The 2015-16 regular season is another chance for the best NBA combo guards to showcase their skills, but at least in comparison to the other positions, projecting which player will rise to the No. 1 place in the rankings is among the easier tasks to accomplish.
Ordering the remainder of the top five, however, boils down to which players have the most complete games, because the talent disparity separating many combo guards isn’t high.
5. Jordan Clarkson, Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers are likely to struggle, but Jordan Clarkson will be a reliable presence in the backcourt. Once he broke into the starting lineup last season, Clarkson tallied 15.8 points, 5.0 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game. The rookie shot 45.8 percent from the field despite a 31.1 clip from downtown.
Lou Williams and Nick Young love to hoist long-range shots, which works out perfectly well because Clarkson is a much better slasher than shooter. The second-year player has plenty to improve—namely rebounding and defending—but his potential is hard to ignore.
4. Reggie Jackson, Detroit Pistons
Reggie Jackson’s tenure with the Oklahoma City Thunder ended in rather unceremonious fashion. The guard’s desire for a future max contract clashed with his role behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and OKC ultimately shipped Jackson to the Detroit Pistons.
His 27-game stint went quite well, considering Jackson tallied 17.6 points, 9.2 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game and received a $80 million contract. The contract was a relatively bone-headed move from the Pistons, who didn’t even wait for another team to extend an offer sheet to Jackson, but that’s not his fault. As long as he learns to co-exist with Brandon Jennings when the lefty is healthy, Jackson will be an above-average player.
3. Goran Dragic, Miami Heat
Phoenix tried a three point-guard system with Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas, but the experiment ended in Dragic getting shipped off to the Heat and Thomas to the Boston Celtics. Dragic managed 16.3 points, 4.5 assists and 3.5 boards over his two stops.
Unfortunately for the Slovenian, he never had a chance to play alongside Chris Bosh. Dragic will have that opportunity in 2015-16, though his inconsistent long-range shooting could hurt issues in lineups that he’s supposed to be the second perimeter presence.
Yet, because of his off-ball movement, driving skills and reliable ball-handling, Dragic is easily near the top of his positional classification.
2. Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic
Few NBA players are better examples for “jack of all trades, master of none” than Orlando’s Victor Oladipo. He’s a strong rebounder, an adept attacker off the dribble and—though the Indiana product hasn’t reached his potential here—a capable defender.
Oladipo registered 17.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.7 steals per outing last season but, more importantly, extended his shooting range to 16 feet. The 23-year-old is steadily developing an elite skill on the offensive side of the floor to pair with his already-aggressive style of play.
1. Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix Suns
The lone remaining piece of the failed Phoenix experiment, Bledsoe stuck around because he was the optimal piece to keep. Not only was he not livid with management—as Dragic rightly was—Bledsoe is the all-around star Thomas probably won’t ever become.
Bledsoe is a gifted scorer, dangerous passer, competent rebounder and stout on-ball defender. He averaged 17.0 points, 6.1 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 1.6 steals in 2014-15, and those numbers will only rise this season because Bledsoe is set to occupy the biggest role of his career.