The Golden State Warriors are reigning NBA champions mainly due to the return of their backcourt, while the Hawks and Cavs are the biggest offseason winners due to bolstering theirs. Guard play is precious and a bit underrated because there is a narrative that these smaller players can’t win championships. However, Stephen Curry has played a massive role in revolutionizing basketball and modern guards’ impact, value, and skill set.
When ranking the best backcourts, I based my criteria on their collective talent, fit, production, and versatility. This ranking is a projection of how good I believe the backcourt will be this season. Many of these backcourts haven’t played or barely played together, so I will infer how the pairing will fit based on how they’ve played before individually.
Honorable Mention: Ja Morant and Desmond Bane
Ja Morant is so phenomenal that he won MIP despite being a star the year before. He took one of the most challenging leaps a player can make from a star to entering that superstar conversation. Morant is one of the most dynamic slashers in the game, and his rim pressure allows him to create for himself and others. One of the biggest beneficiaries of this rim pressure is Desmond Bane, one of the league’s top three and D players. Bane shot 44% from 3 during the regular season and was at a blistering 49% in the playoffs. Bane’s defense also helps the Grizzlies compensate for Ja not being a great defender. The fit between these two is like a glove; with more growth, I could see them cracking the top 5.
Number 5: Devin Booker and Chris Paul
Booker and CP3, in their first season together, made the NBA Finals. In year two, they won the most regular season games in the league. Booker continues to grow as a bucket getter, making 1st team All-NBA this past season, while CP3 continues to drop dimes leading the league in assists. Paul has already seen some decline but remained in my top 25 players, a feat I doubt he will maintain in 2023. I also project Booker to be worse than the lead player in the four backcourts I ranked above Phoenix, leaving the Suns at 5.
Number 4. James Harden and Tyrese Maxey
James Harden had a rough 2021-2022 campaign, but I expect him to bounce back significantly this season. He was still an All-Star caliber player despite dealing with the hamstring injury and looking like he lost a step. The superstar days may be over, but Harden is still capable of top 15 caliber play. Continuing the theme of MIP candidates, another one cracks the list in Tyrese Maxey. Maxey more than doubled his PPG in his sophomore season while increasing his 3PT% by nearly 13%!
Additionally, Maxey continued to thrive in the postseason as a 20+ PPG scorer in both series. Harden has fully embraced the point guard role, and Maxey has returned to his natural bucket-getter position. There are question marks with this backcourt, but I believe in their top 5 status.
Number 3. Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland
In 2023, Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland will be an elevated version of Devin Booker and Chris Paul. Garland’s offensive impact and volume from both a scoring and playmaking perspective will exceed Cp3. Mitchell has been a better playoff performer than Booker despite not having his elite floor general, which he now has. The gap between Garland and Maxey is grand and I also like Cleveland’s fit better than Philly.
Number 2. Trae Young and Dejounte Murray
Trae Young led the league this past season in total points and assists! He is among the very best offensive weapons but desperately needed someone else who could generate offense. Insert Dejounte Murray, who finished right behind Trae at 9.2 assists per game. Murray was a first-time All-Star and 20+ PPG scorer in 2021-2022. The backcourt is an excellent fit, with each guard able to fill the void the other has. Trae is one of the league’s worst defenders, so the Hawks can use Dejounte’s All-Defensive team caliber defense to guard the best opposing guards. Dejounte is a poor perimeter shooter, so the Hawks can use Trae’s limitless range for 3PT support. I like the defensive value from Murray far more than anyone on this list, and the offensive value of Trae exceeds everyone but the number 1 player on this list, Stephen Curry.
Number 1. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson
I couldn’t have the splash brothers anywhere but number 1. Stephen Curry is the best guard in basketball and proved it yet again on the biggest stage. I believe Klay Thompson still wants to prove his critics wrong and will come back playing with a massive chip on his shoulder. Despite a down year, Klay was a 20 PPG scorer, and the Warriors returned to their championship-winning ways in his first year back! These are still the two greatest shooters on earth, and they can shoot it even better than they did last season!