OK, we know the first decade of the 21st century doesn't really end until 2011. We think. But we also know there have been 10 full NBA seasons played since the phrase "Y2K" was on all of our lips (1999-2000), and here at Ball Don't Lie we've decided to use this as an offseason excuse to rank some of the best and not-so-brightest of the 10 campaigns in question. The result? Why, top 10 lists!
That's what a shooting guard looks like.
Michael Jordan, Ron Harper. Lithe, athletic, ready to pounce. Shoot, drive, score. Run, jump score. Dash, hop, score. Nice.
Not much to this. Just the top 10 shooting guards of the last decade.
10. Jerry Stackhouse
Stackhouse's highs were a little higher than the man who immediately follows him on this list, someone he was actually traded for in September of 2002, but his lows were certainly a lot lower.
That said, potent scorer. Not exactly the most efficient scorer, but certainly a potent one for years, on several teams. Stack actually neared the 30-point per game mark back in 2000-01, but on a squad that saw him lost 50 games, shoot 24 times a game (making fewer than 10 shots per contest), and turn it over 4.1 times a night? A bit of a hollow accomplishment.
9. Richard Hamilton
I seem to have spent the last half-decade trying to warn people that they might be overrating Hamilton a bit, his significant presence on several standout Pistons teams allows for that, but Hamilton's hardly need exaggerating.
He's been a rock solid shooting guard on one of the decade's most consistent outfits for years, even if he looks like a softly-tossed rock could knock him overly solidly. Just under 18 points per game in 33 minutes a contest for Hamilton, on a career that started the season this list began.
8. Brandon Roy
Not to stir anything up, please promise me you'll take this as a pump-up of Roy's abilities more than anything else, but worth pointing out:
Brandon Roy's PER, at age 24? 24.
Kobe Bryant's? 26, surrounded by three different campaigns that saw him end with a PER in the mid-23s.
In fact, Roy's PER was just a short step behind Bryant's last season, in a year that saw Bryant mentioned (undeservedly, I might add, amongst career years from LeBron James(notes), Chris Paul(notes), and Dwyane Wade(notes)) among MVP candidates.
The guy is for real. And even if last year was a fluke jump in production, his first two seasons have Roy pegged for stardom anyway. And if last year is any indication, he'll be the league's most underappreciated superstar for quite a while. Sadly, and excitedly.
7. Michael Redd
His first three seasons saw Redd ride the pine way too much (most frustratingly in 2002-03, a year that saw George Karl trot out Tim Thomas(notes) as a starter 70 times for the Milwaukee Bucks), and he's missed a total of 88 games over the last three seasons. But in that creamy middle lies a fantastic scorer who is ridiculously adept at shooting, not turning the ball over, and absolutely nothing else.
6. Manu Ginobili
Manu Ginobili has never played 80 games in a season, and I'm sorry, but that hurts. He's averaged 69 games a year in his seven-year career, so it's not as if he's taking entire seasons off, but throw in all the gimpy attempts to play through injury, and the seven-year term (compared to someone like Allen Iverson's(notes) ten-year run through the, um, ten-year decade) is something you have to consider.
That said, as Kobe mentioned, Manu's a bad, bad boy. He scores, shoots a high percentage, rebounds, dishes, picks up steals, and defends. He's the complete package that just happens to not play all that much (27.7 minutes per game average, career).
5. Allen Iverson
Iverson is the anti-Michael Redd. Not a shooter, turns the ball over way too much (even though he uses far more possessions), he needs the ball to be effective (instead of shooting off screens), and he kills a lot of offense by dribbling, dribbling, shooting, and missing.
He also scores. I just don't know enough about the game to accurately try to place Iverson's levels of production amongst his peers or the players who came before him, nor am I going to try to tell you just whether or not his teams were winning in spite of him, or whether he was let down by a series of unfortunate teammates. 13 years after he was drafted first overall, his style, in this league? I still don't know where it fits. I don't think anyone, if they're honest, really knows.
Here's what I can tell you. He's averaged 27 points and six assists a game on his career. He was the sole offensive option on a team that made the Finals in 2001, and he's one of the greatest this league has ever seen at getting off his own shot. If that last accomplishment ends up being a good or bad thing depends on quite a bit, but it's worth noting.
4. Ray Allen
For years, Allen was considered to be just a step behind Kobe Bryant amongst the league's off guards, and that may have been a solid assessment, but it was a huge step, and an assessment that doesn't quite hold up on the decade-long tally.
Allen's been fantastic, and improperly criticized at times, but his all-around game (the rebounds, the assists, the D) just isn't there in comparison to the men who made the top three.
Still, Allen can shoot. And he works at it. And he can shoot. And he scores well. And he has a ring. And he can shoot. The next three-pointer he hits will be his 2300th, he's averaged 20.9 points per game on the career alongside stellar marks of just under 45 percent from the floor (consider where his attempts are coming from), 40 percent from long range, and 89.3 percent from the charity stripe.
3. Vince Carter
Carp at VC all you want, I'll lead the chants, but the man brought it all decade.
Most of the decade. He took some of the decade off, I guess.
When he didn't take parts of decades off, Carter
threw together averages of 23.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 3.8 assists. He's become a much better passer and defender as his career has moved along, while establishing a post-up game. And while he was pretty injury-prone to start the decade, Carter
hasn't really missed much time in the years since 2002-03.
2. Dwyane Wade
Wade has only averaged 66 games a year over his career, and he's played just six seasons in the NBA, but ... he's Dwyane Wade.
He has a ring, teams have a hard time stopping him from scoring a whole lot of points on the basketball court, and he's Dwyane Wade. 25.2 points per game on 48 percent shooting, 6.7 assists, five boards, and 2.8 combined blocks/steals on his career. Very, very good, he is.
1. Kobe Bryant
Very, very brilliant, this man is.
You're well aware of his stats; he's essentially a Jordan-lite. You're aware that he's won four rings, made the Finals two other times, and his one of the greatest backcourt practitioners to ever play this game. And that, at age 31, he's on what might be the deepest and most talented team of his career, a team coming off a Finals victory.
What always impresses me most, is the man's dedication. Complain about the off-court stuff, how calculating he seems, how he can appear pretty transparent at times, I don't mind. You'd be right, in that regard. But you have to respect the amount of work he puts into the game that we love. Work that, I'm sorry, some of our favorite players both past and present just couldn't be bothered to.
Can't blame those guys, you can only go so hard for so long without getting burned out. Kobe's love is a special love, though. A sick one. MJ had that sickness, Magic had it, Bird had it, Russell had it. All the greats had it.
He's not at their level. But he made damn sure he gave himself every opportunity he could to work toward their level.
Kobe Bryant is the greatest shooting guard of the decade. It's not even close.