clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

How Desmond Bane stacks up among the league’s best shooting guards

Bane might have been born in the shadows but now he shines as one of the league’s best shooting guards.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

2022 NBA Playoffs - Memphis Grizzlies v Golden State Warriors Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

One of the most improved players of the 2022 season, Desmond Bane solidified himself as one of the league’s best perimeter shooters. Bane’s leap helped the Grizzlies reach the Western Conference semifinals for the first time since 2015. At 18.2 points per game, Bane nearly doubled his scoring output from his rookie season.

With Bane’s rise last season, he is now one of the Grizzlies’ core pieces as they chase an NBA Championship. He is so valued by Grizzlies fans that some consider him untouchable, even as part of a trade package for Kevin Durant.

A year ago, not many believed Bane could be Morant’s long-term backcourt partner, but he has proven that the Grizzlies can go far with him as the team’s shooting guard.

Shooting guards are generally meant to be scorers that can create their own shots. The best shooting guards can also run an offense finding open shots for their teammates. Bane has proven that he can do that at an elite level but who else stands out as the league’s best?

Honorable mentions: Jordan Poole, Tyler Herro

Memphis Grizzlies v Golden State Warriors - Game Six Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

10. Klay Thompson

Last season: In 32 games (29.4 minutes per game) — 20.4 points on 42.9 FG% (38.5 from 3-point, 90.2 from the FT line), 3.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists, USG%: 29.6

The Golden State Warriors have two shooting guards worthy of this spot but Klay Thompson gets the nod over Jordan Poole. While Poole is younger and likely to improve in 2022, Thompson has a proven track record and was one of the league’s best shooting guards for nearly a decade.

Thompson missed two seasons with serious leg injuries so it was not a surprise when it took him some time to knock the rust off. Klay still averaged 20 points a game but saw a drop-off in FG% and 3P%. He shot 38.5% from beyond the arc – the worst average of his career – which is still higher than Poole, who shot 36.4% from three. Klay showed how deadly he can still be when he dropped over thirty points in close-out games against the Grizzlies and the Dallas Mavericks.

What made Thompson such an elite shooting guard was his two-way abilities. He was once one of the best perimeter defenders in the league but since coming back from injury, Thompson has lost the side-to-side burst and athleticism that made him such a complete player. This season, after a couple of months off, Thompson could return to the defender he once was, and as long as his shooting does not continue to dip he can be one of the league’s best shooting guards.

Brooklyn Nets v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

9. Desmond Bane

Last season: In 76 games (29.8 minutes per game) — 18.2 points on 46.1 FG% (43.6 from 3-point, 90.3 from the FT line), 4.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.2 steals, USG%: 23.1

With Ja Morant in and out of the lineup, Bane was given a more prominent role in the offense. The Grizzlies’ new starting shooting guard went from 7.3 field goal attempts per game in 2021 to 14.5 shots last season. He averaged nearly three more three-pointers per game and he managed to increase his percentage to 43.6% – the second-best mark in the league.

Bane also proved that he was more than a three-point shooter. With defenders forced to respect his outside shooting, Bane was able to blow by defenders and go all the way to the basket. He also proved his defensive mettle as Memphis’s primary wing defender for much of the season with Brooks injured. His win shares went from 2.9 in 2021 to 7.2 last year.

A year ago, it would have been crazy to consider whether Desmond Bane is a top-ten shooting guard, but after he scored 25+ four times in the playoffs and averaged 48.9% from three in the postseason, there is no denying that he is among the league’s best two-guards.

Memphis Grizzlies v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

8. Tyrese Maxey

Last season: In 75 games (35.3 minutes per game) — 17.5 points on 48.5 FG% (42.7 from 3-point, 86.6 from the FT line), 3.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists, USG%: 20.2

Tyrese Maxey was a worthy contender for the Most Improved Player award last season. Maxey went from 8 PPG to 17.5 while improving his three-point percentage drastically. In 2021, Maxey shot 30.1% from beyond the arc but last season had the third-best three-point shooting percentage. Maxey also averaged over two more assists per game in 2022.

Maxey is lightning quick and a skilled passer who is capable of running the offense or playing off-ball. Like Bane, Maxey’s win shares jumped substantially in 2022, going from 1.9 to 7.3.

Only 21, Maxey’s ceiling is hard to measure. As the third option in Philadelphia, Maxey has less pressure than other young guards like LaMelo Ball and Cade Cunningham. If Maxey continues to shine through the shadow of two MVP-level players, he could be the reason the Sixers get over the hump.

New Orleans Pelicans v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

7. CJ McCollum

Last season: In 62 games (34.6 minutes per game) — 22.1 points on 46.0 FG% (38.8 from 3-point, 68.2 from the FT line), 4.3 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.1 steals, USG%: 27.5

CJ McCollum has always killed the Grizzlies dating back to Memphis’s playoff series vs the Portland Trailblazers in 2015. McCollum has averaged 24.3 points on 49.8% shooting and 41.7% from three against the Grizzlies.

McCollum starred as Damian Lillard’s backcourt partner for years and during Portland’s Western Conference Finals run in 2019, he averaged over 24 points per game and scored over 25 points seven times, including games with 37 and 41 points.

Going into his 10th season, McCollum is lethal from the midrange and beyond the arc. He plays with precision and averages only two turnovers a game despite his high usage rate. After being traded to New Orleans midseason, McCollum played some of the best basketball of his career. As a Pelican, he has operated as a point guard, averaging 1.3 more assists per game. He also averaged nearly four more points per game after being traded and improved his FG% and 3P%.

McCollum only played 26 regular season games for the Pelicans but helped them reach the playoffs and take the top-seed Phoenix Suns to six games. With a season in the Bayou under his belt and Zion Williamson prepared to return, the Pelicans could be a serious threat in the Western Conference.

Washington Wizards v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

6. Bradley Beal

Last season: In 40 games (36 minutes per game) — 23.2 points on 45.1 FG% (30.0% from 3-point, 83.3 from the FT line), 4.7 rebounds, 6.6 assists, USG%: 30.8%

Last season was certainly an off-year for Bradley Beal. He played the least amount of games in his career after season-ending wrist surgery. Even before Beal’s injury, he was not performing up to his usual standard. Beal had the lowest three-point percentage of his career and committed 3.4 turnovers per game. Beal only averaged 23.2 points per game despite averaging 19.3 shots. Beal’s win shares also dipped from 5.9 to 1.4.

Beal has never been a star on defense, but his offensive talent has always made up for it. When healthy, Beal has played at an All-Star level but it has not always resulted in winning. Beal should be back to the prolific scorer he once was, whether or not that will result in Washington wins is to be determined.

Beal just received a five-year, $251 million supermax extension and for it to not end up as one of the league’s worst contracts, Beal will need to return to form.

2022 NBA Playoffs - Minnesota Timberwolves v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

5. Anthony Edwards

Last season: In 72 games (34.3 minutes per game) — 21.3 points on 44.1 FG% (35.7 from 3-point, 78.6 from the FT line), 4.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.5 steals, USG%: 26.4

Grizzlies fans know how good Anthony Edwards can be. His regular season stats do not reflect how lethal he is with the ball in his hands. In the postseason, Edwards averaged 25.2 points per game on 45.5% shooting and 40.4% from beyond the arc – all significant improvements from the regular season.

While he played a lot of his minutes at the three last season, he will likely move to shooting guard after the Timberwolves traded for Rudy Gobert to pair with Karl-Anthony Towns in the frontcourt. The Wolves might have once been KAT’s team but if their series against Memphis showed anything, it is that Edwards is the future in Minnesota.

One of the most dynamic young players in the league, Edwards has the potential to be an elite two-way player. At 6’4” with the frame of a football player, he has the size to guard most perimeter players. Ant flashed his potential against the Grizzlies and in 2022 the league should be prepared for his ascent.

Memphis Grizzlies v Chicago Bulls Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

4. Zach Lavine

Last season: In 67 games (34.7 minutes per game) — 24.4 points on 47.6 FG% (38.9 from 3-point, 85.3 from the FT line), 4.6 rebounds, 4.5 assists, USG%: 28.8

Zach Lavine had to make room for DeMar DeRozan in 2021, but he did not let that stop him from having another strong season. Lavine’s usage rate was the lowest it has been since being traded to Chicago but he still averaged over 24 points per game.

Lavine’s athleticism makes him almost impossible to defend. He has improved his deep ball and with his burst and ability to get to the basket, defenders have trouble staying in front of him. Lavine has never excelled on defense, but at 6’5” he can use his height to defend smaller shooting guards. Still only 27, he still has time to improve defensively.

After signing a five-year supermax extension, Lavine is locked in with Chicago until 2026. Once known only as a dunk-contest champion, Lavine has established himself as one of the league’s most dominant shooting guards.

Memphis Grizzlies v Utah Jazz Photo by Jeff Swinger/NBAE via Getty Images

3. Donovan Mitchell

Last season: In 67 games (33.8 minutes per game) — 25.9 points on 44.8 FG% (35.5 from 3-point, 85.3 from the FT line), 4.2 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.5 steals, USG%: 32.9

It might not be completely warranted, but after his performance in the playoffs last year, it is hard to not be down on Donovan Mitchell. He scored over thirty points in the first three games of Utah’s series against the Mavericks but he averaged 26.7 shots during that span. Mitchell shot 39.8% from the field and 20.8% from three while averaging eight three-point attempts per game.

What really put a sour taste in many fans’ mouths was Mitchell’s defense. The Jazz as a whole were criticized for their defense against Dallas. Once an active, feisty defender, Mitchell turned into a traffic cone in the playoffs last year and at 6’1” he is targeted by bigger wings.

The Jazz traded away Rudy Gobert and Royce O’Neale in the offseason and Utah’s arrow is certainly pointing down. It seemed that only a couple of weeks ago Mitchell was on the trading block, but as of now, he remains in Utah. If he stays with the Jazz, Mitchell could play with the newly acquired Patrick Beverley who might help hide his defensive flaws.

Despite the negativity, Grizzlies fans know all too well how elite of a scorer Mitchell can be. Only two years ago, Spida averaged 28.5 points on 45% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc vs Memphis in the playoffs. In Utah or wherever he ends up, it might only take a couple of games for Mitchell to wash away the bad taste so many NBA fans had after last season because his talent is indisputable.

Boston Celtics v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

2. Jaylen Brown

Last season: In 66 games (33.6 minutes per game) — 23.6 points on 47.3 FG% (35.8 from 3-point, 75.8 from the FT line), 6.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.1 steals, USG%: 30.5

Recency bias is real, because before the 2022 Playoffs and especially the NBA Finals, Jaylen Brown was certainly not regarded as the second-best shooting guard. Brown’s shooting percentages do not stand out but he makes winning plays on both sides of the ball and he shined on basketball’s biggest stage.

Brown is the best two-way shooting guard in the NBA. A talented scorer and a good defender, Brown adds value on both sides of the ball. He had a 107.5 defensive rating last season, the 12th best in the league. Brown will be 26 as he enters his sixth season. Brown has gotten better every season of his career, and do not expect next year to be any different. The next step for Brown is improving his handle and committing fewer turnovers.

After years of questioning whether Brown and Jayson Tatum were a good pairing, they proved they are one of the league’s best duos. Only a year ago, some fans were calling for Boston to trade Brown but he outperformed Tatum in the NBA Finals and made himself untouchable for some Celtics fans.

Phoenix Suns v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

1. Devin Booker

Last season: In 68 games (34.5 minutes per game) — 26.8 points on 46.6 FG% (38.3 from 3-point, 86.8 from the FT line), 5.0 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.1 steals, USG%: 32.0

In 2022, Devin Booker made first-team All-NBA and finished fourth in MVP voting, making it clear he is the NBA’s best shooting guard. Booker is a natural scorer – he has averaged over 24 points for five straight seasons. After years of doubting whether he was a winning player, Booker has been the best player on one of the league’s top teams.

While Booker is known for his lethal offensive talent, he is also an effective defender. Booker had a defensive rating of 108.8 last year – the 16th-best DRTG in the league. He has also proven to be durable playing over 60 games in six of his seven seasons. Only 25, Booker is yet to even reach his prime.

Booker and the Suns had a disappointing playoff exit in 2022 but Phoenix brought back Deandre Ayton and remains one of the best teams in the NBA. Booker could reach a whole different tier of shooting guards if he leads Phoenix to a title.

Having an elite shooting guard is key to team success. All of the players on this list are on teams that recently reached the playoffs. Brown and Booker helped lift their teams to the NBA Finals. Memphis believes it is a contender and if it is to reach the Finals it will be in part because of Desmond Bane’s excellence.

For more Grizzlies talk, subscribe to the Grizzly Bear Blues podcast network on Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, and IHeart. Follow Grizzly Bear Blues on Twitter and Instagram.