• Ziad Aziz

The Top 5 Backcourts in the NBA

*Photo via Getty Images

Everyone wants to be a guard. Guard play has become so contagious that we see small forwards to even center – sized players infected with “Guarditis”. Yes, it’s a real disease that I made up this very moment (just go with it), which affects hundreds of innocent players around the globe every day.

No longer are the pure centers of the NBA dominating like they did in recent past; with guys like Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, and many others. Until recently, power forwards were seldom seen along the perimeter. Now it’s a disappointment if anyone under 6’ 10” doesn’t shoot at least 30 percent from behind the arc.

Guarditis has always afflicted the NBA in small doses; however, cases of this epidemic are more prevalent in the modern game. At 7-feet tall, Dirk Nowitzki shoots 38.3 percent from beyond the three-point line for his career. He paved the way for the likes of Kevin Durant (6’ 9”), Kevin Love (6’ 10”), and now rookie Kristaps Porzingis (7’ 1”) to not only develop a three point shot, but also handle the ball while facing the basket. Guarditis has also seeped into the play of our youth, as 18-year-old high school star Thon Maker (7’ 1”) can be seen breaking ankles and hitting step backs ---

Guards are now the governing forces of the NBA. Without a good backcourt, teams seem struggle, since they cannot rely on their big men to carry them through a season anymore (besides maybe the Memphis Grizzlies). So, lets dissect the top five best backcourts the league currently has to offer.

5. Washington Wizards: John Wall and Bradley Beal

*Photo via csnw

At 24 years old, John Wall has already been an All-Star twice, and is still a year or two away from his prime. Bradley Beal is sniffing at his first All-Star appearance, and is ready for a breakout year at just 22. The two guards have a ton of upside and compliment each other nicely, benefiting from the other’s production. They are starting to look like the Gilbert Arenas lead Wizards of the past, already making the Conference Semifinals the last two seasons.

Wall averaged a double – double in 2014-15 with 10 assists and 17.6 points per game. He’s clearly morphing into a true point guard with the ability to score, and has the toughness to close out games. Coupled with Wall’s leadership and selfless play, Beal provides offensive versatility making for a savvy running mate in the backcourt.

Beal has averaged over 15 points per game through his first three seasons, and shoots an impressive 40 percent from deep. Combined, the two guards average nearly three steals per game, and both shoot a solid free throw percentage (Wall 78.9, Beal 78.6), which can be critical in close games. The Wizards’ backcourt has a massive amount of talent waiting to ripen that can lead a promising franchise deep into the playoffs.

4. Chicago Bulls: Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler

*Photo via NBC

To the layperson, mentioning Rose and Butler together in a sentence might construct an image of a merry floral housekeeper. However, the NBA analyst would interpret such a pairing as a tremendously talented backcourt. These two standout guards would be higher on this list if it weren’t for Derrick Rose’s crumbly knees.

Nevertheless, the former NBA MVP shares a backcourt with a terrific comrade: The multifaceted Jimmy Butler. Butler (25 years old) experienced his first All-Star Game in 2015 by averaging 20 points per game and shooting 37.8 percent from three, nearly a ten percent improvement from the year prior. He’s also a fantastic on the ball defender swiping 1.8 steals a game, while usually guarding the opponent’s best player.

Due to traumatic past injuries, it’d be a risky bet on Rose returning to MVP caliber form. Yet, he still remains in many experts’ opinions the best player on the Bulls. Last year, he dropped nearly five dimes a game, and recorded a respectable 17.7 points per contest. Unfortunately, at 26 years old he isn’t the Derrick Rose at 22. Still, in the game’s final ticks the Bulls will try everything they can to get the ball to number 1 and have him create.

3. Toronto Raptors: DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry

*Photo via Getty Images

DeMar DeRozan shows flashes of superstar quality, who has averaged over 20 points per game the last two seasons. Now, what’s made this backcourt particularly impressive is the ascension of Kyle Lowry to All-Star status. At the ripe basketball age of 29, Lowry made his first All-Star Game last year pouring in an average of 17.8 points per night, and setting up his teammates 6.8 times a game.

DeRozan’s hang gliding dunks and explosive offense, combined with Lowry’s quiet floor general consistency solidifies Toronto’s backcourt amongst the top three in the league. Lowry dictates the Raptor’s offensive tempo, which has greatly benefited DeRozan, who can score with the best of them on any given night. This backcourt not only gels together, but the diversity of styles makes for an exceptional tandem.

Toronto has also added pieces to the frontcourt such as DeMarre Carroll to bring a balance of powers on both ends of the floor. If Lowry stays consistent and DeRozan improves his numbers from last year (which could very well happen), then it’ll be hard for other backcourts to hurdle Toronto on this list. The Raptors have two All-Stars in their backcourt and are improving from top to bottom. Look out East!

2. Houston Rockets: James Harden and Ty Lawson

*Photo via USA Today

Batman’s got a new Robin. The Houston Rockets recently acquired Ty Lawson from the Denver Nuggets boosting their backcourt to number 2 on this list. James Harden (Batman) finished second in the 2015 NBA MVP voting losing to Stephen Curry, and had he averaged an additional 0.8 points per game he would’ve won the NBA scoring title. What else can we say about Harden? Olympian, beard enthusiast, breakfast defector, also a newly signed Adidas deal worth up to 200 million dollars *exhale*. The 25-year-old shooting guard has established himself as one of the top five elite players in the NBA.

Now as for Ty Lawson (Robin), he’s had somewhat of a rough offseason. Lawson recently completed his court ordered 30-day stint in an alcohol rehabilitation program. Yet, his new team remains optimistic and isn’t concerned with any issues he has away from basketball. Harden told Fox Sports Houston, “He’s more focused than ever. He has a great opportunity with a really good team to showcase his talents and help us with that next push that we need.”

And ‘push’ is what Lawson does best. He’s one of the fastest players from end-to-end; catching lackadaisical defenses daydreaming as he fires up the offensive tempo. * Insert Dad Joke* He’d make the perfect mascot for the Rockets. Lawson nearly averaged a double – double last year with 9.6 assists and 15.2 points per game. He’s quick and he operates under control displaying an impressive 3.89 assist to turnover ratio, second only to Chris Paul (4.41).

The Harden – Lawson duo will be an incredibly difficult backcourt to contain for opposing teams. Harden is the scoring colossus (27.4 ppg), who does it with power and finesse. Then there’s Lawson; the human blur who operates with top-level efficiency. Have fun with these two sticks of dynamite Western Conference.

1.Golden State Warriors: Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson

*Photo via NYPost

If you’re surprised, then I recommend coming out from under that rock to look at the sun for once. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are the Over Lords of the backcourt. They’ve supported that title by beating the Cleveland Cavaliers to claim the crown of the NBA, and also throughout the regular season.

Stephen Curry is the reigning NBA MVP and Klay Thompson enjoyed his first All-Star rodeo by averaging 21.7 points per game, sinking 43.9 percent of the threes he took. The Splash Brothers led the Warriors to the best regular season record (67-15) and the franchise’s first NBA title since 1975.

Curry missed only two games this past season, while averaging 23.8 points and handing out 7.7 assists per game. He also had four triple – doubles, becoming the first Warrior since Wilt Chamberlain 50 years ago with that many. The scary part is that Curry and Thompson can improve from last season, lending little hope to a backcourt that wishes to usurp their throne.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Miami Heat: Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic

  • Los Angeles Clippers: Chris Paul and J.J. Reddick

  • Atlanta Hawks: Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver

  • Oklahoma City Thunder: Russell Westbrook and, Dion Waiters

  • Los Angeles Lakers: Kobe Bryant and D’Angelo Russell

Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com, NBA.com

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