During the Washington Wizards’ media day Monday afternoon, guard Bradley Beal made a pretty strong statement regarding himself and teammate John Wall. While talking to reporters, Beal proclaimed that he and Wall were “definitely the best backcourt in the league.”
A day later that statement was strongly refuted by Cleveland Cavaliers two-guard Dion Waiters.
“That’s nonsense,” Waiters barked in response. “He’s supposed to say that, but I know deep down, he’s not messing with me and Ky (Kyrie Irving). I think me and Ky are the best backcourt, young backcourt.”
On one hand there are the statistics. While the Wiz combo posted a formidable 36.3 points per game (ppg) last season, Waiters and Irving edged them slightly averaging 36.7 ppg.
On the other hand Beal and Wall are both starters and led Washington to 44 wins and a fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. The duo missed nine games combined and started every contest they played in. While the two Cavaliers missed 23 games due to injury and Dion mainly came off the bench. The Cavs had an inconsistent season and ultimately finished the disappointing year with 33 wins, five games behind the 8th place Atlanta Hawks
Let’s assume that the Cavs and Wizards would round out the top five when it comes to current NBA backcourts. Who would be the other three?
1) Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson – Golden State Warriors
For me, the first team that comes to mind when I think of dominant backcourts is the Golden State Warriors, and earlier this week Stephen Curry chimed in on the hot debate.
“I would say we’re the best backcourt,” Curry said. “Everybody has got to be confident. If he would have said he had the second-best backcourt in the league, I probably would have gone over there and ragged on him all day.”
Undoubtedly the best shooting one-two punch in the league, Curry and Klay Thompson consistently gave any opposing defense nightmares. The two averaged 42.4 ppg while netting a lights out 6.1 three-pointers per contest, easily the highest in the NBA. On top of all that, the Warriors’ best two players missed a total of four games and led their team to 51 wins last season, good enough for sixth place in the stacked Western Conference.
2) Kyle Lowry and Demar Derozan – Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors combination of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan managed an impressive 40.6 ppg last season. The underrated duo missed only six games and pushed the Raptors to 48 wins and a third seed in the Eastern Conference. Aside from averaging over 2.5 steals, Lowry and Derozan also led the Raptors in scoring after the Rudy Gay trade.
3) Chris Paul and JJ Reddick – Los Angeles Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers Chris Paul and JJ Reddick certainly deserve to be considered with their 34.3 ppg. Paul is a MVP caliber player every season and Reddick is one of the best pure shooters in the world. Unfortunately just being on the court is the main issue for these two, missing a whopping 68 games combined last year.
The Phoenix Suns could have something special with the duo of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, who together averaged 38 ppg last year, however Bledsoe only played 43 games and is coming off a second knee procedure of the same knee.
The combo of Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson for the Oklahoma City Thunder is fierce, but the injury bug settled on the Thunder’s Robin, causing Westrook to only suit up for 36 regular season games.
To this point though, none of the teams mentioned got anywhere near the NBA Finals. So just how important are dominant backcourts anyway?
Last year’s champion San Antonio Spurs finished with 62 wins and the best record in the NBA. But it wasn’t necessarily because of their backcourt. Tony Parker missed 14 games and led the Spurs with 16.7 ppg. However, San Antonio mastered sharing the basketball and had seven other players score more than 9.1 ppg. While three of those players (Danny Green 9.1, Manu Ginobli 12.3 and Patrick Mills 10.2) were guards, the Spurs’ style of play isn’t exactly centered on its backcourt.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum the Miami Heat also went to the Finals last year. Their starting backcourt of Dywane Wade and Mario Chalmers posted a meager (in comparison) 28.8 ppg, but also missed a combined 37 games.
When LeBron James was asked whether or not he felt his two new starting guards in Cleveland could mesh well together, he commented,
“Yeah. Why not? You got two guys that love to play the game of basketball. They’re gym rats and they want to win and compete. So, it’s not hard for them to mesh.”
Do the Cavs have the best backcourt in basketball? Probably not, but they do have a four-time league MVP and newfound team depth. The NBA is a super-star driven league. Usually the team that has the best player, or combination of players, will win.
There isn’t a bigger star in today’s NBA than LeBron, and Waiters knows that.
I’m sure Bradley Beal does, too.
All stats accrued from www.basketball-reference.com