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Do All Great Shooting Guards Need to be Great Jump Shooters?

http://www.depressedfan.com/img/reggiemiller052510.jpgI've been thinking about this question for a while, but it's a good time to write something about it given Brian's post from earlier today.  We hear this stated authoritatively all the time by Sixer fans of varying degrees of understanding: "Andre Iguodala is not a shooting guard."  Even Doug Collins stated yesterday that Iguodala's natural position is small forward.  But practically speaking, what is the difference between a shooting guard and and a small forward?  And do all great shooting guards have to be great shooters?  My thoughts after the jump.
I can think of a few possible distinctions between shooting guards (SGs) and small forwards (SFs).
 
  • What type of plays are run for the player in the offense.  There is less distinction now, but back in the 80's, more SFs were post-up players (e.g., Julius Erving, Bernard King, Adrian Dantley).  SGs have always been primarily jump shooters (though more SGs penetrated well in the 80's) and generally have more picks set for them to create open jumpers.
  • Who the player guards on defense.  Very generally, SGs guard players who are slightly faster while SFs guard players who are slightly taller and stronger.
  • Rebounding and passing expectations for the player.  Generally, SFs are expected to get more rebounds, while many (not all) SGs get a good number of assists.
Regarding the second and third items, it's fairly clear that Iguodala is an asset at either position.  I believe he is a slightly better defender at SF because fewer SFs get by him on drives, while he is still strong enough to handle most SFs in the post.  But while he is a good rebounder at SF (his RPG was #5 this past year among SFs), he is an excellent rebounder at SG (#1 RPG among SGs this past year).  What he provides for assists (#2/#2) and steals (#3/#2) is good at either position.  One could argue that Iguodala is slightly better at SF than SG in these categories, but the difference is not enough to claim that he is "not a shooting guard."

Of course, that leaves the first category.  Fans and detractors alike agree that Iguodala is a below-average jump-shooter.  But does that mean he cannot be an excellent shooting guard?  Most people make the observation that this generation's best SGs (Kobe, Wade, Ray Allen, Joe Johnson, etc.) are all good-to-great jump-shooters and conclude that Iguodala cannot be a top SG.  But back in the 80's (what I consider to be the golden era of the NBA), there was a whole group of excellent SGs that had the same strengths and weaknesses as Iguodala.  Here's a list:

  • Sidney Moncrief, 6-3 180 (59.1% career True Shooting [TS] %, 50.2% FG career, 28.4% 3P career; single-season bests of 22.5 PPG/6.7 RPG/5.2 APG/1.7 SPG/0.5 BPG)
  • Dennis Johnson, 6-4 185 (51.1% career TS%, 44.5% FG career, 17.2% 3P career; single-season bests of 19.0 PPG/5.1 RPG/7.8 APG/1.8 SPG/1.2 BPG)
  • Alvin Robertson, 6-3 185 (52.7% career TS%, 48.5% FG career, 22.2% 3P career; single-season bests of 19.6 PPG/6.9 RPG/6.8 APG/3.7 SPG/0.8 BPG)
  • Clyde Drexler, 6-7 210 (54.7% career TS%, 47.2% FG career, 31.8% 3P career; single-season bests of 27.2 PPG/7.9 RPG/8.0 APG/2.7 SPG/0.9 BPG)
  • Ron Harper, 6-6 185 (51.1% career TS%, 44.6% FG career, 28.9% 3P career; single-season bests of 22.9 PPG/6.1 RPG/5.4 APG/2.5 SPG/1.2 BPG)

In this group are two Hall-of-Famers, two multiple-time All-Stars, and one starter for five championship teams.  The common denominators among the five players:  all were below-average jump-shooters, all were good penetrators (at least at the beginnings of their careers) and drew their share of fouls, all still scored relatively efficiently, all were good-to-great defenders, all filled up the stat sheet by contributing rebounds/assists/steals/blocks.  And all of them were primarily shooting guards.  Now does that description sound like anyone you know?

Iguodala's numbers by comparison:

  • Andre Iguodala, 6-6 207 (55.9% career TS%, 46.4 FG% career, 32.1% 3P career; single-season bests of 19.9 PPG/6.5 RPG/5.8 APG/1.7 SPG/0.7 BPG)
Now it is certainly true that the game has changed greatly from the 80's to the 00's.  Teams used to shoot the 3-pointer much less frequently and with much less success.  But I would argue that Iguodala could become a top-flight shooting guard following the above prototype by fully embracing his strengths as an attacking SG that can get to the hole and/or draw fouls.  Doug Collins recognizes those strengths as well as anyone else, and there's some evidence that Iguodala himself embraced it toward the end of last year.  And if he played that way a whole season?  We'd see a return to 56-57% TS%, perhaps an improvement to 48-49% FG%, more FT attempts, fewer 3-pt attempts, and no decrease in scoring (19 ppg, let's say).  In my mind, that's an excellent shooting guard, even if the "shooting" isn't primarily jump-shooting.

One final note: while I argue that shooting guards do not necessarily need to be great jump shooters, I fully agree that a well-balanced lineup will have some good outside shooting. If nobody shoots jumpers well, opponents will pack the lane, daring the team to shoot from outside.  We've seen this often with the Sixers in recent years.  So, it is a legitimate question to ask if the Sixers will have enough outside shooting should they select Evan Turner and play Turner and Iguodala together, or should they select Favors and play Iguodala at the 2 and Thad Young at the 3.  But in my mind, the proper question is does the lineup have enough outside shooting?, not does the 2-guard shoot well enough from outside?

Your thoughts and comments?  (Be nice!  This is my first post for Brian.)