NBA Start, Bench or Cut: Shooting Guard Edition

(Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

NBA Start, Bench or Cut: Shooting Guard Edition


NBA Start, Bench or Cut: Shooting Guard Edition

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The first quarter of the NBA season has delivered some fascinating storylines but none are more fun to analyze than the play of the game’s best two guards. Loads of young shooting guards have taken the next step in their development and the old guard is staying their usual steady course. Start, bench, cut is a popular social media activity for fans to engage in but let’s take the concept and apply it to some of the league’s comparable SG’s. 

Group One: Devin Booker – Phoenix Suns, Donovan Mitchell – Cleveland Cavaliers, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – Oklahoma City Thunder (Will Locklin) 

Start: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

It may be a hot take but right now, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the best shooting guard in the game and he doesn’t look ready to relinquish the crown. SGA has graduated from the offensive star to superstar table with gaudy levels of production. Some 31.1 PPG & 6.0 APG on 62% true shooting gives Alexander a case as the best scorer in the NBA this season. He’s an absolute elite slasher who’s finishing around 68% at the hoop and 51% from 10-16 feet out. These numbers aren’t a flash in the pan but rather the next evolution of a player who’s been one of the most underrated stars in the game for the last two years. 

Bench: Donovan Mitchell

Donovan Mitchell continues to get even better even with a new situation around him. High scoring volume and efficiency is standard for Mitchell in the playoffs but it’s perhaps becoming his new normal in the granular season too. Mitchell is averaging 28 PPG & 5.2 APG on 63% true shooting. He’s crushing it as the Cavs new offensive engine, shooting career highs at the rim (76%) and in the mid-range (47%). More than that though, Spida continues to hit at a 42% clip from downtown on over nine attempts a night. Mitchell remains one of the top offensive weapons in the sport and at this point can go nuclear almost on command. 

Cut: Devin Booker 

Maybe I sound like a maniac for cutting a guy who’s in the MVP conversation but truthfully there’s no good cut from this group. Booker has an argument himself to be the top two guard in basketball. He’s a three level beast of a score, averaging 29 PPG & 6.0 APG on 60% true shooting. D-Book is an otherworldly mid-range practitioner, converting at a 55% mark from 10-16 feet away. His talents in the mid-range combined with elite finishing numbers at the rim of 72% this season and 39% from three on high volume make him a sight to behold. Booker is fantastic in his own right and can get a bucket on anyone in the league. 

Group Two: Zach LaVine – Chicago Bulls, Bradley Beal – Washington Wizards, Jaylen Brown – Boston Celtics (Matt Levine) 

Start: Jaylen Brown

Two seasons ago, this wouldn’t have even been a possibility. But Brown has really stepped up his game immensely and arguably was the best player for the Celtics in the NBA Finals last season. He can do it all. Scoring inside and outside and is an athletic monster as well. Brown has gotten better each year of his career and even this current season, has stepped up his scoring. He is starting to become more of a leader as well in the locker room and it’s paying off. He showed what he can do come playoff time and for me, that is what I want to see from a guy that I would start. 

Bench: Bradley Beal

Beal is very good and a year ago, he would have been the one I picked to start. But injuries and inconsistent defense are what lead me to picking him to be benched in this scenario. He can still score with the best of them but we need to see more of him as a leader. I just haven’t seen him lift his team up enough to justify a start. He finally committed long-term to the Wizards but their ceiling with his as the number one option is limited in my opinion.

(Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Cut: Zach LaVine

LaVine, like Beal, got paid this offseason and for good reason. He is an explosive player but just isn’t as consistent as he needs to be. He is now the number two on his own team behind DeMar DeRozan and that in itself justifies him being cut here. It was a tough choice between him and Beal but I lean Beal simply for his playoff experience. LaVine is a good player and one that many teams won’t love to have on their roster but he gets cut here. 

Group Three: Tyrese Maxey – Philadelphia 76ers, Jordan Poole – Golden State Warriors, Desmond Bane – Memphis Grizzlies (Nader Assaf) 

Start: Desmond Bane

I don’t think the majority of NBA fans understand how good Desmond Bane is. Not only is he the second best player on a Western conference playoff lock, but he’s an absolute sniper that’s shooting 45% from three on almost nine attempts a game. You heard that right, Bane is shooting close to double digit three pointers a game and making close to half of them, while also casually dropping 24 points and five assists a night. The 30th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft has flourished into an amazing player, who adds efficient scoring, productive playmaking, and a perfect fit as a second option in a Grizzlies system. Not enough good words could be said. 

Bench: Tyrese Maxey

If it wasn’t Desmond Bane above him, Tyrese Maxey would 100% be starting for my squad. Maxey has developed into a top offensive shooting guard in the NBA at such a young age. With the addition of James Harden last season in Philadelphia, the former Kentucky Wildcat has been able to shift away from a role of primary facilitation, and explore his potential as a scorer, averaging 23 points a night on solid percentages, especially beyond the arc where he’s just over 42%. It was an extremely tough decision between Bane and Maxey because of Maxey’s ability to play a ball handling role (which adds another element to his game). Ultimately with the choice, there’s certainly no shame in coming second to a high caliber player. 

Cut: Jordan Poole

As much as I hate to cut Jordan Poole, he’s going to have to be the last guy in the group today. He isn’t playing badly by any means, and is on a team with a lot of offensive weapons. However, his lower levels of production compared to the other two players is the deciding factor. Poole certainly has the potential to become a premier guard in the NBA one day. His talents were shown in last year’s Golden State championship run, where he became a key contributor to their success and took a huge leap in his overall play. We saw this guy go from being sent to the G-League to securing a 140 million dollar deal in a couple of years, so who’s to say he can’t continue to make major strides forward?

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