There were few bright spots for the Golden State Warriors during the 2009-10 season, but the emergence of Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis as one of the NBA's top back courts has to rank at the top of the list.
After Ellis was able to put aside some petty concerns, the duo became the NBA's top scoring guard tandem at 42 points per game, and with new owners, a new coach, and a new roster, things could be even better this season.
The Warriors made some significant acquisitions in the off-season by grabbing David Lee to strengthen their interior, and forward Dorrell Wright to add a defensive identity.
Former owner Chris Cohan finally relinquished his grip on the franchise, and the defensive-minded Keith Smart took over for long time head coach Don Nelson.
All of those moves should make the Warriors a better team than last season's version, but only if Curry and Ellis can replicate their performances from last year.
Make no mistake, Lee will give the Warriors much needed scoring on the interior, but if Golden State has any hopes of a postseason journey, Ellis and Curry will be the reason they get there.
Curry finished as last season's runner-up for the NBA's Rookie of the Year award, and added 5.3 assists and 4.5 rebounds to go along with his 17.5 points per game, while shooting 46 percent from the field.
Ellis averaged 25.5 points per game as well as 5.3 assists and 4 rebounds while shooting 45 percent from the field.
Curry and Ellis seldom get any recognition as one of the NBA's top back courts due to the Warriors' poor record last season, but in truth there are very few duos who produced in such a balanced nature.
Other teams, such as the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, and Orlando Magic had back court tandems who were considered superior to Golden State's, but none of those duos scored as much, and none were as balanced.
Most teams have back courts that are comprised of one dominant player like the Lakers' Kobe Bryant, who is usually responsible for the bulk of the backcourt's statistical output.
Curry and Ellis could surpass last season in terms of production, but it will not equal respect unless it makes a positive difference in the wins/losses category.
This season the Warriors will likely join a group of teams that include the Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, and Phoenix Suns, as franchises on the verge of reaching the postseason.
Curry expanded his game in the off-season by competing with the US team that recently won gold in the FIBA World Championships. This experience should help him next season.
Last season man to man defense and the ability to find open teammates in the half-court set were Curry's biggest weaknesses, and those are areas that he focused on in the summer.
Curry's intelligence and feel for the game already places him ahead of the sophomore learning curve, and it doesn't hurt to have what may be the NBA's prettiest jumper in your repertoire.
Ellis had reservations about sharing the back court with Curry prior to last season, due to their height, but those fears were erased when Ellis saw how advanced Curry's game was.
Once Ellis realized that Curry had no problem deferring the star role, he was able to concentrate on the talent that placed him among the NBA's top 10 scorers last season.
Although Ellis is a premier scorer, there are still areas of his game that could use some attention, and none are more glaring than his shot selection.
Ellis's five assists per game are a little misleading, because most of those came after all other opportunities to shoot the ball had been exhausted.
Ellis was often so focused on getting his own shot, that he sometimes missed wide open teammates under the rim, or found himself stuck in the air with nowhere to pass the ball.
This seems more like an issue of trusting his teammates than anything else, and considering who those teammates were, it's a little easier to understand Ellis' motives.
But not this season.
Ellis should have no shortage of teammates to pass the ball to this season, and if he does develop more trust, his assist numbers should increase, even if his scoring does dip a little due to Lee's presence inside.
The Warriors are poised to turn some heads next season, if they can live up to the expectations that their off-season moves have created.
But, it could be argued that none of those moves were as important as insuring that their back court remained intact, because if the Warriors do meet expectations it will be largely due to Curry and Ellis.
The duo may not be considered one of the NBA's top back courts unless the Warriors' regular season is extended, but it's safe to say Curry and Ellis already reside among the league's most explosive.
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