The traditional shooting guard has slowly been going away in the NBA. Teams find themselves using more combo guards and point guards to cover their needs at the two. We also see a newer mold, that I would rather describe as a Shooting Forward, rather than the traditional swingman.
Between rule changes and modern coaching styles, certain positions change. Sometimes there aren’t enough players that fit a mold, sometimes a few teams present a match-up nightmare that prompts the shift. At this current time, the traditional shooting guard, a position that has been molded since the days of Jerry West, has been left alone. Teams around the league already started to adjust for the changes due to the scarce nature of finding that true mold player that excelled at the pro level, then Michael Jordan happened.
Of course, if one man can save this position from going south, then the league must have others ready to fill the voids. The problem wasn’t so much that other teams couldn’t fill the two-guard slots, it’s that we saw an era where a unique point-forward, like Magic Johnson, proved that we did not need a back-court with pure speed and athleticism to win. Jordan, however, became a heavily emulated player. He brought some of his own, and based his game on his own mentors such as Julius Erving. From Jordan, came another set of players who helped resurrect the position of the traditional shooting guard, like your Mitch Richmonds, Ray Allens all the way to Kobe Bryant, and so on and so fourth. But this resurrection is on it’s last legs. With the Heat recognizing that Dywane Wade, who is somewhat traditional at the two, takes up shared time as a point, with another Magic Johnson-esque mold next to him. Jordan did the same with Pippen for many years, except now, the league is adjusting it’s line-ups to better match the modern two-spot. Jordan faced mostly traditional shooting guards, now a traditional shooting guard will more likely face stretched point guards or the shooting forward.
There are some traditional swingmen in the league, and none of the traditional positions including the traditional “combo” positions are going to go away completely.
Right now, the Bulls face a major dilemma at trying to find a fit at shooting guard. The chances of the Bulls finding a traditional player capable of playing at the NBA starter level is almost impossible. Denver, Houston, San Antonio, Milwaukee, Miami, Los Angeles and Portland managed to have a traditional starter at the two last season. There are a few debatable teams when talking about that traditional role, but looking at 2011-12, and then 2012-13, it looks like even less teams will stick with a standard two guard.
Is it just about body-mass/height? Physically, the build is going to determine a lot with position, but there are still standard 6’5″-6’6″ players coming into the league every year. Tyreke Evans has been moved out of his role as a point guard at 6’6″ and James Harden has claimed a starters spot, both displaying a lot of life within the new generation with the traditional position. But we also have teams who have completely dismissed the standard two guard in their starting line-up with a lot of success.
Philadelphia drafted Evan Turner, a 4-position player who is technically a small Forward, to go along with their other two-guard built small forward. The result was a very effective and annoying hybrid shooting forward role. The Knicks had this same problem, and Landry Fields went from being a 2nd round bench-warmer to one of the hottest rookies at the two. Along with the examples of players at the larger size of the spectrum, we have teams with undersized two guards blooming into post-season forces.
The bottom line is that the NBA has far more small forwards capable of carrying weight on any team. In addition to the small forwards, it’s happening with point guards too! This is leading to an abundance of make-shift shooting-guards both starting and off the bench.
We have seen shooting-forwards on the Bulls recently. John Salmons and Andres Nocioni are good examples. We also had the Kirk Hinrich experiment at the two. Going forward, the odds are stacked against the Bulls finding a traditional two guard. Bogans is traditional, the problem is that we want to upgrade the position. Brewer is far from a traditional two guard, although he has all of the athleticism and speed in the world to argue my claim. So who is next? C. J. Watson is a name that many want to see play the two. He can do it, and do it well, but is that the final answer? I don’t think so.
Jason Richardson is a possibility, a shooting forward type. There is some rumormill running about Caron Butler and Josh Howard, neither able to play a traditional two spot. Restricted free agents like Nick Young, Marcus Thornton, and Aaron Afflalo are more traditional, but our cap situation makes it beyond unlikely.
Then we have Jamal Crawford, who always gets signed to fill in at the two, but ends up playing a lot of time at the point, as well as solidifying himself as a valuable sixth-man. The same goes for guys like Shanon Brown.
Would it be so bad to avoid finding that traditional fit? Well let’s look at our path to the finals. Right now, Indiana uses Paul George as a shooting forward. Milwaukee doesn’t have one SG on their roster, they are all combos of some form. Terrico White is Detroits only SG, and who knows if he’ll even make it without getting released this season. The Cavs would have to go small to be close to having any traditional two guard.
What about the rest of the East? Atlanta’s Joe Johnson would be a tough matchup for any traditional SG that is available to the Bulls, and the same with Miami’s Wade. Charlotte’s Henderson and Washington’s Young (who they are likely to sign) can be matched with off-position players or even Ronnie Brewer off the bench. Orlando has Redick and Arenas (who may still get amnesty) who don’t match up perfectly with traditional SGs. Looking at the Atlantic, it’s not that different. Allen, Morrow, Fields, Turner, DeRozan?
With the options that the Bulls have, it almost looks like a total set-back to pursue a traditional Shooting Guard. Heck, the Mavericks did it with an undersized Jason Terry playing big minutes as a sixth man, I do not expect or hope the Bulls go after a traditional two.
Jason Richardson and Caron Butler are starting to make more sense by the minute. Neither, a traditional shooting guard. Jamal Crawford and Josh Howard, not anyone’s real favorite, remain on the Bulls radar as well. Don’t feel bad when we find our upgrade, and he isn’t 6’6″ 195lbs from North Carolina. The league is evolving.
The official Free Agent signing period begins on Friday.