Bleacher Report Ranks Lillard/McCollum Backcourt Best In The NBA
With 2019 NBA training camps starting up in two weeks (at least for teams not playing preseason games overseas), the content folks have turned their sights to preseason rankings in order to kill time before there's actual basketball to discuss. One could question the utility of ranking players/teams well before any competitive basketball has been played, as such rankings tend to be educated guesses at best and baseless speculation at worst. But there's also not much else going on, so there's no real harm to it either.
With that said, Greg Swartz over at Bleacher Report has put together his Top 10 backcourts going into the 2019-20 season, with Trail Blazers duo Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum taking the No. 1 spot...
With no Curry and Thompson to look up to (for now), the Trail Blazers backcourt can finally stake its claim as the NBA's best.
Coming off a trip to the Western Conference Finals, Lillard and McCollum combined for 46.8 points, 8.6 rebounds and 9.9 assists during the regular season while turning the ball over just 4.2 total times per game.
In six years together, Portland has never had a losing record, reaching the postseason every time.
Following a 53-win season and the third seed in the West, Lillard almost single-handedly dismantled the Oklahoma City Thunder franchise with a now-iconic shot and pose to end the first round, leading to Paul George requesting a move and a subsequent trade of Westbrook to the Houston Rockets.
In their 16 postseason games, both Lillard and McCollum proved why they deserve to be called the NBA's best. Lillard averaged 26.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 1.7 steals and shot 37.3 percent from deep on nearly 10 attempts per game. McCollum was right behind with 24.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists, and he drilled 39.3 percent of his three-pointers.
Lillard and McCollum have been considered one of the top backcourts in the NBA since McCollum permanently moved into the starting lineup in 2015-16, but it was their performances in the 2019 postseason that gave both players the marquee playoff moments that seem to have quieted (at least for now) the questions about whether they can successfully co-exist. But even then, they take the top spot this year thanks in large part to Klay Thompson's ACL injury, though Golden State's backcourt of Stephen Curry and D'Angelo Russell, acquired via trade from Brooklyn this offseason, still take the second spot. Houston's new backcourt of James Harden and Russell Westbrook come in at No. 3, Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell in Utah are ranked No. 4 and Denver's Jamal Murray and and Gary Harris round out the Top 5.