Basketball U on the Backcourt
Posted Oct 8 2003 3:41PM
A team's point guard and shooting guard together comprise the backcourt. Often the play of the backcourt is a strong indicator of a team's success. The best NBA guard combos blend their styles and skills in a way that augments their considerable individual talents, pairing the playmaking and court vision of the point guard with the scoring touch and quickness of the shooting guard. Savvy backcourts develop a chemistry between the guards.
The point guard or number one position is the on-court leader who has the ball in his hands the most and controls the game. The point guard brings the ball upcourt and directs the offence to get the ball to his teammates in the best position to score. The point guard is often small and quick, and the best ballhandler on the team.
A point guard must be controlled and poised because he will dictate the pace of the game. He must decide whether to run the fast break or a halfcourt offence. Having the ball in his hands on every play, the point guard is the extension of the coach on the floor.
A true point guard is a basketball quarterback, looking to pass first, with shooting being the second option. A good point guard will use his creativity to help his teammates get good looks at the basket, meaning setting up his teammates with opportunities to take good shots they should make. Considered one of the toughest positions in basketball, the point guard must make split-second decisions when teammates get open, recognize who the hot shooters are, and get them the ball. The assist-to-turnover ratio is an indicator of a point guard's ability to both distribute and protect the ball. Great point guards like Steve Nash of the Dallas Mavericks have three times as many assists as turnovers. Muggsy Bogues is the NBA's all-time leader in assist-to-turnover ratio.
The shooting guard is usually taller than the point guard and must be able to shoot well from the outside and provide scoring punch. The shooting guard is often called the off-guard because when play begins the shooting guard is off the ball, as the ball is in the hands of the point guard. An all-around player, his role is also referred to as the number two position, as he must be able to shoot, score, rebound, pass and defend.
Allan Houston of the New York Knicks is a very accurate catch-and-shoot shooting guard. By making long distance shots, he forces defenders to come out to guard him, opening up the court for his teammates to drive and cut to the basket for layups.
Some shooting guards are primarily scorers, relying on a quick first step and the ability to draw fouls to score their points. These shooting guards may play closer to the basket, posting up smaller guards and scoring off of offensive rebounds. These shooting guards, such as Jerry Stackhouse of the Washington Wizards, like to create off the dribble.
The NBA Champion Detroit Pistons of the late 1980s were built around the backcourt of Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars. Thomas, the point guard, was the floor general, while Dumars, the off-guard, attracted defensive attention for his scoring and shooting abilities. Dumars was the NBA Finals MVP in 1989, while Thomas won the award in 1990.