20 in 20: Who are the Top 10 SGs in the league?

20 in 20: Who are the Top 10 SGs in the league?

Monday, Sept. 12, 2010
7:10 PM

By Aggrey Sam

A historic summer for the NBA has passed and for the Bulls, while they didn't acquire quite the star power many expected andor hoped for, optimism runs high, both within the organization and throughout the team's fan base. With the offseason coming to an end, the time to fully delve into the upcoming NBA season is here. Instead of a traditional season preview, issues both throughout the league and in Chicago will be probed daily here on CSNChicago.com up until the squad officially convenes for training camp toward the end of September.
6. Who are the top 10 shooting guards in the league?

1. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers (2009-10 averages: 27.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.5 steals, 45.6 field-goal percentage, 32.9 three-point percentage in 73 games): Until somebody dethrones him, Bryant must be considered the best player (some would argue period -- at least when it counts) at his position for the time being, especially as he continues to rack up championships.

2. Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat (2009-10 averages: 26.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 1.8 steals, 47.6 field-goal percentage, 30.0 three-point percentage in 77 games): Expect Wade to be much more effective with an almost brand-new Heat roster, but even though they've fallen off considerably since winning the 2006 title, it's not as if Wade hasn't been his spectacular, dominating self -- he just hasn't had the help.
3. Brandon Roy, Portland Trailblazers (2009-10 averages: 21.5 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 0.9 steals, 47.3 field-goal percentage, 33.0 three-point percentage in 65 games): Roy battled injury issues and initially struggled for compatibility with new point guard Andre Miller last season, but his polished all-around game and leadership skills are the primary reasons Portland is viewed as an up-and-coming team to be reckoned with in Western Conference.

4. Joe Johnson, Atlanta Hawks (2009-10 averages: 21.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.1 steals, 45.8 field-goal percentage, 36.9 three-point percentage in 76 games): While his huge contract extension may seem unjustified to most, Johnson's smooth scoring -- honestly, who else on Atlanta's roster would fill that role? -- is the lifeblood of a young Hawks team that he personally led to respectability.

5. Stephen Jackson, Charlotte Bobcats (2009-10 averages: 20.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.6 steals, 42.3 field-goal percentage, 32.8 three-point percentage in 81 games): After being traded from Golden State early in the 2009-10 campaign, Jackson's game blossomed under Larry Brown and while leading the Bobcats to a franchise-first playoff appearance, his leadership skills, diverse offensive game and toughness were put on full display.

6. Andre Iguodala, Philadelphia 76ers (2009-10 averages: 17.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.7 steals, 44.3 field-goal percentage, 31.0 three-point percentage in 82 games): Although Iguodala may never be a true No. 1 scoring option, his versatility and lockdown defense are at the top of the food chain, and under new Sixers coach Doug Collins -- assuming the Evan Turner-Louis Williams-Thaddeus Young-Jrue Holiday conundrum around the perimeter can be figured out -- he should find even more of a niche for himself.

7. Monta Ellis, Golden State Warriors (2009-10 averages: 25.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 2.2 steals, 44.9 field-goal percentage, 33.8 three-point percentage in 64 games): Ellis is often criticized for his less-than-judicious shot selection (playing for Don Nelson's Warriors, it's hard to blame him), but his relentless, attacking style of play and explosiveness off the dribble are the bane of opposing defenders.

8. Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs (2009-10 averages: 16.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.4 steals, 44.1 field-goal percentage, 37.7 three-point percentage in 75 games): Ginobili can't seem to stay healthy for an entire season, but his crafty, unorthodox game is still as indefensible as ever and is one of the reasons the Spurs remain among the NBA's elite teams.
9. Kevin Martin, Houston Rockets (2009-10 averages: 20.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.0 steals, 41.7 field-goal percentage, 33.3 three-point percentage in 46 games): One of the league's most underrated players, Martin was forgotten about in the midst of Tyreke Evans fever in Sacramento and a subsequent trade to Houston, but with another year in his new digs and the potential return of Yao Ming, he should once again thrive as a high-energy scoring threat.
10. Gilbert Arenas, Washington Wizards (2009-10 averages: 22.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 7.2 assists, 1.3 steals, 41.1 field-goal percentage, 34.8 three-point percentage in 32 games): He's been hurt, he probably makes too much money and he's had off-court issues (don't forget, although he missed the bulk of 2009-10 due to suspension, he seemed to have recovered from his knee problems), but Arenas was productive last season and with the presence of No. 1 pick John Wall, he'll be freed up to do what he does best: score.
Next 10 (in alphabetical order):

Ray Allen, Boston Celtics: Age is nothing but a number for Allen on some nights, but regardless of age, he's still one of the best pure shooters in the game.
Vince Carter, Orlando Magic: Consistency has long been an issue -- the Magic re-signing potential starter J.J. Redick at the same position may not help that cause -- but his talent and ability to occasionally dominate games is undeniable.
Jamal Crawford, Atlanta Hawks: The 2009-10 Sixth Man of the Year is instant offense personified and while other parts of his game leave something to be desired, he can change games in rapid fashion.
Ben Gordon, Detroit Pistons: Hopefully "B.G." will have an injury-free campaign and return to the same high-scoring player Bulls fans were so familiar with.
Eric Gordon, Los Angeles Clippers: The proficient deep shooter's experience with USA Basketball should help add consistency to his underrated all-around game.
Richard Hamilton, Detroit Pistons: Without former backcourt partner Billups, he's not the same "Rip" of the Pistons contender-era teams, but when healthy, he's still a unique scorer within a structured system.
O.J. Mayo, Memphis Grizzlies: While he hasn't developed into the player many projected he would be as a ballyhooed high school prospect, Mayo is a more-than-solid secondary scorer as a pro.
Jason Richardson, Phoenix Suns: Since changing his game from one-dimensional athlete to a competent outside shooter and tough defender, Richardson has added years to his career as Steve Nash's running mate.
John Salmons, Milwaukee Bucks: After signing a nice offseason deal to return to the Bucks -- where he seemed to find an immediate comfort zone as a go-to scorer -- the versatile veteran should be able to attain a level of consistency.
Marcus Thornton, New Orleans Hornets: Maybe a bit premature, but after an eye-opening rookie season, expect a breakout campaign alongside a healthy Chris Paul for this efficient instant-offense scorer.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

LeBron James' brilliance overpowers Denzel Valentine's career night for Bulls


LeBron James' brilliance overpowers Denzel Valentine's career night for Bulls

It look a little longer than perhaps LeBron James expected—or maybe not, given the recent woes from the Cleveland Cavaliers.

But it happens in a flash—no matter if it is a fadeaway jumper, darting pass through multiple defenders or a swat into the third row for an unsuspecting Cameron Payne, who acted like he hadn’t seen James’ movies.

It took an almost Herculean effort from the game’s best player to put away a pesky Bulls team, 114-109 Saturday at the United Center. James was without several regulars, including Rodney Hood, Tristan Thompson, Kevin Love and Kyle Korver—and his coach, Tyronn Lue, didn’t join the bench in the second half after getting ill.

The no-look passes, the easy drives to the basket, it’s hard to realize he’s playing in his 15th season but he’s at a level few can match, even if his team struggles to keep up.

Whatever he’s lost in athleticism, he’s gained in mastering the game and making sure it’s played at his pace.

Of course, we can quibble with his indifference to defense at times and make note of how that permeates to the rest of the team, as they let the Bulls back in way too many times.

But when you say that, it’s just as easy to see his passing makes his teams unselfish. The Cavs routinely swing the ball from a good shot to a great shot, even if it’s facilitated by James himself, as they had 25 assists on 44 field goals.

“Right now the game is effortless,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “LeBron wants to be a passer first and that’s where he was hurting us early. And then he got loose and got to the rim.”

James led them with 12 in addition to his 33 points and 13 rebounds in 39 minutes, and the Cavaliers needed every bit of his production as the Bulls emptied the reservoir with four of their five regular starters out.

“I just want to get healthy,” James said. “It’s unfamiliar territory for a lot of guys, going in and out the lineup and having six guys out…I think it was a good (road) trip for us.”

The Bulls were missing Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Robin Lopez for various reasons.

Denzel Valentine filled in admirably for a career night and luckily, didn’t throw a cringing behind-the-back pass to the expensive seats. Buoyed by a lax defense from the opposition, he led the Bulls with 34 points, seven rebounds and six assists, hitting eight of 11 from long range in 34 minutes.

If it wasn’t for a late foul on Jordan Clarkson when the Bulls improbably tied the game at 105 with 1:41 left, the Bulls would’ve made things very interesting. But he made contact with Clarkson in the corner and the Cavaliers took a four-point lead.

James got a steal on the next possession and hit a fadeaway to complete his night, his 15th triple-double of the season.

“As soon as I went in a little bit he threw it out there,” Valentine said of James. “And I went to close out and boom. It’s just a learning moment.”

Valentine has earned praise from Hoiberg for filling a leadership void while Lopez and Justin Holiday have taken a backseat due to the organization’s wishes to evaluate young players for the rest of the season.

In the meantime, Valentine hopes he’s proving to be a starter at this level, not just a plug-and-play role player.

“I believe I’m a starter in this league,” Valentine said. “I believe I can be an important piece of an NBA team. But whatever my role on the team is that they want me to do, the organization wants me to do, I’ll do. But personally, I believe I’m a starter and I can contribute in major ways. I just got to keep working and keep getting better.”

Whether he’s a fringe starter or valuable piece off the bench, Valentine has at least shown to develop a consistent jump shot—which in today’s game puts him as a fit on any team. Shooting 39 percent on the season means if the Bulls make him available this offseason, they will have callers.

“It just shows what I’m capable of,” Valentine said. “I believe in myself even when I’m out there playing bad. But I put the work in no matter what happens, if I’m playing well [or], if I’m playing bad.”

His fearlessness, along with Bobby Portis and Cameron Payne, pulled the Bulls back from the brink after the Cavaliers took a 17-point lead before halftime.

Sixteen of his points came in the third, sending the United Center into a frenzy despite the fact a loss would be more beneficial for the franchise considering the New York Knicks destroyed the Charlotte Hornets, paving the way for the Bulls to slide back into eighth in the lottery standings.

Payne did his best to undermine the tank, with a career-high 10 assists go to with 13 points on five of 11 shooting. Portis was solid with 15 points and 15 rebounds, but had a late dunk blocked by Jeff Green.

And combined with Antonio Blakeney getting his shots up anytime he touched the ball, including on fast breaks when the Bulls had multiple-man advantages, just enough was done to give the Cavs the necessary room to end their 13-day road trip on a high note.

“We’ve got a lot of guys in positions they haven’t been in all year,” Hoiberg said. “I thought Cam was unbelievable pushing the pace, especially early in the game.”

Green added 21 and Clarkson came off the bench to score 19. All can thank James for their night—along with a fan he threw his armband to afterward, who was left in tears.

And had the Bulls actually won this game, both James and the Bulls fans would’ve been in tears.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Should the Bulls consider Trae Young?


Bulls Talk Podcast: Should the Bulls consider Trae Young?

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Vincent Goodwill, and Kendall Gill discuss the concern over Zach Lavine’s inconsistent play, plus is it smart for the Bulls to offer him a max contract? Kendall also explains why the Bulls need to be careful not to lowball Lavine, like the Hornets did with him early in his career. Plus the trio discuss the early exit for Oklahoma and Trae Young. He’s likely to be there when the Bulls make their first pick, should they take him? And Vincent shares who the consensus top 5 picks are after talking with several NBA talent evaluators.