While Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson already hold the title of being the best shooting backcourt in the NBA, their title will undergo a slight change by the end of the upcoming season: best backcourt in the NBA.
In a league that features the stellar guard play of such players as Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and so on, it is a fairly high benchmark to predict on the two young stars. It’s also one, however, that they might have already achieved.
The beauty of the affectionately known “Splash Brothers” is that their games blend so well with each other. It’s no secret that both are exceptional marksmen, with Curry shooting the three at an absurd .453 clip and Thompson not far behind at .401. That is only one layer of their games, though.
As adept a shooter and scorer as Curry is, his playmaking abilities aren’t far behind. He handles the ball as though it is on a string and passes as though there are eyes on the back of his head. He is an absolute wizard on the court, as impossible a cover as you’ll find in the league.
We know what we’re getting from Curry though; he’s an established NBA superstar. If the two are to attain the mantle of best backcourt in the NBA, it will be Thompson who must step up his game even more. He must evolve into a more complete player, truly becoming Curry’s partner in crime and not just another floor spacer.
Fortunately for the Golden State Warriors, we’ve already seen Thompson use the offseason to raise his game before. The improvement from his rookie season to last year’s sophomore campaign was crucial to the Warrior’s surprise playoff run.
He saw upticks in his scoring, passing and rebounding numbers, although his shooting percentages suffered a bit. That, however, can be explained by the large rise in his minutes, shooting up from 24.4 in 2011-12 to 35.8 in 2012-13. As a third-year player, Thompson should be more adept to handling the wear and tear of the grueling NBA season, and his shooting percentages will be the beneficiaries.
The arrival of Andre Iguodala will also help boost the production of Curry and Thompson. Whereas Thompson took the burden of guarding the opponent’s best player upon himself last season, that task will now fall on the capable shoulders of Iguodala.
Not having to chase a high-caliber scorer around the perimeter will keep both Curry and Thompson fresh, especially on the offensive side of the ball where their magic truly happens. That being said, however, defense is still half of the game, and both must improve if they are to truly embrace the best in the game mantle.
The problem for Curry has always been his size. While he has found ways to make up for his size deficiency on the offensive side of the ball, he has faltered routinely when guarding big, punishing guards. With Iguodala, however, the Warriors can handpick whom he defends and use him as more of a ball hawk on defense. His 1.62 steals per game last year show how dangerous those quick hands can be.
Good defense doesn’t always mean bottling someone up; fulfilling his role, however big or small, is all the Warriors need from Curry on defense. Thompson plays a much bigger role on this side of the ball, though. Whether it was Ty Lawson, Iguodala or Tony Parker, Thompson showed some serious defensive chops in last season’s playoffs, as Bleacher Report's Grant Hughes described here.
This side of the ball is where Thompson can close some of the gap between him and Curry and, more importantly, increase it between them and the rest of the league. With all of the offensive firepower they provide, making defense a strength would solidify their spot on the top of the pecking order.
To his credit, Thompson understands that his game still has a ways to go, but he made his intent on becoming a top guard very clear, via Ryan Brown of letsgowarriors.com:
There’s a lot of good young guards in this league. James Harden, Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans. I don’t know if I’m quite there yet, but it’s definitely a goal for me to be in the Top 5.
Enough about defense, though; we pay to see these guys score, like they do in the video seen here. And they do that about as well as any combo in the league. Curry’s 22.9 points per game trailed only the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook’s 23.2 among point guards. Curry was also far more efficient in getting those points.
Curry not only shot 45 percent from the field, but from the three-point line as well. He also shot at exactly 90 percent from the free-throw line. Westbrook couldn’t touch him here, failing to crack 44 percent from the field, only shooting 32 percent from the three-point line and just 80 percent from the free-throw line.
So while Westbrook finished as the highest scoring point guard, Curry was clearly the best scoring point guard in the NBA.
When his nearly seven assists and four rebounds per game are factored in as well, it’s not hard to see how Curry entered the upper echelon of the NBA. The biggest beneficiary of Curry’s passing is Thompson, who last year hit dagger after dagger from outside when defenses felt the need to get the ball out of Curry’s hands.
That is what makes them so dangerous. They complement each other so well. If Curry is doubled, the ball finds a way into Thompson’s hands. When Thompson keeps the defenses honest, it allows Curry to go to work and create his own shot. It’s the most lethal pick-your-poison game in the league. And they’re only getting better.
Curry, 25, and Thompson, 23, have yet to hit their primes. When that happens, the league better watch out. If they thought guarding these two was difficult now, it’s only going to get harder.
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