Is Kobe Bryant Still Top Shooting Guard in the NBA Today?

Kobe Bryant may wear No. 24, but he's No. 1 in the shooting guard rankings for yet another year. That doesn't mean his crown is safe, though. 

Dwyane Wade and James Harden still remain the primary challengers, but there are a few young shooting guards emerging as potential superstars in the near future. They clearly aren't better than the Mamba right now, but it will only be a matter of time before the combination of their progression and the clutches of Father Time start to cause a seismic shift. 

Now to be fair, the expectations have to be tempered with Kobe. He's 34 years old and coming off a ruptured Achilles, even if he claims to be shattering the timetable for his recovery. 

But let's assume that Kobe experiences a full return to strength and then continues along the path he's laid out for himself. His career has given us no reason to view that as a faulty assumption.

If that's the case, how close are the nearest competitors? Can they pass him by the end of the year? 


Dwyane Wade

In terms of an overall evaluation of their skills, Wade and Kobe are remarkably similar. They both play two-way basketball, and they're quite dominant on the offensive end of the court. 

However, the difference in defensive play isn't as large as some might lead you to believe. Wade has taken a step backward as a defender as the years have piled up, and Kobe's defensive shortcomings were played up far too much in 2012-13. 

While the Mamba is a putrid point-preventer when his man doesn't have the ball, he still plays fantastic on-ball defense. His isolation skills in particular stand out, and they help make up for his proclivity for watching instead of helping and failing to hustle back in transition. 

Let's take a look at how Kobe and Wade fared in different individual situations during the last season, as provid...

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