The ACC has become known for producing outstanding shooting guards, thanks in large part to a certain former North Carolina Tar Heel named Michael Jordan. This year the league boasts several highly-talented players at the off-guard spot, with a few of them having a real shot at earning ACC Player of the Year honors when it’s all said and done.
The question then becomes, which of these talented two-guards will emerge as the best of the bunch?
Fans of the ACC will get their first up close and personal look at a pair of talented newcomers to the league in Notre Dame‘s Jerian Grant and Pittsburgh‘s Lamar Patterson. Both are seniors with versatile skill sets, with Grant possessing the ability to slide over and play the point, and Patterson being strong enough to move over to the wing and compete against small forwards. Grant averaged 13.3 points and 5.5 assists per game, and at 6-foot-5 has a good, athletic frame that’s ideal for the off-guard position.
Patterson is also 6-foot-6, but unlike the lean Grant, he’s a bull at 225 pounds. He averaged 10 points per game last year and shot 41 percent from long range, so he’s more than just a big body on the perimeter. Of course, the fact that he spends a good amount of time at the small forward spot forces us to eliminate him from consideration. Grant, on the other hand, remains in the conversation.
Another player who deserves to be mentioned is Dez Wells, a 6-foot-5, 215-pound guard for Maryland who averaged 13.1 points and 4.9 rebounds after transferring from Xavier. He’s a dynamite scorer and looks to have an NBA future in front of him, but as good as both he and Grant are, the debate over who will be the best shooting guard in the ACC this season really boils down to a pair of guys whose teams will finish at or near the top of the league standings in 2013-14.
The first is Duke‘s Rasheed Sulaimon, a 6-foot-4 sophomore from Houston, is one of the most dynamic players in the ACC this season. He averaged 11.6 points per game and knocked down 37.1 percent of his attempts from long range, numbers made more impressive when you take into consideration he was sharing time with the likes of Seth Curry. This season, however, the shooting guard spot is all his, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see his scoring average rise to around 16 per game.
The other leading candidate to become the top shooting guard in the ACC this season is Joe Harris of Virginia. Harris was named First Team All-ACC last season, and a lot of respected names around basketball are mentioning him as one of the two or three leading candidates for the conference Player of the Year. The 6-foot-6 Harris pumped in 16.3 points per game last year and nailed 46.8 percent of his attempts from the field, including 42.5 percent from three-point range. He’s not just a shooter, either, as his 225-pound frame lets him get inside and bang with the forwards.
Most scouts would probably tell you that Sulaimon is the best pro prospect of this group. He’s a likely mid-to-late first-round pick, and depending on how he performs this season, he might even sneak into the lottery. Harris will likely find his way into the NBA as a late-first or early-second-round pick, but none of that really matters when you’re talking about who will be the best college basketball player this season. And taking all of that other stuff away, it’s hard to argue against Harris being the top shooting guard in the ACC this season.