With the proliferation of teams that use small lineups in today’s NBA, the backcourt positions are big parts of a team’s success. Not only are they required to facilitate the offense but they also share a big chunk of the scoring responsibilities for the team.
In this article, we will be ranking the best backcourts in the NBA. Note that even if we did look up stats to justify our rankings, it is still subjective and ruled to debate.
5. Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, Boston Celtics
It gets tricky here. In any other year, this backcourt would be easily Top 3, but both Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward have never played a whole NBA game together before. More importantly, both guys are coming off significant injuries from last year.
Fortunately, both guys are now healthy and are looking impressive in scrimmages. Irving is as good as they come at his position in an era full of very good point guards. He arguably has the best handles in the league which makes it easy for him to create his own shot, especially in endgame situations.
Hayward, one of the league’s most underrated stars, will be a great complement to Irving if he can return to 100 percent health. He provides the Celtics with another capable scorer and a viable playmaker. As long as they remain healthy, there is no reason for this pairing to be a top backcourt in the years to come.
4. John Wall and Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
For a while now, the duo of John Wall and Bradley Beal have been in the conversation of best backcourt tandems. Wall can change the game with his sheer speed with the basketball. In recent years, he has evolved to become one of the league’s best assist men. Wall would’ve been No.2 in assists at 9.6 per game last year if he didn’t miss a significant amount of games.
Meanwhile, Beal has truly become one of the NBA’s premier shooters aside from becoming an All-Star in his own right. In last year’s playoffs, both Wall (26 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 11.5 assists per game) and Beal (23.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game) performed admirably. The question now is if they can lead the Wizards to becoming one of the truly elite teams in the East.
3. Russell Westbrook and Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder
I don’t think fans truly appreciate the statistical marvel that is Russell Westbrook. The guy has averaged a triple-double for two straight seasons, a feat that was thought to be irreplicable when the great Oscar Robertson did it 55 years prior. Aside from his stats, Westbrook can dominate a game with his intense fast-paced style of play. He is truly what you’d call a one-man fastbreak.
George is an athletic specimen himself. With guard skills and athleticism in a big man’s body, he creates mismatches for them on the offensive end. For stretches of their first-round series against the Utah Jazz, George looked like he was the best player for the Thunder and it’s not because Westbrook played bad at all.
Defensively, their length forces turnovers from the opposing team which would lead to more fastbreak opportunities. With the departure of Carmelo Anthony from the Thunder, they will surely have more efficiency in their overall play.
2. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
When Mark Jackson first said Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are the greatest shooting backcourt in the history of the game, he received a lot of flak for it; five years after that statement, they are on track to become just that. They are the only two players in NBA history to have at least 200 three-pointers for six straight seasons. Their game-changing shooting is what makes them truly special.
Curry holds the record for most three-pointers in a game (13) while Thompson holds the most points in a quarter with 37. Aside from their shooting, they can affect the game in other facets as well. Curry is a fantastic playmaker with some of the best handles in the game. Thompson is a lockdown defender and usually guards the opposing team’s best perimeter player.
Their unselfishness sets the tone for the whole culture of the Warriors. Most importantly, their performances translate to championships, having been to four straight NBA Finals appearances which got them three world titles. That trend will seemingly continue for the foreseeable future with the addition of DeMarcus Cousins to their already stacked team.
1. James Harden and Chris Paul
If it wasn’t for an injury to Chris Paul in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals last playoffs, the Houston Rockets could have easily become the eventual champions. Paul’s partnership with Harden last season came with a lot of speculation, most of which centered on whether they would be a fit stylistically. It didn’t take long for them to prove doubters wrong. They led the Rockets into having the highest net rating (8.5) in the whole league.
Harden led the league in scoring last year and was award the Most Valuable Player plum. His effectiveness in both the pick-and-roll and isolation style of play cause problems for his defenders. Another thing opposing teams are concerned about is his ability to draw fouls and score easy points from the line. Harden led the league in average free-throw attempts per game last year (10.1).
Paul, on the other hand, is just as effective in the pick-and-roll but for slightly different reasons. On pick-and-roll situations, he can make on-point passes for rolling big men or open shooters without turning the ball over. Paul was Top 5 in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.6). If he wasn’t passing, he was scoring in the midrange, averaging 56.2 percent from shots between 16-24 feet.
With another added weapon in Carmelo Anthony, they will surely be harder to defend and, hopefully for the Rockets, result in an NBA Finals berth.
Jamal Murray and Gary Harris, Denver Nuggets
Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers