After everyone has done their signings, released and trading, we’re left with these five teams that enjoy a better starter-backup duo at point guard than anyone else in the NBA: The Denver Nuggets with Ty Lawson and Andre Miller, the Cleveland Cavaliers with Kyrie Irving and Jarrett Jack, the San Antonio Spurs with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, the Los Angeles Clippers with Chris Paul and Darren Collison and the Portland Trail Blazers with Damian Lillard and Mo Williams.
What makes the best duo? It usually depends on the strength of the backup. A starter doesn’t have to be a superstar (like Russell Westbrook), but there needs to be a very small quality drop between the two players when there’s a substitution, while the level of quality we get from the opening point guard is quite high to start with.
Numer 5 – Ty Lawson & Andre Miller (Denver Nuggets)
Numbers: Ty Lawson averaged 16.7 points and 6.9 assists during his fourth NBA season, starting in 71 out of 73 games for the Nuggets, playing 34.4 minutes a night. Andre Miller averaged 9.6 points and 5.9 assists per game, playing in all 82 games for the Nuggets, coming off the bench in 71 one of them, playing 26.2 minutes a night.
Maybe the duo with two players that are closest together in terms of ability right now in the league, with the Nuggets not losing too much when Miller steps on the court. The Nuggets second best lineup last season in terms of offensive efficiency and +/- was when the two actually played together in the backcourt, and won it’s playing time by the best percentage out of all the 5-man units the Nuggets had on the floor last season (64%). Miller is better defensively, but the problem with him is he thinks he can still score like he used to a few years ago, trying to do too much on his own in crunch time.
Number 4 – Kyrie Irving & Jarrett Jack (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Numbers: Irving averaged 22.5 points and 5.9 assists last season for the Cavs, starting in 59 games, averaging 34.7 minutes a night. Jack played for the Warriors last season, starting in 4 of his 79 games. He averaged 12.9 points and 5.6 assists on 29.7 minutes a night.
This is a new combo, but if Jack continues to play like he has for the last couple of years, Irving doesn’t just have himself an excellent, if not the best in the NBA, backup at the position, but someone who thrived last year playing next to Stephen Curry and even in three guard setups, which sounds very intriguing for the Cavs who’d like to see how a Irving-Jack-Waiters lineup might work.
Number 3 – Tony Parker & Manu Ginobili (San Antonio Spurs)
We’re ranking them this high because we believe Ginobili can bounce back from an injury-filled season (Each one seems to be injury-filled these last few years) and a terrible two-game stretch in the NBA finals we’re pretty sure he’ll want to avenge in some way, if he gets the chance. In terms of what this pair has done together, no one in the league can rival. Ginobili might be listed as a shooting guard, but he’s a point guard when he’s on the floor, even if Parker is playing next to him.
Number 2 – Chris Paul & Darren Collison (Los Angeles Clippers)
Numbers: Chris Paul (Clippers last year) played and started in 70 games, averaging 16.9 points and 9.7 assists on 33.4 minutes a night, his lowest minute number of his NBA career. Collison, playing for the Mavs, averaged 12 points and 5.1 assists for the Mavs, starting in 47 of the 81 games he played.
The two were a starter-backup tandem back in Collison’s rookie season (2009-2010), when he got the chance to take over for Paul, missing almost half the season due to injury. Collison lost his place in the Mavs’ lineup last season after a rift between him and Rick Carlisle, but he might be a better player than Eric Bledsoe, and this looks like something that will work out quite well for the Clippers, keeping them as one of the deepest teams in the NBA, with what might be the best bench unit in the league.
Number 1 – Damian Lillard & Mo Williams (Portland Trail Blazers)
Numbers: Lillard, on his rookie campaign, finished as rookie of the year in the NBA, starting in all 82 games last season. He averaged 19 points and 6.5 assists on 38.6 minutes a night. Williams missed around half the season, but did put in 12.9 points with 6.2 assists on 30.8 minutes a night in the 46 games he did start.
Williams looked for a team that’ll give him a starting spot and a bit more money than a minimum deal, but the Blazers was the best situation he could find. Not a bad one, with Lillard aiming to already become one of the best point guards in the league, while having a backup that might be good enough to start for over half the league as well. Having C.J. McCollum, a player who can also fill the position, makes the Blazers’ backcourt one of the more intriguing we can think of next season.