Ranking The Starting Backcourts in the Western Conference
By Brett David Roberts
Mar 20, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) high fives guard Klay Thompson (11) after the basket and one against the Milwaukee Bucks during the fourth quarter at Oracle Arena. The Golden State Warriors defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 115-110. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
The West is the loaded Conference in the NBA, and the talent in the backcourt is a huge part of the reason why. The West sports some of the best marksmen in the league as well as a backcourt featuring two future first ballot Hall of Famers.
When that particular duo in question can find itself ranked anywhere but No. 1 it makes for some interesting rankings. Depth will not be considered, though it is hard to ignore in some instances.
1) Golden State: Stephen Curry & Klay Thompson
Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, a.k.a. “The Splash Brothers,” are the most lethal shooting tandem in the league. Curry may be the best shooter in NBA history when it is all over. Curry and Thompson are making believers out of FIBA watchers and function well in International ball. It’s kind of just a cherry on the sundae, though. The Dubs could potentially be one of the best teams in the West, if the roster adjusts smoothly to Steve Kerr at the helm.
2) Phoenix Suns: Goran Dragic & Eric Bledsoe
The Suns are stocked with backcourt talent, and it begins with Dragic and Bledsoe. It seems unlikely that both remain in Phoenix given the immense interest that teams are showing already. Both are free agents after this season, and the Suns will likely only seek to commit big money to one of them.
3) L.A. Lakers: Steve Nash & Kobe Bryant
If this backcourt is fully healthy, it’s still the best. It hasn’t functioned healthy thus far much though. And what will be of Kobe Bryant following a major Achilles injury? Is Steve Nash going to be anywhere near healthy enough to even play 70 games? This backcourt could easily flop with both of its Hall of Fame options on the shelf. If both are together on the court for large stretches this season, the Lakers may not be as horrible as many expect. Moreover, it just seems wrong to rate a backcourt featuring Mamba any lower than this.
4) L.A. Clippers: Chris Paul & J.J. Redick
The Clippers have the best playmaker in the NBA and one of the league’s sharpest shooters at 2-guard (backed up by another flame thrower in Jamal Crawford). The Clips get a lot of scoring from its backcourt and Paul has posted the highest PER of any point guard in history, a testament to how well he has manned the position within this era.
5) Oklahoma City Thunder: Russell Westbrook & Reggie Jackson
Russell Westbrook may not be a pure point guard, but his size enables the Thunder to start a smaller two-guard like Reggie Jackson. Jackson is becoming a prized NBA player in his own right, and he’s a high energy player like Westbrook.
Dec 6, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden (13) is congratulated by point guard Patrick Beverley (2) after scoring during the fourth quarter against the Golden State Warriors at Toyota Center. The Rockets defeated the Warriors 105-83. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
6) Houston Rockets: Patrick Beverley & James Harden
The Rockets are still hoping to upgrade the point guard position and relegate Patrick Beverley to a sixth man type of role (if he isn’t involved in the trade, that is). James Harden is one of the best offensive shooting guards in the league, but his lack of defense keeps the Rockets from being much higher on this list. Beverley is the converse of Harden: lots of defense and not enough scoring.
7) Portland Trail Blazers: Damian Lillard & Wesley Matthews
Damian Lillard could easily be rendered the third best point guard in the Western Conference. He’s shown an ability to step up and play well in big games, and Matthews is a very good shooter to benefit from his kick outs.
8) Denver Nuggets: Ty Lawson & Arron Afflalo
Ty Lawson is still seeking to prove he was worth the massive contract extension he got, and Arron Afflalo is coming off a career year. The Nuggets have a lot of talent at every position but very little top-end talent.
9) San Antonio Spurs: Tony Parker & Danny Green
Tony Parker is putting the caps on an illustrious career and Danny Green is a lethal shooter. Both are above-average defenders, and the Spurs’ team defense functions well with Green and Kawhi Leonard bringing size to the wing positions.
Jan 7, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; New Orleans Pelicans point guard Jrue Holiday (11) dribbles against the Miami Heat during the second half at American Airlines Arena. The Heat won 107-88. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
10) New Orleans Pelicans: Jrue Holiday & Eric Gordon
Jrue Holiday is hoping to regain the form that made him an All-Star in Philadelphia and Eric Gordon’s career was once knocking on the All-Star realm, too. The Pelicans could easily have a top backcourt, but with both Holiday and Gordon having battled injuries, the talent unfortunately may not be enough. Health is imperative.
11) Memphis Grizzlies: Mike Conley & Courtney Lee
Mike Conley is the best point guard few talk about. Courtney Lee is lacking as a starter, performing at about replacement-level for a shooting guard. He missed his calling card as a specialist defender, and instead is a mediocre NBA player.
12) Minnesota Timberwolves: Ricky Rubio & Kevin Martin
Ricky Rubio thinks he is worth a max deal, and this year will be a great chance for him to show why with Kevin Love out of the way. It’s hard to say that with a straight face. Kevin Martin can score in bunches when teams leave him alone, and at one point he was a formidable threat getting to the basket. The Wolves may interject Andrew Wiggins into the lineup at shooting guard very early in the season, though, and that would be enough to elevate the backcourt ahead of both New Orleans and Memphis.
13) Sacramento Kings: Darren Collison & Ben McLemore
Darren Collison is too good to be a backup and not good enough to be a starter. That is the best way of saying it. Ben McLemore may end up being a total bust; the jury is definitely still out on his NBA career.
14) Dallas Mavericks: Jameer Nelson & Monta Ellis
The Mavs win the aged, past-prime backcourt of the West. Dallas may opt to start Raymond Felton, which would be a mistake because at least Nelson is fast enough to stay in front of most guards. Monta Ellis could be dealt this season, but the Mavs won’t get much for him.
15) Utah Jazz: Trey Burke & Alec Burks
Trey Burke is a younger and less experienced Jameer Nelson, and Alec Burks is kind of one dimensional as a scorer. Gordon Hayward is a de facto guard due to his involvement in the offense, and if he were considered the 2-guard instead of Burke, the Jazz would be ahead of Dallas, Sacto, and possibly as high as 10th. But Burks is penciled in as the starting shooting guard, and this isn’t about which team has the best swingmen.