It goes without saying that James Harden is the best shooting guard in the NBA; even if you left aside the fact that he’s the runaway favorite for MVP, through games of Dec. 19, he’s leading the league in scoring, shooting the highest percentage (39.2) of his career from three-point range, dishing out nine assists a game, and guiding Houston to the league’s best record.
Let’s consider the candidates…
One Quick Elimination
For starters, let’s just drop Mitchell. He’s good. Very good. Making a leap in only his first season. Averaging 17.7 points a game.
But he’s also shooting 42.6 percent, posting only a 16.1 PER, and .069 WS/48 isn’t going to turn any heads. His midrange jump shot is so awful that he’s essentially wasting 22.1 percent of his shots trying to get them into the basket between three and 16 feet.
Plus, that 101 Offensive Rating is cringeworthy.
Mitchell is fantastic for a rookie. He is nowhere near the level of an elite shooting guard…not yet.
Side-By-Side Basic Stats
Since most people are just going to count points or say “he’s a great shooter”, let’s put the remaining five candidates side by side with points, FG/3PT/FT, and PER since it’s a stat the casuals understand enough that it’s treated like a basic stat:
DeRozan: 23.9, .484/.250/.804, 22.9.
Beal: 23.8, .452/.360/.787, 19.8.
Oladipo: 24.9, .481/.428/.780, 23.5
Thompson: 20.7, .493/.463/.861, 17.5
Butler: 20.1, .460/.358/.857, 20.9
So this kind of boils down to “who you like?”, but so far it looks like a two-horse race between Oladipo and DeRozan, with Thompson held back by his role-player nature on Golden State, Butler not scoring enough or shooting the ball quite efficiently enough to compete with Oladipo and Beal, and Beal himself suffering from efficiency problems reflected in that sub-20 PER.
If you’re going purely by the basic stats, it looks from here like Oladipo, DeRozan, your pick of Beal or Butler (tied for third in my book), and Thompson in fifth.
Advanced Stat Party!
We’re going to go for On-Court Net Rating, Win Shares per 48, Box Plus-Minus, and Value Over Replacement Player, the pillars on which advanced stat comparisons stand, and go side-by-side again. Ranked as they were coming out of Round 1:
Oladipo: +5.4, .158, +4.2, 1.6.
DeRozan: +8.8, .193, +2.4, 1.1.
Beal: +4.6, .131, +1.8, 1.1.
Butler: +6.8, .160, +3.3, 1.4.
Thompson: +10.3, .128, +0.4, 0.6.
So Thompson continues to languish in fifth, Beal shows a clear fourth, and Oladipo, DeRozan, and Butler rank 1-2-3 in kind of a “which stats do you like more” jumble at the top.
But since Butler’s basic stats are much weaker than Oladipo and DeRozan, he gets his bronze medal in this contest and drops out here.
So what we’re left with is Oladipo and DeRozan in a pick-’em.
Now, for my money, a higher gross scoring average, PER, BPM, and VORP seem decisive enough, especially since DeRozan’s net rating and WS/48 are skewed by the fact that his Raptors team is much better than Oladipo’s Pacers team. Vic can’t help that his team is headed for 45 wins while DeMar’s looking at the highest point differential in the Eastern Conference; on paper, the Raptors should have a better record than the Celtics.
But let’s break the tie once and for all, with…
DeRozan Is A Dinosaur on the Dinosaur Team
When you look at Effective FG%, DeRozan’s Achilles’ heel, Oladipo’s .556 blows DeRozan’s .501 clean out of the water.
Likewise, as good as DeRozan’s .570 True Shooting is, it’s a far cry from Oladipo’s .594.
Vic is also a plus defender (+0.3 DBPM); DeRozan’s at minus-0.5 in the same stat.
That means a silver medal for the Raptors’ All-Star, and…
THE WINNER: VICTOR OLADIPO.