Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant and the 10 Best Backcourts in the NBA
The Los Angeles Lakers weren't just celebrating the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July. They were also celebrating the sign-and-trade deal with the Suns that landed them two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash.
This move not only immediately makes the Lakers legitimate title contenders, but it also gives them what might be the best backcourt in the game right now. They have some tough competition, but three NBA MVPs between Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant make them hard to beat.
Still though, with both of them on the wrong side of 30, there are several young guard duos in the league that could give them a run for their money.
Honorable Mention: Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters
The Cavaliers struck gold with the first pick in the 2011 NBA draft by landing Kyrie Irving. Irving immediately proved his worth during his rookie season, easily winning Rookie of the Year honors and leading a Cavaliers team that he, alone, made significantly better.
However, the rookie phenom had hardly any help in the backcourt. The Cavaliers organization recognized this and tried to fix it by selecting Dion Waiters fourth overall in the draft. And although it was a bit high of a selection for Waiters, he still has the potential to become a great 2-guard in the NBA.
If he can reach his potential, then the two 20-year-olds will form one of the most feared backcourts in the NBA for years to come. For now though, they are stuck at Honorable Mention.
10. Mike Conley and Tony Allen
Conley and Allen made their way onto this list with the incremental improvements they both made this season. Both did more than their fair share on the defensive end, combining for exactly four steals a game while Tony Allen routinely shut down the opposing team's best scorers.
The defense of this duo alone is almost enough to merit them a spot on this list, but they also made a big impact on the offensive end. They know when to shoot and when to pass, which is an important quality that led them to both shoot efficiently from the field.
With another solid year, the duo could easily move up this list. But for now, their great defense and solid offense lands them at No. 10.
9. Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner
Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner are both athletic, young scorers who are only improving. They both significantly elevated their play during the playoffs and proved why they are one of the best backcourts in the game.
The best part about these two is that they have become one of the best guard combos in the game with just five combined years of NBA experience. With each year, they have improved and we can expect even more improvement for next season.
8. Chris Paul and Randy Foye
Last offseason, it was the Los Angeles Clippers making the big trade for a great point guard. This past season, they reaped the benefits. The Clippers had a much better record and, more importantly for our purposes, one of the best guard combinations in the league with CP3 and Randy Foye.
While Paul did most of the work to ensure these two a spot on this list, Foye quietly was an essential player for the Clippers. He complemented and fed off Paul well with solid scoring.
Chris Paul has a lot of options in Los Angeles and Randy Foye is certainly one of his best.
Next season, with another year of experience together, the two may be able to help the Clippers advance even further in the playoffs.
7. Mario Chalmers and Dwyane Wade
Without Dwyane Wade's great all-around play and Mario Chalmers' timely threes, there is no way the Heat would have been able to win it all. Lebron needed help from his backcourt and he got all that he wanted and more from Chalmers and Wade.
Thus, with Chalmers' great role play and Wade's ability to take over at times, the championship duo lands seventh on this list.
6. Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley/Jason Terry/Ray Allen?
Let's start with what we know about the returning starting backcourt for the Celtics. Both are absolute defensive menaces. Both are coming off their best season and both are young. Sounds pretty good to me.
Now add one of the best sixth men in the league to the mix, and potentially the best three-point shooter, and you have a backcourt that's so deep and talented it's not even fair.
At the very least, the Celtics will have the best defensive backcourt in the league starting games with Bradley and Rondo. They'll also have one of the all-time clutch shooters off the bench in Jason Terry likely finishing games with Rondo.
Another Celtics-Lakers Finals could happen with the backcourts both of these teams now have. I have goosebumps just thinking about it.
5. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili
Parker and Ginobili have been at it for nearly a decade. During that time, they have always been among the best backcourts in the league and as a result, won championships together with the help of Tim Duncan, Gregg Popovich and solid role players.
This season, they nearly won it all again, but fell short in the Western Conference Finals to the Oklahoma City Thunder. They came so close in part because Tony Parker had one of the best seasons of his career.
On the other hand, Manu Ginobili did not have a great season by his own high standards.
For that reason, the Spurs duo finds themselves in one of the lowest rankings since they first stepped on the court together in 2002.
4. Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis
As much as Rondo and Bradley care about defense, Jennings and Ellis care about offense and scoring. Both of them have an incredible knack for putting the ball in the hoop. Because of that, they form one of the best scoring backcourts.
Before going any higher on this list though, they will need to improve defensively, score a little bit more efficiently and help their team make the playoffs. As it is, they stand very high on this list, especially given the duos behind them and those that will place ahead of them.
3. Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash
Let me preface this by saying that if this duo had been formed seven years ago, then they would have formed not only the best backcourt in the league, but the best backcourt ever.
But here we are, in the year 2012 with Nash at age 38 and Bryant at age 33 and they still will form one of the best backcourts in the league.
When you mix a notoriously selfish shooting guard with a notoriously unselfish point guard, then you usually have a recipe for success. This will be exactly the case for the Lakers next season. Nash will be perfectly fine sitting back and creating shots for Kobe.
The question is: How far can this aged backcourt go?
Like I said before, we could see not only a battle in the finals between the greatest rivals in the sport, the Celtics and Lakers, but also a battle between two of the best guard combinations in the league.
2. Deron Williams and Joe Johnson
The Lakers aren't the only ones making moves to bolster their backcourts this offseason.
The Nets traded to get Joe Johnson, which leaves them with an incredibly fearsome guard combination. Throughout their careers, both Williams and Johnson have proved to be great scorers and facilitators.
The two of them together will be a scary combination, as Deron Williams will be able to help create shots for Johnson while Johnson will keep defenses from focusing entirely on Williams.
Really, they could be higher on this list, but the fact that we have never actually seen them play together keeps them at No. 2 for now.
They could move up this list very quickly once the season starts, though.
1. Russell Westbrook and James Harden
Mario Chalmers and Dwyane Wade may be the ones with the Larry O'Brien trophy, but at the very least, Russell Westbrook and James Harden can take solace in the fact that they are indeed the best backcourt in the NBA.
Both of them are coming off their best seasons and an NBA Finals berth. At times, like in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, Russell Westbrook looked like the best player on the floor. Meanwhile, it was clear the James Harden was the best sixth man in the league and one of the best at his position.
The two only have a combined seven years of experience and have improved every year. Next season though, they might need to step it up even more to avoid Deron Williams and Joe Johnson overtaking them at the number one spot.
For now though, first place goes to the duo that created nearly 60 points of offense for their team every night and almost won an NBA championship.