Dwyane Wade, the 2006 NBA Finals MVP, at 29, is the best in a position that isn’t as deep as it used to be, with the best players among the shooting guards getting a little older and Brandon Roy, one of the best in recent years, taking the early retirement route.
Wade leads our pre-season pick of Ginobili, Monta Ellis, frustrated Eric Gordon and of course and just as frustrated Kobe Bryant. Continuing our best by position for the 2011-2012 NBA season preview, beginning with Point Guards yesterday, here are the five best shooting guards in the league.
Number 5 – Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs
At the age of 34, Manu Ginobili is entering his 10th season in the NBA with the San Antonio Spurs. Last season, unlike most of his career, he was a full time starter, averaging over 30 minutes a night with 17.4 points per game. Ginobili, when healthy, is still one of the more exciting offensive sights in the league, catching bats or leaving them alone.
His defense has never been among the best in the league, but as San Antonio changed their style, especially with Tim Duncan playing less and less, the Spurs’ team defense has dropped. Their offense, or the pace of it, seemed better last season, with Ginobili playing more minutes than he ever has except for the 2007-2008 season. If he doesn’t wear down too soon, Ginobili is still one of the best guys to have around, especially in crunch time.
Number 4 – Eric Gordon, New Orleans Hornets
Eric Gordon was doing great before an injury sidelined him for most of the second half last season. He finished with 22.3 points per game after playing 56 games in what was a real breakout season for him. He was primed and ready to team up with Blake Griffin in another season that would have seen the Clippers edge closer to playoff contention, but then came THE trade.
Eric Gordon isn’t happy about leaving LA, especially joining the Hornets, who lets face it, won’t make the playoffs this season. Gordon however will be the go to guy, and will have more offensive duties resting on his shoulders. This could be another step for Gordon in order to prove he’s a real All-Star caliber talent and just another guy who can score without really making a big difference.
Number 3 – Monta Ellis, Golden State Warriros
Off court problems for Ellis even before the season began, being sued by a former employee of the franchise for sexual harassment. Whether or not this will have any affect on his on court production remains to be seen.
Part of one of the more exciting backcourt duos in the leage (Stephen Curry), Ellis continues to be one of the more hard to stop players in the NBA, despite being the obvious offensive option for the fast paced Warriors. He led the league in minutes per game for the second consecutive season (40.3) while scoring 24.1 points and dishing 5.6 assists per game.
His health has always been an issue, but he did play 80 games last season and his improved shot selection, especially from the outside, might keep improving this year, if his head manages to block out the outside disturbance. He shot %36.1 from the outside last season, a career best.
Number 2 – Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
At 33, Kobe Bryant will be entering his 16th NBA season with everyone expecting of him to keep the Los Angeles Lakers as a championship caliber team, despite the added wear and tear on his body. Divorce issues and general unhappiness with everything that’s happened after the Paul trade got shot down will make it hard for Bryant to be focusing on basketball alone.
Last season, despite the decline fears, Kobe averaged 25.3 points per game on reduced minutes, playing 82 games for the third time in four seasons. His playoff performance, like his team as a whole, was more disappointing, averaging 22.8 points per game. It’s harder and harder for him to take over games by himself, although he can still do it from time to time.
Number 1 – Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
Entering his ninth NBA season, Wade proved that having LeBron James on the Miami Heat with him doesn’t mean he still doesn’t carry this team on his back when needed. It was especially evident during the NBA finals as James pulled the fourth quarters no who while Wade fought it out by himself, eventually losing.
He averaged 25.5 points per game during the season, a slight but expected drop, averaging a career high in rebounds (6.4) while shooting a career best %50 from the field. His style might make him more injury prone than others, but it’s usually worth the risk.
It’s very interesting to see what the Heat change this season and how the load will be shared among the All-Star trio once again, with my preference of James playing more of the Point Forward role and Wade doing most of the scoring. Not bringing in a new point guard probably tells us about their intentions.