That was fun. Nothing stirs the pot in the sports world more than rankings. On Monday, we began our projected rankings of NBA players by position with point guards, and today we continue with shooting guards. One thing I learned from the series' first installment: Tony Parker has lots of fans on both sides of the Atlantic. Yesterday, that was me running down Lake Shore Drive with an angry, multinational mob of basketball fans in pursuit with torches and pitchforks.
The Mayans, Nostradamus and Edgar Cayce would all agree that projecting the future is an inexact science, even if science is the basis of your forecast. However, one precept that is undeniable is that things change in the sports world, and they change fast. Age, athleticism, skill and luck, these are not static concepts. To illustrate that, let's look at something very simple -- the top 10 shooting guards from the past two seasons in scoring average, among those who qualified in the respective seasons.
The lists are completely different. Only five players appear on both lists, and only Bryant was within a point of repeating his scoring average. Things change. Wade missed 17 games in 2011-12 and didn't qualify. Harden changed teams and took a giant leap forward. Thompson improved upon a solid rookie season. The moral is that the NBA you saw last season, the one that ended less than six weeks ago, no longer exists. Each year, a new league is born, and it's a mistake to believe that the hierarchies that emerged before are going to remain unchanged.
As the depth charts have filled, so have the forecasts generated by ATH coalesced. ATH, you may recall, is the projection module of NBAPET, my system of integrated spreadsheets for tracking, evaluating and forecasting all things NBA.
Here are the projected top 10 shooting guards for the 2013-14 NBA season followed by the next five and an overview of how some notable SGs fell outside the top 10. Keep in mind that assigning a primary position to a player in today's NBA is often more art than science. Players are ranked according to ATH's forecasted WARP, or wins above replacement level, which accounts for a player's efficiency, volume of production and team context.
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 11.8
Wade is entering a perilous time of life for 2-guards, but the trends in his game are so stable, ATH is predicting an exact repeat of his .658 winning percentage from last season. His knee problems could undermine his value in a couple of ways. His block rate dropped last year and might be a sign of defensive slippage. Also, he may not play as much, and I've been watching for an Eric Spoelstra quote saying as much.