Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Ranking the NBA's Best Backcourts

Noted idiot Dion Waiters got into some Twitter fight or something with John Wall this week over who was the best pair of starting guards in the NBA, the Wizards' Wall and Bradley Beal or the Cavaliers' Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. Now Waiters might have rested his case with a Youtube clip of him scoring 24 points on contested 2s, but we at The Whole 42 Minutes like to dig a little deeper (Andy a little deeper?).

What follows is the comprehensive ranking of NBA guard units, including backups.

Raymond Felton Tier: Shitty and Fat

30. Pistons (Brandon Jennings, Jodie Meeks, and D.J. Augustin)
Stan Van Gundy has had a pretty respectable coaching career with the Heats and Magics, but man he's got his work cut out for him this season. The Pistons gave Meeks 3 years and $19 million to be one of the shittiest guards in the league. D.J. Augustin is about 5'10'' but he can at least score 15 points a game for a month. Brandon Jennings is in year 6 and shot 37% last season. He's terrible and makes no one better. But at least Detroit has a lot of other stuff going for it as a city.

29. Pacers (George Hill, Rodney Stuckey, C.J. Watson)
George Hill is fine if he's the 5th best starter on a really good team, he can be a Chalmers or a Devean George type. But if you have to rely on him to do anything, he can't. He has an okay shot and is a good defender but he cannot drive the ball. The Pacers offense was shit even with Lance Stephenson and Paul George and is only going to get worse this year. Hill is a big reason for that. Rodney "50 Cent" Stuckey and C.J. Watson are one dimensional scorers who are flotsam for an 11th seed but not actual players for good teams.

28. 76ers (Michael Carter-Williams, Tony Wroten, and Casper Ware)
I have no idea who Tony Wroten and Casper Ware are. They are the 76ers other guards (I think). The 76ers really better hope some of their young players are good because this extreme tanking can easily end horribly. Carter-Williams won rookie of the year based on his counting stats but he's still a very tall point guard who can score. He's going to have to get the stats again this season but it's unlikely that'll actually translate into victories.

27. Kings (Darren Collison, Ben McLemore, Nik Stauskas, and Ramon Sessions)
I'm pretty sure that someone once traded a first round pick for Ramon Sessions...who is the NBA equivalent of a replacement player. McLemore and Stauskas are both recent high draft picks who can shoot, so there's some hope here. But given the Kings' incompetence, I'm not holding my breath that they turn into good players. Darren Collison is great if he's your 4th guard, but if you've got to rely on him, you get his shitty defense and decision making all the time!

26. Bucks (Brandon Knight, O.J. Mayo, Jerryd Bayless)
They would probably be a bit higher if I included the Greek Freak, but I didn't. He's like 7 feet tall, he's not a shooting guard. Brandon Knight for Brandon Jennings was the most depressing trade since John Salmons, Corey Maggette, and Ben Gordon all got swapped. O.J. Mayo could actually be okay if he's not fat, but he has to live in Milwaukee so he's probably fat (no ofence). The Bucks just got sold on the condition that they not move the team. That's a shame. The NBA would probably be better served with a team in Seattle or a second team in Chicago rather than keeping a team in Milwaukee.

The "I guess that's a fine plan" Tier

25. Jazz (Trey Burke, Gordon Hayward, and Alec Burks)
Gordon Hayward is basically the new Jeff Green. He's good enough to justify making good money, but not the kind of guy you can actually build a team around. He's a third guy getting paid over $15 million a year. Trey Burke and Alec Burks are both young guys with potential but at a certain point you've got to actually win games. The Jazz have been hyping up Derrick Favors and Enes Kantor for the past three years, but have yet to see any results.

24. Magic (Victor Oladipo, Ellfrid Payton, Evan Fournier, and Ben Gordon)
Oladipo definitely showed some flashes of being awesome last year. He's not really a point guard but that's okay because the Magic aren't trying to win games yet. Payton was a high draft pick last summer so maybe he'll be good. I'm ranking them just above the Jazz because they are a tad younger so there's more of a chance they are a good pair of guards.

There's a plan and it's bad Tier:
23. Timberwolves (Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, J.J. Barea, Mo Williams, Zach LaVine)
Ricky Rubio is not very good. He's got the ability to pass which is great, but considering how he's not a threat to score ever, his passing value is mitigated by teams not having to guard him when he doesn't have the ball. Kevin Martin is a god awful defender. J.J. Barea and Mo Williams are just chuckers who played on good teams once upon a time. The Timberwolves really better hope Wiggins is good because their guards are awful.

22. Knicks (Jose Calderon, J.R. Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr., Pablo Prigioni, Iman Shumpert, and Shane Larkin)
The Knicks have way too many guards and none of them can really penetrate. Prigioni, Calderon, J.R. Smith, and Tim Hardaway Jr. are all great spot up shooters, but that's about all they can do. Seriously, J.R. Smith actually shot 46.5% on spot up 3s; it's him dribbling and being the #1 option where he's awful. There's not really a plan here, especially at shooting guard. The Knicks in the triangle might get something more from these guys, but there's really very little to like.

21. Mavericks (Monta Ellis, Raymond Felton, Jameer Nelson, and Devin Harris)
So the Mavs have four guards who aren't great at shooting or defense! Three of them are clearly washed up! The Mavericks are really far away from actually being good. Last season Dirk stayed healthy; Marion, Carter, and Ellis all had good seasons; and they still were the 8 seed. Tyson Chandler Parsons are nice additions but the ceiling for this team is probably getting swept in the second round.

20. Celtics (Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, James Young, and Marcus Smart)
Avery Bradley got a 4 year $32 million contract. Whyyyyyyyy? He's a third guard on a lottery team in the Eastern Conference. Rondo is injured for the beginning of the season and hasn't been good in a couple years. He's not getting any younger and still, you know, can't shoot. He's the kind of player whose skills aren't going to age great. In other news, I can't wait to try and convince myself he was worth the max contract the Knicks will give him next summer. Young and Smart have a lot of potential and whatnot, but right now this isn't a great unit.

19. Lakers (Kobe Bryant, Jeremy Lin, and Steve Nash)
This is probably too high of a ranking out of respect for Kobe. Nash is done but Lin is a serviceable point guard. If Kobe gets hurt they could easily be the worst group of guards. Note that Swaggy P counts as a small forward here.

18. Heat (Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole, Shabazz Napier)
Why did the Heat draft a third point guard? Oh right, LeBron tweeted that he was playing well in the NCAA tournament. Chalmers and Cole are fine if you've got Bosh and LeBron and Wade. Well really, LeBron. Wade is the big question mark. If he can have one last great season then this could be a good group, but that's a huge if at this point. Apparently, he didn't work on his 3 point shot at all, because why would an aging guard be able to shoot the most valuable shot in basketball?

Yeah, that's fine Tier
17. Hawks (Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, and Shelvin Mack)
Jeff Teague would be better if every game were the playoffs. But he's pretty hit or miss. Korver gets a lot of love in sabermetric circles because of his insane shooting ability, but he's not a great individual player on offense or defense. He needs other guys to get him open and on this team that's not that easy. Also, fuck Danny Ferry.

16. Raptors (Kyle Lowry, Greivis Vasquez, DeMar DeRozan, and Terrence Ross)
DeRozan plays the 3 a decent amount for this team or else they'd be ranked higher. Lowry had a career year last season that'll be hard to replicate, but he's still pretty young and on a good deal. Vasquez is a good backup point guard and Terrence Ross even scored over 50 points in a game last season. The Raptors are just about average here which is good enough for a top 5 seed in the East.

15. Hornets (Kemba Walker, Lance Stephenson, Gerald Henderson, Gary Neal)
The Hornets and the next three teams on this list are all very confusing. What's the plan here? Everything broke right for them last season and they got swept by the Heat. Al Jefferson is only going to get worse, Kemba Walker is undersized and inconsistent, and their lottery picks have not panned out. Lance Stephenson is great if he's going to be your 4th or 5th guy, but he's legitimately their second best player. The Hornets have basically forced themselves into the 6th-8th seed and the possibility of nothing else. 

14. Grizzlies (Mike Conley, Courtney Lee, Tony Allen, and Beno Udrih)
Mike Conley is extremely underrated. His defense is a huge part of the Grizzlies' ability to shut down opposing offenses and his constant movement on offense makes all of his teammates better. Tony Allen and Courtney Lee are nice complements that can bring offense or defense depending on what the situation requires. The Grizzlies get it done every year even though it's not fun to watch.

13. Nuggets (Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo, Nate Robinson, Randy Foye)
Arron Afflalo is pretty underrated, especially when you factor in that there aren't a lot of shooting guards, especially those that can play defense. Ty Lawson is also a guy I probably like too much because he doesn't get mentioned a lot and I like to have my own little "don't forget Lawson" hot take.

12. Pelicans (Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Austin Rivers, Tyreke Evans)
These guys are all names who are not as good as their names, but also not that bad. Except Austin Rivers. He's literally only in the league because his dad is a famous doctor for the players. The Pelicans have a lot of guys -- Ryan Anderson, Omer Asik, and Anthony Davis in addition to these three guards -- so they really have no excuse. Anthony Davis is going to be really good, but holy shit he falls for every up fake. Watch him sometimes. He probably likes jumping a lot.

Good, but Not Great Tier:

11. Nets (Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Jarrett Jack, Marquis Teague)
The Nets spent so  much money for a roster that actually works together, especially with the right coach, and yet they are still stuck as a boring middle seed. They might win a playoff series against a team like Toronto but they have no chance once they play a real team. That's kind of what you get with Deron Williams and Joe Johnson making enough money to live in Williamsburg without their parents supporting (I joke, I joke, no one can do that). Jarrett Jack as a third guard could actually be good for this team, but he's not a guy you want to rely on at all.

Stars and the Spurs:

10. Rockets (James Harden, Patrick Beverly, Nick Johnson)
Guys, for serious, James Harden is going to try on defense this season. Patrick Beverly is fun to watch, but you still sort of want a point guard like Jeremy Lin for the games when his shit isn't working. Luckily for the Rockets, they traded all their depth when they got Chris Bosh. Nick Johnson is the name of a friend of mine from high school who was really short but strong.

9. Bulls (Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Kirk Hinrich)
This ranking is basically me being a pussy and not making a prediction on Derrick Rose. The Bulls could be way higher if he's 2011 Derrick Rose or way lower if he's 2013/USA World Cup team Rose. He seemed incredibly tentative and hesitant, but he's still very young. Jimmy Butler forgot offense last season, but if everything goes according to plan he will never dribble and only shoot the widest open 3s.

8. Spurs (Tony Parker, Danny Green, Patty Mills, Manu Ginobili)
Parker is going to slow down one of these years. He's sneakily a little older than you think (32). Same with Manu -- he was fucking awesome last playoffs but he's already battling some health issues. Patty Mills and Danny Green are marginal NBA players. Luckily, they are on the Spurs so they only do the things they can do and nothing else ever.

7. Thunder (Russell Westbrook, Reggie Jackson, Anthony Morrow, Jeremy Lamb)
This entire ranking is just me showing love to Westbrook. I think this is the season where he establishes himself as the clear #1 point guard. He's the most athletic, and despite the stupid shit he does in big moments, he's incredibly important to the Thunder offense. The whole LETWESTBROOKBEWESTBROOK thing is incredibly stupid. The premise is basically that he can't be aggressive without doing things like shooting pull-up 21 footers with 20 seconds left on the shot clock. I disagree. He can still run around the court and do crazy shit while thinking. He's not the Tasmanian devil. He's capable of making decisions. He makes them and isn't just operating via his awesome athleticism. There are subtleties to playing point guard that he's figuring out (see Ibaka's increased production with him), and there's no excuse for his decisions 10% of the time. That being said, what he gives with his 90% is enough to forgive anything. I didn't remember Lamb's first name, but I'm pretty sure he better play this year since James Harden has locked up the First Team All-NBA SG spot.

6. Trailblazers (Damian Lillard, Wes Matthews, Will Barton)
Lillard and Wes Matthews have nice complementary games. Lillard's defense is fucking atrocious, but he's a great shooter surrounded by other great shooters and just in year 3. Matthews and Batum really anchor an actually okay defense, with Matthews having a game like Joe Johnson where he can put his ass into smaller SGs, forcing a double or an easier score. Ask James Harden about that ass, ask him!

Stars and Depth:

5. Cavaliers (Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Mike Miller)
This is probably a bit too high, but I'm assuming LeBron and Kevin Love will make life really easy for Waiters and Irving. Irving has a ton of talent, but he seemed to be going down the Starbury path of putting up great numbers for shitty teams. With LeBron and Love occupying the defense, Irving will play a lot less one-on-one and make his teammates way better. Waiters is the heir apparent in the Crawford-Terry-JR Smith-Nick Young line of wing players who are fucking annoying (unless they are on your team, in which case you defend them and embarrass yourself because in the deepest part of your heart you regret buying a JR Smith shirsey), but can be good in the right setup.

4. Wizards (John Wall, Bradley Beal, Andre Miller)
Yay John Wall still can't shoot! Bradley Beal can only shoot. Andre Miller looks like Adam Sandler (according to the EIC). The Wizards fans getting so hype about their shitty team is really cute. They are locked in to the core of Gortat-Nene-Nene's nagging injury-Wall-Beal. This year Paul Pierce plays the role of Trevor Ariza. My prediction: an unwatchable 7-game series with the Nets that hopefully ends the careers of KG and Pierce! ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!

3. Suns (Goran Dragic, Isiah Thomas, Eric Bledsoe, Gerald Green)
Isiah Thomas scored over 20 ppg last season and is their #3 guard. Gerald Green scored over 15 a game. This is a really talented offensive group that can each do his own little thing. The issue will be defense, especially with Thomas, but they are young and athletic as hell. The Suns, the most exciting 9 seed, LEAGUE PASS ALERT. Note on LEAGUE PASS ALERT: it's just a humble brag that you don't just watch the main games, but follow all the action. It's like saying your favorite album is some obscure shit that was recorded during a party in someone's basement before the band ever got discovered. Those people are the worst.

Hoochie Mama:

2. Clippers (Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford)
Chris Paul is such a bitch. He's so good at basketball, but his bumping, whining, flailing shit is just so hard to watch. It actually distracts me from how good he is because I want him to fail. Redick tries really hard (at writing poetry). Jamal Crawford has an insane amount of arc on his shot. Sometimes the camera loses the ball when he shoots it. The Clippers need to get their shit together this year. This is year 4 with Paul and they haven't made the conference finals. Redick and Crawford having a huge series would go a long way towards helping that.

1. Warriors (Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Shaun Livingston)
Klay Thompson isn't anywhere near the best shooting guard in the NBA. It's like his agent is trying to increase his value so his client gets paid more! Steph Curry and Thompson are a really nice pair, especially with Iguodala. Having two perimeter defenders who can guard just about anybody allows the Warriors to hide Curry on the worst player. It's a luxury that allows this awesome pair to survive on defense and crush on offense. Hopefully Steve Kerr lets them shoot 15 3s a game. Shaun Livingston is also capable of running a second unit and playing with Curry or replacing Curry. But he spells his name wrong.

There you have it. Definitive analysis that's totally true.

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