Had James Harden not got hurt, we might have seen the MVP come from this position. At the shooting guard position, the league has been graced with some of the best inside-outside threats, clutch playmakers, and elite playmakers.
We saw Bradley Beal contend for the NBA scoring title. We saw Harden rack up triple-double after triple-double with the Brooklyn Nets. We saw players like Zach LaVine, Donovan Mitchell, and Terry Rozier take their game to new levels. Without further ado, here are the best shooting guards by category.
Overall - James Harden
To put everything into perspective, Harden finished with 32 double-doubles and 12 triple-doubles this season. While those lead all shooting guards, those rank high in all of the league. Harden can dribble, shoot, and provide in clutch situations.
Harden has won an MVP, three straight scoring titles up to this year, and taken these teams to the playoffs year in and year out. The only thing he is missing is an NBA championship. If Harden can secure that this season, he will go down as one of the all-time greats.
Scoring - Bradley Beal
Beal averaged 31.3 points per game and finished up as the runner-up in the NBA scoring race. Beal has continued his scoring stretch into the playoffs with back-to-back 33-point contests.
In the regular season, Beal had multiple 40-point games, a 50-point game against the Pacers, and a 60-point game against the 76ers. He had the 15th best efficiency ranking in the entire NBA making him not just a great scorer, but an efficient one too.
Playmaking - James Harden
Before James Harden’s injury kept him out of the season’s leaders due to lack of games played, Harden led the league in assists. The discrepancy between Harden and the rest of the shooting guards at the position would not have been close either.
The second-leading shooting guard in assists was Fred VanVleet at 6.3 assists per game. At the time, Harden was averaging over 11 assists per game. Combine that with his ability to get to the rim and knock down the outside shot, Harden is the ultimate playmaker.
Rebounding - Paul George
George averaged 6.6 rebounds this past season, which led all shooting guards. Despite being a shooting guard, George can play small forward, which was something he did at times while playing for the Indiana Pacers during his younger years.
With his athleticism and length, he can battle with any player at the two or three positions. George had nine double-doubles this season, one-off from second-most among shooting guards.
Defense - Matisse Thybulle
George owns four All-NBA Defensive Team nods, including two on the First-Team. In 2019, George led the league in steals and ranks among the top shooting guard in that stat as well. However, the best defender at shooting guard has to go to the defensive specialist out of Philly.
Thybulle ranked second to Fred VanVleet (1.7) in steals with 1.6 and led all shooting guards with blocks at 1.1 per game. He is the only shooting guard to average over one block per contest. The 76ers held Thybulle so high in their rankings that they refused to trade him for Kyle Lowry at the trade deadline.
Shooting - Zach LaVine
LaVine finished second among all shooting guards with a field goal percentage of 50.7%. He nearly took first but Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had him beat with a percentage of 50.8%. With that said, LaVine shot over 19 field goal attempts per game, while Gilgeous-Alexander shot just over 16 attempts.
When you piece it all together, LaVine is the best pure shooter among the players at his position. The stats do not lie.
Finishing - James Harden
One-on-one in a drive situation, Harden is one hard guard to stop. He has such a dynamic first step with explosiveness that he would have been an MVP contender had he not been injured.
Harden shoots 54% of his shots within three feet of the basket and converts over 51% of the time. Then, factor in his free throw percentage that is above 85%. When it’s all said and done, Harden knows how to put points on the board.
Athletic - Zach LaVine
LaVine owns a Slam Dunk Contest Championship, an award he won when he was just a 19-year old rookie in the league. If LaVine participated in the dunk contest again, it’s fair to say he would be a leading contender to win another award.
There is something about LaVine getting up that makes you just marvel. Sometimes, he gets so high above the rim that you think he is going to jump out of the arena. LaVine also knocks down highly contested shots from outside. All around, LaVine has the most athleticism among those at the position.
Clutch - James Harden
When it comes to clutch points, Harden does not own a lot. In comparison to others around the league, Harden does not rank among the highest ranks either. However, among shooting guards, he is the best among the rest.
In comparison to other shooting guards in the league, Harden has elite playmaking skills. He is the best 1-on-1 player among the group, so when it comes to an end-of-the-game situation, Harden is the best option.
Efficiency - Bradley Beal
Beal owned a player efficiency ranking of 22.81. That ranked 15th among all NBA players but was first among shooting guards. Beal shot 45.6% from the field, as well as 37.7% from the three-point range.
Beal led all shooting guards with 23.0 attempts per game, but also led the position with 11.2 makes per game. He is the only shooting guard in the league that averaged double-digit field goals made per game.
Leadership - James Harden
During Harden’s tenure in Houston, the Rockets made the Western Conference Finals two times. Some can say that the Rockets were one injury to Chris Paul from winning a championship. When Harden played in Houston, those were his teams, and those teams were competitive year in and year out.
With Harden gone, the Rockets have crumbled. When Kyrie Irving and/or Kevin Durant didn’t play, he took over and helped the Nets win games. Some question his leadership style, but the wins pile up when he is on the floor, so something has to be working right.
Versatility - Jaylen Brown
Brown averaged 24.7 points per game, 6.0 rebounds, and 3.4 assists, and 1.2 steals. Those numbers rank in the upper tier of all shooting guards, including being the second-best rebounder among shooting guards; hence, why he was an All-Star this season.
Brown can do it all. With Brown on the sidelines, the Celtics are hurting in the playoffs because he can contribute in so many ways. Brown was second in double-doubles with 10 this season, which only trailed James Harden for the most.
Handles - James Harden
Given that Harden was leading the league in assists as a shooting guard, he has this category all to himself. He has eyes all over the floor and never seems to flinch when an open man is near.
Joe Harris led the league in three-point field goal percentage this season. A lot of that had to do with the passers on the team that drew multiple players to free him up. One of those players that impacted the game was, in fact, James Harden.
Underrated - Terry Rozier
Fun fact about Terry Rozier. He had the seventh-best efficiency mark among shooting guards, averaged 20.4 points per game (also seventh-best), and had five double-doubles this season. Rozier went from being the main bench piece in Boston to living up to his contract status with the Charlotte Hornets.
Rozier doesn’t get a lot of attention because he plays with the Hornets. With that said, he has put up high-scoring volumes in each of the last two years. The numbers are legit. Terry Rozier is a pretty good basketball player.
Overrated - Fred VanVleet
VanVleet is going to make over $20 million per season and owns one of the worst three-point shooting percentages among shooting guards. VanVleet shot 36% from outside this season. For a shooting guard, that doesn’t cut it.
Now, VanVleet did lead all shooting guards in minutes played and steals. The Raptors pride themselves on defense, but you’re a shooting guard. That shooting percentage has to be above 40% if you are getting paid the big bucks.