Stephen Curry was named MVP. Klay Thompson made his first All-Star team. The Warriors won 67 games and the NBA Finals.
It became undeniable last season.
Curry and Thompson — who lead the Golden State Warriors against the New Orleans Pelicans tonight — are one of the greatest backcourts of all time.
Ranking them is a messy balancing act with myriad notes.
Player Efficiency Rating and Win Shares are my favorite metrics.
Both members of the backcourt have to be excellent. Michael Jordan can’t carry John Paxson.
Each backcourt’s statistics are from their three-season peak.
There are three exceptions — Curry and Thompson, the 1972 Lakers and the 2002 SuperSonics — who were too good to be ignored.
Winning is important … but it’s not the only thing.
There is little difference between the fourth-best backcourt and the eighth.
Jeff Hornacek is the only player here twice — with Kevin Johnson and John Stockton. His one season with the 76ers and Hersey Hawkins was good, too.
The 1980s to 90s were the golden age of backcourts. Four duos from that time made the list.
1. Jerry West and Gail Goodrich, LAKERS | 1971-72 to 1972-73
West | 24.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 9.3 assists, 47.8 shooting, 81.0 free throw shooting, 23.2 PER, 12.0 WS
Goodrich | 24.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 47.6 shooting, 84.6 free throw shooting, 19.4 PER, 10.2 WS
Bill Sharman won championships with the Celtics in 1950s and 60s. He helped the Lakers do the same in 1971-72.
The new coach made Jerry West his point guard and Gail Goodrich his first option on offense.
West led the league in assists.
Goodrich led the team in scoring with 25.9 points. West averaged 25.8.
Wilt Chamberlain led the league in rebounds and field goal shooting.
The Lakers won 69 games — including a record 33 straight — and their first championship since 1954.
They won 60 games the following season, losing to the Knicks in the NBA Finals.
2. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, WARRIORS | 2014-15
Curry | 23.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 7.7 assists, 52.8 2-point shooting, 44.3 3-point shooting, 91.4 free throw shooting, 28.0 PER, 15.7 WS
Thompson | 21.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 48.1 2-point shooting, 43.9 3-point shooting, 87.9 free throw shooting, 20.8 PER, 8.8 WS
The Warriors were historically great last season.
They won 67 games and the NBA championship. They were second in Offensive Rating, first in Defensive Rating and first in pace.
Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson were the best shooters in the league.
Most general managers picked the Cavaliers or the Spurs to win the NBA Finals this season.
But the defending champions are young — Curry is 27 years old, Thompson is 25 — and their only significant personnel loss was David Lee, who played just 107 minutes in the playoffs.
The Warriors are the clear favorites.
3. Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter, TRAIL BLAZERS | 1989-90 to 1991-92
Drexler | 23.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 51.0 2-point shooting, 78.8 free throw shooting, 22.6 PER, 12.3 WS
Porter | 17.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 51.1 2-point shooting, 39.7 3-point shooting, 86.1 free throw shooting, 19.9 PER, 11.8 WS
Clyde Drexler says he was better than Michael Jordan in Jack McCallum’s Dream Team.
Maybe he meant to say that he and Terry Porter were better than the Bulls backcourt.
Drexler and Porter — born less than one year apart — started together for seven seasons with the Trail Blazers.
Drexler made six All-Star teams and finished second to Jordan in the MVP voting in 1992.
Porter made two All-Star teams.
The Trail Blazers averaged 53 wins and played in two NBA Finals, losing to the Pistons in 1990 and the Bulls in 1992.
Third guard | Danny Ainge (10.4 points)
4. Magic Johnson and Byron Scott, LAKERS | 1986-87 to 1988-89
Magic | 22.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, 12.3 assists, 53.0 2-point shooting, 87.0 free throw shooting, 25.8 PER, 14.3 WS
Scott | 19.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 52.2 2-point shooting, 39.2 3-point shooting, 87.0 free throw shooting, 17.3 PER, 8.4 WS
The Lakers won two championships in four seasons with Magic Johnson and Norm Nixon, but Showtime wasn’t big enough for two All-Star point guards.
General manager Jerry West traded Nixon to the Clippers for rookie Byron Scott in 1983.
Magic and Scott started together for eight seasons.
The Lakers averaged 60 wins, played in six NBA Finals and won three championships.
Magic won three MVP awards and his third NBA Finals MVP award. He made the All-Star team every season and led the league in assists three times.
Scott never made an All-Star team.
Third guard | Michael Cooper, who was named Defensive Player of the Year in 1987.
5. John Stockton and Jeff Hornacek, JAZZ | 1994-95 to 1996-97
Stockton | 14.6 points, 2.9 rebounds, 11.3 assists, 58.3 2-point shooting, 43.2 3-point shooting, 82.7 free throw shooting, 22.4 PER, 13.5 WS
Hornacek | 15.4 points, 2.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 52.7 2-point shooting, 41.6 3-point shooting, 89.1 free throw shooting, 18.8 PER, 10.2 WS
John Stockton and Jeff Hornacek are the best old backcourt of all time.
When Hornacek retired in 2000 with no cartilage in his left knee, he was 36 years old. Stockton was 37. Karl Malone — the Jazz’s best player — was 36.
Stockton and Hornacek played together for six seasons.
Stockton made four All-Star teams. He led the league in assists twice, breaking the all-time assists record in 1995.
Hornacek led the league in free throw percentage in his final season.
The Jazz averaged 59 wins and played in two NBA Finals, losing to the Bulls both times.
6. Kevin Johnson and Jeff Hornacek, SUNS | 1989-90 to 1991-92
KJ | 21.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, 10.8 assists, 51.0 2-point shooting, 83.0 free throw shooting, 22.1 PER, 11.4 WS
Hornacek | 18.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 53.6 2-point shooting, 42.5 3-point shooting, 88.1 free throw shooting, 18.7 PER, 10.0 WS
The Suns have always had good guards.
They had Kevin Johnson, Jeff Hornacek and Dan Majerle in the early 1990s.
They had Jason Kidd for four seasons.
They had Stephon Marbury for two seasons.
They had Steve Nash (twice) for 10 seasons.
Johnson, Kidd and Nash played together for two seasons.
Those are just the All-Stars.
The Suns also had Anfernee Hardaway, Joe Johnson, Leandro Barbosa and Goran Drajic.
They still have Eric Bledsoe.
Hornacek is currently the coach of the Suns.
Johnson is currently the mayor of Sacramento — and a terrible person.
Third guard | Dan Majerle (14.1 points), who made the All-Star team in 1992.
7. Ray Allen and Sam Cassell, BUCKS | 1999-2000 to 2001-02
Allen | 22.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 48.5 2-point shooting, 43.0 3-point shooting, 88.4 free throw shooting, 21.7 PER, 10.9 WS
Cassell | 18.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, 7.8 assists, 48.6 2-point shooting, 86.6 free throw shooting, 20.8 PER, 8.7 WS
Sam Cassell played for eight teams in 15 seasons, including three teams in 1996-97.
He played his first three seasons with the Rockets, helping them win two championships.
He and Ray Allen led the Bucks to the Eastern Conference finals in 2001.
He and Kevin Garnett led the Timberwolves to the Western Conference finals in 2004, when he made his only All-Star team.
He and Elton Brand led the Clippers to their best season since they were in Buffalo in 2006.
He played his last season with the Celtics, who won the championship in 2008.
8. Gary Payton and Brent Barry, SUPERSONICS | 2001-02
Payton | 22.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 9.0 assists, 49.4 2-point shooting, 79.7 free throw shooting, 22.9 PER, 12.6 WS
Barry | 14.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 58.8 2-point shooting, 42.4 3-point shooting, 84.6 free throw shooting, 19.2 PER, 12.1 WS
Gary Payton and Brent Barry both played at Oregon State, but they missed each other by two seasons. Their careers intersected in Seattle.
Payton’s last full season with the SuperSonics was Barry’s only All-Star level season.
Payton was Gary Payton.
Barry had one of the more underrated offensive seasons in history, leading the NBA in 2-point shooting, True Shooting Percentage, Effective Field Goal Percentage and Offensive Rating.
The SuperSonics won just 45 games, but their other rotation players were Rashard Lewis (21 years old), Desmond Mason, Vin Baker, Vladimir Radmanovic and Predrag Drobnjak.
9. Bob Cousy and Bill Sharman, CELTICS | 1954-55 to 1956-57
Cousy | 20.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, 8.1 assists, 37.9 2-point shooting, 82.4 free throw shooting, 20.8 PER, 7.8 WS
Sharman | 19.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 42.7 2-point shooting, 88.9 free throw shooting, 18.1 PER, 8.9 WS
A backcourt dynasty.
Bob Cousy and Bill Sharman started together for nine seasons, becoming the longest running backcourt in history.
The Celtics made the playoffs every season and won four NBA titles — all of them after Bill Russell joined the team.
Cousy was league MVP in 1957. He made the All-Star team every season.
Sharman made it eight times.
They were the All-NBA first-team backcourt four times — which is like Stephen Curry and James Harden playing on the same team.
Cousy led the league in assists eight times.
Sharman led the league in free throw shooting seven times.
10. Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton, PISTONS | 2005-06 to 2007-08
Billups | 17.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 45.3 2-point shooting, 39.7 3-point shooting, 89.8 free throw shooting, 22.8 PER, 13.5 WS
Hamilton | 19.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 49.0 2-point shooting, 41.3 3-point shooting, 84.9 free throw shooting, 18.1 PER, 7.8 WS
Flip Saunders, who died Sunday, was a gifted offensive coach.
Saunders coached the Pistons for three seasons — finishing fourth, sixth and sixth in Offensive Rating — which were also the three best seasons for Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton.
The Pistons averaged 59 wins.
Billups and Hamilton made the All-Star team each season, the first appearances for each player.
“I give Flip so much credit for making me the player that I became,” said Billups, who also played for Saunders with the Timberwolves.
The Pistons haven’t had a winning season since firing Saunders and trading Billups in 2008.
HONORABLE MENTION | Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, SPURS (2004-05 to 2006-07), Vince Carter and Jason Kidd, NETS (2005-06 to 2006-07), Gilbert Arenas and Larry Hughes, WIZARDS (2004-05), Gary Payton and Hersey Hawkins, SUPERSONICS (1996-97), Mark Price and Ron Harper, CAVALIERS (1988-89)
NOT PARTICULARLY CLOSE | Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe, KNICKS (1971-72 to 1976-77), Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars (1985-86 to 1993-94)