Power Rankings: Eastern Conference’s Top Backcourts
I, like many other basketball fans, have been absolutely overwhelmed by college basketball over the past week and using that as an excuse to pretend that the Miami Heat game never happened. That being said, just because college ball has taken over my life, doesn’t mean I can’t make a bunch more lists ranking aspects of the NBA. Today that list will be ranking the backcourts in the Eastern Conference.
15: Brooklyn Nets: Donald Sloan (7.1ppg) and Wayne Ellington (7.7ppg)
This was the first team I genuinely knew neither of the starters. It was a really nice surprise finding out that both of those guys were named Wayne, and that was about it. Brooklyn is the saddest team in the NBA, not only are they not good, but they have no picks for the next several years so there isn’t any way they can improve through the draft. Brooklyn is bad, which inevitably was going to reflect in their placement in these ratings, but on top of that their “best” players include Brook Lopez, Bojan Bogdanovic and Thaddeus Young, all frontcourt players. Neither of these players play for more than 21 minutes a game, averaging less than 15 points a game combined. If Brooklyn’s new GM is looking for some sort of improvement in free agency, the Point Guard and Shooting Guard positions should be the immediate focus.
14: New York Knicks: Jose Calderon (7.5ppg) and Arron Afflalo (13.7ppg)
New York was Arron Afflalo’s chance to prove that he was more than just a 6th man in the NBA. Thus far, he’s proven that he could, but he can’t be a number one backcourt option. Affalo is averaging more points than Kyle Korver or JR Smith. Unfortunately, Jose Calderon is not preforming as well. New York has been very clear that they looked to improve the point guard position since last year when they traded Tim Hardaway Jr. for Rookie Jerian Grant on draft day. New York is looking good in its rebuilding process, Kristaps Porzingis is a monster, however, New York needs to commit to a full rebuild and dump vets like Calderon and Anthony for draft picks or young players. The real question is will Afflalo stay with New York or try and find a contender that needs a 6 man once again.
13: Philadelphia 76ers: Ish Smith (15.2ppg) and Isaiah Canaan (10.8ppg)
Before the 76ers (re)acquired Smith from New Orleans they were on pace to be the worst team in NBA history, now with Smith, they’re just a bad team in the NBA. Ish Smith has proven that he is a starting calibre point guard. He’s no All-Star, but on a team that was desperate for some sort of playmaker, Smith has found his calling. Canaan isn’t so bad either, contributing somewhere around 11 points a night for the sorry sixers. The problem is that they are both raw, and with the rotation in such flux, neither of them get the full starters minutes (somewhere around 25-30 a game) that other starting backcourts might pick up. That being said, the Sixers might not be great, but maybe some of these guys will find homes elsewhere if they don’t make the cut.
12: Milwaukee Bucks: Jerryd Bayless (10.7ppg) and Khris Middleton (18.3ppg)
I feel almost wrong rating these players so low on the list, especially with Khris Middleton being a borderline all-star. But for all the points that these two may put up, Coach Jason Kidd found it more useful to run a 6’8 player at the Point Guard position rather than Bayless due to his weak court vision. If Bayless could score at the level of a John Wall/Kyrie Irving/Kyle Lowry then the Bucks could find themselves as a top three backcourt easily. Michael Carter-Williams can’t decide if he’s a bust, or wants to score 50 on any given night, which is very similar to the defensive effort of the Bucks themselves. Khris Middleton is a centerpiece to build around for the Wisconsin boys, and with players like Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks may have a foundation to build around, but they aren’t there yet.
11: Orlando Magic: Brandon Jennings (7.9ppg) and Victor Oladipo (15.9ppg)
If ranking Milwaukee at 12 felt wrong because of the individual skill of Khris Middleton, then ranking Magic as low as 11 should be a crime. Victor Oladipo has the skill to take over a game (as seen with his 45 against the Cavs) and Brandon Jennings has the potential to be a top point guard in the league. But, the two of them are not finding a rhythm on this Magic team. Since being traded to Orlando Jennings has seen his field goal percentage drop from 45% to just 42% since joining the Magic, and in 20 minutes of play a night he only finds around four assists and eight points. Jennings is project for Orlando, and he may pay off in the future, but as of now he is still very much underachieving. Oladipo on the other hand is clearly the future for Orlando. He provides a very strong anchor for the backcourt, however head coach Scott Skiles is finding it difficult for other members of the backcourt to contribute, forcing him to place Oladipo on the second unit in a similar manner to how Isaiah Thomas was used on Boston last year. Orlando has a lot to work out over the next several years, but Oladipo at least gives Magic fans confidence that maybe this team can reach the same level of competitiveness that it did with prime Dwight Howard.
Continue to see #10-#6!