Are elite 2s going extinct?

BDodgers at BDodgers at
Fri Sep 28 21:05:08 UTC 2012

Are elite 2s going extinct?
#NBArank shows a serious dearth of shooting guards in Top 100
By _Tom Haberstroh_ (  | ESPN  

With _#NBArank  wrapping up on Thursday_ 
( , it offered an opportunity to take 
a look at a  contingent of players whom we often refer to as "elite" or 
among of the best in  the league -- the Top 100. 
Taking a look at the top 100 players in the NBA is significant mostly 
because  100 is a nice, round three-digit number, and we like lists with 100 
items on  them. It's also cool for these guys to be known as one of the best 100 
people on  the planet in their field. 
But as arbitrary as the number 100 might be, it also serves as a convenient 
 stopping point for us to look around and examine the makeup of the NBA's 
upper  class. And when you look at the members of #NBArank's "Super 100," you 
might  notice something: 
The elite shooting guard appears to be a dying breed.< 
Here's a list of shooting guards in the top 100, in alphabetical order: 
_Arron  Afflalo_ ( , 
_Ray  Allen_ ( , _Tony  
Allen_ ( , _Kobe  Bryant_ 
( , _Monta  Ellis_ 
( , _Manu  Ginobili_ 
( , _Eric  Gordon_ 
( , _James  Harden_ 
( , _Andre  Iguodala_ 
( , _Joe  Johnson_ 
( , _Kevin Martin_ 
( , _O.J. Mayo_ 
( , _Jason Terry_ 
(  and _Dwyane Wade_ 
( . 
That's -- count 'em -- 14 guys. If the five positions were equally  
distributed among the top 100, we'd expect the group of shooting guards to be 20  
players deep. Instead, there are barely more than a dozen of them. In fact,  
there are half as many shooting guards in the Super 100 as there are power  
To frame it another way, let's look at the pairing of _O.J. Mayo_ 
(  and _Thaddeus  Young_ 
( . The ESPN staff considered 
these two players virtually  indistinguishable from a quality perspective, 
generating a rating of 5.60 and  5.59 respectively. But when you look at their 
rankings within positions, equals  they are not. Mayo is considered the 
14th-best shooting guard. But Young?  There's a long line of 25 power forwards 
ahead of him in the ranking. 
The number of top-100 shooting guards is the lowest of the five positions,  
and there's a shortage of elite shooting guards when you zoom in even more. 
Of  the top 20 players in NBA rank, just two of them are 2s -- Kobe Bryant 
and  Dwyane Wade. 
So why the dearth of talent at the 2 position relative to the other  
Let's throw out some explanations. 
Theory 1: The rise of the scoring point guard
It's a point guard  league. That's a popular refrain around the NBA, and it 
rings true if you look  at the chart above. While there are only two 
shooting guards in the top 20 of  #NBArank, there are seven point guards who 
reside in the cream of the crop. 
It's hard to ignore that the common denominator of the stud point guard 
crew  these days is big-time scoring. Consider this: _Russell  Westbrook_ 
( , _Derrick Rose_ 
( , _Deron  Williams_ 
( , _Chris  Paul_ 
( , _Brandon  Jennings_ 
(  and _Kyrie Irving_ 
(  all  averaged more points 
per game than Joe Johnson -- one of the preeminent scorers  at the 2. Is it 
possible that the proliferation of scoring point guards has  squeezed 
shooting guards out of the spotlight? 
That's possible, but then again, scoring point guards have always been in  
this league. From _Allen Iverson_ 
(  to  _Stephon  Marbury_ 
(  to _Tim  Hardaway_ 
(  to _Kevin Johnson_ 
(  to  Isiah Thomas -- ball handlers who can get buckets isn't 
necessarily a new  phenomenon. And Westbrook hasn't exactly prevented the 
rise of Harden as one of  the league's top 2s anyway. It also might be the 
case that we're facing a  classic chicken-or-the-egg question. Maybe 
score-first point guards are on the  rise because there are fewer talented shooting 
guards to take the rock. 
Theory 2: The AAU farm doesn't value shooting
The idea is simple,  perhaps too much so. Basketball players are merely 
products of their environment  and the AAU environment that dominates teenager 
ball doesn't preach shooting.  One of the most frequent barbs thrown at the 
AAU world is that it promotes  superficial one-on-one basketball where 
players prefer dunking to draining it  from deep. A crossover is valued more than 
the corner three. 
While that all sounds well and good, it's incredibly hard to prove or test  
empirically. If that were the case, we probably wouldn't see the rise of 
stretch  4s such as _Rashard Lewis_ 
( ,  _Lamar Odom_ 
( , _Ryan Anderson_ 
( ,  _Kevin Love_ (  and 
 _Antawn  Jamison_ ( 
. Furthermore, most of the current AAU graduates grew up idolizing  Bryant 
and Carter, two guys who could shoot 3s about as well as they could throw  it 
Granted, the highlight-reel, mixtape-obsessed culture probably isn't 
helping  matters. 
Theory 3: It's cyclical  
It's alarming enough that there aren't very many high-quality shooting 
guards  anymore, but it's also interesting that the many of the good ones are 
getting up  there in age. Wade, Bryant, Ginobili, Johnson, Allen and Terry are 
all north of  30 years old with their primes receding in the rearview 
mirror. It could be that  these things naturally work in waves and the pool of 
elite shooting guards is on  its way down, just waiting to replenish. 
Bryant, Harden and Wade were the only shooting guards this past season to  
post a PER over 20 with at least 33 percent of possible minutes on the floor 
 (the 35-year-old Ginobili logged just 25 percent because of injury). Just 
five  seasons ago in 2006-07, eight shooting guards surpassed the 20 PER 
plateau  (Bryant, Wade, Allen, Ginobili, Martin, _Vince Carter_ 
( , _Tracy McGrady_ 
(   and _Michael  Redd_ 
( ). That number decreased to five players 
in 2009-10 and four players in  2010-11. 
If we dial it back to 2003-04, we find out that there were only three such  
players: Carter, Allen and Bryant. Turns out we might be right back where 
we  started eight years ago. And if _Harrison  Barnes_ 
( , _Paul  George_ 
(  and Mayo make the leap, we might be on the 
way back up again. But  then again, how many times must we say that about 
Theory 4: This is actually the norm
We tend to think of Michael  Jordan's playing days as the golden era for 
shooting guards. After all, there's  Jordan … _Reggie  Miller_ 
(  … _Mitch Richmond_ 
(   … hold on, who else? If we're 
being sloppy, we could lump _Clyde Drexler_ 
(   and _Dominique  Wilkins_ 
(  in that group, but they were far from 
categorical shooting  guards. 
On second thought, coming up with a list of consistently great shooting  
guards in the 1990s isn't an easy task. There's some truth to the theory that  
shooting guards were never a deep position until Bryant, Wade, Allen, 
McGrady  and Carter gripped the league after the new millennium. 
Look at the list of all-time shooting guards and it's hard to not come away 
 thinking that we just witnessed the golden era of shooting guards. Maybe 
we're  just spoiled nowadays. 
Theory 5: It's all random
Well, that's boring, isn't it? It's  probably true, too. History has shown 
that we as a human race don't handle  randomness very well. You don't need 
to visit your local roulette table to know  that we desperately search for 
patterns in life when there's probably nothing  there but blind luck. 
There's plenty of inherent randomness in talent distribution, but you just  
have to ask the right questions. _LeBron James_ 
(  and  _Kevin Durant_ 
(   could have been shooting guards if they didn't 
grow those extra couple inches in  high school. And would we still be 
talking about the void of top-shelf shooting  guards if _Brandon  Roy_ 
(  wasn't born with degenerative 
knees? What if the Thunder happened to  draft _Stephen  Curry_ 
(  instead of Harden, pushing 
Westbrook to what many think is his natural  position at shooting guard? 
These are fair questions to ask when looking at the current state of the  
shooting guard position. A reasonable argument can be made that only a 
handful  of shooting guards are consistently outstanding in any given year and any 
 deviation from that is just plain ol' luck.

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