The NBA's 10 Best Backcourt Duos in 2010
Sharman and the "Houdini of Hardwood."
"Stumpy" and "Mr. Clutch."
"Clyde" and "Black Jesus."
All legendary, All-World, Hall of Fame, Championship-winning backcourt duos.
The best ever? All in the discussion, no doubt.
However, since the ABA-NBA merger in 1976, there has been no guard tandem more talented, skilled, or effective than Isiah and Joe.
Unlike the greats who came before them, Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars did more with less.
Bill Sharman and Bob Cousy had Bill Russell and Red Auerbach. Jerry West and Gail Goodrich had Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain. Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe had Willis Reed and Dave DeBusschere.
Thomas and Dumars' best offensive big men in Detroit were Bill Laimbeer and James Edwards. And yet the Pistons still appeared in three Finals and just missed a fourth. They won back-to-back titles in 1989 and 1990. Dumars won one Finals MVP; Thomas the other.
Both dynamos were under 6'3" and could pretty much do anything on the court. Thomas is considered one of the five greatest point guards ever. Dumars was a heady, versatile two best known for being the most effective defender on Michael Jordan.
As teammates, they achieved All-NBA honors eight times, All-Defensive recognition five times, and made 18 All-Star appearances. In their nine seasons together, they averaged a combined 35.6 points, 13.5 assists, 5.6 rebounds.
The Pistons have had five Hall of Famers in 62 years. Thomas and Dumars are two of them.
There have been some good backcourt duos since, but none that could match these two guys in terms of skill and impact.
Of course, one could argue Michael Jordan and the Keebler Elf is the greatest backcourt ever, but that's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about two guards playing side by side who could kill you equally.
The 2010 NBA season has shown us some awesome, electric backcourt mates who have impressed. Let's take a look at this season's top 10 guard duos.
10. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili
Both Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have been disappointing this season.
The usually healthy Parker has already missed 14 games to various injuries and will now be out around six weeks thanks to a broken shooting hand.
The usually unhealthy Ginobili has missed just five games thus far but is posting six-year lows in points per game (14.7) and field goal percentage (42.4 percent).
With both of these guys struggling—Parker hasn't played well even when 100 percent—it's no coincidence the San Antonio Spurs are sporting their lowest win percentage since 1997.
Still, when you have three NBA titles in your backcourt, it's hard to care much about what these guys do in the regular season. History tells us both Parker and Ginobili will be ready to bring it come May. Rankings and stats aside, that alone puts them in the top 10.
9. Aaron Brooks and Kevin Martin
Aaron Brooks and Kevin Martin have started nine games together in the Houston Rockets' backcourt. And if what they have accomplished thus far in that span is any indication of what's to come, Rockets fans are in for a serious treat.
In those nine games, Brooks and Martin have combined for an average of 47.7 points per game. How crazy is that? The league's highest-scoring combo, Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups, averages 48.6.
Down six-and-a-half games from the eighth playoff seed, with 18 games left to play, the Rockets will almost surely miss the playoffs. But toss some luck into the pot and, with a light schedule and a red-hot Brooks-Martin, things could get interesting down the stretch.
8. Chauncey Billups and J.R. Smith
Talk about efficient: Chauncey Billups is scoring 20 points per game on just under 13 shot attempts per game. Furthermore, he's getting to the free throw line more than any other point guard in the league. He's also shooting over 42 percent on threes and making over two per game.
Talk about inefficient: J.R. Smith is hoisting up over 13 shots per game in just 27 minutes of action and connecting on 41 percent.
But where Billups is steady, Smith is explosive, and the two form a potent backcourt combo. The tatted and volatile 6'6" Smith has scored 18 or more points in a game 23 times this season. The Nuggets are 17-6 in those games (.739) and 23-13 (.639) when he scores less or doesn't play.
Meanwhile, the Nuggets have won over 70 percent of their games in Billups' 134 games with the team.
One is a winner, the other a human highlight film. Together they're an awesome couple.
7. Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen
One guy can't do anything but shoot, the other can do anything but shoot. Together, they're the reason why a Boston Celtics ship that has taken in much water continues to stay afloat.
Despite injuries to both Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, the C's are a sure bet to win the Atlantic Division and land no worse than a fourth seed in the playoffs.
Rondo is without a doubt one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. In addition to leading the league in steals, he ranks fourth in assists and first in field goal percentage.
Old man Allen is posting 16 points per game on 12 shot attempts per game, making him one of the more efficient scorers around.
6. Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher
They were both rookies on the L.A. Lakers in 1997. Who would have thought they'd go on to play over 10 seasons together—four of them spent as a starting back court—and win four championships in seven Finals appearances?
And they could be returning to the Finals again this season.
With over 1,000 games logged, one has to wonder when Kobe is going to start showing signs of a decline. Despite a broken finger, he continues to play 39 minutes per game and prove he's still the best two in the league.
Derek Fisher, who is averaging just 7.5 points on 38 percent shooting, is a free agent this summer and turning 36. While he's still valuable as a defender and situational shooter, one could build a strong case for Fisher being the worst everyday starter in the league.
With that said, there isn't a deadlier duo with the game on the line.
5: Jason Kidd and Jason Terry
Talk to anyone who watched Jason Kidd play nightly as a member of the New Jersey Nets and you'll hear praises that will make you respond with, "Are you serious?" The answer will always be yes. In my opinion, Kidd is the best guard I've ever seen not named Michael or Magic.
Your instinct will be to disagree because, well, that statement just doesn't sound right. But consider what Kidd is doing at 37 years old (his birthday is in two weeks) and ask yourself when was the last time you saw a pro basketball player be so effective at such an age.
Kidd is averaging 10.2 points, 9.3 assists, 5.5 rebounds, two steals, two three-pointers, and only 2.5 turnovers. In other words, he ranks fifth in assists, first in rebounds (amongst guards), fifth in steals, fourth in three-pointers, and second in assist-turnover ratio. Of all the players attempting five or more threes per game, Kidd is shooting the best clip (41.5 percent).
And the Mavericks are winning, just 3.5 games behind the L.A. Lakers for the top seed in the West. Kidd has been a huge part of it; the Mavericks are 18-4 when he posts a double-double.
Another big factor is the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, Jason Terry, who at 17 points per game is the Mavs' second-leading scorer. Despite shooting his lowest field goal percentage (43.7) since 2004, Terry has been instrumental to his team's success, especially in the fourth quarter when he has proven clutch time and time again.
"The Jet" and the former jet (Kidd) aren't young men anymore, but few backcourts can match their experience, guile, and leadership.
4. Steve Nash and Jason Richardson
Despite being somewhat of a forgotten man out in the Phoenix desert, Jason Richardson is quietly having one of his better seasons. His minutes (31.8) and scoring (15.4) are down but he's playing efficiently, shooting 47/38/75, and turning the ball over only 1.4 times per 36 minutes of action.
Steve Nash remains one of the more fun-to-watch players in the league despite his age (36) and incapacity for playing defense. You would be hard-pressed to name ten players in the history of the NBA who could shoot the ball better than Nash. In five-plus years with the Suns, they've gone .669 with him and .320 without him (25 games).
Both players are class acts.
3. Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford
When these two guys are in the backcourt, we're looking at what could be the biggest guard tandem in league history. Joe Johnson is 6'8" and 240 pounds. Jamal Crawford is 6'5" and 200.
Both can shoot, score, handle the ball, pass and defend (Crawford isn't as bad as his reputation suggests), which affords them each the ability to play three positions. They're interchangeable in many ways; look at their per-36 minute averages:
Johnson: 20.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists on 46/36/83 shooting.
Crawford: 20.3 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists on 45/37/85 shooting.
The biggest difference in the two players can be found in their approaches, which is a major reason why they play so well together. Johnson's moves are more straightforward, disciplined and calculated, while Crawford plays every possession like there's only five seconds left and his team is down two.
In terms of style, this tandem might come closest to the Walt Frazier-Earl Monroe combo.
2. Brandon Roy and Andre Miller
He doesn't have a catchy nickname like "The Black Mamba" or "Flash." "B-Roy" doesn't slide off the tongue as nicely as "D-Wade." He doesn't say a whole lot. He certainly doesn't jump over cars or make commercials with Charles Barkley. He plays in Oregon. Not Hollywood. Not South Beach.
We don't hear as much about Brandon Roy for all of the reasons above. Fine. But listen up to what I'm about to say.
While he may not be as good as Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade, the gap between Roy and those all-world superstars has narrowed to the point we're no longer talking about apples and oranges but oranges and clementines.
Roy is THAT good. Of all the players in the league who score at least 20 points per game and average at least 15 shot attempts per game, Roy ranks eighth in efficiency. Which guards are better? Chauncey Billups, Chris Paul, and Joe Johnson.
Roy scores 22.3 points on 23.3 shots for a differential of minus-1.0. Bryant is almost double that at minus-1.8. Wade is minus-2.5. Monta Ellis is minus-2.6. The wildly inefficient Gilbert Arenas is minus-3.2.
Unlike Johnson, who plays on an incredibly talented Atlanta Hawks team that features another All-Star (Al Horford), and should have included a third (Josh Smith), Roy practically IS his team. As he goes, the Portland Trail Blazers go.
The Atlanta Hawks could lose Johnson and still be a formidable opponent. The Blazers are 34-20 (.630) with Roy and just 7-8 (.467) without him.
Despite turning 34 in just a few days, Andre Miller has been nothing short of exceptional. Since Steve Blake was traded away, the Blazers have gone 10-4. The Blazers play .642 ball when Miller starts, .438 when he doesn't.
1. Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry
I know what you're going to ask. "How is it even possible the best backcourt duo on this list is the only one on a losing team?"
The answer to that is quite simple and two-fold.
Andris Biedrins, Anthony Randolph, Brandan Wright, Kelenna Azubuike, Raja Bell, Vladimir Radmanovic, and Mikki Moore all experienced season-ending injuries at some point (Bell elected to undergo surgery). Monta Ellis missed 11 games. Corey Maggette and C.J. Watson each missed 10. Anthony Morrow missed 12. Ronny Turiaf has missed 32...and counting.
How the Golden State Warriors have managed to win 18 games under these circumstances is nothing short of remarkable. Surely, had this team not been eaten—"bitten" would be an understatement—by the injury bug, it would be closer to, if not over, .500.
2. Ellis and rookie Stephen Curry make up the most electric backcourt we've seen since 1998, when the Philadelphia 76ers started second-year guard Jerry Stackhouse alongside rookie Allen Iverson. Stackhouse averaged 20.7 points per game that year; Iverson 23.5.
Ellis and Curry are ridiculous. Both are identical in height and weight (6'3", 180 pounds). Both are two of the quickest, if not the quickest, players in the entire league. Ellis can fly and play above the rim. Curry can stroke 25-footers with his feet barely coming off the ground. Both can handle the ball and pass like point guards. Both can score on anyone.
There's a good reason why YouTube is flooded with highlights from these guys.
Since Jan. 1, Ellis has averaged 26 points, five assists, four rebounds, two steals, and 44/37/72 shooting percentages.
Curry? 20 points, six assists, five rebounds, two steals, and 47/43/91 shooting percentages.
It's incredible for two guys to do this in the same backcourt.
Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars they're not, but the potential to go down in history as an all-time great duo is there. However, it's far more likely the Warriors will trade Ellis for a frontcourt weapon (Amar'e Stoudemire? Al Jefferson?) and build the franchise around the younger, better-skilled, and more marketable Curry.