Since the mid-00s, the shooting guard position has been on a steep decline. Most of the league's talent has dispersed to point guard, small forward and power forward, leaving shooting guards with a considerable lack of depth. With that said, the position is still loaded at the top -- and the debate is highly controversial. With apologies to the rest of the competition, here are the top five shooting guards of the 2015-16 season, as determined by our NBA crew.
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5. Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
Wade is like the San Antonio Spurs of shooting guards: Every year we write him off, and every year he finds a way to evade Father Time. This season, he's putting up about the same numbers he has been for the last three or four, only he's operating in the post more and is taking slightly more efficient shots than he did last season. His defensive effort wanes from night to night, but Wade can still hold his own when he's engaged. Durability is always a risk, and this is the first time in his career he's playing fewer than 30 minutes per game. Basically, he's no longer a clear No. 1 option. But the fact that Wade is still this productive at this age (he'll be 34 in less than two weeks) speaks volumes of his character, conditioning and killer instinct.
4. DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors
DeRozan continues to find ways to subtly expand his game year after year. This season's objective was rather simple: Get to the free-throw line even more. DeRozan is averaging 8.4 free-throw attempts per game, which is an insane amount and almost a full attempt more per game than last season. He's tidied up his shot selection a bit, settling less for long twos (the least-efficient shot in the game), and replacing those shots with drives to the rim or post-ups. This tweak has led to his best season to date and it hasn't really been close. At 26, DeRozan is smack-dab in his prime, and has the Raptors in position to have home-court advantage for the third consecutive season.
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3. Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
Thompson started the season in a shooting slump -- arguably the only blemish on the Warriors' record-setting season -- before quickly reverting to form in December. The 3-and-D poster boy has continued to hone his strengths this season, taking and making more 3-pointers than ever before while maintaining a similarly elite percentage. Though his reputation precedes his production this season -- his numbers are down across the board -- Thompson is undeniably one of the handful of players who can drop 20 points in a quarter and shut down the opponent's best scorer on the other end. His assertion that he's the league's best shooting guard isn't far off, but it's unclear if he'll ever develop the all-around game to snatch the crown.
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2. Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls
For all the MVP buzz Paul George has garnered, Butler is having just as good of a season on a better team. The arbitrary discussion of 'Whose team is this?' with the Bulls is over -- it's Butler's. There were doubts earlier in his career of if he could ever become a go-to offensive option, but Butler quickly quelled those this season. He's been slightly less efficient in a larger role, though that's understandable. The increased volume has resulted in him posting career highs in points, assists and usage rate, which, combined with his lockdown defense, make him a unique two-way force. To put just how far he's come into better perspective, he lost out on the No. one pot by 1 vote.
Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY SportsMark D. Smith
1. James Harden, Houston Rockets
Despite the Rockets' struggles on and off the court this season, Harden has quietly been his brilliant self. The most despised non-Clipper in the league (though Dwight Howard is in the running, too) is essentially having the same season he did last year, albeit slightly less efficient. Ty Lawson's struggles have meant Harden has shouldered even more of a load this season, and the result has been a higher percentage of mid-range shots (and miniscule drop in free-throw rate). His defensive effort has approached laughable levels again, and that's a considerable issue. But if there ever was a player whose sheer offensive production could more than make up for their defensive ineptitude, it's Harden.