In the last decade, the NBA has transformed from being a big man’s league into a guard’s league. Although frontcourts have always, and will always be the foundation of a winning team, recently franchises have found it much more difficult to build an elite frontline than putting together a competitive 1-2 punch. Ultimately, putting together a dominant frontcourt is what separates the good teams from the great ones, because in today’s game every team has talented guards. Frankly, each team has a backcourt that can outplay its opponent on any given night, which is why it is so difficult to pick five particular tandems as the best up-and-comers in the League.
Dominant big men only come around every 10 years or so, while there are a number of talented guards coming out every year. Franchises have come to realize that taking a chance on a skilled guard makes much more sense than taking a chance on a big based solely on his potential. Just look at the draft boards for the previous 10 years. In the early 2000s, it was common to value big men over guards. However, after franchises watched guys like Greg Oden, Andrew Bogut, Hasheem Thabeet and Marvin Williams fall short of their expectations, the tables have turned. Now you see guys like Derrick Rose, John Wall and Kyrie Irving going No. 1 overall as opposed to Kevin Love and DeMarcus Cousins.
What really eats at me is that had my hometown Hawks not been so high on Marvin Williams, we could have had a backcourt composed of Chris Paul and Joe Johnson, which would undoubtedly be No. 1 on this list.
The guard play in the NBA has taken a significant leap in competitiveness. In the early 2000s, if your name wasn’t Iverson, Bryant, Carter or McGrady, you were pretty much irrelevant. In today’s game, each guard is capable of outplaying his opponent on any given night.
Ranking the league’s top 5 up-and-coming backcourt tandems going into the 2012 season is no easy task. It was a very difficult selection to make. You’re probably asking yourself what my definition of “best” is pertaining to the subject. Well, to answer your question, this list is composed of backcourts that are not ridiculously top-heavy, that can defend (or at least outscore), have solid contributions off the bench, and who still have untapped potential left in the tank. With all of that said, here are our top five up-and-coming backcourts in the NBA.
5. Sacramento Kings
I can admit, putting the Kings on this list was a bit of a force, being that they haven’t proven anything at all yet. However, the key factor in their case is untapped potential, which they might have more of than any other team in the League. Tyreke Evans is the face of the franchise and potential oozes through his pores. This year I’m predicting he goes back to being a 20-point scorer, and could potentially make his first All-Star team. His backup, Marcus Thornton is one of the most underrated backups in the league. He’s also capable of putting up 20 on any given night. But what’s most intriguing about this backcourt is the additions of Jimmer Fredette and “Mr. Irrelevant” Isaiah Thomas. The Kings know exactly what they are getting with Fredette, and it’s exactly what they needed. Tyreke is without a doubt one of the best attackers of the basket in the league right now. You put Jimmer out there with him and he’ll become an even better one. What Jimmer can do to help this team win is stretch the floor with his range, and open up driving lanes for Tyreke that he’s never seen before. The team’s success will ultimately be measured by how well Jimmer can play off of the basketball. Now that he isn’t the No. 1 option anymore it’s going to be interesting to watch him adjust to his new role.
His backup, Isaiah Thomas will provide a great change of pace and spark off the bench. With his combination of energy and skill, he’s a tough cover for any backup PG in the Leauge. By the end of this season I don’t think anyone will be referring to him as “Mr. Irrelevant”. The Kings have an amazing young nucleus led by a budding superstar. If there’s one word to describe the Kings backcourt, it’s potential.
4. Chicago Bulls
Last season, the Chicago Bulls’ backcourt was a one-man wrecking crew. I know you’re probably thinking how is this backcourt not ridiculously top heavy? The answer to that question is Richard Hamilton. If there was one weakness on the Bulls, it was the lack of scoring at the two guard position. During the regular season, Derrick Rose carried the scoring load for the Chicago Bulls’ backcourt, averaging 25 points a game on the way to his first MVP. The next highest scoring average by a guard on the Bulls was 8.3 ppg from Kyle Korver. The acquisition of Richard Hamilton fills that void.
All Derrick Rose needed was a little help. Now that he’s gotten Rip, who can almost guarantee you a solid 18 a game, the Bulls have become even better than they were last season. With the help of Brewer’s defensive toughness and Korver’s three-point shooting, look for the Bulls backcourt to be one of the league’s best this season.