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Which backcourt is primed to be NBA’s best in Klay Thompson’s absence?

While Klay heals up, Steph Curry and D’Angelo Russell have several interesting new guard tandems to contend with. We break down the guard duos that are looking for extra clout in the Splash Bros absence.

Celebrities At The Los Angeles Dodgers Game Photo by Kevork S. Djansezian/Getty Images

The Splash Brothers will be on ice to start the 2019-2020 NBA season as superweapon shooting guard Klay Thompson recovers from the ACL injury he suffered in the NBA Finals. That’s a tough blow for Dub Nation who have seen the Golden Empire built on the efforts of Stephen Curry and Thompson, the combo that revolutionized the game of basketball with their deadly scoring and playmaking.

This may be the longest extended period of time Curry is without his backcourt buddy. Although the wizardry of Warriors’ general manager Bob Myers brought All-Star guard D’Angelo Russell to pair along Curry while Thompson recuperates, the NBA’s various backcourts must be salivating over their chance to steal the spotlight.

Which guard tandem is next in line for the Splash Bros throne this season? This is a tough question, and GSoM is facilitating this thought exercise through the lens of some of our favorite buddy action movies.

Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell/ “Lethal Weapon”

If you’ve watched the Utah Jazz fizzle out in the postseason in the last two years, you’ve noticed a horrifying trend. Young guard Donovan Mitchell fearlessly spins around the court, hurling bricks with a wild ferocity.

  • His usage rate from the ‘19 playoffs was a staggering 32%, a percentage higher than Russell Westbrook, Giannis Antetokoumpo, and Kawhi Leonard’s.
  • Although “Spida” averaged 21.4 PPG, he needed 22.4 SHOT ATTEMPTS per game to score.
  • He shot 32% from the field during his first round series with the Houston Rockets, an alarming 25% from downtown, and a ghastly 72% from the charity stripe.
  • He also only averaged 3.2 assists as a 6-foot-3 guard.

No one can tell whether “Spida” will shoot the Jazz in or out of the game, but they know he’s coming in guns blazing. Fortunately, Utah proactively acquired veteran guard Mike Conley to handle some of playmaking duties. Although Conley isn’t as physically gifted as the freak athlete Mitchell, Conley’s wisdom and patience (and ability to hit a jumpshot) could be a huge benefit for the Jazz.

Conley ran the show for Memphis during the “Grit-N-Grind” Grizzlies and should have no problem jumping in if Mitchell’s begins veering out of control into “crazy” territory.

Hmmm, wily vet near the end of his career paired with out-of-control shooter with a heart of gold?

John Wall and Bradley Beal/ “Bad Boys”

This loud, brash movie franchise is driven by non-stop yapping of the Will Smith/Martin Lawrence combo.

Never-ending banter aside, these two always get the job done in the end. For me, the heavy shtick-to-weak script ratio kinda got after “Bad Boys II”, and I’m not sure if I’m too gung ho for a third installment (which is reportedly in production right now).

That’s gotta be how Washington Wizards’ fans feel when they reflect on the testy backcourt pairing of John Wall and Bradley Beal. After daring to declare themselves the best backcourt in the NBA, these two All-Stars have been more known for bickering than balling

Still, their talent is undeniable. Or, at least was, until last season when Wall suffered an Achilles rupture while already rehabbing from bone spurs removal.

We’ll just have to wait and see what happens with this duo, but it’s fair to say expectations have fallen since the pairing first broke out.

James Harden and Russell Westbrook/ “48 Hours”

(The following excerpt is from Thomas “Dr. Tom” Bevilacqua).

The present-day NBA backcourt/buddy-cop movie parallel that jumped into my mind featured one of the league’s newest ones-- the Houston Rockets’ new backcourt tandem of Russell Westbrook and James Harden and the Nick Nolte/Eddie Murphy team from 1982’s 48 Hours.

Westbrook resembles Nolte’s character in the film, the detective Jack Cates. In his review of the film, Roger Ebert describes Cates as “a hungover hot dog of a detective.” Cates is angry, irritable, tends to do his own thing, a bit headstrong, doesn’t work well with others, is grumpy and irritating... Doesn’t that sound like a pretty good description of Westbrook? Whether the constant scowling at his teammates or going in and chasing after triple-doubles when it might not be the most prudent move, there’s some overlap there.

(There are some, ahem, extremely problematic aspects of Nolte’s character when it comes to race, and I’m quite obviously not thinking of those components when I think of Westbrook).

James Harden, meanwhile, can definitely been seen in the irreverence of Reggie Hammond, played in the film by Eddie Murphy. Hammond is a convict, released on furlough for the titular 48 hours to help Cates track down two cop killers. One exchange between the two characters really brings out what it is that defines Hammond.

Reggie: You said bullshit and experience is all it takes, right?

Jack: Right.

Reggie: Come on in and experience some of my bullshit.

Reggie is the funny and, more importantly, slick one. He’s not the tough authority figure like Cates but rather someone who gets what he needs by playing a kind of part and bulldozing everyone in front of him. The New York Times’ review of the film identifies the “scenestealing overconfidence” of the character. While Murphy doing this in the movie is extremely funny and earns many laughs, Harden’s version of this on the basketball court is… shall we say, annoying. Instead of barreling ahead with charm and humor, it’s his body and throwing up the ball in the hopes of getting a foul call for Harden. But it’s very much the same thing--we are experiencing his bullshit.

Also Harden, like Eddie Murphy, likes to party all the time so there’s definitely another connection.

Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander/ “Training Day”

In “Training Day”, Denzel Washington gives a riveting performance as a tricky, dirty cop who takes a promising young rookie officer under his wing. Washington’s character claims to giving Ethan Hawke’s character a tough-love crash course on the job, but in reality is using him as a pawn in a twisted scheme.

In Oklahoma City, Chris Paul is a cantankerous hall-of-famer with tricky hamstrings who shares a backcourt with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a second year guard with strong potential. There’s no secret that CP3’s smiling commercial persona is a far cry from his obnoxious on-court play, especially considering the reports of multiple teammates not being enamored with his personality.

I, for one, am very curious as to how Paul will mentor Gilgeous-Alexander during this formative season for the youngster.

Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum/ Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

These two gunslingers are bubbling with swagger and courage.

That shot Dame hit to destroy Oklahoma City forever? Outrageous.

The scoring barrage CJ put on the Denver Nuggets to vanquish them in Game 7? Gutsy.

Over the past four years these two have both averaged 20+ PPG each and endeared themselves to a proud Portland fanbase. If there was ever a year this backcourt could sneak up and steal the throne, it’s this one.

Unfortunately for them, they’ve also been destroyed by the Warriors franchise in the playoffs three out of those four years, losing 12 of 13 games.

Despite their best efforts, Dame and CJ vs the Dubs ends like this when it counts:

Okay folks, which opposing backcourt concerns you the most? And if we didn’t mention ‘em, feel free to let us know in the comments who we should be keeping an eye on.

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