We continue with our best-by-position preview for the 2010-2011 NBA season, heading onto the 5 best shooting guards in the league.
* – For our Top 5 Point Guards post, go here.
Number 5 – Joe Johnson, Atlanta Hawks
A spot lower than he was last year, Johnson had another very good regular season with the Hawks, leading them to the playoffs for the third consecutive season and into the conference Semi Finals for the second consecutive season. He averaged 21.3 points (fourth straight season with a drop in his numbers), 4.6 rebounds and 4.9 assists. Versatile, a good defender, has his clutch moments (buzzer-beater against the Bobcats in March), undoubtedly the Hawks’ go to guy. Still, not good enough for Atlanta to make a real challenge at the big boys. Johnson completely folded as Atlanta got swept by the Magic last playoff, averaging 12.8 points while shooting under 30% (!!) from the field. It shouldn’t all be on him, but still, when your best player is that bad, there’s not much hope in getting far. Same forecast this season – Johnson, who got a max contract this summer (119 for six years) will be good in the regular season, but not good enough to carry the Hawks into the Eastern Finals.
Number 4 – Monta Ellis, Golden State Warriors
The Mississippi Bullet already won the NBA’s most improved player award in 2007, but his rise to All-Star level in 2009-2010 was just as remarkable as his first leap in ability. Ellis led the NBA Minutes per game with 41.4, averaging 25.5 points (6th in the league) and 5.3 assists per game. Despite his individual effort, the Warriors finished with only 26 wins, their worst record since 2001-2002 (21 wins). His defense was also much better last year, averaging 2.2 steals per game. Ellis has risen to All-Star level, but the most important thing for the Warriors will be his relationship with Stephen Curry in the next season and how their back-court combination under new head coach Keith Smart works out. Ellis hardly spoke to Curry most of last season, but it seems that he has warmed up, a bit, to the talented point guard. If the two, especially Ellis, stay healthy, The Warriors will be more than just a fun team to watch.
Number 3 – Brandon Roy, Portland Trailblazers
If it wasn’t for Brandon Roy’s injury late last season, I’m not sure the Suns would have made it out of the first round. Roy returned in Game 4, but still wasn’t good enough to help Portland make it out of the first round. Roy averaged 21.5 points, making his third All-Star game, but missed 17 regular season games in an injury-plagued season for the Blazers. Roy is obviously very talented, but it’s hard to decide on how far he can take the Blazers when the team is always filled with guys on the DL. Maybe using Roy a few less minutes a night will mean that he can stay healthy for the playoffs this time around. The guy is a star and a true leader, on and off the court. With all the good work done in Portland in recent years, it’s a shame if they won’t be able to win playoff series’ if their star player isn’t healthy when it counts the most.
Number 2 – Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
Last year, if anyone remembers or cares to look up, I wanted to put Wade at the top spot. But Kobe didn’t slow down, and Wade was great, but not great enough. It’s hard when there’s not that much talent around you. Is it going to be different this year? Wade has got LeBron and Bosh to join him in Miami, and immediately make the Heat title contenders. Who’ll be the Alpha-Male in Florida this year? Wade should be great, but LeBron is a better player I believe. Still, maybe not being THE only attention grabber will be good for him. Remember those days with Shaq, not too long ago? Wade can do with a few nights of night having to kill himself trying to get the W for his team. The burden can land on a few more shoulders. Maybe even making Wade a better player, who knows. One thing I can guarantee – Wade will win a playoff series in 2010-2011, for the first time since Miami won the title in 2006.
Number 1 – Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
Thought he’d slow down – proved me wrong. Another title, number 5. Another Finals MVP – number 2. Averaged 27 points in the regular season while missing 9 games, the first time he missed a game since 2006-2007. I was for Gasol getting the Finals MVP, he carried the Lakers on his back in that Final game and for most of the series, but Kobe, despite having his highs & lows in the series, hit those killer shots only he can when the Lakers needed him to. He also said that this year, injury-free, he’s going to be better. He’s gunning for a sixth ring, and it’ll be dangerous to bet against him still being as dominant as always and against him to win another league title.