On the first full week of each month this season, I’m going to rank the top 10 NBA players at each position based on how I expect them to perform in the coming month. If a player is injured and is expected to miss most of the month, then they probably won’t make the list regardless of his value when healthy. I’ll rank the point guards on Monday, the shooting guards on Tuesday … you get the picture.  Your feedback is welcome, even if you want to tell me how incredibly, irredeemably clueless I am.

I’m ranking the shooting guards today, and I already have my riot gear on for the kind of feedback I expect to get from this post. And before you ask in the comments — no, I didn’t forget about Monta Ellis.

10. Kevin Martin, Houston Rockets — 2009-10 stats:  46 GP,  35.5 MPG,  20.6 PPG, 2.4 APG, 3.6 RPG, 1.0 SPG,  .417 FG%, .333 3P%, .876 FT%, 17.0 PER

He’s a terrible defender and his body might be made of the kind of sticks that The Big Bad Wolf blew down, but this cat can score and he does it a very efficient rate. In spite of his slender frame, he gets to the line frequently and capitalizes on those opportunities as one of the best free throw shooters in the league. As a featured scorer in Houston, he could move up this list if he can stay healthy for a change.

9. Jason Richardson, Phoenix Suns — 2009-10 stats:  79 GP,  31.5 MPG,  15.7 PPG, 1.8 APG, 5.1 RPG, 0.8 SPG,  .474 FG%, .393 3P%, .739 FT%, 16.6 PER

At 29 years old, it’s apparent that J-Rich is never going to live up to the potential suggested by his tremendous athleticism and sporadically effective outside shooting. However, he’s pretty damn good when he gets hot and he reminded us of that when he lit up the Blazers and Spurs in the first two rounds of the 2010 playoffs. Still, it’s always struck me as weird that somebody with his athletic gifts is mostly just a jump-shooter.

8. Stephen Jackson, Charlotte Bobcats — 2009-10 stats:  81 GP,  38.6 MPG,  20.6 PPG, 3.7 APG, 5.0 RPG, 1.6 SPG,  .423 FG%, .328 3P%, .779 FT%, 15.6 PER

StackJack can do a little of everything for your team, depending on what you need — he can score, he can set up teammates, he can rebound, and he’s a solid defender. His main flaw is that he shoots too much for a guy who isn’t really that good of a shooter. Then again, who else is going to score on that offensively anemic Bobcats team?

7. Gilbert Arenas, Washington Wizards — 2009-10 stats:  32 GP,  36.5 MPG,  22.6 PPG, 7.2 APG, 4.2 RPG, 1.3 SPG,  .411 FG%, .348 3P%, .739 FT%, 18.9 PER

We’ve come to the part of the rankings that I like to call “pulling this right out of my ass”. I’ve always felt like Arenas was better-suited to play two-guard, and now he’ll get the opportunity to embrace the pure scorer role while playing next to rookie backcourt partner John Wall. Some people have written him off as a star in this league, but he’s still only 28 years old, he’s still one of the most explosive offensive players in the NBA, and he has something to prove to a lot of doubters. If you don’t think he’s going to be on a mission in 2010-11, prepare to be surprised.

6. Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs — 2009-10 stats:  75 GP,  28.7 MPG,  16.5 PPG, 4.9 APG, 3.8 RPG, 1.4 SPG,  .441 FG%, .377 3P%, .870 FT%, 22.5 PER

If I had to name the most underrated player of the past decade, Manu Ginobili would immediately leap to mind. He’s been a top-five shooting guard in the league for the past six seasons, and Tim Duncan probably wouldn’t have three of his four rings without Manu’s contributions. He’s aging well from a performance perspective, but Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will probably limit his playing time even further this season in an attempt to keep him healthy for one last shot at a championship before this roster’s window closes.

Manu Ginobili and Joe Johnson

5. Joe Johnson, Atlanta Hawks — 2009-10 stats:  76 GP,  38.0 MPG,  21.3 PPG, 4.9 APG, 4.6 RPG, 1.1 SPG,  .458 FG%, .369 3P%, .818 FT%, 19.3 PER

If you had told me back in the days when Joe Johnson was the fourth-best player on the Phoenix Suns that he would eventually make around $200 million during his NBA career, I would have first asked if he would play out the remainder of his career on Isiah Thomas’ Knicks, and then I would have said you were nuts. And yet here we are discussing a guy who is pretty good at everything but not really great at anything, and who will be about $6 million short of the $200 million mark when his current contract expires in 2016. Good for him, I guess.

4. Tyreke Evans, Sacramento Kings — 2009-10 stats:  72 GP,  37.2 MPG,  20.1 PPG, 5.8 APG, 5.3 RPG, 1.5  SPG,  .458 FG%, .255 3P%, .748 FT%, 18.2 PER

Hey, remember when some doubters thought that Tyreke Evans wasn’t athletic enough to succeed in the pros? Whatever happened to those people? He has a remarkably polished and mature game for his age, and all he really needs to do to take his game to All-Star level is develop a better outside shot and ease up on the accelerator in his Mercedes. He and DeMarcus Cousins could form the next deadly one-two punch in the NBA.

3. Brandon Roy, Portland Trail Blazers — 2009-10 stats:  65 GP,  37.2 MPG,  21.5 PPG, 4.7 APG, 4.4 RPG, 0.9 SPG,  .473 FG%, .330 3P%, .780 FT%, 21.3 PER

His knee problems will be an ongoing concern, but if he can stay out from under the knife, there’s no reason why he can’t be a top-three shooting guard for the next six or seven seasons. While it’s not at the level of Portland passing over Jordan to draft Sam Bowie, it’s pretty shocking to look back on the 2006 draft and see that five teams passed over him for the likes of Adam Morrison and Shelden Williams because their scouts believed that Roy didn’t have much upside. Whoops!

2. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers — 2009-10 stats:  73 GP,  38.8 MPG,  27.0 PPG, 5.0 APG, 5.4 RPG, 1.5 SPG,  .456 FG%, .329 3P%, .811 FT%, 21.9 PER

Oh boy, I’m really asking for it here, aren’t I? Whatever you think of this ranking (I’m pretty sure most of you won’t like it), there’s no denying that Kobe has played over 45,000 minutes by this point and his body is obviously starting to break down. He still strikes the fear of (insert your deity of choice here) in opponents when he has the ball at the end of a close game, but if he’s smart he’ll defer to his teammates more in the 2010-11 regular season so he can preserve his body and then crank the dial back up to 11 in the post-season.

1. Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat — 2009-10 stats:  77 GP,  36.3 MPG, 26.6 PPG, 6.5 APG, 4.8 RPG, 1.8 SPG, .476 FG%, .300 3P%, .761 FT%, 28.0 PER

What, you expected to see John Salmons here? Considering what he’s accomplished while leading a scorched-earth roster to a 45-win average over the past two seasons, it’s going to be really interesting to see what he’s capable of with a somewhat improved supporting cast. (Call me the master of understatement.) His ongoing health might be the primary variable affecting the Heat’s chances of breaking the 72-win, single-season record. My only question for Pat Riley is: Why didn’t he offer to double the salary of Suns head trainer Aaron Nelson so he would take his talents to South Beach?

Comments (31)

  1. Brandon’s coming for Kobe. Maybe not this year, but next year, Roy’ll have that #2 spot.

    Hey, Roy’ll. Neat.

  2. Travis: Brandon may have to fend off Tyreke to claim that #2 spot.

    Sorry, I thought someone has to say it, it might as well me. Now it’s out of the way.

  4. I’d put Manu in 3rd, but otherwise can’t disagree too much. It’s hard to put Kobe at 2nd after he defended a championship, playing superbly throughout the playoffs. But if you think about it, D-Wade had one of the best series of any of the superstars (him, LeBron, Howard, Kobe) who face the Celtics this post-season. It was nowhere near finals 2006, obviously, but that’s cause it was against the Celtics, not the Mavs.

  5. I can’t help but notice 3 of these guys were former Warriors. I hate being a GSW fan.

  6. ” if he’s smart he’ll defer to his teammates more in the 2010-11 regular season so he can preserve his body and then crank the dial back up to 11 in the post-season”

    So…if the most selfish player in the history of the NBA suddenly changes his entire approach to the game and plays within the flow of the offense with teammates who shoot 60% from the field instead of dribbling out the shot clock for 20 seconds to launch contested fallaway jumpers…Were you born yesterday?

    Here are some more likely scenarios:
    - Shaq gets in shape.
    - Kevin Garnett refrains from pounding his chest and screaming for the duration of the season.
    - Derek Fisher wins the slam dunk contest.
    - Rajon Rondo wins the 3 point contest.
    - Samuel Dalembert unveils an Olajuwon-esque array of devastating low post moves.
    - The Raptors win 75 games.

  7. Haters gon’ hate. I guess that’s it, right Fritz? KB is one of top three best basketball players of all time. The only reason Mike wasn’t considered selfish just like Kobe is considered now is because of the immense talent he had around him. Pippen could have been a franchise player on his own team. He was a ball hog when Shaq left maybe, but wouldn’t you be too? Who else did he have. Once the current guys came to form around him he became similar to Jordan in my opinion. I love to watch guys who think they’re ‘basketball experts’ hate on this guy because it’s just ridiculous. I don’t even like the Lakers but I have mad respect for Kobe Bryant. The man is a basketball god.

    Don’t even try to compare him to anyone that plays today, especially Lebron James. Ball hog when it was just him on the Cavs? Sounds familiar. Until Lebron wins five rings he doesn’t deserve to even be in the conversation. Five might not even do it for me considering his team is ‘store bought’. Kobe may have wanted out but look where he is now. Pau Gasol doesn’t come close to Scottie Pippin if you want to do it up individually. Kobe should be first on this list, let’s see how DW feels when Lebron misses the game winner(s) :)

  8. i could see kobe deferring to his teammates more and take less shots….but we’re talking 2 shots less and one assist more.
    after all he has this incredible killer instinct that every athlete needs to succeed, even if that means punshing your teammates or giving the most efficient scorer on your team 9 shots in crutial playoff games, right…RIGHT?!

  9. It’s important to note that I’m not ranking these players based on past accomplishments, but based on what I expect them to accomplish in the coming season. If you want to claim that you think Kobe will be better than D-Wade in the coming season, that’s fine. But it’s not crazy to believe that Kobe will continue his decline — and he is declining, whether you want to admit it or not — and Wade will claim the top spot this season.

  10. C$ – I didn’t bring up LeBron. He’s irrelevant here. And you’re right, Mike was just as selfish as Kobe. But he was a lot better. Look at their respective numbers in the playoffs. Michael has him beat in every category, and shot a much higher percentage to boot.

    I don’t blame Kobe for taking 30 shots a game during the Chris Mihm-Smush Parker era. But now that he has Gasol, Bynum and Odom, there’s no excuse for it. Did you see how well the Lakers played without Kobe last year? They were 4-1, with their one loss being by one point to the Celtics.

    Gasol is arguably the best center in the league, IMO a very close second to Howard. He shoots almost 60% from the field, is a crazy good passer and rebounder and bails Kobe out on a lot of his misses by tipping in the rebound. He’d average 23-12-5 if he ran his own team.

    Fourth of all, Kobe is not the player he was five years ago. He can’t get to the rim like he used to, he can’t play d like he used to and for all the fuss about his improved post game, it hasn’t improved his efficiency and it doesn’t generate movement or flow on offense. Kobe is a historically great player, by all accounts, but he’s on the wrong side of the mountain. Last year, he shot under 40% from the field in 25 games, and then boosted his overall numbers by playing garbage time in blowouts.

    Bottom line: If you replace Kobe with Wade last year, the Lakers at the very least still win the title. Wade played better against that same Boston defense than Kobe OR LeBron did, and he did so with less help.

  11. Sorry C$ but almost every sentence of your post is complete bullshit. Exept that Kobe isn’t more of a ballhog than MJ, wich is true.
    Kobe is a great player, probably top 10 of all time. But if he is a Basketball god, we’re talking greek mythology.
    Counting rings when comparing players is pointless and an insult to the team game basketball. This isn’t golf, Robert Horry!
    As I recall kobe was 6/22 in game 7 and didn’t really play well throughout the whole series. Lebron had a way better series against the celtics than kobe. Switch Pau Gasol with Jamison and we have a first round exit.
    Im not saying, that Kobe wasnt the best player on last years Lakers and he did lead his team to 2 consecutive chips. But please keep a little perspective. If you want to know why the cavs lost in the playoffs in 09 and 10 look at mo williams’ numbers in the series where they got knocked out. And dont gimme that crap about Mo Williams being an all star. He is an all star like Jamaal Magloire is an all star.

  12. @Fritz, really bruh. The guy who never once cracked 20-10 before the Lakers would crack 23-12. Look, Pau Gasol is very highly skilled, there is no doubt about that, but I don’t think its a stretch to say he benefits from having a guard that gets consistently double teamed and planned for instead of him. Last year, he had a huge jump in his reb rate and has been at his most efficient when playing with the Lakers. Not before. I honestly don’t get why this sudden switch in a span of one trade, from a guy no one gave an offer for, to the best C/PF in the league. Great complimentary player, but I don’t think he is a guy you bank on 23-12 night-in, night-out. He also has never averaged 60% in a season and the closest he got was in 2008 after the trade when he averaged 59%, last year he was at 54%. His TS% is around 60%, but has mainly stayed around there for most of the years that he has been with the Lakers, not when he was by himself.

    Secondly, Kobe didn’t make his stats better by playing freaking garbage time. Are you kidding me? Seriously, even if you don’t like a guy, at least be honest in your assessment of his game. That’d be like me saying Pau Gasol got all of his rebs in meaningless games to boost his rpg because he had less than 10 rebs 22 times during the season. lol. Ridiculous.

    Lastly, you’re picking from a random sample of five games in which Pau Gasol didn’t even play great in half of them. Shooting pretty poorly from the field in some games for his position, but taking advantage of teams with a lack of height, Jazz, or with older players, Spurs. Aside from those two games, Shannon Brown and Lamar Odom took over, but they got injured after that stretch with shoulder and thumb injuries and weren’t as effective down the road. Its always easy to point to that stretch, but with increased competition, I don’t think they sustain a 4-1 record for an entire season. I think in a perfect world they’d reach 50 wins, but in the same season with the same injuries to Odom and Shannon, I doubt they would’ve surpassed 45, especially with Bynum getting hurt again later.

    @Rassan – Antawn Jamison, in his career has averaged about the same numbers Pau Gasol has, albeit at lower fg% due to 3′s, so maybe there was something wrong with who he was playing with and not how he was playing. He looked lost, he looked like he had no idea what he was supposed to be doing out there. After playing for the entire period after the all-star break, you think he could’ve known what was expected of him, since I have never known him to struggle with learning an offense. Same with Mo Williams literally being a more than adequate piece while with the Bucks and even carrying them for stretches before being relegated to being a spot-up shooter with Lebron. Don’t gimme that crap about Mo Williams being below average because none of the marquee players that were brought for Lebron were believed to be below average until he played with them, except for Damon Jones and Donyell Marshall.

    Second, why do we even use the word ballhog? Scorers are always going to be viewed as ballhogs, especially if they are the same players that initiate the offense. Lebron, Kobe, Wade, Chris Paul, and Jordan, are all ballhogs for the most part by our definition. At some point in their careers, they have dominated the ball so much, but they did it in order to help their teams win and sometimes it was to the detriment to their team. Kobe’s game 7 happened to be one of those times where it was detrimental, but he also countered it at the end of the game by getting to the line and getting to the boards and playing within the team at the end. Overall, he shot poorly but in the end he played well and contributed in other ways.

  13. to the author, I don’t mind this list. We’ll see how it plays out. It is after all, just a prediction. Appreciate the insight, keep up the good work.

  14. Really now :

    Gasol never cracked 20-10 with Memphis, but I believe he is a much better player now, which makes sense because he’s around the age when most players peak. I agree, Odom stepping up did have a lot to do with the way the Lakers played in Kobe’s absence, but Odom’s presence also drags down Gasol’s rebound numbers, as does the presence of Bynum.
    I never said Kobe’s stats overall were better because of garbage time, just his fg%. Against good teams he got his points, but it took him a lot of shots to do it. The Lakers were at no point threatened as the number 1 team in the West, yet Kobe still was 7th in the league in MPG with 38.8. Trust me, a lot of those minutes came against terrible teams who were out of the game at the time.
    Second, you’re demeaning Gasol’s performance against the Spurs and the Jazz (two of the better teams in the league) because they can’t match up with the Lakers size. Newsflash: No team can, which is a big reason why they’ve won the last two titles. I suppose Kobe’s stats in the fourth quarter against the Knicks’ bench are much more legit.
    And again, I’m not saying the Lakers are better off without Kobe, but if they had Wade in his place they’d be just as good if not better.

  15. I think kobe will still be number 1 sg this season the fact that wade has bosh and lebron. he’s the second banana to lebron IMO.

  16. This list is pretty good for the regular season. I think, come post-season, you’ll have to rearrange everything though.

    Also, would you adjust this list given Wade just got injured?

  17. “This list is pretty good for the regular season. I think, come post-season, you’ll have to rearrange everything though.”
    Career playoff averages
    Dwyane Wade: 26.3 ppg, 6.0 apg, 5.3 rpg, 48% fg.
    Kobe Bryant: 25.5 pg, 5.2 rpg, 4.8 apg, 44% fg.

  18. @ Fritz: What about the rest of the list?

  19. And what about Ray Allen?

  20. This is true dwyerism. Picking ANYONE over Kobe, is just lame, stupid, moronic.
    Only purpose of this post is to get hits and comments to blind the Score.

    Shame. TBJ used to be good.

  21. flegman: People who blindly pick Kobe as the best year after year without actually putting any real thought or analysis into it shouldn’t be so quick to criticize people like Dwyer and myself who have actually witnessed Kobe’s measurable decline into his 30s.

  22. I would put Martin higher; otherwise, can’t quarrel.

    P.S. NBA GMs agree with you on Williams over Paul at PG.

  23. Kobe over Wade. Ray Allen over Agent Zero.

    Until Wade wins another title and performs at a high level on the grand stage then I will conceed, but no sooner.

  24. It’s a prediction for the month, not an estimation of the value of the player… keep cool, guys

  25. How is Tyreke Evans a 2 guard? I can understand the Arenas thing, but I don’t think I can accept ‘Reke, as good as he is, at that spot.

    Also, Kevin Martin is better than Jason Richardson, but I guess it’ll take this season to prove it.

  26. @Fritz, the Lakers had a terrible bench, that is why Kobe played 38.8 mpg. Shannon got hurt, Farmar had a very off year, and Vujacic maintained himself as the broken Machine. There was literally no one off the bench that Phil trusted to put into the game and replace Kobe as a playmaker but Odom because even in the triangle you still need threats on the team on the perimeter.
    I’m not demeaning Pau’s performances against those teams, but in comparison to the other games he had, those were standouts for the reasons that I said. The Jazz can’t matchup with them and Duncan is too old to take on Gasol anymore. Notice the Jazz got swept by the Lakers and notice the Spurs weren’t even in the second round. The other teams in that span, were Portland, Golden State. He played poorly in those other games. Those 4 teams literally can’t matchup with the Lakers, and yet he only performed well against two of those teams. All the rest of them have problems with the Lakers too, I was just pointing out that he dominated those teams, but didn’t do it to the rest of them. They lost to Boston and he didn’t perform well in those games either, but Boston actually can matchup with the Lakers.

  27. Dwayne Wade can’t even make it through a whole season. You can’t be the number one at your position when you’re always injured unless you are significantly better. Dwayne wade isn’t better than Kobe in pretty much any facet of the game except possibly defense (although Kobe can turn it on)and getting bailed out by refs when he recklessly throws his body towards the hoop.

  28. Wade has all the talents to be better than Kobe but the injuries and health situation changes evertything since Wade probably has missed more games than kobe already and your talking about decline seriously don’t call it a decline without whats he declining in since athletically hes not the same but skillfully hes the best so why don’t you take that heat rod out of you ass since you know if nobody picks the heat to win anything its hating but if they don’t pick the lakers its reality HATER GONNA HATE LOVERS WANNA LOVE I’M A PISS ON YOU! all caps bitch

  29. Look guys, this is really simple. As somebody else suggested, if you swap Kobe and D-Wade, how far do their respective teams go last year?

    Does anybody really think that Heat team win 45 games with Kobe? Or that the Lakers don’t cruise to a championship with Wade?

    I have a lot of respect for Kobe. Being the #2 SG in the league considering the amount of minutes he’s logged is truly incredible. But Wade was better than him last season (arguably last two). Throw in that these rankings are predictive and that Kobe’s never going to be fully healthy again, and this is an easy pick.

    It’s stupid to look at Kobe’s vast career accomplishments and say it makes him better than Wade for the present. Nobody’s saying that Shaq’s the best center in the league right now because he’s won more rings than Dwight Howard.

  30. Sry but I would never agree with something like this. KB is definitely the best guard after MJ, no one achieved more than KB has in the last couple years. Wade is great, but he got too many injuries, and he didn’t carry the whole Miami team like KB did in 06~07 season. Wade has a chance to win the title for Miami this year, but this is another story, we all know that.

    And Manu Ginobili has to be the No.3 guy in the SG position, everyone knows that. And Tyreke Evans jumps into the list without achieving anything? Then I think Curry can be here too.

  31. support D-Wade

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