Monday, August 19, 2013
Biancardi's Breakdown: Shooting guards
By Paul Biancardi
The shooting guard position is the spot that teams count on for scoring and to take over when the squad needs to make a run. So much skill and practice goes into becoming a player that teammates and coaches can count on to score points.
Besides the physical tools, confidence may be as vital as any skill for a great shooting guard. Does he have the makeup to take and make game-winning shots? Does he possess the self-confidence to shoot another open shot after missing consecutive attempts? Will he make the big free throw to close out a game?
Below are five keys that are vital to being an elite shooting guard, with a look at which prospects from the Class of 2014 best demonstrate each of those traits.
Rashad Vaughn is the No. 1-ranked shooting guard in the ESPN 100.
1. Create their own shot
Why it’s important: The ability to create a shot in transition, half-court sets or on a broken play separates the elite shooting guards from their peers. The best 2-guards are ideally players who can score in as many ways as possible from all three locations on the floor: behind the 3-point arc, the midrange area and in the paint. Producing points from the foul line is also a significant part of the total package. Every great team needs a player with the gift to create scoring opportunities for himself or others at any point during the game.
Who does it best: Rashad Vaughn: Vaughn has a natural knack for putting the ball in the basket, and he does so with a high skill level, confidence and a soft touch. He can change gears in a moment’s notice, get his shot off in traffic and make difficult shots as he produces points on the move, off the bounce or from a stationary position. As his volume of shots lessens and his shooting percentage increases, he will stand out even more. With his combination of deep range on his jumper and creative pull-ups, drives and finishes, Vaughn is one of the most lethal scorers in the nation. And when he does have a passing opportunity, he can see it and make the pass.
Isaiah Whitehead: Whitehead has improved his shot selection, which in turn has increased his shooting percentages. His skills, superior athletic ability and passion to score make him a true bucket getter. His dribble penetration and strong body allow him to finish at the rim. And while his shooting stroke is streaky, he is comfortable and confident knocking down jumpers moving in any direction or from a stationary position. Whitehead is hungry to score and talented enough to create scoring opportunities for himself or others.
2. Make deep and midrange shots
Why it’s important: Two of the most important qualities to look for in a shooter are range and accuracy. Making jump shots not only from a catch-and-shoot position but also on the move or off the dribble is a major part of the equation for the elite shooting guards. The ability to stretch a defense and make shots is a priority for any 2-guard who wants to be considered the best at this position.
Who does it best: James Blackmon Jr.: Blackmon, a one-time Indiana commit who is now open in his recruitment, is the best shooter in the 2014 class because he is the most accurate and consistent from both deep and midrange. He makes shots in transition when the defense is scrambling back and can also hit shots when a defender is close by and ready to contest his jumper. He doesn’t get to the foul line all that often, but you can count on his free-throw shooting when he gets there. What is so impressive about Blackmon is how he makes shots both on the move or in a spot-up situation and his ability to use the shot fake to get open. His shot preparation is also textbook, and the results are high level.
D'Angelo Russell: The Ohio State recruit has emerged as a dynamic scorer and shooter. He is someone who cannot be left alone, as he will take advantage of any scoring opportunity. When he is not hitting shots from the field, you can still count on him to make his free throws as both his mechanics and coolness make him an excellent foul shooter. Russell easily knocks down stand-still 3-point shots with range and accuracy and can also create scoring opportunities off the dribble with a great knack for getting to an open pocket of space and nailing the shot.
Devin Booker: Booker’s shooting skills are immediately evident when you watch his release, rotation and accuracy on both his long-range and in-between jumpers. He can nail shots while spotting up or from a rhythm dribble, and he uses screens extremely well to create space for his jumper. His combination of strong IQ for the game and understanding of how to free himself for open looks allows him to take high-percentage shots and be a constant threat to score.
Duke-bound Grayson Allen's athleticism also makes him an excellent defender.
3. Defensive toughness
Why it’s important: Basketball is a two-way game, so it’s not enough for elite prospects to just be offensive players. Some of the greatest to ever play could be difference-makers at both ends of the floor. To be a standout defender, a player must have both a mental and physical toughness, along with the demeanor to defend in a stance for the entire possession and game. A lockdown defensive stopper is hard to find, so the great ones are extremely valuable.
Who does it best: Grayson Allen: The Duke commit is known for his jumper and fearless drives to the rim, but Allen is also highly competitive and possesses the athletic ability to dig in and guard his opponent. He is strong enough to level a driver and keep him from getting into the paint and is competitive enough to fight over screens and not be taken out of the play. Allen’s size and length allows him to contest shots, and he also has the determination to finish the play with a rebound.
4. Effective driving game
Why it’s important: To score points, the best 2-guards who are shooters by nature also understand the importance of the driving game. Being able to drive, force help, and make an assist or a basket is crucial to keeping their total game balanced. There are two types of drives that are instrumental to develop. The straight-line drive is a direct path to the basket where the player goes in hard and looks to finish strong. The other type of drive is more about changing speeds and shaking free by twisting and turning a defender out of his stance.
Who does it best: Robert Johnson: Known as a perimeter player who makes shots, Johnson’s ability to drive is also quite impressive. He has the vision to read how he is being defended and then attack the basket when the situation calls for it. A low shoulder and tight handle help him hit the gaps, and once inside the paint he can finish with either hand. He uses his dribble penetration to score but also to read the help defense and see his open teammates as his drive, draw and find game is always a threat.
5. Ball-handling and passing skills
Why it’s important: Besides scoring, a top-notch shooting guard must be able handle the ball and execute against pressure and sometimes even initiate the offense in a pinch. The ability to pass into the post or find an open teammate cutting to the basket is also extremely important. When shooting guards can do more than just score, their value becomes even greater and they become even more difficult to defend. To be considered one of the great 2-guards, a player must be able to efficiently handle the ball and make timely and accurate passes.
Who does it best: Romelo Trimble: Trimble, a Maryland commit who is making the transition from shooting guard to point guard, is poised with the ball in his hands. In fact, it is his ball-handling and passing skills that have allowed him to move to the point, where he has done an excellent job running his team and getting others involved while always being ready to score. His handle in the backcourt is strong, and in the frontcourt he gets to open pockets on the floor to make plays. In the pick-and-roll game, he creates separation from his defender while looking to make the correct pass.