who can heat up like he's a microwave set on high. His ability to create offense for himself is not only helpful to the LAC cause, but it also makes for a highly entertaining spectacle when the dribbles start getting fancier and fancier.
7. Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs
Manu Ginobili has never relied on athleticism to produce points, which means it shouldn't be even remotely surprising that he still fares well in this category at the ripe old age of 36. With his Eurostep, creative finishes and knack for figuring out openings in the defense, Ginobili is still scoring at a high rate while maintaining his efficient percentages.
The Argentine shooting guard is still one of the best in the business at dishing out assists. Those left-handed passes are things of beauty, and he sees the game develop in ways that other less talented distributors can't even imagine. Oh, and he's quite good at making defenses nervous without the ball.
Age hasn't treated Ginobili so kindly in this department. He's never been the best defender at his position, but not even the vaunted system of the San Antonio Spurs can make up for his flaws at this stage of his career. Whether he's playing on or off the ball, he's been a bit of a liability.
Vision helps Ginobili here, as he sees the ball bouncing off the rim before the two objects actually collide. His numbers are slightly more impressive than they appear to be on the surface level, as he's a good rebounder in traffic and converts on many of his chances.
Ginobili is always a positive on-court influence, but only when he's actually on the court. Thanks to a strained left hamstring and the typical maintenance days Gregg Popovich gives to his veterans, that hasn't happened quite as frequently as we'd like.
So much for a decline. Ginobili's demise was discussed ad nauseam during last season's playoffs, but he derailed that train of thought with another vintage offensive season for the Spurs. His creativity on the court will never get old, even as he continues to age.
6. Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
Only four different players in NBA history have ever hit at least 200 three-pointers in one of their first three professional seasons: Aaron Brooks, Kyle Korver, Damian Lillard and Klay Thompson. But thanks to his 2013-14 season, which continued to see him excel from beyond the arc, Thompson is now the only man to do so twice.
Failing to respect Thompson's shot is a big mistake, one that defenses are quite hesitant to make. He is half of the "Splash Brothers" backcourt pairing, after all. Unfortunately, though, the Washington State product's passing isn't nearly on the same level as his spot-up shooting.
Thompson has quickly become a two-way stud, as his perimeter defense was one of the many reasons Mark Jackson's squad ended up with one of the top point-preventing units in the Association. He thrived both on and off the ball, and the only gripe is that he sometimes spends time conserving energy rather than trying to jump lanes and recover to his man.
It's pretty understandable that Thompson doesn't rack up the rebounds, but that's not going to boost his score. Keeping him inside the arc on offense is nonsensical, and he often takes on the tougher perimeter assignments while playing defense.
Thompson rarely finds himself in the news for anything other than stellar play, and he's stayed quite healthy throughout his NBA career. 2013-14 was no exception.
The third-year pro is coming into his own for the Golden State Warriors. Though the focus still deservedly remains on his perimeter shooting, he's improved his all-around game and continues to thrive as an underrated defender. The Dubs have to be excited about his future.
5. Lance Stephenson, Indiana Pacers
Lance Stephenson's outside shot just keeps trending in the right direction, and the rest of his offensive game is following suit. The 2-guard has an attacking mentality—though that's sometimes detrimental—and he can score at a high level both in transition and the half-court set.
Not only did Born Ready improve to become a mediocre spot-up shooter, but he remains an effective, aggressive and violent cutter who forces defenses to pay attention to him at all times. On top of that, his distributing skills appeared to be much better throughout the 2013-14 season, even if he occasionally had trouble maintaining possession of the rock.
Stephenson's individual numbers aren't excellent, but that's not entirely problematic. He takes on tough assignments, and he also acts like a whirling dervish on the court, playing relentlessly difficult defense regardless of who has the ball. He understands that team defense can be just as impactful as individual work.
He can occasionally be a selfish rebounder, stealing chances away from his teammates to pad his stats, but the Indiana Pacers have to love his aggressive mentality on the glass. Stephenson legitimately thinks he's going to get every rebound possible, and the result was arguably the greatest season on the boards by a guard since the turn of the century.
Stephenson's antics can get a bit annoying. He has a penchant for showmanship, but it's not always a positive for the Pacers. His passion can get a bit too passionate, and his aggressiveness can get a bit too aggressive.
Stephenson was a breakout star for the Pacers, showcasing his two-way skills throughout the entire season. His ball-handling abilities—both in terms of creating shots for himself and for others—gave the offense a new dynamic, and his defensive mentality fit right in with the overall scheme.
4. Monta Ellis, Dallas Mavericks
An overrated volume scorer with the Milwaukee Bucks—and, to a lesser extent, at times during his career with the Golden State Warriors—Monta Ellis thrived in his new digs. No longer reliant on an ineffective three-point stroke, Ellis attacked the basket relentlessly and finally paired some efficiency with his high-scoring nature.
Ellis isn't much of an off-ball threat unless he's cutting to the hoop, but he's a premier facilitator among the backdrop of 2-guards in the Association. Though he turns the ball over a bit too often—primarily through bad passes and careless dribbling—he still racks up assists as well as nearly anyone at the position. It only took him 20 games with the Dallas Mavericks to hit double digits three times.
Steals aren't the equivalent of good defense, and Ellis is the poster boy for that movement, even if he probably doesn't want to be. While the shooting guard does have quick hands, he gambles far too often, and the positivity of the thefts is mitigated by the number of times he's ridiculously far out of position.
You can't fault Ellis for a lack of effort on the boards. He rockets around the court like it's his job to collect every rebound that eludes the big men, which often puts him in the vicinity of a missed shot. That said, he's often late to the punch.
Though his style of play may rub some the wrong way, Ellis certainly endears himself to his teammates with his passionate efforts and unrelenting confidence. He was also remarkably durable during his first season under Mark Cuban's supervision.
A change of location can have a marvelously positive impact on a player's career. Ellis seemed to take past criticism to heart throughout the 2013-14 season, eschewing those ill-advised triples and focusing instead on his impressive driving ability at all times.
3. DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors
DeMar DeRozan still isn't a remarkably efficient scorer—which is the main reason he's "only" getting 22 of the 25 possible points here, despite averaging well over 20 points per game—but he's improving. The three-point stroke is slightly better, and an attacking mentality has allowed him to earn plenty of freebies and make up for the lackluster field-goal percentage.
There's still work to be done as an off-ball threat, but DeRozan made great strides as a distributor. Once Rudy Gay was traded to the Sacramento Kings, he got to spend more time with the ball in his hands and was able to showcase vision that was previously hidden by his shooting tendencies.
DeRozan's reputation on the defensive end might not be as sparkling as some of the more well-known standouts, but it should be. No player in the NBA has been better at shutting down players in isolation, and his only real on-ball flaw comes when he gets caught in a post-up situation without a weak-side defender giving him support.
DeRozan is on the verge of being an elite rebounding guard, but he needs to grab a few more contested boards before that can happen. For a player who spends quite a bit of time working on the glass, the 2-guard isn't as capable of grabbing contested rebounds as you might expect.
A feisty competitor who plays with his heart on his sleeve, DeRozan doesn't exactly have a penchant for drama. At least, not the kind that's detrimental to the Toronto Raptors. Between that and a fairly clean bill of health, there's no reason for negativity here.
It's been a long time coming, but DeRozan finally transitioned from a quality player whose offensive contributions were overvalued to a high-quality player whose offensive contributions were quite valuable. That's a big transition, and it's large part of the reason why Toronto moved up toward the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
2. Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
Dwyane Wade doesn't score quite as much as some of the other elite shooting guards, but he's remarkably efficient. By completely cutting the three-ball out of his game, he's been able to focus on mid-range looks and attacking the basket. That's been the impetus behind his career-best field-goal percentage.
Just as he's always been, Wade remains a dangerous slasher who can catch the ball on the move and contort however necessary to finish the play around the basket. Defenses don't have to respect him standing on the wings, but they do as soon as he starts to move. On top of that, Wade is one of the truly elite passers at his position.
When he pulls the shorts up, slaps the floor and gets ready for a man-on-man encounter (he doesn't really do the first two things), Wade is as good as it gets. But unfortunately for the Miami Heat, he's played lackluster off-ball defense, choosing to lounge around rather than fly past defenders and wreak havoc like he did in his prime.
Though he's not quite on the same level as Lance Stephenson, D-Wade is the man you should watch if you're looking for tape on how a 2-guard should attack the boards. He usually picks his spots well, but he's also able to work around box-outs and elevate over bigger players when he really puts his mind to it.
Erik Spoelstra might be keeping him out of the lineup a bit too often, but Wade still isn't the most healthy veteran. His knees are especially problematic—the issue has been rather well-publicized—but a left hamstring and Achilles injury also plagued him during the stretch run. It's unfortunate, but health is his biggest weakness now.
Wade isn't able to spend as much time on the court as he could during his prime, but he's become increasingly efficient. The 2-guard is just about as good as it gets scoring and passing the ball, and he remains an elite defender whenever he decides he wants to be one.
1. James Harden, Houston Rockets
James Harden's scoring game can sometimes be frustrating to watch because he exaggerates contact quite often, especially down the stretch of a game when he's struggling to find the bottom of the net. But there's no denying its effectiveness. He scores everywhere on the court, maintains ridiculous efficiency numbers because of his free-throw shooting and routinely creates his own looks.
When Harden is on the court, opposing coaches have to think to themselves, "Please don't leave him open on the perimeter." Of course, they also have to worry about his elite distributing skills, so it's not like that can be the only priority.
Believe it or not, Harden's defensive numbers aren't awful, largely because he picks when he wants to record them. He's a fairly decent on-ball defender when he decides he actually wants to exert energy on the less glamorous end of the court. But he's also remarkably prone to falling asleep when defending. And given the amount of time he spends stationary and disengaged, staring only at the ball as though he's hypnotized, I sometimes wonder if I mean that literally.
Harden's scoring and passing skills overshadow his rebounding. Hell, his defensive impotence does the same thing. But don't let that detract from the work he does on the glass, as he can often be found pulling down a rebound and then bolting down the court to start a transition opportunity.
Other than defense, the biggest knock on Harden is his fragility. The 2-guard is prone to minor injuries, and they tend to add up over the course of the season, even if he's usually able to play through the aches and pains.
Even if Kobe Bryant hadn't missed almost the entire season while Dwyane Wade worried about the health of his knees, James Harden still might have established himself as the class of his position. He's just that dominant offensively, thanks to that remarkable combination of inside and outside scoring. If he vastly improves his play on defense, we could be looking at a bona fide MVP candidate.
Don't forget to check back here for the latest updates to the NBA 200 series, but in the meantime, feel free to discuss any or all of these rankings with me on Twitter.