Going off my last post, I decided to list the other starting backcourts with usage ratings (possessions when a player takes a field goal, gets fouled or turns the ball over) of over 25 percent each. There were some guidelines, though:
- They couldn’t be formed after a mid-season trade. (Allen Iverson played only three games for Denver before being traded to Detroit, so I included the ’09 Pistons.)
- Both players had to start together, not just each starting whenever the other missed a few games.
- I sorted through the Lottery Era up to last season.
There were quite a few cases where tandems interfered with the first two guidelines, but it made it easier to narrow down the list of qualified candidates and then calculate their effective field goal percentages, compare it to the team they played for, and then see how it matches up with the league average.
Free throw attempts per game will be missing from the table as well as some other notable stats. I had to narrow it down to a doable list otherwise it wouldn’t format correctly. Here’s what’s left of it, sorting each duo by the season. The stats are according to Basketball-Reference.
Backcourt duos with >25% usage rate each
You can pick and choose what stands out here, if anything. Here are a few thoughts:
Backcourts who carry the load of an offense can be risky, but that’s not to say they often struggle. They can succeed when implemented with the right group of complimentary players and system. For example, I’m pretty comfortable letting Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili carry the offense, though I can’t say the same for two guys who couldn’t stretch the floor like Jerry Stackhouse and Michael Jordan.
I DON’T know how often some duo’s minutes were staggered because lineup data on NBA.com is only available from 2008 and on. Some backcourts, like Sixers of ’97, just look like they played a ton of time together. That couldn’t have been a good thing. Here are the minutes the previously-listed backcourt tandems logged together over the last six seasons, though:
- Allen Iverson and Richard Hamilton: 23.2
- Devin Harris and Vince Carter: 27.7
- Richard Hamilton and Rodney Stuckey: 25.0
- Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili: 19.6
- Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters: 21.4
The combo of Jordan and Stackhouse/Hamilton made the list when neither were point guards. Looking back, there wasn’t a whole ton of talent at that position for Washington. It speaks for itself when, in 2003, 70 percent of Larry Hughes’ minutes came at the point, according to Basketball-Reference. It’s kind of amazing that he, a 39-year-old Michael Jordan, and Jerry Stackhouse won even 37 games with their shooting, but that’s the power of MJ, I guess. It’s also impressive that Jordan used up 36 percent of the Wiz’s possessions in 2002. Overall, Washington had high-usage backcourt combos for four straight seasons until Cleveland splurged on Hughes.
Another oddity was Allan Houston and Latrell Sprewell making the list too. Basketball-Reference has them listed as a shooting guard during their careers at one point or another, though. I chose not to remove them from the list. Shooting guard and small forward tandems, or teams with three starting wings who used a ton of possessions (the early-2000s Bucks, for example) might be something I’ll look into in the near-future.
Again, this post isn’t meant to say high-usage backcourts often lead teams into mediocrity. Point guard-shooting guard duos (or in some cases, two shooting guards with one as a small forward) are just something I find interesting and worth looking at. It made me think, though, that if those backcourts used up a ton of possessions, then the team is more often than not sorely lacking talent in one other position.
It’s also pretty obvious that teams with two players taking a combined ~30 or more shots per game with inefficient stats (and one of them being the point guard) just won’t perform well. They might not frequently get to the line, take (and miss) several jumpshots, play lackluster defense in order to save energy on O, or some combination of the three. To repeat what I mentioned earlier, some (not all) of that can be helped by staggering minutes.
Going forward, I wonder how often we’ll see two guards with similar high usage rates, and how well their teams perform. Right now, Philadelphia and Washington have duos that would join the list but neither squad is doing all that well this season.
Anything else worth mentioning? Feel free to leave a comment.