When speaking with the Bay Area News Group on Saturday, Klay Thompson was asked who he thought the NBA’s best shooting guard was.
“I’m going with myself, we’re 26-1,” Thompson said. Obviously, this got people talking, does Klay have a valid point backing this statement? On December eighth in Indianapolis, Thompson suffered an ankle sprain during his 39-point outburst against the Pacers. He missed the subsequent game against the Celtics (which the Dubs won) and then returned against the Bucks five days after his injury happened. Not being at full strength, the Warriors were bested by Milwaukee and had their 28-game winning streak snapped. While there was more to the defeat than Thompson being slightly hurt, it’s odd how they lost without him being healthy.
Klay vs. the field
With an increase in popularity around scoring point guards, the natural shooting guard position hasn’t seen as much talent as it’s used to. I feel that the five best shooting guards in the NBA are Jimmy Butler, James Harden, Klay Thomspon, DeMar DeRozan and Bradley Beal (when healthy). The table below has a quick overview of the numbers between Butler, Harden, Thompson and DeRozan.
|Player||Jimmy Butler||DeMar DeRozan||James Harden||Klay Thompson|
Jimmy Butler, Chicago
Butler is the best two-way guard in the NBA right now; being devastating on both offense and defense. His offensive rating of 114 per 100 ties him with Klay Thompson for the best of the four guards and his defensive rating of 100 makes him five points better than second place (Thompson at 105). Since Butler’s always been a great perimeter defender, he’s had a lot of time to focus on his offense and develop skills to help attribute to that 114 rating. Notably, his jump shot and ball-handling have improved drastically. From two-point FGs greater than 16 feet away, Butler is shooting at 44% and attempts 25% of his field goals from that distance. An improved handle, paired with his athleticism, lets him attack the basket more efficiently as well. About 30% of his shots come from inside three feet, hitting almost 70% of them.
James Harden, Houston
The Rockets’ southpaw superstar is always in the running for the scoring title and has one of the most multi-faceted offensive games in the NBA. Despite his spectacular scoring ability, Harden is a volume shooter and shoots poor percentages from the field (41.3% and 32.6% from three) and spends a lot of time in isolation. NBA.com lists 27.5% of Harden’s possessions are isolation, the highest percentage in the NBA. In those isolation sets, Harden shoots 38.7% and has scored 218 points. Those numbers shouldn’t be shocking because that’s how Harden plays, luckily he’s very crafty on offense and gets to the line a lot; leading the NBA in both free throws made (279) and attempted (322). Why I put him below Butler is simple: Harden is infamous for lackluster defensive performances. He’ll get beat on back door cuts, blown past off the dribble and, sometimes, won’t even attempt to contest a layup in transition. When Harden chooses to play defense, he’s the best SG in the league, but Jimmy Butler plays defense every possession.
DeMar DeRozan, Toronto
It feels like DeRozan sometimes goes under the radar because he plays in the Atlantic Division, arguably the worst division in the NBA. Quietly averaging 22.6 points per game, he’s second in scoring for SGs behind Harden and is also second to Harden in free throws made (207) & attempted (245). Much like Harden, DeRozan is a lethal one-on-one player but plays a more athletic style, similar to how Butler plays. Where he veers from the others is how efficient he is when he’s the ball handler on pick and rolls. They don’t use him often, 30.6%, but in those possessions, he scores 50% of the time and has an average of 1.02 points per possession while shooting 50.3%. However, much like Harden, DeRozan isn’t much of a stopper on defense. Although improved, his defensive rating per 100 possessions is still high at 106 and opponents are shooting a staggering 60% when guarded by DeRozan.
Klay Thompson, Golden State
I think Klay is a great player in his own right, but the only thing he does better than the other three guards is shoot. He shoots incredibly well, 47% from the field & 43% from three, but a majority come from catch and shoot (55.7%). Despite being predictable on offense, Thompson is very efficient in that form and scores roughly 10 points per game on 45% shooting. Even though we see Steph Curry carry most of the offensive load, Thompson is still capable of having inflated scoring totals when he gets in a groove. His 26-point third quarter recently against Phoenix showed how dominant Klay can be when he gets hot. Despite being able to heat up like a microwave on offense, his defense is subpar and he boasts a DRtg of 105 per 100. However, that’s nothing something I can dwell on too much because it’s better than DeRozan & Harden.
If I’m part of an NBA team, and I’m looking for a shooting guard, I’m going to pick either James Harden or Jimmy Butler, and it’ll ultimately come down to how you run your team. Personally, I’d want a two-way player so I’d pick Butler, but Harden would be a very, very close second.
Nonetheless, I’m not going with Klay Thompson if Butler and Harden are available. Thompson’s still a good player, but to be able to call yourself the best shooting guard in the NBA, you need to be an all-around threat on offense and Klay doesn’t have as complete a game as some other shooting guards do. One could argue it’s because of Curry doing so much on offense and Klay not needing as diverse an offensive game. That argument could be right, and if he was the lone superstar of a team he could, potentially, turn into that all-around threat.
*Stats via Basketball-Reference & NBA.com*
*Photo Credit: Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The Chronicle