[new_royalslider id=”40″]

Recently, ESPN Insider Amin Elhassan, ranked the best backcourts in the NBA.  Pacific Division rivals, the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers ranked 2nd and 1st respectively. This brings up an interesting argument, which backcourt is better?

Lets start with the numbers. Here is Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Chris Paul and JJ Redick broken down by the numbers last season. All stats are per 100 possessions to mitigate minutes and pace of play.


Statistically they are similar with two main differences, distance shooting and passing/ball handling. Unsurprisingly, the Splash Brothers are far superior 3-point shooters on both efficiency and volume. I doubt anyone needed to see the statistical evidence as proof.

Passing and ball handling skews heavily towards the Clippers, both Paul and Redick turn it over less per 100 possessions than their Warriors counterpart. In the point guard case, Paul turns it over significantly less than Curry (while assisting more often).

One of Elhassan’s main points:

“Think of the Warriors as a poor man’s version of the Clippers’ backcourt: Curry, while a much superior individual scoring talent (he might be the best shooter in the history of the NBA when it’s all said and done), lacks Paul’s ability to mitigate risk while chasing reward.”

Chris Paul is the NBA’s best point guard and an unquestioned top 5 player. Paul’s assist and turnover ratio doesn’t deserve comparison to Curry or Parker or the other elite PG’s of today, it compares to Magic, Stockton and the greatest of all time. It’s that good. Last season Paul averaged 4.6 assists per every turnover. Curry’s modest 2.3:1 (and career 2.7:1) isn’t in the same galaxy.

While Curry doesn’t have Paul’s ability to protect the ball, Curry is the best scoring point guard in the NBA. Curry leverages his shooting and scoring Paul and Curry face-offability to put pressure on defenses and open up passing lanes. Curry’s transcendent shooting ability puts defenses in uncomfortable positions which gets all his teammates easy looks, too often his lackadaisical ball handling and passing give games away, things Paul doesn’t do. He can certainly stand to get better at taking care of the ball, but we shouldn’t be too harsh, the results speak for themselves. (Curry ranked 3rd in raw plus minus impact per possession in the entire NBA, Paul ranked 2nd).

Thompson and Redick are both first defined as shooters. Thompson is better from behind the arc, while Redick is a bit more capable of scoring with efficiency from more places on the floor (shot 53% from 16-23ft last season and got to the free throw line more often). To date, Redick has been the better ball-handler and passer.

But back to the overall picture, which backcourt has the bigger impact? Curry and Klay are going to stretch the floor and score more often than Paul/Redick. The Clipper tandem are going to be smarter with the ball and get more teammates involves. Which have a greater impact on winning?

2013/14 Real Plus Minus


ESPN’s ‘real plus minus’“isolates the unique plus-minus impact of each NBA player by adjusting for the effects of each teammate and opposing player.”   In attempting to isolate a player, it gives us a better understanding of their total impact on the game v. raw plus minus.

Again the overall impact between the two is close. Curry and Thompson, as a whole, were a shade better defensively last season. Paul and Redick had a slight edge on offense. (Among all players Paul’s RPM was 2nd, Curry’s was 6th).

Klay and JJOn defense, Chris Paul rated the best of the bunch. The main negative you can put on Paul defense is his struggles with size, like against Russell Westbrook of the Thunder. The Warriors like to put Thompson on point guards, using his size and length to frustrate smaller players. And while the numbers skew to Chris Paul, Thompson’s versatility to guard multiple positions has drawn praise from all over the league. That size advantage might eventually create a larger defensive impact but to date it’s hard to say that’s a true statement because it hasn’t been done with consistency.

For all Curry’s deficiencies defensively, he hasn’t been a massive liability. He played the most minutes per game on a top 5 ranked defense, his individual defensive metrics have shown him to be a slight but not an insurmountable negative. Part of that is related to playing with Thompson and Iguodala, allowing him to sit on the weakest perimeter player. Curry has gotten better at playing with in a team scheme, understanding rotations, and being a ball hawk (led the Warriors in steals).


Curry, while being an inch shorter than Redick, and has a wingspan that is only ¼ an inch shorter than Reddick’s, and an identical standing reach. So while both are often guarding off ball, Redick has no real physical advantage on Curry.

So which one is it?

The Clipper tandem has a slight edge, but it’s hard to have a definitive answer.   At this point it’s fair to say Paul and Redick are the incumbents with Curry and Thompson nipping at their heels. Going into 2014/15 season Paul (29), Redick (30) are in their primes. Curry (26) and Thompson (24) are the young up and comers who have shown improvement every season. A new system along with FIBA experience should benefit the Warrior tandem, however a second year together under coach Doc Rivers should only increase chemistry and production for the Clippers. Which one will end 2014/15 as the best backcourt?

Sources: ESPN , NBA.com, Basketball-Reference.com