OrlandoMagic.com’s Josh Cohen projects the top 10 shooting guards in the NBA during the 2022-23 season.
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#10 Tyrese Maxey
Maxey took a huge jump last season, raising his scoring average by over nine points while shooting 11-plus percent better from 3-point range than his rookie campaign. He scored 30-plus points five times, including on March 4 against Cleveland when he erupted for 33 points and made five 3-pointers. The question now, on a very generic level, is whether he is a budding superstar, a star, or a high-end role player.
Honorable mentions for this list include Tyler Herro, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Dejounte Murray, Desmond Bane, Anfernee Simons, Gary Trent Jr., Jordan Poole, Terry Rozier, Cole Anthony, and Buddy Hield.
#9 RJ Barrett
Was not getting Donovan Mitchell a blessing in disguise perhaps for the Knicks? Maybe, it paves the way for Barrett, who finished last season exceptionally well, to take his game to new heights. He had 11 30-plus-point performances last year, including against the Heat on Feb. 25 when he exploded for 46 points. How well he and Jalen Brunson, signed by New York in the offseason, mesh in the backcourt will likely determine where the Knicks finish in the standings.
#8 Jalen Green
Not many players around the league down the stretch of last season were more potent offensively than Green, who erupted for 30-plus points in six of Houston’s last seven games. His season and career best scoring output came in the finale against Atlanta when he exploded for 41 points. Part of an incredibly strong 2021 draft class, what does the 6-foot-4, nearly 180-pounder have in store for his sophomore campaign? For the Rockets to make strides, he’s going to have to not only score a lot, but be efficient as well.
#7 Klay Thompson
Some might suggest that Thompson exceeded expectations following his return considering he was out of action for 2 ½ seasons. He scored 30-plus points six times, including in the regular season finale against the Pelicans on April 10 when he racked up 41 points. He had a few excellent playoff performances, too, such as in the Western Conference Finals series finale against the Mavs when he tallied 32 points. Now with an entire offseason of more standard training, perhaps we will see those kinds of games more consistently from the five-time NBA All-Star.
#6 Bradley Beal
Are the Wizards being slept on? We know how good Beal is, although some are questioning whether it was the right move for Washington to give him the five-year, $251 million max contract. But what did go a bit under the radar down the stretch of last season was Kristaps Porzingis’ productivity after the Wizards got him from the Mavs in a mid-season trade. Also, a sneaky good move in the offseason for the Wizards was landing Monte Morris and Will Barton from the Nuggets – two proven role players with plenty of postseason experience.
#5 Zach LaVine
Somewhat surprisingly, LaVine and DeMar DeRozan meshed well together last year despite both being premier isolation scorers. It’s not uncommon for a pair of prolific scorers to get in each other’s way. For the Bulls to gain ground on any of the other elite Eastern Conference teams, they will not only need LaVine and DeRozan to both light it up offensively, but they will need to become a far better defensive team. They ranked 23rd in defensive rating last season.
#4 Anthony Edwards
Edwards, just 21 years old, is a bucket. It wouldn’t be a surprise at all if he led the league in scoring this season, or any season in the next few years. He scored 40-plus-points three times last season, including racking up 49 against the Spurs on April 7. Maybe it’s not that critical, especially now that they have three-time DPOY Rudy Gobert manning the paint, but it remains to be seen if Edwards’ defense, along with his playmaking, will be good enough to truly turn him into an all-time great.
#3 Donovan Mitchell
The Cavs gave up a lot to get Mitchell, a three-time NBA All-Star with the Jazz. But, without question, acquiring him expedites Cleveland’s mission to get back into championship contention. A core four of he, Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, and Jarrett Allen have a chance to be special, but it’s still up in the air whether any of them are in that A+ category. With the exception of the 2004 Pistons, every other championship team in league history had an A+ caliber player on their roster.
#2 Jaylen Brown
Does Brown get the credit he deserves? Many have Jayson Tatum as a top five player in the league right now, while very few seem to put Brown in the top 10. One could argue, from start to finish, that Brown was Boston’s better player in the postseason last year. In fact, if the Celtics had beaten the Warriors, there’s no question that he would have been named Finals MVP. He scored 20-plus points in four of the six games, including erupting for 34 in the series finale.
#1 Devin Booker
Was losing to Dallas in the Western Conference Semifinals a wakeup call for the Suns, or was that the beginning of a decline? NBA history has shown us that major playoff upsets can either motivate a player and/or team to rise to another level or cause a player and/or team to fade far quicker than anyone anticipated. Just based on how competitive he seems to be, don’t be surprised if Booker is in the MVP mix all year long.