Ranking the NBA's Top 10 Backcourts

Thomas AttalCorrespondent IDecember 12, 2012

Ranking the NBA's Top 10 Backcourts

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    Many contest whether it is better to have a great guard on your team or a great big man.

    But no matter which side you may fall on, it is indisputable that you need at least some good guard play to hope for success in the long run.

    Guards are necessary for proper distribution of the ball, good outside shooting and are often the floor generals. Having solid guards allows for greater ball movement and prevents opponents from getting inside too often.

    Through the first six weeks of the NBA season, there has been superb play in the backcourt across the league.

    We saw Rondo record double-digit assists every game he didn't fight an ex-Kardashian, and we saw the explosion onto the scene of James Harden.

    In the scope of the season, though, which pair has been the best backcourt?

    Here are our choices. 

10. Houston Rockets: Jeremy Lin, James Harden

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    The pair of Jeremy Lin and James Harden is a particularly interesting one because it unites perhaps the two biggest question marks of the offseason.

    Lin came over from the New York Knicks, facing questions of whether or not he could replicate Linsanity.

    Harden, for his part, arrived from the Oklahoma City Thunder, with many wondering how he would do away from the shadows of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.

    The results, so far, have been mixed.

    Harden started the year by scoring 37 and 45 points in his first two games, respectively. However, he's also had periods with less success.

    Lin has also struggled at times, but has been capable of performances such as his 38 points against the San Antonio Spurs.

    There is clearly immense potential here, and the Rockets can be dangerous in any game. But until these two fully come together, Houston finds itself just outside of the truly elite backcourts of the NBA. 

9. Denver Nuggets: Ty Lawson, Andre Iguodala

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    The Denver Nuggets have experienced quite a few changes in the past few years with the departure of players such as Carmelo Anthony and Nene Hilario, but the one consistency has been Ty Lawson.

    The diminutive point guard has scored 15.8 points and 6.7 assists per game over the past 82 games.

    Now he has the athletic Andre Iguodala by his side in the backcourt.

    Iguodala can shoot, dunk and can make a difference at any given moment. He has provided 14.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game so far in 2012-2013.

    The two haven't played together long, but the sheer talent and explosiveness of the duo has opponents scared.  

8. Boston Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Jason Terry

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    All by himself, Rajon Rondo makes any backcourt elite. He has been the leader of the Boston Celtics and recently had 37 consecutive games with at least 10 assists.

    He is second all-time for triple-doubles in the playoffs and is among the best distributors this game has seen.

    At the other guard spot, Jason Terry can provide three-point shooting and experience (specifically in terms of championships, having won one with the Dallas Mavericks).

    Terry is 35 years old though, and doesn't have quite the same capacity to penetrate and defend as he once did.

    The penetration skills of Rondo allow for Terry to gain separation for his jumpers, so the duo works, but Rondo is quickly finding himself with insufficient talent around him in Boston. 

7. Miami Heat: Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers

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    You simply can't win an NBA title without an accomplished and highly-skilled backcourt.

    The Miami Heat confirmed this with their championship last season, led in part by a backcourt of Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers.

    Wade is one of the best guards in the game, as he can score with incredible ease both through jumpers and post-moves, and is as defensively aggressive as anyone. He is likely the best shot-blocking guard in the league, and is an experienced leader.

    Chalmers has been an essential component in the success of this team.

    He is a floor general and hits three-pointers when needed. Chalmers isn't the first name to come to mind on this team, but he is greatly deserving of recognition.

    Unfortunately, this pair falls down the list due to the frustrating performances given by the Heat so far this season.  

6. Milwaukee Bucks: Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis

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    Although the Milwaukee Bucks are considered to be outside the ring of the favorites for the championship this season, they have one of the most talented backcourts in the league.

    Brandon Jennings scored 55 points in only his seventh game in the NBA, and has demonstrated speed, intelligence and shooting prowess ever since. He is an apt point guard who can penetrate and dish out dimes.

    Monta Ellis is just as dangerous. He is extremely explosive to the hoop and his shot is a difference-maker.

    Both men can take over games, and that's exactly what makes them so daunting to face. 

5. New York Knicks: Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd

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    The New York Knicks are currently and unexpectedly ranked first in the Eastern Conference, and that has happened in large part due to their new backcourt.

    Granted, Carmelo Anthony has been the star of this rising squad, but as last season showed, he can't do it alone.

    Felton has completely bounced back from a tough stint in Portland to put up 16.2 points and 6.8 assists per outing. He was particularly impressive in leading the Knicks past Miami on the road, despite playing without Melo.

    Kidd has been equally impressive, hitting more than half of his three-point shots and recording almost two steals per game. Much like Felton, his stats haven't been number-fillers either, as evidenced by his game-winning three-pointer against the Brooklyn Nets.

    New York has excelled, and the difference has come both in Melo and in who handles the ball.

    Both guards are smart and distribute the ball to perfection. Not much more you can ask for from a backcourt serving an elite scorer.  

4. Oklahoma City Thunder: Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha

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    The Oklahoma City Thunder have had immense success in recent years, including making it to the NBA Finals last season.

    Many factors go into that sort of performance, including the all-world play of Kevin Durant, but also the backcourt.

    The loss of James Harden seemingly should have hurt the team, but the Thunder haven't missed a beat.

    Russell Westbrook continues to make his case for being the best point guard in the league, with his penetration speed, great shot and thunderous dunks. He has repeatedly led this championship-caliber team in the clutch and is an immovable piece.

    At the other guard spot, Thabo Sefolosha provides exactly what his coach needs from him—great perimeter defense and the occasional three-pointer or basket.

    The duo combines explosiveness with savvy, and are a nightmare for other teams every time they step onto the court. 

3. Brooklyn Nets: Deron Williams, Joe Johnson

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    The Brooklyn Nets have only had Joe Johnson to play in the backcourt with Deron Williams for about six weeks, but the team is currently ranked sixth in the East, despite having the toughest schedule in the NBA to date.

    Williams has consistently been one of the best point guards in the league and is a born leader. He is fourth in the league in assists and hits the big shot in the big moments. He has repeatedly shown a desire to bring Brooklyn to new heights, and has the skill to do it.

    Johnson fits that bill as well. He is a strong defender with the capacity to score at any given moment. He has contributed 16 points per game this season—despite some struggles—and is a perennial All-Star.

    When these two really get it going, every team in the league better watch out.

    These are two All-Star starters with a willingness to work together, and that is something any team would boast about. 

2. San Antonio Spurs: Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili

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    Repeated success speaks for itself.

    It seems like every year is supposed to be the season San Antonio is done, yet it continues to churn out seasons such as its appearance in the Western Conference Finals last year.

    Tim Duncan used to be the man for the Spurs, and rightfully so, as he may be the best power forward ever. But now the spotlight has shifted to Tony Parker.

    Parker finished fourth in MVP voting last season and consistently takes (and makes) the important shots down the stretch.

    To his side is the most consistent sixth man the league has ever seen.

    It seems Manu Ginobili is simply always there to make the defensive stop or hit the necessary shot. His age hasn't stopped him from raining jumpers and penetrating the lane with ease.

    The Spurs could be on their way down this year, but until they finally slow down, it can't be justified to underestimate these two.  

1. Los Angeles Clippers: Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford

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    Westbrook may be making his case for being the best point guard in the league, but every time he does, the first name to pop up is Chris Paul.

    Until someone dethrones him, Paul is the best point guard—if not overall guard—in the NBA.

    There isn't much Paul can't do.

    He can hit outside jumpers, penetrate with speed and unbelievable moves, and has unreal vision in dishing out dimes.

    Paul gives you everything you could possibly want out of your ball-handler, and is perhaps the greatest leader in the league.

    It doesn't hurt his performance either to have the leading candidate for Sixth Man of the Year, Jamal Crawford, by his side.

    Crawford is scoring 17.9 points per game and has consistently shown throughout his career that he can get it done. He owns the NBA record for four-point plays and is a piece coveted by all teams.

    Quite simply, it doesn't get better than these two at this point in the NBA season.

    Paul and Crawford have been superb, and their team is winning. It doesn't appear the success of this duo will stop any time soon.