GDHQNBA15_f-Backcourts 2

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10. Miami Heat: Mario Chalmers and Dwyane Wade When Miami president Pat Riley was asked what Wade would have to do in 2014-15 to help the Heat be successful, now that LeBron James has moved back home, Riley used the word “reinvent”. It’s a good term. After four years co-headlining with James—and often deferring to his teammate, Wade will be called upon to once again carry the heavy share of the team’s responsibilities. Were this five years ago, no one would doubt whether Wade could handle the change as it was a virtual coin flip between he and Kobe Bryant to the title of best two guard in the NBA. But his knees remain question marks, and many wonder whether he can handle 82 games of heavy work. Last year, he showed bursts of the star he once was, scoring 19.0 ppg and proving to be unstoppable off the dribble and from the midrange world, his only weakness being the three-point shot. He’s still a top-shelf two man, and this year, we’ll find out if he can be that every night. We’ll learn more about Chalmers, too. He has been the dutiful sidekick during his six years in the League. Now, he gets a chance to exert his influence more by having he ball in his hands for longer stretches and getting the opportunity to create for himself. By season’s end, this backcourt could be one of the league’s biggest stories. 9. Portland Trail Blazers: Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews Back in 2010, when the Blazers signed Matthews to a five-year deal, there was some grumbling that the team had wasted its money. With one year remaining on the deal, that complaining seems pretty silly. Although Matthews isn’t an All-Star, he has become a perfect outside weapon for the Blazers who complements Lillard, who is almost impossible to stop off the dribble. Matthews scored a career high 16.4 ppg and gets better every year from long range, where he often gets wide-open looks, thanks to Lillard’s ability (we didn’t forget you, too, LaMarcus Aldridge) to draw defenders while on the move. Portland picked up the point man’s fourth-year option earlier this fall, in a move that was as expected as tomorrow’s sunrise. The Weber State product may not have the best collegiate pedigree, but there is no denying his NBA chops. He made his first All-Star Game last year, is growing as a long-range clutch shooter and has all of the skills to be a great leader. This may be the League’s most underrated backcourt, but it’s also one of the most successful. 8. Cleveland Cavaliers: Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters When Beal fired his salvo across the bow about the Wizards duo being the League’s best backcourt, Waiters let loose with an immediate retort that challenged that assessment. It makes for great preseason news fodder. An even better storyline is how the young Cavs guards will blend in with new arrivals LeBron James and Kevin Love in what is likely to be the NBA’s most interesting team. Irving has spent the last three years as Cleveland’s main man, not the easiest role for a young player to handle. He has performed admirably, showing the makings of a complete point man, from his ability to score from all over to his growing talent for setting up teammates. His assist total will almost certainly blossom this year, and his growth should continue, thanks to James’ influence. Now in his third season, Waiters has the chance to become one of the League’s top complementary parts. Waiters is a very capable shooter, if he can curb his bad habit of poor quality attempts. The presence of LeBron will change that immediately as Waiters’ main objective will be catching the ball. That may not excite Waiters right away, but the attention that James, Irving and Kevin Love will command will afford him plenty of opportunities to get to the basket as remains extremely tough off the dribble. The Cavs may be James’ team, but this backcourt will play a big role in the King’s court. 7. Washington Wizards: John Wall and Bradley Beal It was completely understandable that Beal announced to the world in early October that he and Wall comprised the best young guard tandem in the League. “Just in terms of what we’re capable of doing, the confidence we have in that,” he said at the team’s Media Day. “At the same time, we got to prove it.” Even though there was some immediate pushback from Cleveland (more on that later), Beal’s proclamation makes sense. In his four years, Wall has become a prolific scorer (19.3 ppg in 2013-14) and one of the league’s top assist men (8.8 apg), while improving his long-range shooting stroke considerably. Beal, meanwhile, is a dangerous three-point marksman and potent producer who averaged 19.2 ppg in the playoffs last year. Both Rocky Widner(2)/NBAE/Getty Images


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