The Oklahoma City Thunder participated in the annual Blue and White Scrimmage yesterday, and they are just two days away from their first preseason game.
This season, we are ranking each team in the Northwest Division by position. First, we covered point guards, and now we’re covering shooting guards. The shooting guard position is not near as important as it has been in the past, and there aren’t a whole lot of stars at the position. With that being said, there’s not a lot of depth either.
The consensus rankings come from a points system. A first place selection is worth 5 points, second place is 4 points, and they continue in descending order with fifth place equaling 1 point.
Consensus Point Guard Rankings
1. Utah 15
2. Portland 12
3. Oklahoma City 8
T-4. Denver 5
T-4. Minnesota 5
1. Utah | Utah comes in at the top of my list due to the high expectations surrounding Donovan Mitchell. Although he had streaks of inconsistency a year ago, he also played like an All-Star at times. Adding a year of experience under his belt is going to do wonders for not only Mitchell but for the entire Jazz organization.
Donovan Mitchell will be backed up by Alec Burks. Burks has played all seven years of his career in Utah. He’s been a solid shooting guard who has averaged nearly 10 points per game throughout his career. Utah might not only have one of the best shooting guards in the conference, but they might have the best back up as well.
2. Portland | CJ McCollum has been one of my favorite shooting guards in the league over the last few seasons. He’s now heading into his sixth year, and he’s set to have the best season of his short career. Playing alongside Damian Lillard, these guys are a deadly duo.
I’m not sure if Portland will use Seth Curry primarily as a shooting guard or a point guard, but it’s safe to say Curry will see some playing time at this position. Seth Curry is nothing like his brother, but he definitely still has the potential to show up and have a big night.
3. Oklahoma City | The Thunder’s biggest weakness comes at the shooting guard position. However, at times, it can be their biggest strength. A healthy Andre Roberson means a solid-looking defense. Also, don’t count out his back door cuts on offense.
As for the back up, the Thunder will be looking for a big season from Alex Abrines. Abrines had a bit of a letdown season a year ago after breaking some Thunder rookie records the year before that. The Thunder will be in good shape this year if they can find some consistency in Abrines.
4. Denver | Gary Harris had a standout season a year ago averaging nearly 18 points per game. The Nuggets will be looking for another big year from the young shooting guard to compliment the rest of their talented roster.
The Nuggets would have come in higher on my list if they had a better back up for Harris. It looks like it’s going to be Malik Beasley, who is an unproven guy. That being said, Denver is still going to be a team to look out for with multiple guys who can take over a game.
5. Minnesota | Jimmy Butler has been the talk of the NBA lately with his latest request for a trade. It looks as if he will not be suiting up for a single game with the Timberwolves this season. Derrick Rose started in place of Jimmy Butler during their pre-season game against the Warriors.
Minnesota will likely be looking for a solid replacement for Butler, as they really don’t have anyone else at that position. Derrick Rose looked great during the pre-season game, but you really don’t want to rely on a guy like Rose to start as your shooting guard.
1. Utah | Utah is the league’s newest force to be reckoned with, adding more power to a stacked Western Conference. The face of the franchise has fallen into the hands of rising star Donovan Mitchell, who took the league by storm in his rookie campaign. It is highly debatable that Mitchell, who was runner-up for ROY behind Philadelphia PG Ben Simmons, should have won the award; but since Simmons first year riding the bench did not qualify as his rookie year, he took home the hardware.
Alec Burks serves as a quality backup to Mitchell and will look to contribute more on offense than his 7.7 PPG last season. Utah also picked up Duke legend Grayson Allen, who seemingly fits well with the identity of this reshaped Utah organization.
2. Portland |Portland will need to fill holes in their lineup in order to keep up with the stronger teams in the West. With that being said, the shooting guard position remains a strength for Portland as CJ McCollum returns to the lineup for his fifth season. McCollum missed only one game last season, and it is crucial to the Blazers lineup that he continues to remain healthy.
Backup Nik Stauskas only saw the court 35 times last season, and he hopes to increase his minutes in competition for playing time with newly acquired Gary Trent Jr.
3. Minnesota | Jimmy Butler may be the most talented shooting guard in this division, but his current status with the Wolves organization is not in good standing. Butler sits on the trade block and likely could be in another conference before game #1. It is clear Butler’s relationship with Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins does not translate well on the court.
With Butler likely on the move, Minnesota will need to acquire a shooting guard relatively soon to accompany Minnesota’s first round pick of the 2018 draft Josh Okogie.
4. Oklahoma City | The Thunder desperately missed Andre Roberson last year, who sat the second half of the season with an injury. His transition defense ranks amongst the best in the league, yet he still lacks perimeter shooting. Regardless of his shooting ability, Roberson’s presence on the court is statistically a crucial aspect to the success of the Thunder’s offense. His real plus-minus, which is a stat that usually favors big men, ranks 4th in the league.
The Thunder saw a decline on defense in Roberson’s absence, giving up 12.5 more points with Roberson off the court. The Thunder look to regain stability in the defensive rotation with Andre’s return. Sam Presti loves the sharp-shooter Alex Abrines, as his ability to spread the floor on offense will be crucial to OKC this season.
5. Denver | Gary Harris had a solid season a year ago finishing with 17.5 PPG while leading the team in steals with 1.8 SPG. With that being said, most of the offense is facilitated by Nikola Jokic, who is one the leagues biggest surprises in terms of offensive weapons. Denver desperately needs depth at the shooting guard position, which is why they find themselves last on my list.
Given that backup Malik Beasley only played 9 minutes a game last season, Gary Harris will pick up a heavy workload entering his fourth season in the league.
1. Utah | Donovan Mitchell proved himself to be one of the future superstars of the NBA, and he will likely arrive at that status sooner than later. He is a capable scorer and a solid defender, and Jazz fans are extremely optimistic about the future of their basketball team in his hands.
Alec Burks is Mitchell’s backup, and while he does not play a high number of minutes, he is a reliable guard who has been in the league for a while now.
2. Portland | C.J. McCollum is one of the best shooting guards in the NBA, and he alone is why the Trail Blazers are up this high. McCollum has a great shot from deep, and he pairs well with Damian Lillard.
After McCollum on the depth chart is Nick Stauskas. Stauskas barely played a season ago, and his role in Portland is yet to be seen.
3. Oklahoma City | Andre Roberson will be returning from injury soon, and Thunder fans (most of them, anyway) could not be more excited. Roberson rarely stuff the stat sheet with points, but his defensive capabilities are a game-changer. He’s not the only reason the Thunder are up this high, however.
Alex Abrines is a solid shooter off the bench who will be looking to improve on what many consider a sophomore slump. After Abrines is Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, a third-year guard who came to Oklahoma City from Philadelphia. The athletic rookie Hamidou Diallo could find his way on the court at some point, as well.
4. Denver | Gary Harris is a guy who is lesser known by casual NBA fans, but he’s the type of player that any basketball fan can appreciate to have on his team. Harris is a consistent scorer coming off a career-season, and his shooting ability makes him extremely dangerous from beyond the arc.
Malik Beasley is behind Harris, and through two seasons, he’s averaged just nine minutes per game. He may see an uptick in play time this season, though.
5. Minnesota | With Jimmy Butler on his way out, the Timberwolves are in trouble. The only other true shooting guard on the roster is the rookie Josh Okogie, and that’s not good news for a fringe-playoff team. Over the next month, Minnesota will likely work to get a true starter in return for Butler, but for now, it’s not pretty.