Ranking Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters with NBA's Most Dynamic Young Backcourts
The Cleveland Cavaliers have opted to let their backcourt run dictate the team's offense, with second-year point man Kyrie Irving and rookie Dion Waiters running the show. Both men have done a fine job thus far and have the Cavs headed on the path back to contention. With Irving and Waiters as a prime example, high-scoring backcourt tandems are actually becoming more and more popular.
The fact is that while a good game can be fun to watch, they are made even more fun with some high scoring from solid shooters. Defense is important, but we as fans have an obsession with offense and the combination of two guards who can score and create plays just drives us nuts with excitement. Irving and Waiters are setting a new bar for this type of play and the rest of the more established backcourt tandems are right behind them.
Of course, we as fans should not get too excited by Waiters and Irving just yet. After all, they have only had four games together and the season is long, so anything can happen.
Still, they have proven extremely fun to watch, as have many other pairs of guards throughout the league.
No. 7: Stephen Curry-Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
Curry Stats: 16.5 PPG, 5.5 APG, 1.8 SPG, .323 FG%, .345 3P%
Thompson Stats: 16.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG, .383 FG%, .417 3P%
The Warriors' two young guards may be struggling with their jump shots to start the season, but they are bound to bounce back as Golden State's run-and-gun style starts to balance with the defense brought by David Lee and Andrew Bogut. Curry is a natural leader at the point and his scoring touch is unbelievable. He has shot 47 percent from the field for his career and 44 percent from long range, and his pesky defense doesn't hurt either.
Thompson, though just a second year player, is really coming into his own as a shooting guard. He has good size for the position at 6'7", 205 pounds and once he becomes less reliant on his three-point shot, a lot more doors are going to open for him.
No. 6: Brandon Jennings-Monta Ellis, Milwaukee Bucks
Jennings Stats: 17 PPG, 13 APG, 4 SPG, .467 FG%, .250 3P%
Ellis Stats: 18.5 PPG, .350 FG%, .273 3P%
These two are among the best at their positions and provide a great spark of offense for the feisty Bucks, coached by the defense-minded Scott Skiles. Jennings has come a long way from the offense-first player he was when the Bucks drafted him back in 2009, as his field goal percentage has improved in each of his seasons thus far.
More importantly, now that he has a go-to guy in Ellis, his passing numbers are bound to improve.
Speaking of Ellis, despite some struggles to start the season, he's going to be the key to Milwaukee's success this season. He was brought in to be Jennings' right hand man and with time, he's going to be as great a scorer as he was with the Golden State Warriors, as well as a fine pest on defense.
No. 5: Damian Lillard-Wesley Matthews, Portland Trail Blazers
Lillard Stats: 19.3 PPG, 8 APG, .406 FG%, .292 3P%
Matthews Stats: 18.8 PPG, 1.8 SPG, .458 FG%, .500 3P%
The Portland Trail Blazers are off to a 2-2 start thanks to their upstart rookie point man in Lillard, who has adapted to the NBA remarkably well. He is doing a good job of scoring points while showing great improvement in his passing game, and his potential for becoming a great leader is off the charts. Once he improves his shot selection, the sky's the limit.
Likewise, Matthews has been having an excellent season. He has, thus far, put up career highs with Lillard getting him the ball and is starting to finally resemble the guard he was at Marquette. With his talented floor general getting him the ball consistently, he's going to potentially become a less athletic Dwyane Wade, playing tough defense and putting points on the board.
Given the skills of everyone else in the starting lineup, it's only a matter of time before Portland is back in contention, thanks to these two guards contributing a good chunk of the offense.
No. 4: Kyrie Irving-Dion Waiters, Cleveland Cavaliers
Irving Stats: 23.8 PPG, 6 APG, .461 FG%, .412 3P%
Waiters Stats: 16.3 PPG, .480 FG%, .550 3P%, 1.3 SPG
The Cavaliers are recovering from the loss of LeBron James quicker than anticipated as Irving proved to be a great addition as a rookie and has improved as a second-year player. Waiters has burst on the scene this year to form a great one-two punch with the former Blue Devil despite being a bit undersized for shooting guard at 6'4".
Still, the former Syracuse guard has shown great poise and dedication in his brief NBA career and had a great game in Cleveland's win against the Los Angeles Clippers on November 5. Waiters scored 28 points and shot seven of 11 from downtown and 10 of 17 overall.
In the same game, Irving provided 24 points of his own while also dishing out 10 assists.
Needless to say, we've only reached the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what these two can do together.
No. 3: Jeremy Lin-James Harden, Houston Rockets
Lin Stats: 15.3 PPG, 7.3 APG, 5.7 RPG, 2.3 SPG, .390 FG%, .333 3P%
Harden Stats: 35.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 6.3 APG, 1.7 SPG, .529 FG%, .350 3P%
Lin's shooting numbers may be off, but he is still part of one of the league's best one-two punches. He's doing exactly what he has to do in getting his teammates the ball and playing tough defense. The only real mark against him is that his shot selection is off, but that will change as the season progresses.
Regarding Harden, there are simply no words that can do him justice. If the season were to end today, he would easily be the MVP, as he has taken the Rockets by storm since joining them just before the start of the season. He has taken over as the team's go-to guy and has absolutely broken out in his new starting role.
Once Lin gets back on track, there's no telling just how high the Rockets will soar.
No. 2: Kyle Lowry-DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors
Lowry Stats: 23.7 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 7 APG, 3.7 SPG, .575 FG%, .500 3P%
DeRozan Stats: 19 PPG, 5 RPG, 1.3 SPG, .512 FG%
Lowry may only be 6'0", 205 pounds, but he has been playing as though he is much taller than that. He has scored, passed, played tough defense and even rebounded in his role as the new leader of Toronto's offense. Before long, with him running the show, the Raptors will have their bite back soon.
DeRozan, on the other hand, has greatly improved as a guard. His jumper has shown tremendous growth as has his defense, and his 19 points per game show that he is ready to become more than just a dunker.
Don't let Toronto's 1-2 start fool you. This is a team that will be on the up-and-up before long.
No. 1: Darren Collison-O.J. Mayo, Dallas Mavericks
Collison Stats: 16.5 PPG, 8.5 APG, 1.5 SPG, .614 FG%
Mayo Stats: 21.5 PPG, .509 FG%, .667 3P%
Even with a younger team and only three players remaining from the 2011 championship team, the Mavericks are 3-1 and silencing all critics. A lot of their success is owed to Collison and Mayo, who have done a great job stepping up while star player Dirk Nowitzki recovers from knee surgery.
Normally a scoring point man, Collison has been great since being acquired from the Indiana Pacers over the summer and is proving to be a great leader on offense. If he can keep it up once Nowitzki returns, then Dallas is going to be one dangerous team in the ultra competitive Western Conference.
Similar praise can be given to Mayo, who has taken his natural shooting skills to a whole new level. His jump shot has been more accurate than usual and his three-point shooting, per usual, has been absolutely deadly.
That said, after a disappointing 2011-12, the Mavericks will surely use this new momentum to carry them towards another championship caliber season.