NBA Preview, Part 2: Which Team Has the Best Backcourt?
In Part 1 of this NBA preview, we ranked and examined the projected top-10 frontcourts for this upcoming season. Now, we'll break down the top-10 backcourts in the NBA.
Note: by backcourt, I am solely referring to the starting point guard and starting shooting guard. Also, I took some liberties with backcourts as some guys like Westbrook and Kobe will not start the season, but will obviously be a huge part of the backcourt for their respective team once they return. Also important to note that I am going purely by data here - at the end I will give my thoughts on which backcourts will be in the top 10 by years end. If you need a quick refresher on our nERD metric, you can glance here.
#10 Brooklyn Nets
Thoughts: Deron Williams certainly came on strong in the second half of last season and will look to begin that way starting Wednesday. Johnson will benefit from having Paul Pierce come over from the Celtics, as he can primarily spot up and shoot as opposed to sometimes move into the SF role and create when Deron is out. After the All-Star break, DWill was incredibly efficient and cut down turnovers - if he can continue that trend and Johnson can learn to mesh with Pierce, this backcourt can be very effective this season.
#9 Memphis Grizzlies
Thoughts: This is perhaps the best defensive backcourt in the league. They are perfect guards for this Grizzlies team – they won’t wow you, but they will shut down opposing backcourts and get the job done. Tony Allen is as good as it gets when it comes to lock-down perimeter defenders. They do have their shortcomings on the offensive end, but this team is so efficient all around that they should be just fine.
#8 Los Angeles Lakers
Thoughts: Man, there are a ton of years in this backcourt. After the well-publicized train wreck that was the Lakers last year, Bryant will look to get back on the court and get things going again. Unfortunately, I’m not sure it will matter much how well he plays. Regardless, Kobe Bryant is just too good to not be in the top 10 of a backcourt rankings even entering year 18 of his career.
#7 Miami Heat
Thoughts: We have to give the twice defending champs some love, even if Dwyane Wade’s knee issues are becoming more and more troublesome. Head coach Erik Spoelstra is a master at managing lineups and minutes, so it should be ho-hum in Miami yet again this year as they go for the three-peat. Questions with this backcourt are on the bench: can Ray Allen stay sharp enough defensively so the Heat can keep him on the floor and how will Norris Cole continue to develop? All in all, it certainly helps your backcourt when you have the best player in the world, LeBron James, on the wing with you.
#6 Indiana Pacers
Thoughts: This backcourt duo might surprise most being ranked so high. However, their high nERD score is due to their efficiency, especially on the defensive end. According to 82games.com, if you add in Paul George, they had an ORtg of 1.12, a DRtg of 0.99, and were +288 on the season last year. Neither Hill or Stephenson are household names, but they can hold their own in locking down opposing backcourts and getting out in transition with George. As Roy Hibbert continues to develop, this backcourt can extend pressure even further and be able to take some risks as they look to overcome the Heat this year.
#5 Chicago Bulls
Thoughts: Oh, the anticipation of D-Rose returning. People finally saw him back in his Bulls uniform this preseason and are already ready to write him in for MVP. He has looked good, scoring 20.7 ppg while shooting 47.6/80.3 splits. I'm not sure if the high FG% is sustainable, but he should be good to go after missing all of the 2012-2013 NBA season. The best story though for the Bulls is that Rose's time off really led to the increased development and emergence of Jimmy Butler as a legitimate breakout guy in the SG spot. They will have to get used to playing with each other of course, but when they do- watch out. They should be an absolute terror both on the offensive and defensive end.
T-#3 Houston Rockets
Thoughts: Jeremy Lin and James Harden should start the season together in the newly revamped Houston Rockets lineup, but I'm not quite sure it'll be that way at the end of the season. Many believe that Patrick Beverley will eventually supplant Lin at the PG spot, and he has certainly made his case as of late. The Lin/Harden duo definitely has its flaws defensively, so perhaps inserting Beverley into the lineup can shore up the porous defense up front.
T-#3 San Antonio Spurs
Thoughts: This duo gave the Miami Heat all they could handle in last year's NBA Finals. Parker was able to slice into the lane at will and Green was deadly from beyond the arc. This group is slightly underrated defensively as well, and Danny Green is capable of being that wing shut-down defender that so many teams are searching for. They are both incredibly efficient, and will continue to be so this season under head coach Gregg Popovich.
#2 Los Angeles Clippers
Thoughts: It certainly helps your backcourt ranking when you have the best PG in the world in Chris Paul. He can create for the entire team, and does so with incredible efficiency. The Clippers made several nice moves this summer bringing in shooters and defensive stoppers on the wing in Redick and Jared Dudley. They should be able to space the floor and should be an absolute menace scoring the rock. With Paul's passing skills, the Clippers should rank number one in offensive efficiency by the end of the season.
#1 Oklahoma City Thunder
Thoughts: Westbrook will be out the first 4-6 weeks of the season, but if preseason is a good indication, Reggie Jackson should fill in just fine in Westbrook’s absence. The real question mark will be at the SG position, especially in the second unit or if Sefolosha moves over to SF and the Thunder go small-ball with Durant at the PF slot. The Thunder are now two years removed from the surprising(ly dumb) Harden trade and lost Kevin Martin this summer to the Timberwolves. Who can fill in that bench guard position that Harden and Martin took over the last 2 seasons? The Thunder reportedly believe in Jeremy Lamb a whole lot, but it will certainly be an interesting development to watch.
Our statistic here at numberFire, nERD, deals with efficiency on both the offensive and defensive end. This is the reason why you don't see many of the backcourts that you probably thought you would - Stephen Curry & Klay Thompson, Ricky Rubio & Kevin Martin, John Wall & Bradley Beal, Kyrie Irving & Dion Waiters, Goran Dragic & Eric Bledsoe, Jrue Holiday & Eric Gordon, and so on. However, I think a couple of these could definitely be in the top 10 by season's end.
The two I would bet the most on is at Golden State with Steph and Klay, and in Washington with Wall and Beal. All four guys are still fairly young in their NBA careers and at the end of last year seemed to figure it out. Steph and Wall are bona fide stars and Klay and Beal are two of the most pure shooters in the league. I think both backcourts will be significantly improved (Wall and Beal torched backcourts last year when both were healthy) and will lead both the Warriors and Wizards to the playoffs.
We get things started off fast - in the 3 games to tip-off the NBA season tomorrow night, we will see 5 of our top 10 backcourts. Enjoy!