August 20, 2010
As summer winds down and the day-to-day "news" falls flat, BDL will be ranking each NBA position, 1-through-30. Or, more accurately, 30-through-1. Here's an explanation.
In this post, we take on the shooting guards, 10-through-1. Click the jump for the run.
Healthy, playing for a coach who knows how to get him open, and working with a team that will depend on him for scoring, Martin should have a bounce-back season in 2010-11. Martin's numbers with Houston last season were nearly identical to his pre-trade numbers with the Sacramento Kings, but he's just 27 entering the season and could start to ring up a series of career years.
Richardson played absolute knockout basketball for the Suns in the playoffs last season, averaging nearly 20 points on 50 percent shooting while making 47.5 percent of his 3-pointers. And while a 16-game sample size is nothing to bank on, the 29-year-old could come home with the best season of his career in 2010-11. With Amar'e Stoudemire(notes) in New York, Richardson's all-around gifts will be badly needed. And a silver lining for Suns fans? I don't recall many of Richardson's threes coming from some amazing extra pass tossed out by a double-teamed Amar'e.
He passed less and shot more, per possession, but I was struck by the way Jackson handled the trade that sent him from the Golden State Warriors to Charlotte last year. Going from one of the fastest teams in the NBA last season to one of the slowest, Jackson's defense improved, his scoring (21.1 per game) stayed strong (though, for all those minutes and shots, it should) and his defense was fantastic despite his 31 years of age. I'm guessing one more of those years before the drop-off, though I concede that might be too optimistic.
Tyreke handles the ball a ton for the Kings, but he also lines up in the starting five alongside Beno Udrih(notes). And unless you want to start calling the 5-11 Udrih a shooting guard, Evans gets the call as a ball-dominating off-guard. Some didn't like the way Evans and the Kings shot for that 20-point, five-rebound, five-assist average last season, but it was really all Sacramento had going for it, and I didn't think the attention too unseemly. Evans is a special talent, and his next trick is going to be learning how to mesh those all-around talents in a five-man pro setting.
So, here's where we get to the mea culpa.
For every 30 players I put up, I write bios for about 33 or so for contention, decide on the placement and then rewrite the bios according to the placement. And right before I posted the 30-through-21 list, I chickened out regarding Evan Turner's(notes) placement (or, non-placement) on this list and substituted him into the lower rungs while rewriting his descriptive paragraph -- with the understanding that everyone else would move down a spot.
The problem is that I didn't move everyone else down a spot. I just substituted Turner for Marcus Thornton(notes), and forgot to lose Thabo Sefolosha(notes) along the way. And, really, Thornton will be much, much better than Turner this season. Most likely better than a few of the guards ahead of Turner on the 30-through-21 list. It was insecurity that led to an unprofessional late switch -- the reason the post went up at five minutes after 10 a.m. ET on Thursday and not 10 -- and I was wrong to do it.
On top of that? I originally had Andre Iguodala as a shooting guard, going back and forth as to whether or not he should be a two or a three, thinking that -- in Doug Collins' system -- Iggy will guard small forwards while Turner will be shoved to the side as a small forward on offense while A.I. handles the ball. But I shouldn't go there, and should rank Iguodala as an all-out wing. So this would be Iggy's place as a shooting guard, but he's not one, and you'll read about him on the small forward list.
If anything else, I hope that these screwups give you a little insight as to how nutty I am about getting these rankings right. Even if they go way, way wrong.
At his best and healthiest, Manu is just a step below Kobe Bryant(notes). The problem is that he's not often healthy, doesn't play enough minutes and can't sustain the type of brilliance that we saw last March, when Manu averaged 22.1 points in just 31 minutes on 52 percent shooting, with 9.6 combined rebounds/assists. So, No. 5 sounds about right, with the caveat that, when everything is going smoothly, few can take over a game like Manu.
I called his contract extension "the worst contract in NBA history," and I meant it. A $120 million contract that will pay Johnson from age 29-35? Terrible.
But for this season and the next, Johnson will be a sound all-around wing player for the Hawks. Yes, he needs the ball and plenty of minutes to drop his (over) 20 points and (nearly) five assists and five rebounds, but he's also a lower-rung All-Star who can be counted on to sop up minutes (and for that yearly January swoon, as the minutes catch up to him), and that's enough for a top-five ranking at this position.
Roy took a bit of a step back in 2009-10, but, if anything, it pointed out that his all-world play in 2008-09 might be a bit of an aberration and last season is more of the norm. But what a norm it is -- 26 other teams would kill for that "norm." Roy averaged 21.5 points and 9.1 combined assists/rebounds on a team with the fewest possessions per game. The injuries worry the heck out of me, but let's not get into that until we have to, OK?
2. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers (last year: second)
You can rant and rail and tell me once again that I'm looking for attention or trying to create waves, but Kobe Bryant is coming off a year that saw him drag an injured leg and back around, and he's still got a bum index finger on his shooting hand. He's played over 45,000 minutes in his career counting the playoffs and he turns 32 on Monday. Dwyane Wade(notes) shot better, turned the ball over fewer times, assisted more despite terrible teammates, picked up more steals and blocks -- and he's four years younger. And he'll have the better season in 2010-11.
The Lakers are still the favorites in my eyes, and Kobe Bryant should be respected more than any other player in this league, but he's part of a great team now. And he passed the torch last season. Really, he passed two seasons ago to those who were playing attention.
1. Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat (last year: first)
Nobody wants anything to do with Wade, his teammates and the unseemly mess that produced what will be the 2010-11 Miami Heat, but you can't argue with Wade's production from last season. Constantly double- and triple-teamed, with some defenses sending trap defenders to get the ball out of his hands 30 feet from the hoop, Wade still put up 26.6 points per game on 47.6 percent shooting, with 11.3 combined assists/rebounds. He also averaged 1.8 steals and 1.1 blocks. At age 28, this guy is just hitting his prime, too.