NBA Position Power Rankings, End of Regular Season Edition: Shooting Guards

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistApril 3, 2017

NBA Position Power Rankings, End of Regular Season Edition: Shooting Guards

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    Modern NBA shooting guards are supposed to do more than their eponymous role. 

    Ideally, they can also serve as lockdown defenders, help create shots for their teammates and crash the glass to end possessions. Maybe they can both work off the dribble and spot up from the perimeter to help space the floor. Perhaps they're capable of doing all the little things that a standard box score doesn't necessarily reflect. 

    But few can do everything. 

    Over the last couple of years, a select few shooting guards have dominated these positional rankings. But the youngsters are starting to catch up. 

    By analyzing all aspects of the on-court work these players have produced in 2016-17, we're here to put the top 30 shooting guards in order. The goal is to identify those we'd most want to build around for the remainder of the current campaign, so long-term upside and prowess in the distant past are irrelevant. For the sake of consistency, all positional designations are the same as they appeared in the midseason edition of these rankings, even in instances where splits have changed to slightly favor new positions. 

30-26: Hield, Temple, Shumpert, Young, Smart

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    30. Buddy Hield, Sacramento Kings (Previous Ranking: Unranked)

    Age: 23

    Per-Game Stats: 10.1 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.1 blocks

    Advanced Metrics11.7 player efficiency rating (PER), minus-3.62 real plus/minus (RPM), minus-96.04 total points added (TPA)

    Maybe the Sacramento Kings do know what they're doing (to some extent, at least). Buddy Hield was the centerpiece in their return for DeMarcus Cousins, and he's quickly begun breaking out in a new role after a slow start to his professional career with the New Orleans Pelicans. Since arriving in SacTown, he's averaged 14.4 points and 4.1 rebounds while shooting 49.3 percent from the field and 42.5 percent from downtown. 

    29. Garrett Temple, Sacramento Kings (Previous Ranking: No. 28)

    Age: 30

    Per-Game Stats: 7.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.4 blocks

    Advanced Metrics11.0 PERminus-0.1 RPM3.19 TPA

    It's all about versatility for Garrett Temple, who hasn't filled the largest role during his breakout season despite contributing in so many different areas. The 6'6" guard is capable of lining up at either spot in the backcourt or sliding over to small forward in smaller lineups, and he's comfortable working on or off the ball. The all-around description of his game applies in a broader sense as well, since Temple can make a slightly positive impact on either end. 

    28. Iman Shumpert, Cleveland Cavaliers (Previous Ranking: Honorable Mentions)

    Age: 26

    Per-Game Stats: 7.7 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.4 blocks

    Advanced Metrics9.4 PERminus-0.79 RPMminus-31.12 TPA

    Iman Shumpert continues to serve as a three-and-D player for the Cleveland Cavaliers. That's the good news. However, the unfortunate part of the story is that he's merely a mediocre defender—exactly average, per defensive box plus/minus (DBPM), and a slight negative on's defensive real plus/minus (DRPM)—who shoots threes just above the league-average rate. Until he connects at better than a 36.8 percent clip, there's only so high he can rise. 


    27. Nick Young, Los Angeles Lakers (Previous Ranking: No. 18)

    Age: 31

    Per-Game Stats: 13.2 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.2 blocks

    Advanced Metrics14.1 PER0.63 RPMminus-28.79 TPA

    Gone is the early-season hope Nick Young would morph into a beneficial defender who consistently tried on the less glamorous end. He's back to his ball-watching habits of old.'s DRPM is more elucidating here, ranking Young behind 76 other players at his own position and leaving him sandwiched between noted sieves Leandro Barbosa and Monta Ellis. 

    26. Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics (Previous Ranking: Honorable Mention)

    Age: 23

    Per-Game Stats: 10.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.4 blocks

    Advanced Metrics11.7 PER0.1 RPMminus-26.1 TPA

    Don't ask Marcus Smart to shoot the ball. He's hitting only 35.8 percent of his field-goal attempts and 27.7 percent of his deep tries. You'll have to deal with his flopping habit as well, since the Oklahoma State product is all too willing to sell calls and make minimal contact look like he was barreled into by a semitruck. But Smart retains substantial value because of his defensive intensity, his desire to contribute in non-glamorous ways and his impressive playmaking out of the pick-and-roll. 

    Honorable Mentions: Will Barton, Kyle Korver, Courtney Lee, JR Smith, Tony Snell 

25-21: Hood, Allen, Miles, Oladipo, Brogdon

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    25. Rodney Hood, Utah Jazz (Previous Ranking: No. 16)

    Age: 24

    Per-Game Stats: 13.0 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.2 blocks

    Advanced Metrics12.9 PER0.13 RPMminus-38.82 TPA

    This was supposed to be Rodney Hood's breakout season. Instead, he's regressed as a shooter, settled into a spot-up role and failed to use the leftover energy reserves to improve his defense. Since the All-Star break, the 24-year-old 2-guard has averaged just 11.3 points, though he's shot 41.1 percent from the field and 45.2 percent from beyond the arc. With only one more year remaining on his contract, Hood needs to start creating more offense if he's going to have a long-term future with the Utah Jazz. 

    24. Tony Allen, Memphis Grizzlies (Previous Ranking: No. 20)

    Age: 35

    Per-Game Stats: 9.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.4 blocks

    Advanced Metrics12.7 PERminus-0.45 RPM23.6 TPA

    This might come as a shock: Tony Allen still can't provide efficient offense for the Memphis Grizzlies, and his points come largely around the rim on easy attempts. He's also locking down well enough that he should receive serious consideration for one of the All-Defensive teams. Can you make out the dripping sarcasm? Not about how he plays the game but that this should be even remotely surprising after a dozen years of performing in the same vein. 

    23. CJ Miles, Indiana Pacers (Previous Ranking: Unranked)

    Age: 29

    Per-Game Stats: 10.7 points, 2.9 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.4 blocks

    Advanced Metrics13.5 PER0.81 RPMminus-15.94 TPA

    CJ Miles has turned into a corner-three maestro. Only Kevin Love, JR Smith and PJ Tucker have taken more shots per game out of the left corner, from where Miles is draining 50 percent of his attempts in 2016-17. And from the right, the swingman is hitting at a 53.6 percent clip while taking more attempts per game than all but 11 players. All together, he has the seventh-most corner attempts this season and is connecting on 51.7 percent of them. The next most attempts from a player who's making more than he misses? That would be Kyle Korver, who's No. 23 in total attempts. 

    22. Victor Oladipo, Oklahoma City Thunder (Previous Ranking: No. 25)

    Age: 24

    Per-Game Stats: 16.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Advanced Metrics14.1 PER1.46 RPMminus-31.47 TPA

    Victor Oladipo hasn't taken many strides forward for the Oklahoma City Thunder, but he's continued to serve as a solid running mate for Russell Westbrook whenever he's healthy. Though he can't quite make up for the defensive lapses of his fellow backcourt starter, he has been able to function as a secondary playmaker who can take over when Westbrook needs a breather. He's also shown off his athleticism as an alley-oop finisher and constant off-ball cutter, which helps open things up for a team devoid of much consistent floor-spacing. 

    21. Malcolm Brogdon, Milwaukee Bucks (Previous Ranking: No. 26)

    Age: 24

    Per-Game Stats: 10.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.2 blocks

    Advanced Metrics14.9 PER1.03 RPMminus-22.55 TPA

    Rookies aren't supposed to play basketball like Malcolm Brogdon, who qualifies as a 2 because that's where he sat in the midseason edition of these rankings, even if he's since shifted almost exclusively to point guard. First-year guards typically struggle with their shots, turn the ball over frequently and fail to get their bearings on the defensive end. Perhaps because of his advanced age and his experience at Virginia, Brogdon has done no such thing, instead thriving as a steady figure who rarely forces the action and loves nothing more than making the right play, no matter how doing so might affect his personal statistics. 

20-16: Fournier, Matthews, Bradley, Redick, Ginobili

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    20. Evan Fournier, Orlando Magic (Previous Ranking: No. 15)

    Age: 24

    Per-Game Stats: 17.1 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.0 steals

    Advanced Metrics13.8 PERminus-0.77 RPMminus-48.22 TPA

    The offense is still there, coming in well-rounded fashion for the Orlando Magic as Evan Fournier proves he can contribute as a low-level No. 1 option while thriving in so many different areas. Whether he's running pick-and-rolls, spotting up on the perimeter or cutting to the hoop, he can show off his scoring instincts. Defense, however, remains a significant issue, and Fournier often allows so many points to the opposition that he negates much of his offensive effort. 

    19. Wesley Matthews, Dallas Mavericks (Previous Ranking: No. 22)

    Age: 30

    Per-Game Stats: 13.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.2 blocks

    Advanced Metrics: 12.1 PER, 0.34 RPM, 13.34 TPA

    It took awhile to recover fully after Wesley Matthews' Achilles injury ended his 2014-15 season, as well as his career with the Portland Trail Blazers. But during his second campaign with the Dallas Mavericks, he's resumed his efforts as a three-and-D stalwart. His defensive intensity has always been there, but this season's improved lateral mobility has allowed him to transition back to his role as a legitimate wing stopper while he knocks down 36.7 percent of his triples for a squad that still doesn't offer much floor-spacing protection around him. 

    18. Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics (Previous Ranking: No. 14)

    Age: 26

    Per-Game Stats: 16.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.2 blocks

    Advanced Metrics14.9 PERminus-1.22 RPMminus-6.57 TPA

    Avery Bradley remains a confounding player whose advanced metrics don't match the eye test. The Boston Celtics clearly count on him to serve as a defensive ace alongside the sieve known as Isaiah Thomas, and his pestilent production forces ball-handlers into mistakes far outside the three-point arc. However,'s DRPM doesn't just sneer at his defensive merits; it lists him as such a negative that his score tops only those earned by 37 of the 99 players at his position. Plus, the C's have strangely allowed an additional 3.2 points per 100 possessions while he plays. 

    17. J.J. Redick, Los Angeles Clippers (Previous Ranking: No. 13)

    Age: 32

    Per-Game Stats: 15.0 points, 2.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.1 blocks

    Advanced Metrics14.6 PER0.01 TPAminus-15.8 TPA

    J.J. Redick can be a decent positional defender who makes sparse contributions in other areas, but his primary source of value has always been and will always be his three-point shooting. And he hasn't been quite as good as in previous campaigns from beyond the arc, especially because he's been less involved since returning from the All-Star break. Though his percentages have crept up toward their normal levels following the midseason festivities, they've been accompanied by almost one fewer trey per game. 


    16. Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs (Previous Ranking: No. 17)

    Age: 39

    Per-Game Stats: 7.7 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.2 blocks

    Advanced Metrics: 14.4 PER, 2.45 RPM, 56.09 TPA

    Manu Ginobili laughs at Father Time. The inexorable march of the years is typically supposed to slow players down, but the Argentine 2-guard has managed to mitigate any athletic drop-offs by maintaining a perfect understanding of the San Antonio Spurs' schemes. He's still squeezing the ball into tight spaces and scoring from downtown, but he's also added a new wrinkle to his game: Even though he's on the verge of celebrating his next birthday with 40 candles, he's been a distinct defensive positive who knows how to use his quick hands and force matchups toward the team's stifling interior stoppers. 

15-11: Green, Gordon, Booker, LaVine, Harris

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    15. Danny Green, San Antonio Spurs (Previous Ranking: No. 9)

    Age: 29

    Per-Game Stats: 7.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.8 blocks

    Advanced Metrics10.2 PER1.78 RPM84.61 TPA

    "Fans who do not watch the [San Antonio] Spurs on a nightly basis are under the impression that [Kawhi] Leonard guards the opposing team's perimeter player. He does, but that usually comes in the fourth quarter. In the first three quarters, that responsibility is bestowed upon [Danny] Green," Matthew Perez wrote for And it's that defensive importance that allows Green to retain such a respectable rank despite playing fewer minutes than his positional peers and shooting only 32.1 percent from downtown after the All-Star break. 

    14. Eric Gordon, Houston Rockets (Previous Ranking: No. 10)

    Age: 28

    Per-Game Stats: 16.3 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.5 blocks

    Advanced Metrics13.4 PER1.32 RPMminus-43.52 TPA

    Eric Gordon's start to the 2016-17 campaign was a bit too good to be true. Though he's remained valuable to a Houston Rockets team that relies on plenty of bench scoring, the 2-guard who emerged early in the year as a legitimate Sixth Man of the Year contender has averaged just 13.7 points, 2.2 rebounds and 2.0 assists since the midway point. Worse still, those points have come while he shoots 39.6 percent from the field and 36.2 percent from beyond the arc, which makes it impossible for him to remain in the top 10. 

    13. Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns (Previous Ranking: No. 23)

    Age: 20

    Per-Game Stats: 21.9 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Advanced Metrics: 14.5 PER, minus-1.77 RPM, minus-136.04 TPA

    Though it may seem strange to see Devin Booker sitting outside the top dozen after he exploded for 70 points against the Boston Celtics, these rankings reflect more than just single-game exploits. And while this young 2-guard has emerged as a dynamic offensive threat for the Phoenix Suns who can routinely put together 30-point outings—he has 13 on the year—it would be nice if he were doing so for a competitive team. Only four of those showings came during a victory, since Booker can settle in as a gunner when his squad is down—in large part because of his woeful defensive efforts that still lead to decisively negative scores in most overarching metrics. 

    12. Zach LaVine, Minnesota Timberwolves (Previous Ranking: No. 11)

    Age: 22

    Per-Game Stats18.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.2 blocks

    Advanced Metrics14.6 PERminus-3.01 RPMminus-3.45 TPA

    Zach LaVine played in only a handful of games after ranking No. 11 in the midseason edition, and he struggled with his shot for the Minnesota Timberwolves before a torn ACL cut his season short. But he'd already established himself as a bona fide scoring threat who maintains a spot ahead of Devin Booker because he's slightly more efficient and does a few additional things. Both wings are atrocious stoppers, but LaVine's ability to facilitate without racking up turnovers and true shooting percentage (57.6 to 53.3) both allow him to hold the subtle edge. 

    11. Gary Harris, Denver Nuggets (Previous Ranking: No. 21)

    Age: 22

    Per-Game Stats: 14.9 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.2 blocks

    Advanced Metrics: 16.6 PER0.3 RPM, 46.73 TPA

    "Forget about him as a shot goes up, and [Gary] Harris will sneak in for a put-back cram. Harris is emerging as one of the league's most versatile off-ball weapons. He's drilled a sizzling 43 percent from deep, and he's not just a standstill gunner; he has a liquid release compact enough to catch and shoot in a blink after curling off screens,"'s Zach Lowe wrote while selecting Gary Harris to his Marc Gasol All-Stars.

    The Michigan State product may still be flying below the radar, but his synergy with Nikola Jokic has been crucial to the Denver Nuggets' overall surge toward the top of the offensive-rating leaderboard, and he's making that point-producing leap while consistently taking on tough perimeter assignments. 

10. Nicolas Batum, Charlotte Hornets (Previous Ranking: No. 8)

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    Age: 28

    Per-Game Stats: 15.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.4 blocks

    Advanced Metrics: 15.4 PER, 0.82 RPM, 61.69 TPA

    In the past, Nicolas Batum has functioned as one of those players who's good across the board. He even verged on great for the Charlotte Hornets, who were willing to let him handle the rock far more than the Portland Trail Blazers did toward the end of his Rip City tenure. 

    But in 2016-17, Batum has regressed in plenty of different areas. He's still retained his all-around value by virtue of his versatility, wingspan-aided defense and willingness to do the little things, but an off-kilter shot has hampered his stardom. Shooting just 40.0 percent from the field and 33.7 percent from downtown forces him to keep sliding down the rankings, to the point that he's on the verge of moving behind Gary Harris and out of the top 10. 

    However, Batum's passing won't let that happen quite yet. 

    The 28-year-old has always displayed terrific vision and the overwhelming desire to set up his teammates in advantageous positions. And that's continued during his second season with Charlotte while his growing confidence in Steve Clifford's schemes has enabled him to average more assists while playing less frequently and rarely turning the ball over. Averaging 5.9 dimes and 2.6 turnovers per game is nothing to sneeze at, especially for a 6'8" wing who splits time between shooting guard and small forward. 

9. Dwyane Wade, Chicago Bulls (Previous Ranking: No. 7)

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    Age: 35

    Per-Game Stats: 18.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.7 blocks

    Advanced Metrics: 19.0 PER, minus-0.53 RPM, 44.29 TPA

    Was Dwyane Wade's season, which ended prematurely with a small fracture in his right elbow, a disappointment?


    The 35-year-old shooting guard failed to live up to the hype during his venture with the hometown Chicago Bulls. He was never a great fit for a shooting-starved roster, especially as age forced him to rely more on his teammates than the athleticism that will eventually grant him entry to the Hall of Fame. Plus, he wasn't able to lead his troops toward strong playoff positioning, even if the overall mediocrity of the Eastern Conference's middle class could still lead to a first-round appearance. 

    But while Wade's year was disappointing, it was by no means a failure. 

    He still averaged 18.6 points and 3.9 assists with a 50.9 true shooting percentage—benchmarks only met or surpassed by 19 other qualified players. He also did enough on both ends to emerge as one of just 40 players who recorded positive scores in both the offensive and defensive portions of NBA Math's TPA while logging at least 1500 minutes. 

    Against the expectations established throughout his illustrious career and kindled by his desire to move to the Windy City, Wade didn't stand out. But he still played like a top-10 shooting guard for the majority of his appearances. 

8. Jrue Holiday, New Orleans Pelicans (Previous Ranking: No. 19)

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    Age: 26

    Per-Game Stats: 15.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, 7.2 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.7 blocks

    Advanced Metrics17.2 PER2.39 RPM79.09 TPA

    At the time of the midseason rankings, Jrue Holiday had logged slightly more time at the 2 than the 1. That's no longer true, with 65 percent of the 26-year-old's minutes coming as a point guard. But for the sake of consistency, he retains his status as a shooting guard for these purposes, so take his placement with that positional grain of salt. 

    What hasn't changed is his play. It can no longer be considered a fluke that Holiday is becoming one of the league's premier backcourt producers while staying healthy, since he's maintained his excellence for the New Orleans Pelicans all season. 

    Of course, his averages run counter to that claim. Since returning from the All-Star break, Holiday has averaged 14.1 points, 3.9 rebounds and 6.7 assists while shooting 42.4 percent from the field and 32.2 percent from deep. But those numbers are misleading, because the veteran guard has seen his role change dramatically after the midseason acquisition of DeMarcus Cousins. 

    Prior to the break, the Pelicans were 5.1 points per 100 possessions better when Holiday played. Since it, that number has jumped to 11.7. 

7. Patrick Beverley, Houston Rockets (Previous Ranking: No. 12)

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    Age: 28

    Per-Game Stats: 9.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.4 blocks

    Advanced Metrics: 12.6 PER, 2.82 RPM87.8 TPA

    James Harden serves as the heart and soul of the Houston Rockets, but Patrick Beverley makes his life so much easier. 

    During the 1220 minutes they've played together in 2016-17, the team has outscored its foes by an impressive 6.2 points per 100 possessions.

    The ease with which the bearded point guard can play alongside Beverley enables him to take over when the matchups grow tougher. He doesn't need to take on difficult defensive assignments when his teammate is capable of switching over to guard anyone, leaving him to conserve energy for his offensive exploits without holding his troops back. The spot-up work from the Arkansas product also opens up the driving lanes Harden loves to take advantage of in any situatios. 

    Beyond that, Beverley gives this team an edge. Without him, the Rockets wouldn't be nearly as potent defensively, leaving them to scramble for even more offense as they attempt to threaten both the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs. 

6. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Detroit Pistons (Previous Ranking: No. 6)

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    Age: 24

    Per-Game Stats: 14.1 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.2 blocks

    Advanced Metrics: 13.2 PER, 0.19 RPM, 55.89 TPA

    "Detroit's questionable allocation of offensive usage has impeded [Kentavious] Caldwell-Pope's ability to show off his ability. Now, in order to realize his untapped potential, the Pistons must consider freeing Caldwell-Pope from the less promising pieces around him," Nick Sciria wrote for Nylon Calculus in early March. 

    Playing next to Andre Drummond doesn't do wonders for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope's growth, since the slow-developing big man eats up too many touches from the post, fails to draw defenders toward him in the paint and struggles kicking the ball out with on-target feeds. Ditto for Reggie Jackson during his miserable season for the Detroit Pistons

    But Caldwell-Pope has still surged. 

    He remains a potent perimeter defender who can switch onto multiple assignments and assume the team's toughest wing matchups. He's an improving facilitator who's becoming comfortable putting the ball on the floor and looking for a friendly uniform. He's a better three-point shooter than he was in the past—something not many Pistons can claim this year. 

    When Caldwell-Pope is discussed as a max-contract candidate during the offseason, don't be surprised. He's proved he can do the hidden things well, and he just needs an opportunity to start putting up more glamorous numbers.

5. Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors (Previous Ranking: No. 3)

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    Age: 27

    Per-Game Stats: 22.2 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.5 blocks

    Advanced Metrics: 17.2 PER, 1.84 RPM5.04 TPA

    You have to look carefully, but Klay Thompson has regressed this season. As you can see below, his per-36-minute numbers and advanced metrics are down (almost) across the board: 


    Most of those numbers are almost identical to last season's marks, which might not seem troublesome on the surface level. But while he's playing alongside even more star power and operating in an offense that allows him to reallocate energy into other areas, even stagnation—or consistency, if you're looking for a more positive spin—reflects a lack of growth. 

    That hidden regression as a rebounder and distributor is concerning enough. Thompson has never been great—or even good—in either area, and any movement in the wrong direction is a problem while working with this particular set of changing circumstances. 

    But the lack of defensive growth is even more problematic.

    Thompson remains excellent on the ball, and he's capable of shutting down players in the post, sticking with them in isolation or following them through pick-and-roll sets. That said, he's still prone to losing track of his man off the ball, and that drives his defensive numbers down rather significantly. 

    This All-Star remains a legitimate stud. He's one of the best shooters in NBA history and would likely produce even more if he weren't playing alongside Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green. 

    But he's not perfect, and his shooting alone shouldn't negate the noticeable weaknesses in his all-around profile. 

4. C.J. McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers (Previous Ranking: No. 4)

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    Age: 25

    Per-Game Stats: 23.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.5 blocks

    Advanced Metrics: 20.3 PER, 1.26 RPM, 67.95 TPA

    "In terms of volume and percentage on long-range attempts, only three players in the league really rival him [C.J. McCollum]: [Stephen] Curry, his splash kin Klay Thompson and Clippers sharpshooter J.J. Redick. Under cover of a broader breakout season, McCollum casually climbed to the peak of the single most important craft in the sport," Rob Mahoney explained for Sports Illustrated in early November. "McCollum might only be second to Curry, too, in terms of sheer range of shooting application."

    Since then, McCollum has done nothing but justify the praise. 

    He's a dominant pull-up shooter from all ranges. He understands angles, and they allow him to get to the hoop and finish plays in a way that defies his 6'4" frame. DeMar DeRozan is his only equal—and even that may be giving the Toronto Raptors 2-guard too much credit—from mid-range zones, as McCollum is knocking down 50.5 percent of his attempts from 10 to 16 feet and 46.7 percent on his twos from at least 16 feet. 

    Even though he doesn't play much defense, his offensive growth has more than negated his matador tendencies. That's doubly true now that he's learning how to play the role of secondary facilitator without turning the ball over so frequently. 

    In terms of sheer name recognition, McCollum doesn't get as much love as Thompson. But that's not how these players are ranked. 

3. DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors (Previous Ranking: No. 2)

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    Age: 27

    Per-Game Stats: 27.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.2 blocks

    Advanced Metrics: 24.1 PER, 0.52 RPM, 42.19 TPA

    Players like DeMar DeRozan are supposed to slow down and succumb to the wear and tear of an NBA season. He puts his body on the line to generate rebounds, thrives when he's fighting off contact to get clean mid-range looks and constantly drives to the hoop for either an athletic finish or a whistle. 

    And yet, he won't slow down and succumb. 

    Since Kyle Lowry played his last game on Feb. 15, DeRozan has averaged a scorching 27.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists while shooting 47.4 percent from the field, 31.1 percent from downtown and 82.6 percent from the charity stripe. That's an improvement from three-point territory, but it's the last number that matters most since he's taking a staggering 9.1 attempts per game from the line. 

    Aggression will do that, and the 2-guard will never stop attacking. 

    "As impressive as he's been, DeRozan isn't having the Raptors' best individual regular season ever...yet. For the moment, that title belongs to 2000–01 Vince [Carter]." Craig Battle wrote for "But there are still seven games to go, and if DeRozan finishes as hot as he started—through the season's first seven games he was averaging 34.1 points on 53.3 percent shooting—anything's possible."

    Just the fact he's legitimately in that conversation is impressive enough, even if his defense and lack of spacing can hold him back. 

2. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards (Previous Ranking: No. 5)

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    Age: 23

    Per-Game Stats: 23.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.3 blocks

    Advanced Metrics: 20.1 PER, 2.31 RPM, 113.51 TPA

    It's all coming together for Bradley Beal. 

    The 23-year-old shooting guard isn't just averaging a career-best 23.1 points per game; he's gotten more efficient while his scoring clip rises. Not only is he knocking down 40.5 percent of his triples, but his two-point percentage has skyrocketed from 48.1 in 2015-16 to 53.6 in 2016-17. He's taking better shots, and that's still not where the scoring improvement ends, since he's done a far better job attacking the hoop and getting to the stripe, where he converts 82.1 percent of his attempts. 

    And there's more. 

    Even while making the leap as a scorer, Beal has developed his passing. He's more comfortable than ever putting the ball on the floor and looking to find a teammate if his point-seeking tries are thwarted, and he's expanding his game without a corresponding bump in turnovers. 

    The Washington Wizards certainly wouldn't mind if he became a stingier defender, but they can't complain about this type of growth—both compared to last campaign's efforts and the work he did early in the current season. Even if John Wall remains the team's best player, Beal has been vital for the second-half surge that pushed Washington up the Eastern Conference standings. 

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks (Previous Ranking: No. 1)

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    Brian Babineau/Getty Images

    Age: 22

    Per-Game Stats: 23.1 points, 8.6 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.7 steals, 1.9 blocks

    Advanced Metrics: 26.3 PER, 4.33 RPM, 393.61 TPA

    Is Giannis Antetokounmpo a shooting guard? Honestly, your guess is as good as mine. But the majority of his minutes had been logged there at the halfway point, and we're sticking with it while fully acknowledging that he's a positionless player who can run the point and then guard a power forward on the opposite end. 

    No matter where he plays, Antetokounmpo has been thoroughly dominant in every facet of the game. 

    It's time to stop claiming he'll be unstoppable when he develops an outside shot, as so many announcers for Milwaukee Bucks' opponents are wont to do. He's already unstoppable even with a shaky perimeter stroke (better when he doesn't hesitate before firing), and he'll be flat-out unfair if the three-point attempts ever start falling with consistency. 

    Defenders simply can't keep him away from the hoop. Not with his quick movements, lanky strides and creative finishes that allow him to dunk when other players would throw up a soon-to-be-rejected layup attempt. And even if they force him into a disadvantageous situation, he has the passing chops either to find a teammate for a spot-up attempt or to reset the play on the perimeter. 

    Antetokounmpo does everything for the Bucks, whether he's locking down foes outside, guarding the rim or producing on offense. And as a result, he's leading the team in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks per game—with a substantial amount of room to spare in every category. 

    Adam Fromal covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @fromal09.

    Unless otherwise indicated, all stats from or NBA Math and accurate heading into Sunday, April 2.