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They can play, but can they shoot?

While many of today’s young guards are considered rising stars of the NBA, they haven’t shot the ball particularly well this season. Sam Smith of Bulls.com highlights a few of the game’s best shooters, guys who when they come on the floor you better know where they are at all times.

"Though he’s a scorer like Bryant and James and Anthony, he’s the best among them as a shooter," Smith writes of Durant.
(Ezra Shaw/Getty Images Sport)

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

Sam Smith Mailbag

They’re young and they have the ball and they are the rising young stars of the NBA. That’s one thing these guys have in common:

Kemba Walker, Derrick Rose, John Wall, Alec Burks, Damian Lillard, Tyreke Evans, Brandon Jennings, Michael Carter Williams, Victor Oladipo, Marcus Thornton, Ricky Rubio, Gerald Henderson, Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, DeMar DeRozan, Bradley Beal, Jrue Holiday, Russell Westbrook and Eric Gordon.

You’ll also find them if you look at shooting averages in the NBA. But starting at the bottom. Because the kids today seem to have trouble shooting, at least so far.

Rubio.326
Walker.340
Rose.348
Wall.365
Thornton366
Henderson.366
Burks.375
Lillard.384
Evans.385
Jennings.386
Carter-Williams.389
Oladipo.389
Irving.395
Waiters.398
DeRozan.403
Beal.413
Holiday.417
Westbrook.419
Gordon.420

It’s early in the season and affected by one or two bad shooting games. Plus, several are returning from injuries.

But it also raises the question of who can shoot. It’s not supposed to be an art in the NBA for all the practice they do, though guys on the other teams do get in the way and make it difficult. We know who can score. But who are the guys who when they come on the floor you better know where they are at all times and find them on the perimeter? Not counting players like Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James or Dwyane Wade, who are scorers. But the pure shooters, like Reggie Miller or Ray Allen, now later in his career no longer in that category as a regular. In talks with players and teams executives, these are the names you most often hear:

Stephen Curry: His father, Dell, was that guy in a career off the bench given his size and limitations on defense. But few get off a shot more quickly.

Klay Thompson: Gets less notice because he plays with Curry, but coach Mark Jackson, fond of hyperbole, of course, does have a point. Maybe not best backcourt or best scoring backcourt. But perhaps best pure shooters. Also great blood lines from dad Mychal Thompson, a career 50 percent shooter but from much closer.

Jamal Crawford: It’s amazing that shot goes in as often it does with its arc. Crawford’s more off the dribble, but makes them from all sorts of angles.

Kyle Korver: Won’t they finally invite him to a three-point contest? He’s the classic spot up in the Miller mold, quick release and amazing range.

Kevin Durant: Though he’s a scorer like Bryant and James and Anthony, he’s the best among them as a shooter. Dirk probably was here a few years ago, but no more. You maybe had Ben Gordon in the used to be category and for the future watch out for Bradley Beal with a Ray Allen type stroke.

And who’s getting them the ball? Likewise, it’s tough as most of the point guards these days would rather shoot. Perhaps other than Chris Paul, Ricky Rubio, Rajon Rondo, Jose Calderon and Steve Nash maybe still for a few more months if he does return. It’s a wide open field if you are interested in applying for a job.

Future face of the NBA on display

-- NBA executives and players all over the league still were raving almost a week later about the talent in the State Farm Champions Classic. One executive said there were more team officials there than at any college event he’d attended other than a Finals Four and predicted that 12 to 14 players from the two games will be first round draft picks. Said the general manager as team officials cannot be quoted by name about college players, “This group is the changing face of the NBA. Kobe’s going, Garnett, Pierce. LeBron and ‘Melo are in their 11th seasons. In three years, the guys you saw in that game will be face of the NBA. They’re the next wave. This draft and the next one, which is really good, also.” Many are likening it to 1984 and 1985, the drafts that produced the players who led their teams to eight straight titles in the 1990’s and the players on half the Finals’ losing teams in that span. The Thunder’s Kevin Durant told the Oklahoman newspaper: “That kid (Jabari Parker) is amazing, man. I think he's the best player in the country. Him and (Andrew) Wiggins are like 1A and 1B. Those guys, man, I don't want to put the one-and-done thing on them too early. But they're going to do really well in college and lead their teams to, I think, Final Fours. I love Jabari's game. He's so skilled and has it all right now. Wiggins is so physically... like he's on another level right now. That's God given ability he has. It's a lot of talented kids coming into this league the next few years. It's going to be fun to see.”

Laughable or not, trade talk surrounds Shumpert

-- The Bulls are believed to be interested in trading Marquis Teague for Kevin Love, though if that falls through they’d probably accept LaMarcus Aldridge. I’m sure the Bulls would love to, and, like all this New York nonsense with Iman Shumpert, it’s equally ridiculous. Shumpert for Kenneth Faried last week? Now for Rajon Rondo? Shumpert’s a nice guy to have on your team, but he’s basically a poor man’s Jimmy Butler, a hustling reserve player who doesn’t shoot well (career 40 percent). Boston already has a team filled with guys like that, only better like Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee. And the Celtics don’t even want them. Faried is one of the most valuable, hustling big men in the game. I’m not sure which is more amazing, that the Knicks can leak stuff like this believing it’s possible or anyone believes it? I hear Toronto likes the idea of Shumpert for Aaron Gray. Tweet that! It also may not help Shumpert’s trade value with reports last week in the New York Daily News that Shumpert had another knee surgery last summer the Knicks didn’t disclose and coach Mike Woodson considers him uncoachable. How could the Thunder not be interested for Durant? The Knicks also are believed to have let it out that Shumpert was the one who got the original contract for the government health care web site. … I do believe Rondo eventually will be traded as with one more season after this it’s tough to see him resigning in Boston. I’ve long suggested for Omer Asik, though what about Jeff Green as a stretch four in Houston to play with Dwight Howard for Asik? At least those make some sense. … New York media also noted last week Love has an apartment in New York, where his girlfriend works, and spent time there last summer, so, of course, he’ll want to sign there as a free agent. Maybe Love can then buy Carmelo Anthony’s place as free agent Anthony supposedly is disgusted with the team’s play saying they’re no longer trying with five straight home losses. Sure, what player doesn’t want to be in New York?

NBA news and notes

-- I’m not sure if my favorite NBA story of the week was J.R. Smith explaining how he really threatens people when he appeared to threaten Brandon Jennings for making fun of the Knicks paying his brother to play in the D-League. "Threaten? No. There's a way to threaten somebody, and that's not the way to publicly threaten somebody," Smith said in his classic explanation that he didn’t threaten Jennings. The league fined Smith, anyway. As a favor to Smith, by the way, who is shooting 22 percent since his return from a drug suspension, the Knicks are paying about $2 million with luxury tax provisions to have Chris Smith as 15th man and in the D-League. And then there is Glen “Big Amazingly Dumb Baby” Davis ripping up a motel lobby at 4 a.m. because they didn’t have any rooms in the city in which he lives and at a Travelodge, no less, which anyone would figure would be known for its discretion with its guests. David Stern is willing to leave this? He can’t be having more fun somewhere else. … The Raptors lost at home again Sunday as DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay combined for 54 of the team’s 94 shots, though now they apparently do allow some teammates to look at the ball, if not touch it. … With Anthony Davis now averaging 20.9 points and 11 rebounds with more than two steals and three blocks, one NBA general manager watching him insisted to me in three years he’ll be the best player in the NBA. Another said he thinks Davis is the fastest big man in the history of the NBA.

-- Shush. Jason Kidd is sleeping on the Nets bench. … Spencer Hawes is averaging career highs in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and shooting. Can anyone say contract year? … The Cavs convened their players only meeting after their ninth game, amusing the Knicks who had theirs four games in. The Cavs players were said to be critical of one another amidst rumors of disaffection with second year scorer Dion Waiters, who supposedly is sick, though several media reports from Cleveland suggested it was more timed with his upset about being benched. Coach Mike Brown said Waiters was ill. Meanwhile, No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett, working on the Kwame Brown award, went back to DNP-CD for Earl Clark. That’s a sentence not going on your Hall of Fame plaque. … The Pistons lost to the Lakers Sunday with Brandon Jennings again taking about the same number of shots as his big men center and forward combined, this time 22. Though Jennings insisted that general manager Joe Dumars, one of the most efficient shooters ever, said he needed to shoot a lot. “That's one thing me and Joe talked about,” Jennings told Detroit media. “My first problem in the beginning, when I came back, trying to please everybody, trying to make sure I was being a pass first point guard instead of just playing basketball. If the shot's there, I'm going to take it. If not, then I'm going to pass it.” Then that clinches it: No way he makes the list with Rubio. OK, there’s another team not making the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Wizards continue in disarray as well with Nene blasting the “young guys” for being too full of themselves. Hello, John Wall? There’s the Cavs in meetings, the Bucks breaking up bar fights, the Knicks, well, you know, the Nets apparently all out of Viagra, the Raptors in Canada, the Magic cleaning up motel lobbies. Hey, the Bobcats may actually make the playoffs.

-- Statement game in the United Center Monday? It’s the sort of matchup you dream about: No. 3 seed Bulls facing No. 6 seed Charlotte. All fans who can name three Bobcats starters get in free. … Not a great sign for Kobe. Chauncey Billups, admittedly never the athlete Kobe is, continues to decline trying to make it back from Achilles surgery and is out injured again after shooting 33 percent and averaging about 5.3 points before being benched. … Ray Allen says Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce continue to give him the silent treatment, he told the Boston Herald, about his leaving for Miami after, of course, they waived a no trade and any desire to stay to go to Brooklyn. As Charles Barkley once famously said, they are not role models. Though he didn’t mean just Garnett and Pierce. If you did want your child to have a basketball role model, Allen probably would be my recommendation…Tied for the best record after 10 games is the ol’ man rivers of the NBA, the Spurs at 9-1 even with Tim Duncan off to the worst shooting season of his career. Yes, they are more efficient and smarter than you are. Boris Diaw is off to one of the best seasons of his career, which also proves contract year translates into French. Proving European players really don’t listen to rap music, Marcin Gortat told the Washington Post the Spurs offense “was like listening to Mozart. It’s just ridiculous how they play.” That’s the game, by the way, after which Nene blew up and instructed Washington’s roster of lottery picks to watch a Spurs game film for a change. … Nikola Mirotic’s team in Spain supposedly is looking at Jan Vesely as a replacement if Mirotic goes to the Bulls.

-- Omer Asik was reported by coach Kevin McHale “under the weather” after missing shootaround Saturday and not playing against Denver after going from starting to four minutes to DNP-CD and reportedly requesting a trade. Ryan Anderson, rumored in potential Asik deals, came back in a big way from injury Saturday with 26 points in the Pelicans blowout of the 76ers. Asik’s league leading consecutive games played streak ended as his pouting streak began. … It’s said Kevin Martin’s voice is a lot better this season as well. He’s not going hoarse so much yelling, “Russell, I’m open.” Playing with Ricky Rubio, Martin is averaging 24.4, just shy of his career best, after a seven-year low with the Thunder last season and their “Here Kevin, you shoot. Here Russell, you shoot” game. With Kevin Love, the Timberwolves are one of the more entertaining teams to watch. … The Spurs don’t get them all right. They did give away Luis Scola to save money and Dujuan Blair is having a nice recovery with the surprising Mavs, giving them some toughness inside averaging about 10 points on 57 percent shooting and cleverly eliminating the possibility of ACL surgery by having none. He’s now in the fifth season of a career that was supposed to end after two months. "Another man’s trash is another man’s treasure,'' said Blair in what should have been said by Benjamin Franklin, though I think it was the want ad for Fox TV news anchors.

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