The NBA kingdom is being conquered by the one-two punch of the point guard and shooting guard combo. Long gone are the days of Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon and Shaquille O’Neal banging away in the paint. The Memphis Grizzlies “grindhouse” style of basketball is the closest image of the days where the big men ruled the hardwood and people just refer to that style as “boring” in today’s game.
The game is ruled by fast, electric, deadly combinations in the backcourt. The first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs has provided some of the best basketball in years, but what backcourts have been doing it the best? Remember, this is the backcourt that starts the game, so Manu Ginobili and Jamal Crawford won’t appear on this list.
This list might surprise some, but remember, it’s about the lethal combination of two players, not just one. Chris Paul is the best point guard in the game, but does his presence with J.J. Redick do more than Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan? Let’s count down the top five backcourts remaining in the NBA Playoffs.
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5. Deron Williams/Joe Johnson
With as much money as Williams and Johnson are making, the two are expected to put up major numbers each game, being evaluated strictly on the amount of dollars in their contracts. Regardless of the money, game respects game. Johnson and Williams have been pillars of consistency this postseason, as the Nets try to advance past a young and hungry Raptors squad. Paul Pierce has been there in the clutch, but Johnson and Williams are the two that are responsible for keeping the Nets in the game.
Even though the Nets lost last night, Joe Johnson helped come back from a 26-point deficit, scoring 18 of his 30 points in the third quarter. The Nets appeared cooked, being down 62-44 at the half, but Joe Johnson wouldn’t die. The seven-time All-Star has been validating his selection this postseason, averaging 21.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists on 56 (!) percent from the field and 47 percent from deep.
Joe Johnson is proving he’s worth the $21 million he’s earning this season and giving some payback on that six-year, $123 million contract. No one can ever live up to that amount of money, but Johnson is doing justice with his playoff performances–he’s shot 54 percent or better in every playoff game except one.
After averaging 15.8 points in the regular season, Johnson has been resurging in the playoffs with his 21.6 points per game. The Nets will need this performance to continue from Johnson if Brooklyn wants a chance to escape the first round, something this All-Star group has yet to complete.
Long gone are the days where Deron Williams was mentioned as a better point guard than Chris Paul, those were lost in Utah with Jerry Sloan. Still, Deron Williams has been pretty damn good for all the injuries he’s suffered and played through this season.
Williams is on the downslide of his career, but he’s putting up better numbers in the postseason than the regular season. Williams is averaging 16.8 points, 6.2 assists and 1.4 steals per game this season. Still, the Nets will need more out of Williams if they want to get past the first round. Williams is averaging 23 points per game in the Nets two victories, but only 12.7 points per game in the Nets’ three losses, including 0-for-6 from three in the past two losses. Despite that, the combination of Williams and Johnson has been the main reason that the Nets are in this series.
Joe Johnson is carrying more weight than Williams right now, shooting 56 percent from the field. The Nets are one game away from being sent home by the upstart Raptors. Joe Johnson and Deron Williams need to show that veteran presence that’s supposed to challenge the Heat for a spot in the NBA Finals this season.
4. Chris Paul/J.J. Redick
Chris Paul is the best point guard in the game, hands down. For years no one has questioned that statement, however, Paul has been without a competent running mate in the backcourt for almost his whole career. When thinking of Chris Paul, it’s hard to remember who his backcourt mates have even been. The only names that ring a bell are big men, like David West and his current buddy, Blake Griffin. Jamal Crawford has been there for CP3 in L.A., but Crawford mainly comes off the bench, as he just won the Sixth Man of the Year award. This season, Paul has been playing alongside J.J. Redick, who is the definition of a sniper, when healthy. Redick missed a good portion of the regular season, only appearing in 35 games, but he was brought here to help the Clippers win a championship. The playoffs are here and J.J. Redick is healthy and doing what he does best–dropping buckets.
In the first-round series against the Warriors, Redick is averaging 13.0 points on 48 percent shooting from the field and 48 percent from deep–he’s shooting the same exact percentage from the field and deep. Also, Redick is shooting 100 percent from the free throw line, he’s 10-for-10 so far. Redick has converted on 50 percent or more of his shots from deep in three of the five games, including a 4-of-5 (80 percent) from deep during Game 1. After missing most of the season, J.J. Redick is dealing with transitioning back into the game. Having to do that on the biggest stage is a tough act, but Redick is in the running for an Oscar. Expect him to become more acclimated as the games advance, especially if the Clippers can escape the Dubs in the first round. For now, 48 percent from the field and deep isn’t a bad consolation prize.
To the surprise of no one, Chris Paul has been doing his thing. The “point gawd” has been that and more, tallying 18.2 points, 8.2 assists, 5.2 rebounds (more than Roy Hibbert), and an insane 3.4 steals per game. Paul is turning the ball over 3.8 times per game, but when he’s creating almost the same amount of turnovers, it evens out. Not to mention, Paul is stroking it at a 48 percent clip from deep. Safe to say, he’s been the best point guard in the playoffs, which he will need to continue to win only the third playoff series in his career.
The combination of Redick and Paul has proven to be lethal against the Warriors; both account for 28 percent of the Clippers point total in the playoffs. Having a deadeye shooter on the wing is a point guard’s best friend, especially one that creates the attention that Chris Paul does. Let’s be real, this all doesn’t mean shit if the Clippers don’t get out of the first round. Chris Paul needs to reach the Western Conference Finals this season or his reputation is going to be in serious question. What’s a “point gawd” with zero rings?
3. Steph Curry/Klay Thompson
The Clippers and Warriors are entrenched in one of the most exciting early playoff series the NBA has to offer. To the surprise of no one, sharpshooters Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are at the forefront of this epic battle. Steph Curry and Chris Paul are arguably the top two point guards in the NBA and it’s like a Christmas gift to watch these two go head-to-head. With the Oklahoma City Thunder on the verge of being dropped in the first round, the winner of the Clippers/Warriors series could wind up representing the Western Conference in the NBA Finals–imagine that.
The Splash Brothers have been the king pieces on the chessboard this series for the Warriors, much like the regular season. The Warriors go as the Splash Brothers go. In this opening round series, Stephen Curry is averaging 20.8 points, 8.2 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game while shooting 47 percent from the field and 41 percent from deep. Remember that Curry is playing 41 minutes per game in this series, so the fact that he’s been able to shoot 47 percent on 15 attempts per game is remarkable. In the past two games vs. the Clippers, Curry has shot 15-of-30 (50 percent) from the floor and 11-of-21 from deep (52 percent), averaging 25 points per game in the last two. Curry’s best performance came in Game 4, when he exploded for 33 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, hitting 7-of-14 from three. It’s safe to say “Playoff Steph” is in full tilt in this series.
While Curry has been proving his worth as an All-Star point guard, Klay Thompson is fighting for respect as one of the purest shooters in the game. Even though the Warriors dropped Game 5, 113-103, Klay Thompson did his damage. Thompson piled up 21 points on 9-of-17 shooting and 3-of-7 from deep, while also collecting five rebounds, four assists and two steals. The 21-point performance was Thompson’s third 20-point game in the series. Overall, Thompson is putting up 18.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists, shooting 43 percent from the floor and 37 percent from deep. Thompson’s shooting percentages are down (41 percent from deep during regular season), however Thompson has shown that he isn’t scared to shoot, which is exactly what Golden State needs. If Thompson is having a bad shooting performance, he can’t be scared to fire them up when needed. Thompson is a deadly shooter and seeing the ball drop in from deep once can be enough to lock him in. In order for the Dubs to win this series, Klay Thompson will have to stay out of foul trouble–he’s accumulated four or more fouls in every game besides one. Thompson needs to remain on the floor for the Splash Brothers to have their deadly effect.
It would be a travesty to only witness the Dubs in the first round of the playoffs this season. The Clippers are riding quite the high right now, but this series has the looks of one that will come down to a Game 7. When that time comes around, the Splash Brothers will be locked and loaded, with an arsenal full of deadly shooting from deep.
2. John Wall/Bradley Beal
Correctly nicknamed the “House of Guards”, John Wall and Bradley Beal have been asserting their dominance during the NBA Playoffs. Realistically, most people didn’t believe the Wizards would defeat the Chicago Bulls in the first round, especially in five game. There wasn’t any chirping from the No. 5-seeded Wizards as they faced the No. 4-seeded Bulls–no #WIZIN6 hashtags floating around (thanks Brandon Jennings). The Wizards just balled out and handled business, with Wall and Beal leading the charge.
Bradley Beal is turning into a top-flight shooting guard in only his second season in the NBA. The disappearance of quality shooting guards is a hot conversation, so let’s start throwing Beal into the conversation. In five playoff games, Beal is averaging 19.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.2 assists. Beal is shooting 44 percent from the field and 46 percent from downtown–his shot chart from the playoffs is a work of art (via Vorped.com). Beal has been the definition of efficient with his shooting percentages and has raised his PER from 14.32 (under the league average of 15) in the regular season to 19.3 (identical with Wall) in the playoffs. It’s a small sample, but Bradley Beal looks like the best two guard remaining in the NBA Playoffs at this moment. Bold? Yup, but true.
His partner, John Wall, hasn’t been any slouch either. Wall is averaging 18.8 points, 6.8 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game in the playoffs. John Wall was abusing D.J. Augustin and Kirk Hinrich all series, taking both off the ball and to the rack as if they belonged in the D-League playoffs, not the NBA. Together, Wall and Beal dismantled the NBA’s No. 1 defense, which only allowed 91.8 PPG in the regular season. The House of Guards combined for 41 percent of the Wizards’ point total in the first-round series (193 of 473 points). As a team, the Wizards scored 98 points or more in three of it’s four victories against Chicago, showing how the Wiz’s lethal backcourt cannot be curtailed by a stout defense.
At the beginning of the 2014 NBA Playoffs, everyone knew John Wall and Bradley Beal would be a dangerous combination to handle. But most people agreed that the House of Guards’ best days would be seen in future playoff series–these two still needed a few years of development to shine. Wrong and wrong. This duo is ready for the spotlight right now and a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals is only four victories away. The Wizards might be considered the main threat to the Miami Heat’s three-peat, which sounded insane two weeks ago, but now appears to be factual. Bradley Beal said it best after ending the Bulls’ season:
— Bradley Beal (@RealDealBeal23) April 30, 2014
1. Kyle Lowry/DeMar DeRozan
Drake Lint Rollers, We The North slogans, an owner who screams expletives at the crowds before games–anyone else grabbing a boarding pass for Toronto? Plus, that crowd in Toronto looks like it belongs in one of Drake’s music videos; Toronto is doing the NBA Playoffs right. Hard to blame them when Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are giving T. Dot something to cheer about. The Raptors are shoving that $100 million-plus payroll right back to Russia with Mikhail Prokhorov.
Is there a player that’s been proving their worth more than Kyle Lowry this postseason? After an incredible regular season, averaging 17.9 points, 7.4 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.5 steals, no one knew what to expect from Lowry in the playoffs, who would be leading the Raptors against a Brooklyn squad that “tanked” to face them. Lowry has upped the anty to 21.8 points, 5.2 assists and 4.4 rebounds, shooting 45 percent from the floor and 41 percent from range. Lowry was snubbed as an All-Star selection this year in favor of Joe Johnson, and he’s proving why he deserved to be on that roster. Lowry has been most impressive in Toronto’s past two victories, averaging 29.0 points, including a 33-point, six-assist performance in Game 5. The craziest thing about all of this? Well, the Raptors almost traded Lowry to the Knicks for Raymond Felton earlier this season–yeah, James Dolan really doesn’t know basketball.
The Raptors All-Star, DeMar DeRozan, has been showing out too. After a questionable Game 1 performance, scoring 14 points on 3-of-13 shooting, people assumed DeRozan just wasn’t ready to handle the pressure that came with the playoffs. How has DeRozan responded? DeRozan scored 30 points in Games 2 and 3, then 24 points in Game 4 and 23 points in Game 5. He’s averaging 26.8 points per game in the past four games. Overall, DeRozan is putting up 24.2 points, 4.2 boards and 3.0 assists per game. His shooting percentages are ugly, so I won’t even bring them up. However, DeRozan has been consistent at getting to the free throw line, shooting eight or more free throws in every game this series, knocking down 89 percent of them. DeMar DeRozan isn’t shying away from the big moment and neither are the Raptors as a whole.
As a duo, Lowry and DeRozan are responsible for 47 percent of the Raptors’ offense in the playoffs. The two are responsible for carrying the city of Toronto on their backs, too, responsible for building something special that the city of Toronto hasn’t felt since Vince Carter was in purple and black. Watch out, the Raptors are quickly becoming one of the most dangerous threats in the Eastern Conference, with Lowry and DeRozan leading the charge.
Yes, the Raptors have the best backcourt in the NBA Playoffs so far this postseason. Just look at the numbers. DeRozan and Lowry are responsible for 47 percent of Toronto’s offense. The Raptors don’t win a game without this combination. Unlike any other backcourt, Lowry and DeRozan are both averaging over 20 points per game. The numbers don’t lie here: Lowry and DeRozan are the best backcourt still standing in the NBA Playoffs.
What do you think?
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