In a head-to-head battle between shooting guards, who would you take: Monta Ellis or Klay Thompson? As the two get ready to settle the debate on the court Wednesday night on ESPN (10:30 p.m. ET, preceded by Bulls-Knicks at 8 ET) our panel settles a handful of shooting-guard showdowns.
1. Who's better: Monta Ellis or Klay Thompson?
Jared Dubin, Hardwood Paroxysm: Ellis is having an incredible season under Rick Carlisle and is probably the more skilled and versatile of the two. That said, Thompson's seemingly automatic outside shooting stroke and ability to defend both wing positions give him the edge in my mind.
Amin Elhassan, ESPN Insider: Despite Ellis' proclamations of "having it all," I'm going with Thompson. He's an elite level 3-point shooter with a blossoming post game that lets him use his size advantage to exploit smaller defenders, whereas Ellis is better at creating his own shot and getting to the rim. The real difference is on the other end, where Thompson is an underrated, disciplined one-on-one defender.
Andrew Lynch, Hardwood Paroxysm: Klay Thompson. Monta Ellis has been great this year in Dallas, and his passing ability too often gets overlooked. But I'll take Thompson's efficiency from the field and his ever-growing defensive prowess. Thompson has all of the tools to become an elite perimeter defender, which I'm not sure many people realize. And I value his elite 3-point shooting over the shot creation of Ellis.
Brian Robb, Celtics Hub: Klay Thompson. Monta has had a nice career resurgence playing alongside an improved supporting cast in Dallas this season, but Thompson has to get the nod here. Any time you have a 23-year-old who is improving every year, who is shooting better than 41 percent from 3-point range for his career, you know you have a keeper.
Ethan Sherwood Strauss, TrueHoop: Klay Thompson, though both are a bit overrated right now. I'll side with the larger player who isn't as bad on defense, but this is a close one. Klay provides elite 3-point shooting and a killer post game. Monta is a much better dribbler and passer. I just think most teams would prefer Klay's skill set to Monta's.
2. Who's better: Kobe Bryant or Kevin Martin?
Dubin: Kobe. Martin's efficiency isn't enough to override Kobe's impact in every other area of the game. Kobe's a better rebounder and passer, he draws more defensive attention, and though like Martin he is generally a net negative on defense at this point, he does have the ability to lock in for multiple possessions at a time if he so chooses.
Elhassan: Oh boy. My lack of confidence in Bryant's ability to recover to pre-injury levels is no secret to regular readers. Assuming we are talking about RIGHT NOW, you have to go with Martin. He's healthy and averaging almost 23 points a game, with 43 percent shooting from deep on almost six attempts a game, along with 6.6 free throw attempts a game, which he converts at a 93 percent clip. Bryant has a long way to go before he's physically ready to provide the type of production we're accustomed to seeing.
Lynch: Kevin Martin. At this moment, I'm taking Martin. I don't know what Bryant's ceiling is going to be as he returns from injury, and there's every chance that he ends up proving this answer wrong. But Martin is at home in Minnesota and in Rick Adelman's offensive system. With that kind of synergy and stability, Martin's the better player right now.
Robb: Kevin Martin. I would take a healthy Kobe over Martin, even at Kobe's advanced age, but Bryant's Achilles situation right now makes him a major question mark. You just don't know how much it will limit his game as the season goes on. With Martin, although he doesn't play much defense, you know his offense and shooting is a sure thing.
Strauss: Kevin Martin for the first time in the entirety of Kevin Martin's career. In the game against the Suns, Kobe was quite impressive offensively, especially for a guy who tore his body's largest tendon. I especially loved the pass-fake-drive he had at the end. That level of play is commendable in this situation, but I'm not sold on Kobe's game adding up to something better than you'll get from a healthy Kevin Martin. Martin has his issues on defense, but between the 3s and flops, he's a super-efficient scorer.
3. Who's better: Arron Afflalo or Wesley Matthews?
Dubin: Afflalo. These two are incredibly similar players, both in terms of style and impact. Matthews is having a more efficient shooting season, but when you factor in the standard usage-efficiency drop, Afflalo measures up nicely. They're both solid defenders on the wing, too. Afflalo's playmaking ability earns him the nod.
Elhassan: Afflalo is the more gifted offensive player, but his defensive reputation is about five years behind where he is today. Matthews is the better, more physical defender and an excellent 3-point shooter. Most importantly, Matthews knows and accepts his role. Much of Afflalo's regression stems from his desire to be more than the high-level role player he should be.
Lynch: Wesley Matthews. I don't think this should overshadow the year that Afflalo is having, but for all of his success in Orlando, Matthews has been even better for Portland. Afflalo has been a better passer this year, but Matthews has been on fire from the floor. They're roughly equal rebounding and handling the ball, so I'll take Matthews' shooting over Afflalo's stronger ability as a secondary offensive initiator.
Robb: Arron Afflalo. You can make a strong case for both of these guys. Afflalo is the more explosive scorer and better defender, though, and his 3-point shooting is just a tad bit below Matthews'. Given how much better of a supporting cast Matthews has to work with in Portland, Afflalo does more with less.
Strauss: Wesley Matthews. Both will come back to earth with their shooting and both are plus defenders, but I prefer Matthews' brand of hounding defense. He's crucial on a team bereft of defensive talent. Also, I just don't buy that Afflalo suddenly became an All-Star level guard. There's a "looter in a riot" aspect to his ascendance.
4. Who's better: DeMar DeRozan or Jimmy Butler?
Dubin: Butler, so long as the "real" Butler bears more resemblance to the one we saw for the last 50 or so games of last season instead of the one we saw the first nine games of this season, which I believe it does. Put more simply, I have more confidence that Butler is an impact defender than I do that DeRozan is a solid playmaker with a 3-point stroke.
Elhassan: Butler, although this is a bit of an apples-to-oranges comparison. They are asked to do different things; DeRozan is a high-usage scoring wing while Butler is a 3-and-D specialist. However, DeRozan isn't superlative at his role, while Butler is. Also, DeRozan's bang-for-buck ratio is considerably worse than Butler's.
Lynch: Jimmy Butler. He's fighting injuries this season, but when he's healthy -- and I think he'll be back to 100 percent soon -- he's the better defender by quite a bit, and a slightly more efficient offensive option. DeRozan gets unfairly maligned at times, but I worry that his efficiency might take a bit of a dip if he's required to take some of the shots that the recently relocated Rudy Gay was taking in Toronto.
Robb: Jimmy Butler. DeRozan has made strides this season, but lacks the kind of consistency on both ends of the floor you want to see in a shooting guard. Meanwhile, Butler is younger, a better shooter, and already has proven he can handle big-time games against quality opposition.
Strauss: Jimmy Butler plays a wiser brand of basketball. Even in a "great" DeRozan season, DeMar's still not scoring all that efficiently. I prefer Butler's defense and his "less is more" approach to offense.
5. Who'll finish with a better career: James Harden or Dwyane Wade?
Dubin: Wade. Harden can and possibly will approach or even surpass Wade's offensive impact by the time his career is done, but there was a time when Wade was a heck of a defender, too, and Harden likely will never be that.
Elhassan: Harden will definitely have more efficient numbers, and maybe even more numbers altogether. But Wade's legacy is tough to match, and it begins with three championships and a Finals MVP. In his prime, Wade was able to be one of the top five perimeter players in the game despite not being a shooter at all in an era that places a prime on spacing.
Lynch: Dwyane Wade. There might be a bit of recency bias at play here, with Harden's lackluster defensive effort this season pulling down the opinion of him on an overall level. But Wade is without a doubt one of the best players in NBA history. The two do a lot of different things: Harden's undoubtedly a better 3-point shooter, whereas Wade's a better slasher. But few players can match Wade's prime form. If Harden makes this a conversation, he should be extremely pleased with his career.
Robb: Wade. Unless Harden ends up improving his defense in a major way, this could be Wade in a runaway. Wade has always been a two-way player in his career and his résumé (three rings) shows that Harden has a lot of catching up to do.
Strauss: Man, no wonder Dwyane Wade insists on calling himself "3." We forgot about his greatness so quickly. I don't think anyone expects James Harden to single-handedly carry a team to a title, even if he does draw whistles like a young D-Wade. Also, Wade's defense at Harden's age (24) was approximately a thousand times better (advanced stat).