Our take on the best crop of young shooting guards in the league. This piece features 5 players that are 23 and younger as part of our NBA’s Emerging Stars 2018 series.
5. Buddy Hield
“Buddy Buckets” is a testament to players staying extra years in college to develop their game. His senior year, he showcased his improved game at Oklahoma, which saw him average 25 points per game on 45% shooting from 3. Drafted one pick after Jamal Murray in 2016, Hield, like many rookies had an up and down season that saw him flipped at the All Star Break to the Kings after a poor start in New Orleans.
Hield flashed his top 10 pick potential in Sacramento, averaging an impressive 15 points a game on 48% from the field and 42% from three. Considering Hield improved his scoring average every season while in college, it’s reasonable to assume a similar trajectory in the NBA with the available shot opportunities the Kings afford.
One factor working against Hield is his age, he was a 23 year old rookie last year, and that’s why he’s not higher on this list. However, if his second half in Sacramento is any indication, the Kings may have their shooting guard of the future.
2016-17 Avgs: 10.6 PPG, 1.5 APG, 3.3 RPG, 0.5 STL, 0.1 BLK 43% FG, 39% 3P
4. Zach Lavine
MARK BLINCH, THE CANADIAN PRESS VIA AP
If not for a Torn ACL last season, Zach Lavine may be a few spots higher on this list.
In a league with countless unbelievable athletes who possess insane vertical leaps, few players possess the dunking ability and explosiveness of Zach Lavine, two-time dunk contest champ. However, while dunks are impressive, lots of high flyers barely crack NBA rotations… it’s the 38% from deep that perks our interest.
The centerpiece in the blockbuster Jimmy Butler deal, LaVine put together an impressive season before his injury. It remains to be seen how much this injury will hurt Lavine’s elite athleticism, or the questions regarding his defense and all around game, but at 22 he has upside that Chicago hopes they can build around.
2016-17 Avgs: 18.9 PPG, 3.0 APG, 3.4 RPG, 0.9 STL, 0.2 BLK 46% FG, 39% 3P, 84% FT
3. Jamal Murray
GARRETT ELLWOOD/NBAE VIA GETTY IMAGE
Times are looking up for the Nuggets as they have both the #2 and #3 shooting guards on this list. Denver selected Jamal Murray 7th overall in 2016 and he showed tons of promise in playing all 82 games and earning a spot on the All Rookie Second Team.
Known as just a sharp shooter coming out of Kentucky, Murray flashed the ability to slash to the basket, make plays for teammates, and hit the three ball in his enticing rookie campaign. At 6’4 he is listed as a shooting guard, however Denver experimented with him at Point Guard next to Harris and he certainly has a chance to be their opening night starter at the one.
Murray excels off the ball, using screens to get open for his jumper; however, in the pick and roll, he needs to improve his handle and decision making in order to be a full time point guard.
Capable of playing either guard spot, Jamal Murray is another excellent young piece drafted by Denver’s General Manager Tim Connelly and should fit in well with the rest of the Nuggets’ promising core.
2016-17 Avgs: 9.9 PPG, 2.1 APG, 2.6 RPG, 0.6 STL, 0.3 BLK 40% FG, 33% 3P, 88% FT
2. Gary Harris
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In a league bereft of two’s that can defend their position and hit three pointers consistently, Denver’s Gary Harris checks both boxes. In his Age 22 season Harris shot 42 percent from three which was good enough for eighth in the NBA.
The Michigan State product, and former high school football standout, brings that toughness to the defensive end of the floor, where he is Denver’s best wing player. After struggling in his rookie season, Harris has improved every year under head coach Mike Malone and is a key piece of the Nuggets core.
While Harris doesn’t have the overall offensive upside that Booker has, his ability to excel as a catch and shoot player fits in perfectly with Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap as Denver attempts to get over the playoff hump next year.
2016-17 Avgs: 14.9 PPG, 2.9 APG, 3.1 RPG, 1.2 STL, 0.1 BLK 50% FG, 42% 3P, 78% FT
1. Devin Booker
AP PHOTO/BRANDON DILL
As only the 7th player ever to score 70 points in a game, Booker placed himself amongst NBA greats when he torched the Boston Celtics on March 24, 2017. The 13th overall pick in 2015, Booker exploded onto the NBA landscape last season as a legitimate go-to scoring threat and star in the making.
Following his All-Rookie campaign in 2015-16, Devin Booker emerged last year with 22 points a game. Booker came in known just for his shooting prowess, but he has flashed a versatile offensive game with the ability to score in many different ways. After rarely running the pick and roll in college at Kentucky, Booker excelled at this in the NBA which opened up his game. Just the sixth player to score 1,000 points as a teenager, Booker joins elite scorers: Kevin Durant, Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Kobe Bryant as members of that impressive club.
One last bit of praise for Booker came from Lebron James who said, “ I’m going to be honest. If it’s someone who is under the radar right now that I believe is going to be a really, really, really good, all-star player in the league – it’s Devin Booker from the Phoenix Suns.”
Booker clearly has all the tools to be the best 2 in the league.
2016-17 Avgs: 22.1 PPG, 3.4 APG, 3.2 RPG, 0.9 STL, 0.3 BLK 42% FG, 36% 3P, 83% FT
Caris Levert – SG, Brooklyn Nets
Injuries concerns caused Levert, a projected lottery pick before a foot reconstruction procedure, to fall to the Brooklyn Nets at 20 in the 2016 draft. On a Nets team with very few assets, Levert is a promising player in Kenny Atkinson’s “Rockets-like” system that emphasizes three pointers and dunks. He had ups and downs like every rookie, but Levert showed an ability to defend, get to the basket, and make shots. With the addition of D’Angelo Russell, we are interested to see Caris Levert battle for minutes and provide solid production.