The engine and brains of an NBA starting lineup rest with the point guard â€” the orchestrator â€” and the complementary role often belongs to the shooting guard. When the two talents fit, an NBA backcourt is a bad place to get caught up against on either end of the floor.
With the season right around the corner, and after dropping knowledge on the 15 best frontcourts in the NBA, let’s take a look at a few backcourts that will rank at the top of the league.
[RELATED: The 15 Best Frontcourts In The NBA]
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15. DAMIAN LILLARD and WESLEY MATTHEWS
Last year’s Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard took the NBA by storm with his explosiveness and promise. He brought it all to a Portland team desperate for a star. His partner in the backcourt, Wesley Matthews, combined with Lillard to average an overall 34 points per game together.
Like other young duos heading into their second year together, there is virtually nowhere to go but up with improved chemistry and both players getting better. In his first year, Lillard had already poured in 1,300-plus points, and Matthews finished a close second behind Lillard in three-pointers made. Look for these two to light up the perimeter again this year. If defenses want to take the three balls away, both are highly capable of getting to the rim, and Lillard has the potential to be one of the most explosive guards this year. The next step the two should be looking to take this year is making the playoffs. This will solidify both as a legitimate backcourt at this early stage in their careers.
14. JOHN WALL and BRADLEY BEAL
A backcourt whose potential has been overwhelmed by injury is John Wall and Bradley Beal. Many believe the two can form one of the best combos in the league as early as this year. Last year, Beal and Wall combined for only 25 games together, and during that action, the team finished 16-9. This year, Wall will be starting the season healthy, as will Beal, which leads one to think the Wizards have a very good thing going.
There will be added pressure on the two to produce a majority of the offensive output for Washington. Beal has to come into the season looking to be aggressive and create his own offense to take pressure of Wall. For Wall, an improved jump shot heading into this season will open up a new dimension to his game, mostly based on his speed and finishing ability. Last year, Wall shot an underwhelming 42 percent from the field and rarely looked to fire away from three.
This year is a new season for Beal, Wall and the Wizards as they have a right to be optimistic after rounding out the home stretch of last season with a 26-27 record. Health is the obvious concern for the two, but their talent goes unquestioned, and the NBA shouldn’t overlook the two as a rising tandem.
13. KOBE BRYANT and STEVE NASH
Regardless of the way the Los Angeles Lakers ended their season, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash are two future Hall of Famers and the cloud of drama Dwight Howard carried with him over L.A. has cleared up. This could be the last shot Nash and Bryant have at a championship.
Finals or not, the Lakers will still be fun to watch because of Kobe Bryant, and Nash can still get up and down the court with the young legs the Lakers use. Last year, Nash averaged almost 13 points and seven assists, which shows he is still capable at this late stage in his career. Bryant will score at will as he always has.
Now heading into their second year, chemistry will be improved between Nash and Kobe, and the savy of the two vets should cancel out the age/injury factor. Throw in the competitiveness of Bryant, which will act as his motivational engine all season, and look for both to school all the younger players and make everyone wonder how they still get it done. If it wasn’t for Bryant’s return (as well as his eventual effectiveness) being up in the air, they’d be much higher.
12. RICKY RUBIO, J.J. BAREA and KEVIN MARTIN
The Minnesota Timberwolves have the opportunity to be one of the best young teams in the NBA this year with talent at every position. Experts place the question mark on the team’s health, which stunts their potential with players like Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio unable to stay healthy for a long period of time.
Ricky Rubio is still very young, entering his third year, and has much to prove. Will he improve on offense? Although the workload is more oriented on him creating for others, Rubio will be much more difficult to defend once he develops a jump shot. Maybe this is something he can learn from his new teammate, and partner in the backcourt, Kevin Martin.
Martin had a big pair of shoes to fill last season when traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder for James Harden. His game does not have as many dimensions as Harden’s and he suffered from big expectations. Being placed in a new environment and more comfortable role should help to squeeze the orange for all of Martin’s potential.
Together, Rubio and Martin will create an interesting pair. With Rubio liking to penetrate and dish, Martin’s spot-up shooting will benefit. Last year, he shot 49 percent from the left three-point corner, thriving off the similar penetration style of Russell Westbrook. When healthy, this will be a fun duo to watch.
11. KYRIE IRVING, JARRETT JACK and DION WAITERS
Let’s talk about the youth. Kyrie Irving is ready for yet another breakout year in Cleveland, along with the help of another young talent in Dion Waiters. In his rookie season, Waiters put up close to 15 points per game — this was the second-highest average behind Kyrie Irving while playing only 28 minutes a game.
Quietly, the two are looking down the barrel of a high scoring season. This will be Irving and Waiters’ second season together and Irving is emerging to stardom, if he’s not there already. His shooting stroke has improved and he added muscle, which will make him much more difficult to defend. Irving is also adept getting to the rim as is Waiters, which will make them a fun team to watch, constantly forcing the action. Add in Jack, a veteran who can play both guards spot, and this has the makings of a beastly backcourt.
10. GEORGE HILL, PAUL GEORGE and LANCE STEPHENSON
Prior to the start of last season, Paul George was set to be the starting shooting guard for the Indiana Pacers. However, their small forward Danny Granger missed the season, altered this plan. While George moved over, Lance Stephenson moved into the starting two spot as George Hill consistently manned the point guard position. The three of them allowed head coach Frank Vogel to play multiple combinations in the backcourt. Hill and George led the Pacers in minutes for two-man combinations last year with over 2,300 minutes played together, showing that they were one of the most efficient combos for Vogel.
As for Stephenson, the fourth year guard brings his New York toughness to an already battle-tested Pacers squad. Stephenson’s role when playing with either Hill or George is to do the dirty work, get tough with other players and hustle. Hill, George and Stephenson played the third-most minutes of three-man combinations on the Pacers, which shows that Vogel was also very comfortable playing three guards at once rather than a traditional lineup. With Granger back, the rotation is up in the air, but all three of these players will get opportunities in the backcourt.
9. MARIO CHALMERS and DWYANE WADE
Many tend to forget this, but yes, the Miami Heat do have a point guard when LeBron James isn’t the primary playmaker. That role belongs to Mario Chalmers, who dished out about four assists per game last season. His role remains limited due to the fact he does not have to make the big play, or create for his teammates. Chalmers is more comfortable as a spot-up shooter to complement Miami. Next to him stands Dwyane Wade, who also contributes to Miami’s assist numbers, averaging five per game last year. This year, the two will play a crucial factor in the Heat’s quest for a third straight title.
As Wade ages, Chalmers must be more aggressive on offense and find more ways to score. Wade will still quietly finish atop the league in scoring, however Miami must be concerned with keeping him healthy for April. What makes the two an interesting backcourt is the big-brother role Wade plays in Chalmers’ maturity.
The two are also great at creating turnovers, which plays a big part in the way Miami likes to run their offense. Fast-breaking buckets are a staple of their offense. As they’ve been the past two seasons, Wade and Chalmers will be a tough matchup for any team.
8. JRUE HOLIDAY, TYREKE EVANS and ERIC GORDON
This upcoming year, the New Orleans Pelicans will have one of the most intriguing backcourts in the NBA. Over the offseason, they wheeled and dealed their draft pick Nerlens Noel for All-Star Jrue Holiday and signed the capable Tyreke Evans to a multi-year deal. They also still have Eric Gordon and Austin Rivers to throw into the mix.
Coming out of the gates, they are expected to start a backcourt of Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon, a look that has major upside. Holiday was the face of the Philadelphia 76ers last year, averaging 17 points and eight assists on his way to his first All-Star Game. Meanwhile, Gordon has shown to be a very effective scorer in this league when he wants to be. He should be more willing to play in New Orleans this year now that they have gone out and significantly improved their roster.
The roster will ultimately be led by the newly-formed backcourt; teams will have to figure out a way to keep both Holiday and Gordon out of the paint. Furthermore, Holiday will have a new partner in crime to run picks and alley-oops with in Anthony Davis. It will take sometime for the plethora of young players to adjust to each other, but there is no question Holiday and Gordon will be one of the more fun tandems to watch this year as they should provide an up-and-down style of play that their hometown crowd will feed off of. They will also be able to put up points in a hurry.
7. TONY PARKER, MANU GINOBILI and DANNY GREEN
Probably the most praised backcourt of this generation, winning three championships together over the course of 10 years, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have taken the San Antonio Spurs to new heights every year. Recently, the backcourt tandem was granted the addition of sharpshooter Danny Green, who turned in a monster shooting performance in last year’s NBA Finals, setting a Finals record by hitting 25 three-pointers.
However, three-pointers are not the only aspect that come with Parker, Ginobili and Green. Parker and Ginobili excel at getting to the basket and creating open looks for their pal, Danny Green. Parker is a quiet MVP candidate almost every year and for good reason. Last year, he shot an extremely efficient 52 percent from the field and always plays within his comfort zone. He stays off the three-point line, as he always has, and instead generates most of his offense from midrange.
If you combine Parker and Green’s playing style, you will get Manu Ginobili. Manu can take you inside-out, being the crafty lefty that he is. Both Green and Ginobili could be placed next to Parker with a positive outcome; San Antonio fed off the offense that the three players gave the team last season. This year, look for the three to do the same as San Antonio is always a staple of good basketball.
6. MIKE CONLEY and TONY ALLEN
Mike Conley and Tony Allen play some of the best defense in the league. Together, they averaged 3.7 steals per game while Memphis finished fourth in total steals last season. In the playoffs, they locked down backcourts containing Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook on their way to the Western Conference Finals.
Most will be quick not to give this duo a great deal of credit. But since acquiring Tony Allen in 2010, the Griz have finished over .500 every season, while earning three trips to the postseason. Conley and Allen deserve a chunk of the credit along with the stellar frontcourt they hold. But the job of getting Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol equally involved belongs to Conley, and knowing how to bring out their strengths is a big part of his game.
5. JEREMY LIN, PATRICK BEVERLEY and JAMES HARDEN
Last year, Jeremy Lin was able to avoid the pressure of being the number one guy when the Houston Rockets traded for James Harden, eventually taking a heap of pressure off Lin, one season removed from “Linsanity.” Houston’s backcourt is now locked and loaded for the future, young and talented. Lin and Harden combined for about 39 points and 12 assists per game for the Rockets as they led Houston to a postseason berth. This was a bright sign, especially now that Dwight Howard has landed with the Rockets and given them championship aspirations.
Even with Superman, with Harden entering his fifth year and Lin entering his fourth, the ship will still be steered by the young frontcourt. Both Lin and Harden excel in the pick-and-roll, something they will make a staple of their offense with Howard. Having two pick-and-roll players starting beside each other is a great variable to have. It will keep teams on their heels, as Harden and Lin are also efficient in running the entire offense on their own. If Lin can find more consistency in his efficiency this year, it will make Houston very tough to deal with, considering the capability of their two best players, Harden and Howard. Adding Lin (and Beverley, who brings toughness and athleticism) is the icing on the cake for Houston.
4. CHRIS PAUL, J.J. REDICK and JAMAL CRAWFORD
Out of every backcourt on this list, this CP3-Redick-JCrossover might have the most potential this season to make magic. If it were not for J.R. Smith‘s late season explosion of consistency, Crawford would have won his second Sixth Man of the Year award in four years. Crawford averaged 16.5 points off the bench last year, leading the league, and will now be backing up Redick, a underrated player known for spot-up shooting and surprisingly solid defense.
But Chris Paul is the Los Angeles Clippers’ floor general and leader of the team. On defense, he sets the tone, leading the league for the third straight year in steals with two and a half per game. Offensively, the game runs through him, putting up 16 points and nine assists. Actually, virtually the entire game usually runs through Paul because of his ability to be a factor in all aspects of a game.
Both Crawford and Paul brought a swagger to the Clippers, who have always been the little brother team to the Los Angeles Lakers. This year, the Clippers are blatantly better and consider themselves championship contenders.
3. DERRICK ROSE, KIRK HINRICH and JIMMY BUTLER
A year without Derrick Rose turned into a year of growth for Jimmy Butler. For most of last season, Butler was a reserve player. When the injury bug continued to bite the Chicago Bulls near the end of the regulat season and into the playoffs, Butler found himself starting AND guarding LeBron James in the NBA’s second season; this is where the casual NBA fan learned about Butler’s defense. It is now obvious to every fan that Butler will be running alongside former MVP Derrick Rose upon his highly anticipated return, with another defensive ace in Hinrich off the bench.
Everyone knows what Rose is capable of — the MVP in 2011 while leading the Bulls to 62 wins (the highpoint of his career so far). This year, Rose looks to dethrone the Miami Heat with the help of his backcourt buddy, Butler. One aspect both players must work on, however, is a consistent jump shot. Butler is younger than Rose and with time, an dependable shot should develop. Rose spent an entire season rehabbing and told multiple reporters he has put hours of work into his jump shot. This is something common among players rehabbing from a serious injury as set shots and mechanics are often easy to practice.
Derrick Rose is great at making players around him better. This year, Butler will get a full season with Rose — who appears by all accounts to be back to 100 percent — under his belt and can use it to improve chemistry. Along with Joakim Noah, Rose and Butler look to be the future of the Bulls, and they will be extremely exciting to watch this year.
2. STEPHEN CURRY and KLAY THOMPSON
“The Splash Brothers” are entering their third season together and it looks to be promising. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are two lethal shooters that take minimal time to heat up and shoot the lights out. The two hit 483 three-pointers together last year, one of the best marks in the league. The two head into this season with an improved roster and most importantly, continuity.
As for the squad, some believe they will be a top three team in the Western Conference, while some say they will fall into the middle of the pack again. This can be deciphered by one simple answer: the shooting of Curry and Thompson isn’t going anywhere.
More than likely these two will lead the Warriors in scoring this year, as Curry continues to make the case he is an elite point guard and Thompson takes the next step in developing his all-around game, most importantly his shot selection. However, when they are both simultaneously firing on all cylinders, the Warriors are fun to watch, and hard to stop.
1. DERON WILLIAMS, JASON TERRY and JOE JOHNSON
The new era of Brooklyn basketball began with Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. Last year being their first season together, Williams and Johnson immediately went to work in the regular season, finishing with 49 wins. Although they saw a first-round exit to Nate Robinson and the Chicago Bulls, they were able to build a foundation for their chemistry. Even while forming their bond, the two averaged a combined 35.2 points per game.
This year, with the addition of All-Stars Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett — as well as the JET in the backcourt — the workload on this duo will be significantly lower. This will make things easier on the two. Still… don’t sleep on them. Johnson led the league in game-winners last year and Williams will be the head of the star-studded Nets. Both players also contain lethal jump shots that, when falling, can shoot a team right out of a game. Undoubtedly, this is the most talented backcourt in the NBA. It comes down to how they mesh this second year together, and the overall health of the two. They both have a chance to lead a super talented team and are in the middle of something special for the hungry Brooklyn Nets.
Which backcourts are you most excited to watch this year?
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