WASHINGTON — Ah, so we’re back to this bit.
John Wall and Bradley Beal have said before they believe they’re the best backcourt in the NBA. Ted Leonsis said the two of them make up the “best young backcourt,” which would be an important distinction, except Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson at the time were just 27 and 25 years old, respectively, which would probably still constitute “young.”
Dion Waiters, then of the Cleveland Cavaliers, disagreed with those assessments.
Wall then fired back at Waiters ferociously.
One would assume all this talk would have come to an end, what with Curry riding back-to-back league MVP awards and Thompson being arguably the best 3-point shooter not named Curry in history, but lo and behold, new Wizards head coach Scott Brooks went and stoked the fire once more.
“Let’s start with John: I think John, a three-time All Star at his age, that’s pretty remarkable,'” Brooks said. “It’s hard to be an All Star. There’s only 12 players in each conference [that make the All-Star team], and that’s incredible. But I like what he’s done. Numbers-wise, it’s hard to keep getting better — 20 (points per game) and 10 (assists per game), those are incredible numbers. I think his next growth is to continue to lead. There are so many different phases to being a point guard, and it’s hard to pick up the small details early on, but I think year-by-year he’s done that. I’m looking forward to being around him day-to-day and helping him grow in that area. I think he has tremendous upside in leadership, and he’s already been good. They’ve been in the playoffs two out of the last three years.
“And with Bradley: He’s 23 years old going into his fifth season, and what he has done is pretty incredible,” Brooks continued. “Yeah, we have to keep him healthy. I think that’s my job, that’s our staff’s job, and Bradley’s job, it’s to find a plan that can happen. I think he has the potential to be an All Star, he’s another guy that can be one of the best two-way players in the league. I went to his workout a couple weeks ago in L.A., and he’s coming to Vegas today and tomorrow so I get to see it again, but he works extremely hard. I’m very impressed with his serious approach to the game. He’s young, but he has a very mature way about himself.”
But the pot-stirring moment came when host Danny Rouhier asked the coach to compare Wall and Beal to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, who Brooks coached in Oklahoma City.
“With Kevin and Russell, obviously, I thought my staff did a great job of working with them day-by-day, but you have to give credit to those two guys. They were committed, and they were very serious about the profession, and the similarities I see with John and Bradley — they’re very similar. I’ve been able to meet with both of them, I’ve been able to watch their workouts and John’s rehab, and they both love the game. They’re very passionate about the game, they want to get better, they’re very athletic, they’re two-way players. I think we could have one of the best, if not the best, backcourts in basketball.”
Brooks coaches Wall and Beal, so it’s his job to have their backs, and as he’s a new coach, he is working to build a rapport with them. But if reality can step in for a moment: There is virtually no chance Wall and Beal can supplant Curry and Thompson for the title of best backcourt in the league. Not only would doing so require Beal to stay healthy for an entire season, but both players would have to dramatically step up their games at the same time for it to even be a conversation.
This is how the players compared last season.
When Wall and Beal made the argument that they were the best backcourt, their claim was based on their defensive prowess. That’s their best chance at entering the conversation, considering Wall is generally recognized as an above-average defender and Curry is average at best on defense. But Thompson is an exceptional wing defender, and he is often tasked with marking the best guard on the opposing team. On the Wizards, that duty has historically been given to either Garrett Temple or Otto Porter.
That’s not to say Beal is a poor defender, just that Thompson likely has the edge in that department.
Brooks probably said the right thing, and there’s nothing wrong with praising your players. But when trying to make a case for the best backcourt in the NBA, the qualifier “after Golden State’s backcourt” should probably be added by default.
The entire call is available below, in which Brooks praises all that Marcin Gortat does for the team, gives his first take on Tomas Satoransky and offers his thoughts on Durant joining Curry and Thompson on the Warriors.