The 25 Greatest NBA Backcourts of All-Time

25. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan — Toronto Raptors


The trade that brought disgruntled star Kawhi Leonard to Toronto ended the most decorated partnership in Raptors’ history. Interestingly enough, DeRozan and Lowry didn’t like each other much when the latter initially joined the team in 2012. The talented pair were able to put aside their differences early, developed a strong friendship and connection on the floor, and eventually led the franchise to its greatest five-year run in franchise history.

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24. Steve Nash and Joe Johnson — Phoenix Suns


The incredibly fun Phoenix Suns teams of the early ’00s were powered by the brilliance of Mike D’Antoni and Nash, as well as the versatility and athleticism of Amare’ Stoudamire and Shawn Marion. However, before the 2006 season that put this group on the map, Phoenix featured a high-powered backcourt pairing. Before his seven All-Star appearances, Johnson was a 20-year-old gunner running alongside Nash on a Suns team that won 62 games.

A career 37 percent three-point shooter, Johnson set a career-high in three-point percentage in his last year playing alongside Nash (47.8). In an effort to save a bit of cash, the Suns elected to let Johnson walk during the free agency period of 2006, effectively ending this dynamic duo’s run.

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23. Tim Hardaway and Mitch Richmond — Golden State Warriors


Two-thirds of the highly-entertaining Golden State trio dubbed Run TMC, Hardaway and Richmond were a dynamite pairing for the Warriors throughout the 90s. Although it never amounted to much success, those Warriors teams played an appealing brand of basketball that served as a precursor to today’s pace-and-space game. Hardaway’s killer crossover move coupled with Richmond’s prolific outside shooting made for a lot of raucous crowds in Oracle.

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22. Sidney Moncrief and Paul Pressey — Milwaukee Bucks


We might be stretching it here considering that Moncrief could technically be labeled as a forward. However, the 6-foot-3 Moncrief has the correct height of a modern guard, and was one of the first players to ever operate as a point-forward in the NBA. Regardless of what position either player is listed at, Moncrief and Pressey were an electric duo that carried the Bucks franchise after the departure of Lew Alcindor. Arguably the best defensive backcourt of all-time (eight Defensive Team honors between the two), Moncrief and Pressey locked down opponents with gaudy length and freakish athleticism.

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21. Guy Rodgers and Paul Arizin — Philadelphia Warriors


Two Hall of Famers, it would be impossible to make this list without giving credit to these two stars of the ’50s. Arizin is the more well-known name, as he was a consistent 20-plus point scorer, and made the All-Star team ten times. The offensively-gifted Arizin ended up retiring after the 1962 season not because he couldn’t play anymore (21.9 PPG in his final season), but because he didn’t want to move with the Warriors to San Francisco. Rodgers was a steady hand that made four All-Star teams of his own. Rodgers led the league in assists on two occasions, and is currently 18th all-time in career assists (6,917).

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20. Jason Kidd and Vince Carter — New Jersey Nets


Shortly after coming up empty in back-to-back NBA Finals appearances, the Nets knew they had to make a big splash in an attempt to get over the hump. They did just that bringing in Half-Man/Half-Amazing at the height of his powers. While short-lived, the Kidd and Carter duo was like something out of a video game. The Nets had essentially paired the best passer and the best dunker together, and let them run wild. Both players excelled in transition, but were skilled enough to run effective half-court sets as well. If they had been paired up a few years earlier, the Nets would have completely dominated the Eastern Conference for the better part of a decade.

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19. Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen — Boston Celtics


The championship ring that Rondo and Allen won together in Boston signifies that you don’t have to like each other to be a productive duo. Since the core that helped Boston capture its first title in two decades broke up, these multiple time All-Stars haven’t exactly given one another a ringing endorsement. Still, they were a perfect pairing on the floor. Rondo’s defensive ability and quarterbacking mindset fit in well with Allen’s deadeye shooting and off-the-ball wizardry.

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18. Terry Porter and Clyde Drexler — Portland Trail Blazers


With apologies to Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, there’s only one Portland backcourt that makes this list, and it’s the one that led the franchise to its last NBA Finals appearance. Porter and Drexler formed one of the premier duo’s in all of basketball throughout the early ’90s. A quintessential floor general, Porter did a fine job balancing between playmaking and scoring. Drexler was a perennial All-Star that averaged at least 17 points per game for 14 straight seasons. Had Michael Jordan never touched a basketball, we’d be talking about Drexler as the top shooting guard from that era.

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17. Reggie Miller and Mark Jackson — Indiana Pacers


Jackson was an immediate fit alongside Miller in Indiana’s backcourt when they joined forces in 1994. While he wasn’t quite the player he once was, Jackson did wonders for those Pacers teams in terms of leadership and unselfishness. He was the perfect personality to fit next to the fiery Miller. Four of the five All-Star appearances Miller made were during the seven-year span that he was teammates with Jackson. Indiana made three consecutive Eastern Conference Finals appearances with this tandem, and even made it all the way to the NBA Finals in 2000.

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16. Oscar Robertson and Lucius Allen — Milwaukee Bucks


While the ‘Big O’ wasn’t quite the player he once was by the time he joined the Milwaukee Bucks, the King of the Triple-Double instantly formed a dangerous backcourt combo alongside Allen. Just a 23-year-old at the time, Allen played a massive part in Milwaukee’s backcourt opposite Robertson during the Bucks run to the NBA Finals in 1971. Following the championship victory over the Baltimore Bullets, Allen developed into a potent scorer that fit perfectly with Robertson’s unselfish style.

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15. Maurice Cheeks and Andrew Toney — Philadelphia 76ers


In-between a healthy serving of Celtics and Lakers championship teams, the 1983 Philadelphia 76ers sneaked in for a title win behind the sweet play of their two guards. Modern fans of the NBA will remember Cheeks for his work as a coach, but the Chicago native was a fine player in his day. A speed demon with inhumanly quick hands, Cheeks had a 10-year run of averaging at least 2.0 steals per game. Toney is considered one of the most overlooked players of his generation. He could light up a scoreboard from anywhere on the floor, and would have been a far bigger name had his career not been cut short due to injury.

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14. Chris Paul and James Harden — Houston Rockets


There was plenty of skepticism over how Paul would fit within the confines of Houston’s offense when the longtime Clipper was sent to the Rockets prior to the 2018 season. Houston emphatically quieted any concerns over Harden and Paul sharing a backcourt after winning the first 15 games in which both players suited up. By season’s end, the Rockets featured a trio (Harden, Paul and center Clint Capela) that won 50 of 55 games together. The biggest takeaway from Houston’s success is that it never hurts to have an abundance of unselfish, gifted playmakers littered throughout your roster. Defending Harden and Paul is difficult enough, but once they start getting their teammates involved the Rockets become nearly unstoppable on the offensive end.

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13. John Stockton and Jeff Hornacek — Utah Jazz


Sustained excellence can be had without the validation of a championship ring. The Jazz teams of the ’90s were truly great, but failed to reach basketball immortality due to playing in the league at the same time as Michael Jordan. While the Stockton-to-Malone combo was the headliner in Utah for a majority of those years, Stockton got some much needed help in the backcourt when Hornacek joined the team in 1994. Two of the very best shooters in the league, Stockton and Hornacek spread the floor providing ample space for Malone to operate near the basket.

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12. Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton — Detroit Pistons


Having both played for different franchises before joining forces in Detroit, both Billups and Hamilton learned invaluable lessons as a result of being the go-to player on their former teams. A former top pick, Billups had bounced around before settling in Detroit. The Colorado native rightfully earned the nickname ‘Mr. Big Shot’ for his ability to come up big in crucial moments. Hamilton is one of the all-time great players at moving without the ball, and was essentially automatic from anywhere inside the three-point line. Billups and Hamilton made up the backcourt that helped guide Detroit to five consecutive Conference Finals appearances, including an NBA Finals victory over the heavily favored Los Angeles Lakers in 2004.

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11. Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher — Los Angeles Lakers


Bryant and Fisher were a match made in heaven for the Lakers. The enigmatic Bryant was one of the greatest individual talents the game has ever seen, but his prickly personality made it tough to find the right teammates to surround him with. A traditional point guard was never going to be the right fit with the ball-dominant Bryant, making the spot-up shooter Fisher a perfect fit. The duo won five NBA Championships together, and made seven appearances in the Finals all together. While Bryant is regarded for his clutch shot-making, often times Fisher ended up being the player that took (and made) crucial baskets as defenses forced the ball out of Kobe’s hands.

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10. Jo Jo White and John Havlicek — Boston Celtics


The second Celtics’ pair to make the list, White and Havlicek often go under the radar in terms of all-time Boston combos. Havlicek’s one of the most underrated players in NBA history. An 11-time All-NBA guard, and eight-time All-Defensive recipient, Havlicek was a major catalyst on eight Boston Celtic championship teams. White was taken in the 1969 NBA Draft in an effort to ease the playmaking burden that was placed on Havlicek in the post-Cousy/Jones years. The Kansas Jayhawk made an immediate impact, gracing the All-Star team in seven of his first eight seasons. The duo was painfully tough to guard, and added two more banners to Boston’s rafters.

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9. Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe — New York Knicks


The very best backcourt to don a Knicks uniform, Frazier and Monroe were transcendent talents that played a part in changing the game forever. Frazier is the most decorated Knick of all-time. Over an illustrious 10-year career in New York, Frazier collected seven All-Star nods, six All-NBA awards, seven All-Defensive teams, and won two championships. One of those title victories was alongside Monroe, one of the games all-time great showman’s. Monroe’s flashy style endeared him to fans, mesmerizing audience’s and opponent’s alike with an explosive handle and innate scoring acumen.

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8. KC Jones and Sam Jones — Boston Celtics


While they were unrelated, KC and Sam operated with a level of chemistry that would lead one to believe they had been separated at birth. When discussing these two behemoths in Celtics lore, one number is of utmost importance — 8, representing the amount of championships won between the two players. From 1959-66, the Celtics won eight straight championships while featuring the Jones-led backcourt. Sam was the team’s leading scorer, and often the player coach Red Auerbach leaned on to close out games. KC was a doberman defensively, bothering opposing guards and expertly funneling would-be drivers towards Boston’s stalwart, Bill Russell.

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7. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili — San Antonio Spurs


The international guards played the game with a unique flair. At just 6-feet tall, Parker was routinely atop the league in points scored in the paint. He eventually developed a deadly mid-range shot to go along with his patented floater. There were times (the 2007 NBA Finals) where Parker was legitimately the best player on the floor for the Spurs. The Argentinian lefty Ginobili has had success in both the NBA and at the international level. Not only is he a four-time NBA Champion, but Ginobili also helped lead his native country to its only gold medal in basketball during the 2002 Summer Olympics. While Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich were the driving forces in creating the Spurs dynasty, there’s no denying the impact Parker and Ginobili had on San Antonio’s run.

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6. Michael Jordan and Ron Harper — Chicago Bulls


It’s no surprise that Kobe’s point guard situation was similar to that of Michael’s. After all, the former patterned his game completely after the latter’s. Given Jordan’s overall greatness, employing a traditional point guard that needs the ball to produce doesn’t make for an optimal lineup. A majority of Jordan’s most memorable backcourt counterparts — Steve Kerr, John Paxson, and BJ Armstrong — were primarily spot-up shooters that could do damage without the ball. Harper was a bit different than anybody Jordan had played with at the time. Before he went to Chicago, Harper was a 20-point-per-game slasher and a go-to scorer for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Once he joined up with Jordan, Harper evolved into a lockdown defender that ended up being a major catalyst on the 73-win Bulls team. With Jordan and Harper in the backcourt, opposing guards stood no chance to score with any efficiency.

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5. Jerry West and Gail Goodrich — Los Angeles Lakers


Meet the original ‘Splash Brothers’. Throughout the ’60s and ’70s, the Lakers employed a pair of rainmakers that helped form an offensive juggernaut. West, one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history, is a 14-time NBA All-Star and one of the best pure scorers to ever play. His lightning-quick release and deep range made him virtually unstoppable in one-on-one situations. Goodrich was no slouch, either. The UCLA great was a double-digit scorer every year after his rookie season, and was excellent as both a facilitator and foul shooter. The duo finally got over the hump in 1972, beating out the New York Knicks in the NBA Finals with both players averaging 25 points per game over the course of the season.

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4. Bob Cousy and Bill Sharman — Boston Celtics


Needless to say, the Celtics have had quite a few gifted guards come through their ranks. During his time, no player operated as a point guard at the same level of Cousy. The native New Yorker was a savant with the ball, even if his highlight tape doesn’t hold up to today’s standards. Sharman often gets lost in the shuffle of great Boston athletes, but he was a terrific player for a number of years. Between the two players are 21 All-Star nods, 14 All-NBA First Team honors, and ten NBA Championships.

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3. Magic Johnson and Michael Cooper — Los Angeles Lakers


Byron Scott might be jaded by his exclusion from this list, but it was the Johnson/Cooper combo that was the true backbone in the Showtime Lakers’ backcourt. Considered the best point guard of all time, Johnson’s playmaking ability inherently boosted the production of his teammates. His passing and vision are second to none, and the Lakers couldn’t have asked for a better leader on and off the floor. Cooper was the defensive ace, able to matchup against multiple positions. While he didn’t actually start many times (94 starts in 873 games), it was often Cooper that would close out games alongside Johnson. The duo collected five titles together.

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2. Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars — Detroit Pistons


There may have been better individually talented backcourts, but Thomas and Dumars get this spot because of what they mean to guards in general. Before the ‘Bad Boy’ Pistons ran roughshod through the league en route to two championships in ’89 and ’90, there was a stigma around great guard play. Championship winning teams of the past had primarily shared one defining trait — a dominant, low-post scorer. The Pistons never had that, and instead relied on the scoring and perimeter defense of their two tremendous guards. Thomas and Dumars shocked the world when they trounced the Lakers in the 1989 NBA Finals, cementing the idea that a dominating backcourt can lead a franchise to the promised land.

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1. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson — Golden State Warriors


Curry and Thompson mesh as well as two players can. Two of the deadliest shooters of all-time, the Warriors’ potent combo mask each other’s deficiencies while boosting their own unique strengths. Curry’s ability to create on offense boosts both player’s ability to find open looks. Thompson’s versatility on the defensive end allows his teammate to get much needed rest on that end of the floor. Having already won three rings together, there’s no telling how expansive Curry’s and Thompsons’ household trophy cases will look like by the time their respective careers are over.

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