Top 10 Starting Backcourts in the NBA for the 2014-15 Season
Let me start off by clarifying how I chose the criteria for this list. To me, a team’s NBA backcourt is defined as the starting point guard and shooting guard of that team. Some people believe it is the two guards who play the most minutes, but I went with the two starting guards (Sorry, Tony and Manu). Also, I went with the best duo’s which is why some of the best guards in the league are not on this list (Thanks, J.J Redick). Lastly, I did not just go with last year’s performance to determine the order, however I did put last season’s stats in parenthesis next to each player’s name for a friendly reminder. I looked at things such as team chemistry and potential production. So without further ado, here is the Top 10 Starting Backcourts in the NBA for the 2014-15 season.
10. Jrue Holiday (14.3 PPG, 7.9 APG, 4.2 RPG) and Eric Gordon (15.4 PPG, 3.3 APG, 2.6 RPG)
After a 2013 riddled with injuries for the Pelicans, we were still able to catch glimpses of the bright future of their starting five. We have seen Gordon prove to be a top scorer in the league when healthy, and Jrue Holiday looked ready to come lead the Pelicans after his breakout season in 2012-13 in Philly. These two guards have the potential to be deadly together. No doubt it helps when you have a budding star in Anthony Davis to relieve some of the pressure off of you. It will be exciting to see how New Orleans will mesh in hopefully their first season of injury free basketball.
9. Kyrie Irving (20.8 PPG, 6.1 APG, 3.6 RPG) and Dion Waiters (15.9 PPG, 3.0 APG, 2.8 RPG)
If anyone has watched the NBA the past two seasons, they know the potential that these two have. Kyrie just signed a max offer sheet with the Cavs for 5 years and $90 million and I think he is worth every penny. He still has to prove himself defensively, but when it comes to scoring, few can light up the scoreboard as fast and with as much style as Irving (especially in the 4th quarter, the man is clutch!). As for Waiters, he has shown flashes of being an elite scorer in this league, however he is the reason this tandem is not higher on the list. His attitude bothers me and sometimes it seems like he is just out there to get his points. Also, the Cavs added an “A level” free agent this offseason, who might affect Waiters output. A level? Whatever that means, I never though Mike Miller was that good anyways. But for real, The King and Kyrie are definitely going to be the primary scoring options, and I can see Waiters having a problem with that.
8. Kemba Walker (17.7 PPG, 6.1 APG, 4.2 RPG) and Lance Stephenson (13.8 PPG, 4.6 APG, 7.2 RPG)
The thought of this duo on the court together is enough to get any NBA fan excited. With these two running the backcourt and Big Al Jefferson dominating the paint, MJ might finally be on to something in Charlotte. By this time next year, I can see this tandem moving up the list. I think Lance has some attitude issues he needs to work on, and he will have the greatest player to ever step on the court in his corner helping him figure it out (No, not Biyombo). Stephenson will bring some much needed energy to the Hornets team that some dubbed “boring” last year. His effort along with his athleticism should make him an instant fan favorite, and his ability to drive and penetrate will take some pressure off of Kemba. Walker, who owns one of my favorite buzzer beaters of all time, has been a very solid, underrated point guard for the Hornets the past two seasons. However, their lack of support allowed other teams to key in on him. If these two, along with Big Al, stay healthy (talking to you, Al), they will be a force to be reckoned with in the East. Also, bonus points if you noticed that the picture was actually Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Lance Stephenson. There were no good ones of Lance and Kemba, but that will change soon.
7. Derrick Rose (15.9 PPG, 4.3 APG, 3.2 RPG) and Jimmy Butler (13.1 PPG, 2.6 APG, 4.9 RPG)
It’s depressingly fitting that the best photo I could find of these two was not an actual in game photo. However, their athleticism alone makes me drool, and earns them the number seven spot on this list. This is another duo who can skyrocket up the list if they can stay healthy. Unfortunately for Rose, that is easier said than done. We all know what Derrick Rose is capable of after becoming the youngest MVP in league history in 2010-11. When he is at the top of his game, you will not find a better, more athletic point guard on the planet. He makes Olympic gymnasts jealous with some of the acrobatic moves he pulls off on his way to the basket. As for Jimmy Buckets, he really needs to focus on the whole “buckets” part of his nickname. There is no doubt he is a lock down defender and a strong rebounder for a two guard, but Rose needs him to step up on the offensive end both with his jumper and willingness to drive. I see a bounce back year for Rose and I consider the Bulls the favorite in the East right now. If Kevin Love comes to the Cavaliers, I may need to reconsider.
6. Ty Lawson (17.6 PPG, 8.8 APG, 3.5 RPG) and Arron Afflalo (18.2 PPG, 3.4 APG, 3.6 RPG)
They’re Backkkkkk! After two years apart, this dynamic duo is teaming up again in Denver. Both coming off the best years of their career, these two should give the Nuggets the boost they need to crack the top eight in the West. This back court does not have the exciting upside that some other duos contain, but these are two NBA veterans in the prime of their careers. The experience is there and their consistency is what earns them the number six spot on the list. Ty Lawson (26 years old) has turned into a top point guard in the league and is the driving force of a highly potent Denver offense. I believe the best is yet to come from the former Tar Heel. Afflalo (28 years old), really showed off his scoring ability last year on a weak Orlando team, and he too will benefit from a high scoring offense(104.4 PPG) where all the pressure is not on him. I see the Nuggets rebounding nicely to make the playoffs after a disappointing 2013-14 season.
5. Goran Dragic (20.3 PPG, 5.9 APG, 3.2 RPG) and Eric Bledsoe (17.7 PPG, 5.5 APG, 4.7 RPG)
This might be my favorite duo on the list. Just look how happy they are. I owned both on my fantasy team last year and “Do you believe in Dragic?” dominated. Goran Dragic is arguably the most underrated player in the NBA. Last year he was tied for fourth among point guards in points per game, fourth in player efficiency rating, and third in estimated wins added. All signs point to the 28 year old being a top five point guard again this season. Eric Bledsoe missed three months last season with a torn meniscus, but when healthy, he is a triple double threat every time he steps on the court. “Mini LeBron” has shown flashes of being a superstar in this league, short, short flashes, but I am definitely buying on the former Kentucky Wildcat. Isaiah Thomas will definitely cut into this duo’s minutes, but he should mix in nicely in Phoenix. Don’t be surprised to see this exciting backcourt lead the Suns to their first playoff berth since the 2009-10 season when Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire donned the purple and orange.
4. Damian Lillard (20.7 PPG, 5.6 APG, 3.5 RPG) and Wesley Matthews (16.4 PPG, 2.4 APG, 3.5 RPG)
Coming in at number four on the list are two of “Rip City’s” finest. This duo, along with a little help from a guy named LaMarcus, have given Portland basketball life again. After their fan’s hearts (along with mine) were broken when Brandon Roy’s knees fell apart (don’t even mention Greg Oden), it seemed like it would be awhile before the Blazers would see themselves in the playoffs again. All that changed when they selected Damian Lillard, from Weber State, with the sixth pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. In just two short years, Lillard has taken the league by storm with his clutch shooting, scoring ability, and overall sexy style of play. I know it’s hard to believe, but the best is yet to come from this 24 year old phenom. As for Matthews, the Blazers could not ask for much more from the once undrafted free agent out of Marquette. Matthews is not going to transform into a 20 point scorer this year, but he has been the definition of consistency ever since joining Portland in the 2010-11 season. He plays solid defense, hits the open three, and scores his 15 one way or another. With Lillard’s growth tagged up with Matthew’s consistency, this duo can definitely contend to be the top NBA backcourt by this time next season.
3. Kyle Lowry (17.9 PPG, 7.4 APG, 4.7 RPG) and DeMar DeRozan (22.7 PPG, 4.0 APG, 4.3 RPG)
I strongly considered placing this duo atop the list. That is how good they are. Their team chemistry (as you can tell by the picture) is extremely high and they are both the cornerstones of a young, exciting Raptors team. These two seem committed to staying north of the border and bringing the fans of Toronto a title, unlike the recent superstars who could not leave fast enough. For years, the Raptors have been waiting for DeRozan to make the leap from a solid scorer to an elite one. His 22.7 points per game and 18.42 player efficiency rating are both career highs by a wide margin. In recent years, it seemed like DeRozan relied solely on his superb athleticism. That is no longer the case. He shot over 30% from behind the arc for the first time in his career, and he got to the free throw line a career high eight times per game. Kyle Lowry is coming off by far the best season of his career, and he re-signed with the Raptors for the next four years. His 3.02 assist to turnover ratio is tied for fourth highest among guards who played thirty or more minutes. There is no doubt he is the right guy to be manning the ship for Toronto. In the somewhat weak East, they should have no problem making the playoffs again this season.
2. Stephen Curry (24.0 PPG, 8.5 APG, 4.3 RPG) and Klay Thompson (18.4 PPG, 2.2 APG, 3.1 RPG)
I know, I know, how are they not number one? It was a tough decision but being number two on this list is definitely special. There is no doubt that “The Splash Brothers” are in the argument for the greatest three point shooting backcourt in NBA History. If you have watched basketball since they took over, you can understand why. It is no surprise that last season, these two were ranked first and second in three pointers made (Curry: 261, Thompson: 223). Now that people have finally gotten over Curry’s “glass ankles”, we can finally enjoy the Davidson alum for what he is, a superstar. It’s funny how teams know exactly what he is going to do against them, and they still can’t stop him. He will be a true top ten scorer for years to come. As for Klay, the 24 year old is an elite shooter and still getting better. You know you’re doing a good job when people have already forgotten that just three short seasons ago (2011-12) Monta Ellis was their leading scorer and best guard. I’m serious, I bet you had to think back pretty hard to remember he was in Golden State. It seems like Curry and Klay have been doing it for years. These two will be cemented near the top of this list for years to come.
1. John Wall (19.3 PPG, 8.8 APG, 4.1 RPG) and Bradley Beal (17.1 PPG, 3.3 APG, 3.7 RPG)
THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT IN DC!!!! Almost as bright as Bradley Beal’s smile… so perfect. Have I mentioned I have a big NBA man crush on the former Gator? I was lucky enough to see him play in person at the McDonald’s All-American game in 2011 and instantly became a fan. The youth of this tandem is almost scary because of how good they already are. Beal, 21, can light it up from anywhere, and I mean anywhere, on the court. Wall compliments him perfectly as arguably the best “drive and kick” point guard in the league. Brad (he lets me call him that) is poised and on his way to becoming the best scoring two guard in the league, and at his current trajectory, he will get there soon. Wall, 23, has the talent and poise to be the top point guard in the NBA. His jump shot is improving every year, and few run an offense better than the Kentucky graduate. Don’t be surprised when he averages 20 points and 10 assists this season. Last year they put Washington on the map, and gave us spectators a little taste of what’s to come. I must say it again, the future is bright in DC. Not only did they beat “The Splash Brothers” on this list, but they also beat them for out for coolest backcourt nickname. The “House of Guards” is ready to become a perennial playoff team and title contender. So there you have it, the top 10 starting backcourts in the NBA for the 2014-2015 season. With every list, there is always some second guessing, and here are some of the duo’s that just missed the cut.
Honorable Mention: Deron Williams and Joe Johnson (Brooklyn Nets) - This duo seems to represent the changing of the guard. Two former top guards who still have some game left but are getting ready to pass the torch. Maybe they can make one more push for an NBA title in Brooklyn.
Patrick Beverley and James Harden (Houston Rockets) - This tandem just missed the list simply because Beverley has not proven himself enough as a solid guard in this league. Harden has more than proved himself as elite in his two years in Houston. Better luck next year, you two.
Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin (Minnesota Timberwolves) - These two guards are prime examples of guys who definitely have the talent to make this list, but just haven’t quite meshed together yet. Whether it’s been injuries, sloppy play, or Kevin Love hogging all the points, Rubio and Martin have struggled together. I could see them making an appearance at the bottom of the list next year.
Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley (Boston Celtics) - Rondo and Bradley are close, but not quite ready for the list yet. Although I do feel Bradley is an underrated player, I do not think he has shown enough on the offensive end yet to consider him a starting two guard you can trust. It also doesn’t help that I think Rondo will be gone before the All Star Break.
Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo (Orlando Magic) - This duo is here solely because of their potential. I am excited to see what Oladipo can do as he’ll be given all the minutes he can handle. I wasn’t huge on Payton out of college, but I caught some impressive glimpses of him in the summer league. He’s not much of a shooter, but he is without a doubt, a playmaker. Here’s to a great season of basketball. Thanks for reading sports fans, and feel free to voice your opinion in the comments section below.