Ranking The ACC Shooting Guards

Kevin C. Cox

Back in September, Jerry Steinberg of State Of The U, Miami's SB Nation blog, began ranking the players in the ACC by position. I responded to his Point Guard Rankings a little over a week ago (you can find that post here), but I intend to continuing ranking the positions as I see it fit prior just as he did. This time I ranked the returning ACC shooting guards. To see how Jerry's rankings differ with mine, check them out here. Do keep in mind though, Jerry is ranking by positional depth and I am ranking on an individual basis. Enjoy.

You may realize that I have only ranked 11 shooting guards, not the full 12 like State Of The U did. But, as North Carolina State projects to start a freshman shooting guard, I will not rank them. I don't think comparing their high school exploits or recruiting rankings is an equitable method of comparison. Freshmen often struggle, and this is even more stated in the ACC. So I will wait until there is a year under their belt before including them on this list. Also, if you feel like I did not include a particular shooting guard, chances are you will find them on either my point guard rankings or my small forward rankings which will be out later this week.

11. T.J. Sapp/Devin Coleman, So./So., Clemson- After ranking Rod Hall last among returning ACC point guards, there are going to be a lot of unhappy Clemson fans. But, objective readers will know I am speaking the truth. The Tigers may not be the worst team in the ACC this year, but certainly they have the league's worst backcourt, or at least as it is constructed at the beginning of the year. Sapp and Coleman are pretty slight at the 2, both at around 6'2" and 200 lbs., and both had pedestrian seasons in reserve roles a year ago. Sapp averaged 3.6 points, 1.6 rebounds, 0.7 steals, 0.7 assists, and nearly a turnover a game in just over 16 minutes while shooting a .31/.32/.44 line a year ago. Those numbers aren't terrible or spectacular, just simply what you would expect from a freshman guard in the ACC. Coleman by comparison averaged 2.6 points, 1.3 rebounds, 0.4 steals, half an assist and half a turnover per game in 10 minutes per game while shooting a .36/.14/.73 line. Neither of the two were very heavily recruited players, and neither were ranked by any major recruiting services, both were rated as 3-stars by most services. I expect them to improve this year, but I can't go off what I haven't seen (and not that I haven't been attentive, it just hasn't been exhibited).

10. Brandon Reed, Jr., Georgia Tech- In 2009-10, Reed lit up the Sun Belt for Arkansas State as a freshman to the tune of 15.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists a game in over 33 minutes while shooting .40/.34/.71 line. Impressive numbers, but they need to be quantified: a.k.a. the Sun Belt is not the ACC. Which is why Reed's point production essentially halved in his first year in the ACC with Georgia Tech in 2011-12. Reed averaged 7.5 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists in only 8 minutes fewer per game, while shooting a .34/.28/.73 line. So Reed is a competent player, but a player who needs to improve in many ways before he enters the conference's elite off-guards. Chief among those weaknesses is this: Reed thinks he is a better shooter than he is. If you'll remember what I said about Reed's teammate Mfon Udofia in my Point Guard Rankings, well, basically it was the same thing:

He also took almost nine shots and almost four 3-pointers per game a year ago. So basically that tells us Udofia think he's a better shooter than his numbers indicate.

So basically it's going to be one shot-happy backcourt down in Atlanta, and unless their shooting percentages improve, they may shoot themselves in the foot (if they can manage to hit that shot) and out of any kind of meaningful success this season.

9. Robert Brown, So., Virginia Tech- Brown spent most of last season for the Hokies backing up senior Dorenzo Hudson and starting a few games in place of him in a Seth Greenberg experiment that actually worked pretty well. Brown was the fourth-leading scorer for the Hokies, averaging 6.8 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 0.8 steals per game in 22 minutes as a freshman, shooting a .36/.32/.62 line. Brown, the former four-star recruit, is a tremendous athlete who has so far shown he's allergic to good shots. Brown took 113 3-pointers as a freshman (only nine off the team lead in attempts), representing over half of his 221 total shots, many of them bad. So while he has a good touch from 3-point range, forcing shots led to a less than desired percentage. While Reed averaged and scored more points than Brown, Brown was a more-efficient player, averaging more points per minute and shooting better percentages from the field and from behind the arc. Although Brown only shot 62% from the line, many of those shots came from intentional fouls in crunch time when opponents wanted to keep one of the Hokies three 80%+ free throw shooters off the line. Brown did not do well in those situations, but few freshmen do. He should improve in that department. Brown also was second on the team in assists, and had a healthily-positive assist-to-turnover ratio, something rare of freshmen guards in college basketball, not to mention a 2-guard in the ACC. So Brown gets the edge over the Reed.

8. Lonnie Jackson/Patrick Heckmann, So./So., Boston College- The Boston College freshman duo put together a pretty good year on a team short on experience and playmaking ability. Jackson was one of the conference's most dangerous downtown shooters, averaging 8.3 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 0.9 steals in 27 minutes per game while shooting a .40/.40/.79 line. Heckmann, the rangy German also put up an average of 8.3 points per game, but did so in five fewer minutes per game. He also 3 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game. But, despite those increased numbers, he shot a .46/.35/.72 line (a better percentage from the field, but significantly less in the other two categories) and compiled a jaw-dropping (in a bad way) 3 turnovers per game. The two make one of the best 1-2 punches at shooting guard in the conference. But again, I'm here to rank individual players, and so whichever player starts is the one I'm ranking. Therefore, going up against the rest of the conference, neither player could climb much higher than this spot on their own.

7. Nick Faust, So., Maryland- Faust, another sophomore on this list, put together a pretty good freshman season a year ago, averaging 8.9 points, 4 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1 steal per game in 28 minutes per game, while shooting a .37/.27/.62 line, much lower than many of the shooting guards lower on the list. But, unlike any of the players below him, Faust had to contend with Monta Ellis Jr., Terrell Stoglin, who put up 17 shots and 7 and a half 3-pointers per game. Scoring almost 9 points per game as a freshman under those circumstances is pretty incredible. Furthermore, the 4 rebounds, 2.1 assists and steal per game demonstrate Faust's all-around ability. It will be interesting to not only see how Faust will develop without Stoglin in the picture, but also where production will be coming from now that he's gone.

6. Malcolm Brogdon, So., Virginia- Brogdon, the next sophomore on this list (anyone else getting tired of sophomores by now) got invaluable experience (22 minutes) on an NCAA Tournament team, and rewarded Coach Tony Bennett with averages of 6.7 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists and half a steal per game while shooting a line of .40/.32/.80. Brogdon finished fifth on the team in scoring, a team that averaged a paltry 63 points per game in a slowed down half court pace. He also did this with senior Sammy Zeglinski and sophomore Joe Harris taking most of the minutes/shots. So this year in an extended role, look for Brogdon to continue to impress.

5. Dexter Strickland/Leslie McDonald, Sr./Jr., North Carolina- Since Andre Dawkins will be redshirting in 2012-13 for the Blue Devils, the Strickland/McDonald duo (also Hairston and Bullock, whom I will be ranking at small forward) make up the most talented set of 2-guards in the conference. The depth there is phenomenal, and accounts for the most returning playing time and experience and the only returning starter on the roster, whether that be considered Strickland or Bullock, as they had 19/18 starts respectively. McDonald missed the entire 2011-12 season after tearing his ACL in a game during the summer, but in 2010-11, McDonald posted averages of 7 points, 2.1 rebounds, 0.6 assists and half a steal in 16 minutes per game while shooting a line of .39/.38/.74. McDonald is mostly known as a dead-eye 3-point shooter, but depending on how his injury heals, he may be a ways away from being at full strength. But Strickland also suffered the same malady midseason against the Hokies when cutting on a fast break. Strickland was putting together a phenomenal season as the Tar Heels starting shooting guard, averaging 7.5 points, 2.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.3 steals per game in 24 minutes while shooting a line of .57/.00/.67. That's right, 57% from the floor...on 100 attempts too, so it's not like it was a fluke. And the 0% from 3-point range reflects only one attempt from deep after struggling from 3-point range in his two previous seasons, the sign of a mature player. Obviously he's the most polished of the two players. He's the one with a positive assist-to-turnover ratio, something he's done in all three of his years at UNC. He's a willing passer, a good shot selector (a career 47% shooter from the field at UNC) and a great athlete. Though he may also be up against it to be 100% going into the season, especially as he suffered the same injury as McDonald at a later date, I would imagine he will rely on his great basketball IQ to ease his way back in and provide the Tar Heels with a very experienced 2-guard to lean on.

4. C.J. Harris, Sr., Wake Forest- Harris is a lot like Hokie point guard Erick Green. Their body types are nearly identical, their statistics are extremely similar and both of them are capable ball handlers. Perhaps Harris is a better natural scorer and shooter, but Green is probably the better true point. Alas, both are really combo guards, and the only thing that separates them on this list is that Green is the point for the Hokies and Harris is the de facto shooting guard for the Demon Deacons, even though he does handle the ball quite a bit. In 2011-12, Harris averaged 16.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.1 steals a game in over 35 minutes per game while shooting a .48/.42/.84 line. His shooting percentages were phenomenal, but his assists and his assist-to-turnover ratio left a lot to be desired. For a team with a dire need for a distributor, Harris didn't help as much as expected, finishing a close second on the team in assists with nearly a 1-to-1 assist to turnover ratio. If this were rankings based off of which player meant the most to their team, Harris would be either first or second to Michael Snaer. But since it is not, this is where Harris belongs.

3. Seth Curry, Sr., Duke- Curry has proven to be a dead-eye three-point shooter, and a pretty good mid-range shooter as well. He is also capable of running some point in an emergency, and is a pretty good passer when he looks to pass. But I do think it is fair to say from what we've seen that Seth is not the player his older brother Stephen or his father Dell was. After a freshman season at Liberty where he dominated his competition, Curry transferred to Duke, where after sitting out his transfer year, Curry put up a pretty good season as a sophomore, averaging 9 points, 2 assists, nearly 2 rebounds and 1.4 steals in 25 minutes while shooting a .42/.44/.79 line. He increased his production last year, upping his scoring, rebounds and assists to 13.2, 2.6 and 2.4 respectively in 30 minutes per game while shooting a .42/.38/.87 line. However, his steals declined marginally. One of the big reasons his 3-point percentage dropped was that his 3-point attempts rose, along with the rest of the 3-point happy Blue Devils. Watching them a year ago, one could get the impression that the Blue Devils were competing with one another to see who could attempt the most 3's. While Curry was not the biggest offender on the roster, he certainly contributed to the problem. Curry had to share the spotlight a year ago with super-freshman Austin Rivers, but should be featured much more in the offense. Let loose, he could be at the top of this list by season's end, but he could also be exposed as a specialty player, especially if his 3-point shots continue to rise. He is a better shot selector than he showed a year ago, so perhaps the departure of Rivers will serve to slow the team's reckless barrage from deep.

2. Durand Scott, Sr., Miami- Scott broke onto the scene as a freshman in 2009-10, averaging 10.3 points, 4 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.2 steals in 28 minutes per game and shooting a .46/.28/.67 line. He improved upon most of those numbers as a sophomore, averaging 13.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.2 steals in 33 minutes while shooting a .45/.39/.84 line. His turnovers however increased while his assists decreased, giving him close to a 1-to-1 assist to turnover ratio. He recovered in 2011-12 though, posting averages of 12.9 points, an astounding 5.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1 steal per game in 33 minutes while shooting a .45/.31/.80 line. He decreased his turnovers by a full turnover per game. With his athleticism and ability to drive, Scott is one of the conference's most dangerous players. He can shoot and takes good shots, but he loves getting to the cup, where he can finish with contact and hit from the stripe. He's an exceptional rebounder for an off-guard, and is a willing and accomplished passer as well. Though he is the most complete shooting guard in the conference, I believe there is one better.

1. Michael Snaer, Sr., Florida State- Snaer finally became the player Florida State fans knew he could be a season ago, upping his production on offense to 14 points per game after two consecutive seasons of scoring 8.8 points per game. Snaer was already the conference's premier defender at off-guard, but turned a corner a year ago offensively. Florida State's defense is their calling card, so continuing to be a tenacious defender and adding offense was icing on top of the cake for Snaer. In addition to his rise in scoring, Snaer pulled in over a rebound more per game than the year before and decreased his turnovers. He also shot a .44/.40/.85 line, all of which but the field goal percentage were career highs. The one complaint of Snaer is that he is a high-turnover player, and he doesn't assist much. He is a good enough ball-handler, but assists have simply not come for him. With the lack of returning experience for the 'Noles, Snaer will have to increase his role on the offense and possibly even facilitate more, something he hasn't had to do with several other guards doing so in the past. How far the 'Noles go will depend a lot on how well Snaer plays, but regardless of their finish, their shooting guard is the conference's best.

Remember to look forward to the remainder of position rankings here on Gobbler Country, as well as a basketball season preview before the Hokies' season tips off Nov. 10.

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