Since having the greatest point guard of all time, the Utah Jazz have gone through a lot of replacements. John Stockton suited up for an amazing 19 seasons for the Jazz, 15 of which were as the starter. Deron Williams was a great star as well, playing 6 years in Utah. But since? Yeesh.
Here’s the list of guys that have started at PG since Deron Williams was traded in 2011:
- Devin Harris
- Earl Watson
- Jamal Tinsley
- Mo Williams
- John Lucas III
- Trey Burke
- Dante Exum
- Raul Neto
- Shelvin Mack
- George Hill
- Ricky Rubio
George Hill was very productive, but parted ways despite a competitive extension being offered. Rubio had great moments, but wasn’t the best fit with the roster. So the Jazz are hoping that the addition of Mike Conley will finally provide the stability and production at point guard that they haven’t had in years.
That addition also makes the Jazz backcourt particularly good. In fact, it ranks near the top of the league in my book. How close to the top, you ask? Well, let’s go through and rank the top 10 and see!
Honorable Mention: De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield
This young duo was so close to leading the Sacramento Kings back to the playoffs for the first time in what feels like forever. I could absolutely see them breaking into the top 10 by the All Star break next season if they continue to progress.
The main goal here should be filing down the turnovers and improving the efficiency for Fox. For Hield, if there’s any path to becoming more competent defensively he should be doing everything he can to take it. I’m excited to see track Kings this year and honestly hope they make a playoff run.
10. Ricky Rubio and Devin Booker
Jazz fans probably feel conflicted here. On the one hand, you have a fan favorite in Rubio. On the other, you have a common antagonist in Suns fans because of Booker. Ricky’s veteran leadership and experience should help the Suns significantly, but will it be enough to start, ya know, winning basketball games in Phoenix?
I’d love to see Ricky return to his Minnesota playing style with more flash and pizazz than what he did in Utah. He could make the Suns a funner team to watch with the young pieces they have in Booker and Ayton. Ultimately, however, I don’t think his presence will turn their franchise around like Suns fans are hoping. I’m betting on yet another trip to the lottery for these guys.
9. Jamal Murray and Gary Harris
This one is more based on assumed production than how they actually performed last season. At just 21 and 24 I think the Nuggets were hoping for a bigger leap than they got from this duo, particularly Harris. They weren’t necessarily a disappointment, but Harris was considerably better in 2017-2018 than he was in 2018-2019.
I’m expecting much bigger years from these two moving forward. The Nuggets are potential contenders in the Western Conference, but they need more production from this backcourt than they got. Particularly with Jokic not being a rim protector, these two need to improve their perimeter defense. Their shooting needs to take a jump as well.
8. Ben Simmons and Josh Richardson
Don’t @ me Jazz fans. Ben Simmons is a talented basketball player even if we like to give him a bunch of grief. Can he shoot the ball? Not a lick. Can he be schemed against in the playoffs? It would certainly appear that way. But he’s still a good player and should improve.
Getting Richardson instead of losing Jimmy Butler for nothing was a pretty solid move in my opinion. He had a breakout season last year and could be poised for another step forward. They won’t shoot the lights out, but these two can score and create really well. It will be interesting to see how they fit together.
7. Malcolm Brogdon and Victor Oladipo
I loved this move for the Indiana Pacers. In a similar position as the Utah Jazz, this was a big offseason for them. I didn’t think Milwaukee would let Brogdon go, so when the Pacers got aggressive and added him as a backcourt mate for Oladipo I was pretty excited.
I think a lot of people around the NBA are curious to know how Brogdon will perform in a bigger role. His efficiency is off the charts, so Indiana will test his limits next season. This backcourt should produce big time next season assuming Oladipo comes back healthy. They were an easy pick for a top 10 slot for me.
6. Kemba Walker and Jaylen Brown
I had a hard time with this tandem. Kemba Walker is a known product and bonafide All Star at this point. You pretty much know what you’re going to get from him. Jaylen Brown had a promising start to his career, but hasn’t taken that leap that you’d hope for in a 3rd year guard. I expect bigger things from him now that Celtics locker room issues should be (mostly) resolved.
There will certainly be a problem for opposing teams more often than not. The defense might not be amazing, but I bet they’ll score more points than they give up most nights. Kemba Walker has better tools in Boston than he’s possibly ever had in Charlotte. How much better can he look in Brad Steven’s system?
5. Kyrie Irving and Caris Levert
An unfortunate injury shortened Caris Levert’s breakout season to just 40 games. But at just 24 years old I have no doubts about his ability to bounce back and be even better. How will Kyrie fit on his 3rd team in just 4 seasons?
Kyrie is one of the best scorers in the game. He can finish at the rim and shoots extremely well from deep. It almost wouldn’t matter who his backcourt partner is, he’d probably find his way in the top 10 anyways. Levert should be more than serviceable next season and will be a big part to their success. I especially like their combined AST% and TOV% with their higher usage.
4. Stephen Curry and D’Angelo Russell
Is Steph good enough by himself to justify a spot in the top 3? That’s certainly possible. So how could adding an All Star possibly leave this backcourt out of the top 3? Honestly, I just need to see a little bit more from DLo. I’m a big fan, but he was really only an All Star because he was in the Leastern Conference.
These two are absolutely going to light up opposing defenses. They just put the ball in the basket. They’re also really good creatures, albeit in very different ways. It will be interesting to see how Steve Kerr figures how to blend their play styles. I’m also concerned about them defensively, especially without Klay Thompson to help on the outside. I feel like his defense can still be under appreciated at times and we’re all about to find out.
3. Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell
I was this close to putting these two at number 2. But as much as I hate his style, James Harden is just that good. So for now I’ve got Donovan and Conley firmly as the number 3 backcourt in the NBA. But if I revisit this at the end of the year, don’t be shocked if this combo climbs all the way to the top.
Spida is going to be a different player with Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic in the mix. No more last second “please make something happen on your own” possessions from Donovan for the Jazz. The amount of space he’ll have to work with is going to enable him to take a huge leap forward. Starting January 1st, Mitchell averaged 26.5 points on 44.6% from the field and 41.4% from 3. And he was getting to the line 6 times a game. Imagine what he’ll do with a very effective partner like Conley to work with. Conley had a career year in his own right despite being on a talent-depleted and tanking Memphis Grizzlies team. These two are going to make sweet basketball music every night for the Jazz. So #TakeNote because they are coming.
2. James Harden and Russell Westbrook
Based on their individual talents, this could/should be the best backcourt in the league. This is two former MVP’s joining up to play together again. There might be games where just the two of them score more points than the entire other team... if there was more than 1 basketball.
Westbrook’s efficiency fell off the charts and he’s possibly the worst fit for Houston Rocket’s 3 ball or nothing offense. This combination just seems so awkward at this point. D’Antoni might have to stagger their minutes as best as possible to keep them happy because they are very much used tot having the ball in their hands. I’ve got them at number 2 out of sheer respect for what they’ve accomplished and that they’re technically still in their primes, but I’m not convinced this made the Rockets better at all.
1. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum
Fresh off a trip to the Western Conference finals, this dynamic duo is now locked up long term to play for the Portland Trail Blazers. They’ve been doubted most of their careers, but at this point I think they are the best backcourt in the game. My favorite part about these two is that they are both from mid-major programs in Weber State and Lehigh.
I get that defense is half of basketball and these two aren’t stoppers by any means. But they also can’t be stopped. They’re even undersized but they still don’t care. On any given night, sometimes on the same night, they’ll drop 30 and barely break a sweat. They attack the rim, hit you with a floater, and make you pay from outside. They are also easy to like and enjoyable to watch. For now, Dame and CJ take the top spot in my book.