Chicago Bulls sign guard E’Twaun Moore (Yahoo Sports)

CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Bulls have signed former Orlando Magic guard E’Twaun (EE’-twan) Moore.

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Is Klay Thompson Really the Best 2-Way Shooting Guard in the NBA?

With a three-point rocket in his arsenal and the defensive versatility to slide anywhere along the perimeter, Golden State Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson is among the top two-way players at his position.

For Thompson’s agent, Bill Duffy, that distinction isn’t enough. Duffy, who has until October 31 to negotiate a contract extension for the fourth-year sniper, said his client needs no qualifier.

Thompson, as Duffy told USA Today‘s Sam Amick, is the NBA‘s premier two-way player at his position:

 don’t want (Los Angeles Lakers star) Kobe Bryant to go crazy, but there’s some uncertainty as to who he is right now (because of injuries that limited him to six games last season). But I think Klay Thompson right now is the top two-way, two-guard in basketball. I think when you look at his body of work, when you look at what he accomplished guarding point guards on a regular basis (last season), I think it’s pretty clear.

Duffy’s comments capture a number of different sentiments, not the least of which is the incredible wave the former Washington State star has been riding of late.

Thompson’s stock is soaring.

During the 2013-14 campaign, the 24-year-old posted personal bests in points (18.4), field-goal percentage (44.4) and three-point percentage (41.7). He also pushed his career three-point total to 545, 54 more than any other player has converted during their first three seasons in the league (Kyle Korver ranks second on that list with 491).

According to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, the Warriors’ unwillingness to unload Thompson played a major part in their trade talks for perennial All-Star Kevin Love falling apart this summer. While other factors went into that decision, Thompson’s defensive ability was hardly lost on his employer.

“Klay guarded Chris Paul the entire Clippers series,” first-year Warriors coach Steve Kerr told Amick in July. “He has allowed [Stephen Curry] to conserve some energy at the defensive end, and to slide over to a shooter.”

After the trade winds subsided around Thompson, he raised his profile again during Team USA’s gold-medal sprint through the 2014 FIBA World Cup. He ranked second on the team in scoring (12.7), but his play at the opposite side may have opened even more eyes.

“Everyone had talked about his offense, but he has been consistently excellent on the defensive end,” Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski told reporters. “The fact that he’s tall, he’s been able to play defense on the one, two, and three. He’s become our most versatile defender.”

In other words, Duffy was doing more than negotiating when he sang his client’s praises. Thompson’s talent does extend to both sides of the floor.

But is he really the league’s best two-way shooting guard? The numbers don’t exactly see him as such—and that’s putting it kindly.

There are different ways to measure a player’s two-way impact, none of which shine the most favorable light on Thompson.

One method is ESPN.com’s real plus-minus metric, which the website notes measures a “player’s estimated on-court impact on team performance, measured in net point differential per 100 offensive and defensive possessions. RPM takes into account teammates, opponents and additional factors.”

Thompson’s real plus-minus number is plus-2.03, which checks in at No. 11 among all shooting guards. While weighing his statistics among the other top 30 players at the position, he doesn’t grade out as elite at either end of the floor.

Thompson ranks fairly well at the offensive end (ninth overall), but fairly well shouldn’t describe anything the top two-way shooting guard does. As for his defense, well, this metric actually puts him in the bottom half of his position (17th).

Of course, those aren’t the only numbers available to us.

We also have PER, which former ESPN.com columnist and current Memphis Grizzlies vice president of basketball operations John Hollinger said, “sums up all a player’s positive accomplishments, subtracts the negative accomplishments, and returns a per-minute rating of a player’s performance,” via Basketball-Reference.com.

The website 82games.com also tracks the PER allowed by each player. Subtract a player’s PER allowed from the PER they produce and you get…an even lower rating for Thompson (plus-1.9, 15th overall).

Altogether, these two measures rank six players ahead of Thompson in both: Manu Ginobili (San Antonio Spurs), Vince Carter (Grizzlies), Danny Green (Spurs), Goran Dragic (Phoenix Suns), James Harden (Houston Rockets) and Jimmy Butler (Chicago Bulls). Despite ESPN’s inclusion of Dragic at the shooting guard spot, he’ll fall out of our consideration since he spent more time at the 1 (52 percent of his minutes) than the 2 (47 percent).

So, what exactly does this all mean?

For one, none of us should have been surprised by the Spurs’ title run last season. They had two of the top two-way forces at the shooting guard position, neither of whom ranked among the team’s top three in either field-goal attempts or points per game.

Getting back on track, it means that Duffy’s claim isn’t easy to buy. But it’s not impossible, either.

A lot of it depends on your definition of a two-way player.

These measures weigh a player’s offensive production against what they give back at the opposite side. That can allow a player with supreme one-way talent to shine despite having some serious drawbacks at the opposite end (see: James Harden, “Defensive Juggernaut”).

If two-way player means someone who excels on both sides of the ball, the discussion changes. Then it becomes harder to overlook Harden’s defensive ineptitude or the offensive limitations of Butler (career 8.9 points per game) and Green (8.8).

As for the other two players still standing (Carter and Ginobili), it’s tough to ignore the fact that Father Time is closing in on the 37-year-olds. Ginobili had an effective, efficient 2013-14 season, but he missed 14 games and logged only 22.8 minutes a night when he played. Carter played all but one contest, but he saw just 24.4 minutes of floor time each game.

Thompson, meanwhile, averaged 35.4 minutes across his 81 games. And he carried heavier loads at both ends of the floor than either of the aging shooting guards.

That’s why this conversation can’t be based off statistics alone. These numbers need context.

It’s impossible to weigh these defensive numbers side by side when they weren’t compiled against the same caliber of player. Thompson took on the Warriors’ toughest backcourt assignment on a nightly basis, chasing track-star point guards one game and holding court with bigger, stronger shooting guards the next.

According to one former Warriors assistant, Thompson even outperformed teammate Andre Iguodala, who captured All-Defensive first-team honors last season.

“Klay is a much better defender,” the coach told Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher. “It’s not even close. It’s all based on reputation and stats.”

Thompson is, without a doubt, among the league’s best two-way shooting guards.

However, for the first time in a long time, the position’s top seat is empty. There is a changing of the guard going on—Kobe Bryant is 36 years old and coming off a six-game season, Dwyane Wade is 32 and has missed 58 games the last three years—but that process isn’t complete.

And Thompson isn’t the only one aiming for that throne.

“Throw Bradley Beal, Lance Stephenson and Jimmy Butler into the conversation with Thompson, DeRozan and Harden, and it should be a fun battle for Bryant’s shooting guard torch in the 25-and-under crowd,” wrote Yahoo Sports’ Ben Rohrbach. “But there’s no obvious heir apparent.”

Thompson has the talent to ascend the shooting guard ranks, but he isn’t there yet. No one is.

For now, Duffy will have to take solace in the fact that he represents one of the finest two-way 2-guards in the business. As long as his words help his client net max-contract money, then the agent will have his done his job.

Then the hard work will begin—Thompson living up to his agent’s claim.

 

Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.

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Chicago Bulls Sign Guard From Magic

According to Priority Sports & Entertainment, the Chicago Bulls have signed former Purdue guard and three-year NBA veteran E’Twaun Moore to a free agent contract Tuesday. According to the report, Mary Stevens of Sports Talk Florida reported in mid-August that Moore would sign with the Bulls “in the next few days,” but the deal apparently did not transpire until this week.
Congrats @ETwaun55 on signing with the @chicagobulls. Nothing like staying at home!
— Priority Sports (@PrioritySports) September 16, 2014

Moore has averaged 6.3 pts, 1.7 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 0.7 turnovers in his three-year career. After spending the last two seasons in Orlando, the Magic declined to submit a qualifying offer to Moore.
The Chicago Bulls finished 4th in the Eastern Conference last season, with a 48-34 record.
Chicago Bulls Officially Sign Purdue’s E’Twaun Moore http://t.co/ahwZDiZcip
— Chicago Bulls News (@BullsAllNews) September 17, 2014

Bulls have signed E’Twaun Moore to a two-year deal, a

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Klay Thompson’s Agent Calls Him the Best Two-Way Shooting Guard in the NBA

If the Golden State Warriors hadn’t been working on a contract extension with fourth-year guard Klay Thompson before, the negotiating sessions may now be officially underway.

Thompson’s agent, Bill Duffy, started publicly posturing on his client’s behalf and singing Thompson’s praises as loudly as he realistically could.

As Duffy told Sam Amick of USA Today, he thinks his client is the NBA‘s premier two-way shooting guard:

I don’t want (Los Angeles Lakers star) Kobe Bryant to go crazy, but there’s some uncertainty as to who he is right now (because of injuries that limited him to six games last season). But I think Klay Thompson right now is the top two-way, two-guard in basketball. I think when you look at his body of work, when you look at what he accomplished guarding point guards on a regular basis (last season), I think it’s pretty clear.

From a business standpoint, Duffy couldn’t have played this any better. He had plenty of reasons to frame this discussion around a 36-year-old Kobe Bryant, who made all of six appearances during the entire 2013-14 season.

“As Duffy knows, comparing his client to Kobe is a better gambit than comparing him to [Dwyane] Wade,” wrote NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman. “One, Thompson is more likely to compare favorably to Kobe than to Wade at the end of the season. Two, comparing Thompson to Kobe is more likely to drum up discussion.”

The more public attention Thompson receives, the more likely it seems he will receive the max offer Duffy has been eyeing for some time.

The Warriors seem destined to meet that request, whether they pony up the cash now or wait for him to hit restricted free agency next summer. According to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, they valued him highly enough to hold him out of a potential trade for perennial All-Star Kevin Love, and Thompson’s stock has only increased since after his strong play with Team USA at the FIBA World Cup.

On the basketball side, Duffy’s words have plenty of substance.

Thompson is coming off a career year in which he set personal bests in points (18.4), field-goal percentage (44.4) and three-point percentage (41.7). His ability to take on the toughest defensive backcourt assignment on a nightly basis helped the Dubs to a third-place finish in defensive efficiency (99.9 points allowed per 100 possessions).

His stock is soaring, while the position’s appears headed in the opposite direction. Established stars like Kobe, Wade, Manu Ginobili and Joe Johnson are fighting with Father Time. Up-and-comers like Bradley Beal, Dion Waiters and Lance Stephenson don’t have Thompson’s track record.

Thompson’s biggest in-their-prime threats all have their weaknesses.

James Harden was removed from the discussion as soon as Duffy put the focus on “two-way” players. That distinction didn’t help Monta Ellis, either. DeMar DeRozan, an All-Star last season, plays both ends of the floor, but his shooting limitations (.429/.305/.824 slash) impact his offensive impact.

If Thompson isn’t the top two-way player at his position, he’s certainly part of the discussion. And he’s going to be paid as such soon, money he’d like to see coming from his current club.

“I love the Bay Area,” Thompson told Amick. “I love the Warriors, the fans. I just love our team.”

The Warriors, by all accounts, love him, too. They love how his three-point rifle can stretch a defense thin. They love his ability to maximize Stephen Curry‘s offensive impact by lightening the All-Star point guard’s defensive load.

It’s hard to see Golden State letting Thompson go, but the franchise is going to have pay to keep him around.

Thompson’s play demanded such a commitment, and Duffy’s words were simply a reminder of that fact.

 

Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.

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Breaking Down Atlanta Hawks’ Shooting Guard Position for 2014-15 Season

Shooting guard looks like a stable if unspectacular position for the Atlanta Hawks in 2014-15.

Last year’s starter, Kyle Korver, is back for another season with the team. Korver’s dead-eye three-point shooting ability will provide Atlanta’s first string with the spacing necessary to run its offense well.

But who will support Korver at the position?

The front office’s offseason moves will undoubtedly affect the Hawks’ production at shooting guard as it compares to last year. Gone is Louis Williams, who the team traded to the Toronto Raptors in order to clear cap space. The Hawks also brought in Thabo Sefolosha and Kent Bazemore in free agency, both of whom have played primarily shooting guard throughout their careers.

How will Sefolosha and Bazemore factor into the 2-guard position? Will Korver reach the 34 minutes per game he played last season? Are there any dark-horse shooting guards to look out for? We’ll answer these questions and many more in this article.

But first, let’s take a look at how the Hawks shooting guards performed last year.

 

Grading the Hawks Shooting Guards in 2013-14

Below is a table presenting the statistics of the team’s shooting guard production versus its opponents last season.

As you can see, the Hawks shooting guards performed a little bit worse than their counterparts in 2013-14. But considering what the team had to work with, that is nothing to be ashamed of. 

Korver was a straight-up sniper last year, as he always is. He led the NBA in three-point field-goal percentage (.472) and shot at least 40 percent from downtown in each month of the season. 

Just let that second statistic sink in.

In the month Korver was the coldest from three-point land (April), he still made two out of every five treys he shot. If he had sustained that success rate over the entire season, he still would have placed ahead of knockdown shooters Dirk Nowitzki, J.J. Redick and Kevin Durant in three-point accuracy.

However, Korver was by no means an excellent all-around player last year. He was a willing defender, but his below-average athleticism prevented him from being a stopper on that end. He was also a solid passer but rarely created his own shots.

After Korver, the Hawks tabbed a hodgepodge of players at the 2-guard position, but nobody established himself as the clear second-string shooting guard.

Williams and Shelvin Mack were the best shooting guards off the bench, but neither had the size to play the position at a consistently high level. Williams, known as a microwave off the bench, averaged just 15.6 points per 36 minutes in a down year by his standards. Mack’s best minutes came when he played point guard.

Cartier Martin and to a lesser extent John Jenkins also chipped in some minutes at 2-guard. Neither was a true difference-maker, though.

This was a relative position of weakness for the Hawks in 2013-14, but Korver’s ability to perfectly fit the floor-spacer role keeps the grade respectable.

Overall Grade: C

 

How Did the Offseason Change the Shooting Guard Rotation?

First, let’s look at the shooting guards the Hawks will be missing from last year’s rotation, Williams and Martin.

Williams, who played 34 percent of the team’s minutes at shooting guard, per 82games, was traded to the Raptors to clear cap space for the Hawks. Martin, who signed a contract with the Detroit Pistons this summer, mainly played small forward but still logged 6 percent of Atlanta’s minutes at 2-guard last year.

The signings of both Bazemore and Sefolosha will easily offset the loss of the aforementioned players.

Bazemore is a high-energy all-around player who possesses the size (6’5″) at shooting guard that neither Williams (6’2″) nor Mack (6’3″) could supply for the Hawks last year. He’s still only 25 years old and eager to prove he has a place as a valuable contributor in the NBA.

The 30-year-old Sefolosha is a long defender accustomed to high-pressure situations (78 career playoff games) and to playing as a starter (407 starts) from his tenure with the Oklahoma City Thunder. If he can be more consistent with his on-and-off jump shot, the Hawks will have a valuable 3-and-D player off the bench.

 

What Will the Shooting Guard Rotation Look Like in 2014-15?

At 33 years old, Korver played arguably the greatest basketball of his career last year under Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer, as Grantland‘s Zach Lowe pointed out.

Lowe said the following about Korver:

No coach has unleashed the full breadth of Korver’s game like Budenholzer. Korver isn’t a traditional pick-and-roll player; he can’t dribble the ball 25 feet to the rim, juking dudes along the way. But Budenholzer has tailored a sort of hybrid species of pick-and-roll to his secret star — a high-speed curling action in which Korver takes a pitch or a handoff, probes the defense with a dribble or two, and makes the next pass from there:

The spacing Korver provides for the starting unit and his newfound ball-handling chops keep him as a lock for the first unit.

After Korver, things get a bit interesting.

Sefolosha is accustomed to playing shooting guard, but that’s mostly because the Thunder had four-time scoring champion Kevin Durant manning the small forward position. The new Hawk’s skill set is better suited to the 3, where he can spell starter DeMarre Carroll, whose game resembles Sefolosha’s. 

That leaves Bazemore, Mack and Jenkins as the three main candidates to seize the backup shooting guard job.

We can first eliminate Mack, who demonstrated at the end of last season that point guard is clearly his best position. As 82games shows, he was a totally different player when he initiated the second unit’s offense.

I predict that Bazemore will take the second-string shooting guard slot over Jenkins. Although Jenkins is a fantastic outside shooter, Bazemore can offer the Hawks help in more areas, such as defense. I’m willing to bet DeMarre Carroll still remembers getting his layup attempt swatted away by his future teammate last season. 

Jenkins will settle in as the third-string 2-guard without much competition, barring roster moves.

 

Conclusion

With Korver, Bazemore and Jenkins in the rotation and Thabo Sefolosha and Shelvin Mack getting spot duty, the shooting guard position is not one the Hawks need to be worrying about too much heading into 2014-15, unlike last season.

The Hawks should definitely be preparing for a serious ascent up the Eastern Conference standings with the help of their new position of strength.

                                                          

Playing-Time Predictions

Kyle Korver: 31 minutes per game (24 at shooting guard)

Kent Bazemore: 22 minutes (17 at SG)  

John Jenkins: 12 minutes (10 at SG)

Thabo Sefolosha: 24 minutes (six at SG)   

Shelvin Mack: 20 minutes (two at SG)     

 

Note: All stats used are from Sports-Reference.com unless otherwise indicated.      

                                                                                                         

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UCLA denies admission to former Colorado State point guard Jon Octeus

What his next course of action is remains unclear.

      
 

 

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Breaking Down NY Knicks’ Shooting Guard Position for 2014-15 Season

The New York Knicks go into 2014-15 with a strong shooting guard rotation, having steadily added talent at the position for the past few years.

With Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr., the Knicks have no shortage of talent at the 2, but the trio need to collectively take the next step if the team is to reach its potential this season.

Let’s break down the position, grading last year’s performance, what has changed this offseason and what we should expect from the group in 2014-15.

 

Last Year’s Performance

The 2013-14 season was a mixed bag for New York’s shooting guards. Hardaway was a pleasant surprise, making the All-Rookie First Team after being drafted at No. 24 overall. Meanwhile, though, Shumpert completely lost his confidence on both ends of the floor, and until very late in the campaign, Smith was playing the worst basketball of his career.

Hardaway struggled to get minutes early on, with Mike Woodson instead deferring to Shumpert, Smith and the occasional lineup with two point guards. Eventually, though, with the rookie shooting 40 percent from deep in the first half of the season, he was given a more significant role in the rotation.

In the second half, Hardaway‘s three-point shooting dropped to 34 percent, but he raised his per game scoring from 8.2 points to 12.2 points. This can primarily be attributed to a nine-minute increase in playing time per game.

All things considered, Hardaway was the most consistent of the Knicks’ shooting guards, but his contributions came almost exclusively on the offensive end as a spot-up shooter.

For Shumpert, 2013-14 was a year to forget. Besides two huge games against the San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets in January, he was essentially non-existent. 

Shumpert averaged 6.7 points per game on 38 percent shooting for the year, marking the worst statistical season of his three-year career. Even on the defensive end, where Shumpert had previously made a name for himself, he struggled, often making silly mistakes and never shutting players down the way we’re used to seeing from him.

For a while, Smith was even worse than Shumpert. Where Shumpert failed to make an impact, Smith was actively making the team worse in the first half, putting his immaturity on full display. He missed the first five games with suspension, had the infamous shoelace incident and even refused to shoot at all against the Boston Celtics after being called out by Woodson for his poor shot selection.

Typically, the Knicks put up with his antics because he’s one of the better sixth men in the NBA, but it wasn’t even remotely acceptable behaviour for a player who shot under 40 percent for most of the season.

Towards the end, we were reminded just how big a talent Smith is, as he averaged 20.9 points on 49 percent shooting in the last 13 games, setting a Knicks record for three-pointers in a game (10) against the Miami Heat along the way.

Overall, the Knicks’ shooting guards get a C for their performance last season. Besides Hardaway, they were at the core of the team’s struggles and were nowhere near as good as their talent dictates they should have been.

 

What’s Changed?

The Knicks have made no changes at shooting guard going into 2014-15, but moves elsewhere in the organization should have a big impact on their performance.

First of all, the arrival of Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher should help. It’s not a coincidence that the Knicks (especially Smith) turned things around a little bit once the Zen Master arrived in March.

There will be struggles with a rookie head coach, but Fisher is known for his leadership ability and should be able to restore Shumpert‘s confidence. Fisher already appears to have a good relationship with Hardaway from their time together at summer league.

On the court, the addition of Jose Calderon and Shane Larkin has bolstered the point guard position, which will have a positive effect on everyone. It gives the 2s a better chance of being found when open and also gives opposing defenses more to worry about in the backcourt.

It’s also worth noting that both Shumpert and Smith had knee surgeries going into last season, which undoubtedly had an impact on their performance. They’ve now had more time to rest and should come into 2014-15 refreshed and at full strength.

For Hardaway, his summer has been more about improvement than recovery. Based on his play in summer league, he’s a lot bigger and has found ways to be effective offensively outside of just shooting. He was getting to the rim a lot more often and even took a bit of a leadership role as one of the “veterans” of the team.

 

Previewing 2014-15

As we’ve established, the Knicks have a lot of talent in their backcourt, and now that they’re back at full strength under a new regime, we should see them capitalize on that talent.

We can only expect so much consistency from Smith, but it’s worth noting that he has a player option in 2015 and typically steps up in a contract year. He should be seeing this season as an opportunity to earn a pay rise on the open market.

Smith also has a fair amount of momentum behind him after his strong finish to last season and will surely want to impress his new coach and president as he looks to win a starting role.

It’s difficult to predict production for a player like Smith, but it wouldn’t be particularly surprising for his numbers to get close to where they were during his Sixth Man of the Year Award-winning 2012-13 season.

For Hardaway, we should see some steady improvement as he diversifies his offensive game, finding ways to score from inside as well as beyond the three-point line. We should expect his numbers to increase across the board, but just how much they increase depends on his minutes. At the very least, 12 points a night and 38 percent three-point shooting sounds reasonable.

The biggest question mark at shooting guard is Shumpert. For many, he is New York’s marquee prospect, but he’s faced a lot of injuries three years into his career and frankly hasn’t shown much by way of improvement since his rookie season.

Ideally, the fresh start under Fisher and Jackson will restore Shump’s confidence, and he’ll re-emerge as one of the league’s best young defenders, hit his open shots more often and assert himself more on both ends.

For a while now, it’s looked like there would eventually be an odd man out for the Knicks at shooting guard, and this season should bring that to a conclusion. 

Hardaway is on the most reasonable contract, has had the least health issues and has already been described as “virtually untouchable” (via ESPN), so he’s almost certain to stay long-term.

With the Knicks looking to save as much money as possible for free agency in 2015, they should strongly consider moving Smith or Shumpert at the trade deadline. They will struggle to afford to pay them both and still make a run at the likes of Rajon Rondo, Marc Gasol and Paul Millsap.

Shumpert‘s defensive ability and youth make him favourable to Smith, and if he returns to form this season, you’d have to think he’s the player the Knicks will opt to keep. Of course, they will still need Smith to perform so that he either plays himself into a new contract elsewhere or at least has a number of willing suitors for a trade.

This is an important year for the Knicks’ shooting guards. The franchise is in a period of transition, and this is no more evident than here, where the future of the position will likely be decided based on performances in 2014-15.

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5-Star 2016 Point Guard Mustapha Heron Talks Signature Move, Greatest Compliment

Mustapha Heron, a 5-star point guard in the 2016 class, per 247 Sports, took some time to talk with Bleacher Report about everything from his step-back jumper to his best attribute.

At 6’4″, 200 pounds, the Connecticut native (Sacred Heart High School in Waterbury) has the ability to dominate defenders as a junior.

How do you think Heron will do at the next level with the University of Pittsburgh? Watch the video and let us know.

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Breaking Down Philadelphia 76ers’ Shooting Guard Position for 2014-15 Season

After a 19-63 season, it’s hard to say the shooting guard position was anything but a complete and utter failure for the Philadelphia 76ers.

Gone are the two men who played the majority of the minutes at the 2 last year—James Anderson and Evan Turner. 

The 25-year-old Anderson—the 2010 Big 12 Player of the Year and former All-American—signed a one-year deal over the summer with Lithuanian League champion Zalgiris Kaunas after being waived by the 76ers in June. He had his best year as a pro in Philly, averaging over 10 points a game in 62 starts.  

Turner, the much maligned 2010 No. 2 pick, never lived up to his lofty draft status. At the trade deadline’s 11th hour back in February, Turner and forward Lavoy Allen were dealt to the Indiana Pacers for Danny Granger and a second-round pick. He signed with the Boston Celtics in July. 

With Turner never fulfilling his promise as a potential franchise cornerstone, the shooting guard position is one in which there is no discernible direction, let alone a future franchise player. Anderson was nothing more than a temporary fill-in, a journeyman holding a spot for someone who’s a more permanent fit. 

For a team whose history boasts the likes of Hal Greer, Andrew Toney and the incomparable Allen Iverson as notable names from backcourt’s past, who will be next in line to stand alongside Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid when the 76ers are ready to take the next step?

 

Influx of New Faces

With all the roster trimming 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie has done in the last 12 months, he focused most of his efforts on improving this once-proud position. 

Philly drafted K.J. McDaniels in the second round of the 2014 NBA draft, and he should be an immediate contributor on the perimeter. 

Alexey Shved was acquired from the Minnesota Timberwolves along with Luc Mbah a Moute in exchange for Thaddeus Young. 

Second-round pick Jordan McRae would have been in the mix as well had he not signed a deal with Australia’s Melbourne United in August. Veteran Jason Richardson, a reliable three-point shooter who’s had a productive career at the 2, is listed on most depth charts as a small forward—if his balky knees and $6.6 million expiring contract actually see the court this year.

He missed all of last season nursing a knee injury.

The influx of new guards will be a welcome addition to a team lacking any noticeable depth in the backcourt. There are plenty of holes and opportunities for new guys to carve out a place on the team beyond this season. 

 

Looking Ahead

According to both ESPN and Rotoworld, there are four names to keep an eye on as contributors at the 2: Shved, Elliot Williams, McDaniels, and Tony Wroten—the explosive yet inconsistent scorer who logged the most minutes there out of this group last season.

Williams averaged just 17 minutes per game during his 67 appearances last year. He averaged six points and shot just 29 percent from three-point range. 

The remaining three years on Williams’ contract are not guaranteed. He can be waived at any time, but given the team’s thin roster and dearth of talent in the backcourt, he has as good a chance as anyone to make the roster—albeit in a reserve role. 

Out of the top-20 five-man units the 76ers deployed last season, only five had a positive plus-minus during their time on the court. The second-most successful lineup consisted of four players still on the roster (a feat in itself): Carter-Williams, Williams, Hollis Thompson and Henry Sims.

In a minuscule sample size (28.7 minutes) they had a plus-10 rating, per 82games.com. They were also one of only three units to have an effective field-goal percentage over 50. If head coach Brett Brown and Hinkie believe that lineup can improve with increased playing time and continuity, it could bode well for Williams. 

The Russian-born Shved has shown flashes during his nascent NBA career but has lacked the consistency to force his way into significant playing time, even with a franchise like Minnesota which was plagued by injuries. A playmaking 6’6″ guard, he struggled often during his two NBA seasons. He saw a decline in minutes last season, playing just 10 a game, down from 23 the year before.

He shot just 32 percent from the field and 29 percent from beyond the arc. 

Shved is a project for Hinkie and Brown and will have a chance to prove his worth this year before the organization makes a decision on his $4.1 million qualifying offer in 2015. 

This leaves us with the two players who will share the majority of minutes at the 2: Wroten and McDaniels

Wroten started 16 games last season but spent most of the year as the scoring punch off the bench. He’s explosive as a slasher and ball-handler, with per-36 numbers of 19 points, four rebounds and four assists. He lacks a consistent outside shot—just 21 percent from three-point range last year—and is a work in progress on the defensive end, but he has legitimate upside.

He impressed all summer during his run in the Seattle Pro-Am thanks to his ridiculous handle.

Wroten can also log minutes at point guard, which will be needed with Pierre Jackson lost for the season and no reliable depth beyond Carter-Williams and Casper Ware. 

McDaniels is the real intriguing prospect who projects to be a long-term fixture at the position. While at Clemson, he led the entire ACC in blocks and won Defensive Player of the Year. At 6’6″ with a long reach, he looks to be a perfect fit in Brown’s scheme.

He’s a fantastic athlete and should fit in nicely on the defensive end alongside Carter-Williams, Noel and Embiid. The 76ers finished dead last in team defense last year, having given up 109.9 points per game. 

Offensively he runs the floor well and can finish, but his three-point shooting was a pleasant surprise during summer league, shooting over 50 percent from long range. Already a stout defender, if McDaniels can keep his shot consistent, he could step in immediately as an effective 3-and-D player. And since Philly also finished dead last in offensive rating, McDaniels‘ emergence would be huge. 

McDaniels and Wroten, with some seasoning and maturity, could become two key players on this team in the not-so-distant future. In the meantime, they’ll share the backcourt load with Carter-Williams through the growing pains of the upcoming season. 

 

Unless otherwise noted, statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference. Contract information courtesy of Sham Sports. Follow Stephen on Twitter for more hoops discussion. 

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Illinois loses point guard Abrams to ACL tear (Yahoo Sports)

Illinois guard Tracy Abrams drives the ball in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Indiana in the first round of the Big Ten Conference tournament Thursday, March 13, 2014, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

Illinois starting point guard Tracy Abrams is out for the season with an anterior cruciate ligament tear, coach Jon Groce confirmed Thursday. The team is deep at guard, though most of those players have little experience playing point guard in college.


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