Hashtag Basketball 5x5: Best Shooting Guards in the NBA

Part two of our five-part series on ranking the best five players at every position in the NBA. Today we tackle the shooting guards.

Welcome back to Hashtag Basketball's 5x5, where we (Jeremy Stevens and Kevin Nye) rank the top five players at all five positions. In case you missed it yesterday, we went through the top point guards in the NBA, which proved to be a tough list when it came to snubs. There is an abundance of skill at the point guard position in the NBA, where at least eight guys would probably feel slighted if they weren't named in the top five (the five we chose plus Simmons, Lowry, Conley, and Wall, so I guess nine). However, the same problem isn't as prominent at the shooting guard.

We'll follow the same format, counting down from number five to number one, then acknowledging any clean-up work that needs acknowledging.

Here it is, the Hashtag Basketball 5x5: the best shooting guards in the NBA.

Number 5: DeMar DeRozan

Each of us believes that DeMar DeRozan is a good basketball player. He's a very talented player, he's a four-time all-star, and he may well end up scoring 25,000 points in his career (already at 13,300 and just turned 29). But all of the conventional knocks on him still hold true. Raptors fans spent all season crowing about his newfound outside shot, which really just meant that he discovered that he was allowed to shoot from outside, regardless of whether or not he could make those shots. Spoiler alert: he couldn't. He doubled his three-point attempts from the prior year while making a paltry 31% of those attempts. He was one of 11 players in the NBA who took at least 3.5 three-pointers per game and was 31% or worse. 

At this point, DeRozan can continue to improve and become the player that so many want to believe he is, but right now, he's just not as good as the guys above him on this list. He is guilty until proven innocent.

Number 4: Victor Oladipo

Victor Oladipo was expected to "lead" a middling-to-bad Indiana Pacers to 35 wins last season. He was an outcast in Oklahoma City after Orlando effectively gave up on him as part of future success, so the expectations were pretty low. All he did was earn his first all-star nod, average 23 points per game, lead the NBA in steals per game (2.4), shoot 37% on three-pointers, and be the undisputed engine of a 5th seed Pacers team which pushed the LeBron-led Cavaliers to the brink in a 7-game series. The only reason he's not higher on this list is that he trailed off a bit after the all-star break. He was still very good, but 34% from deep didn't instill fear in opponents and it suggested that his great season was at least partially explained by a prolonged hot streak in the early months and not necessarily a leap forward in skill. If you want to have him #3 on this list, that's understandable, and it more or less came down to a coin flip because this next guy has some issues.

Number 3: Jimmy Butler

Both writers here agree that Jimmy Butler is a better player than Victor Oladipo, but both writers also agree that Jimmy Butler is a much more volatile, dislikable, difficult presence on a team. For that reason, he could drop to 4th, but he won out for two reasons. 

Reason #1: As mentioned above, we both agree that he's the better player between him and Oladipo. He's not as good as our #2 player though because Jimmy Butler is a surprisingly poor shooter. The league average for effective field goal percentage last year was .521%, according to Basketball-Reference. Butler was .512% in what was the best performance of his career. That said, he's shown that he can put a team on his shoulders and will them to success as a relentless pest who never tires - unless it's of his teammates.

Reason #2: For as much locker room drama as Butler has caused, hasn't he kind of been right about his beefs? The first one was "I'm better than Derrick Rose; I should be the focal point of this team." No argument here. The second one was "I'm better than Wiggins and Towns; I should be the focal point of this team. Also, Derrick Rose again? WTF?" The jury's still out on this one, but he's definitely better than Wiggins and Rose (again). His insane work ethic makes the younger guys look bad and makes him dislike them, which is allegedly how Kobe was...except Kobe won titles.

In any case, form your own opinion about whether Butler's locker-room shenanigans prevent him from being above or below his current spot. For now, we like him as #3.

Number 2: Klay Thompson

Klay Thompson is weird, and I'm not just talking about the China Klay phenomenon or that time he signed a fan's toaster. He is obviously not asked to do as much as some of the other guys on this list, which might suggest that he's "worse" than Butler or Oladipo, who create offense. But look at what Klay Thompson has done over the past several years. He's a multiple-time all-star, a top-tier wing-defender, and one of the best shooters the league has ever seen. He might not be able to create a look for himself the way Butler can, but he might able to and has never needed to do it. Much like Curry yesterday, Thompson's off-ball activity is almost unparalleled in the league, which is arguably as useful a skill as creating off the dribble; in either case, he's creating a shot. He's like Ray Allen but better defensively.

Lastly, Thompson might not actually be as good a defender as he was a couple of years ago, but he still seems awfully good in the postseason, so there's probably a bit of regular season boredom setting in. The guy is a stud.

Number 1: James Harden

The second straight no-doubter on the Hashtag Basketball 5x5. Harden is probably the 5th best player in the NBA and you could argue - reasonably - that he's better than that. On the other hand, watching James Harden is like the honeymoon stage of a new job. At first, everything is fresh, interesting, and new. And for as long as that feeling lasts, you're excited to keep riding that wave. Before long, it becomes a grind. It becomes predictable. Of course, the copier doesn't work when I use it. Of course, he was given free throws for that stupid, stupid play. But the truth is that even if Harden (along with his backcourt bestie, Chris Paul) is infuriating to watch as a non-Rockets fan, he's the best 2-guard in the league by a pretty wide margin.

Notes about the list

The also-rans at this position are going to be a lot more exciting in another year or two. There was no clear-cut 6th shooting guard in the way that Ben Simmons nearly cracked the top-5 at point guard, but the other superstar rookie, Donovan Mitchell, could pretty easily find himself on this list next season. Devin Booker, CJ McCollum, Bradley Beal, and Jaylen Brown also came up in discussions about this position, but the top-5 felt pretty clear to us.

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