As summer winds down, a friend and I had a conversation about the Cavs acquiring Donovan Mitchell. Something that struck me, was just how poorly I felt about that deal from both sides. The Jazz didn’t get the level of return I thought they might. The Cavs still gave up a pretty large haul to lock in, by my estimation, the 5th or 6th best back court in the east. So I thought see what everyone else thought, and do a quick backcourt ranking.
Tier 1, Boston and Milwaukee. Neither of these two teams likely have the BEST player in the Eastern conference back courts, they are absolutely the most well rounded. Both teams feature a top 3 defensive guard with Marcus and Jrue as elite defenders who bring enough playmaking and scoring to not be a net negative on either end. Jaylen and Middleton are two elite efficient scorers who are also above average defenders in their own right who bring some playmaking chops.
Tier 2, Atlanta and assuming health, Chicago. Here we’re in to teams with one + or ++ defender, and another guy who is easily an all star caliber player if not a fringe all NBA guy. Trae Young in Atlanta has serious defensive issues, but is pretty clearly a fringe all NBA player based off his offensive talent, and adding another fringe all star and plus guard defender in Murray puts them in to tier two for me. Murray should hopefully cover up enough of Young’s defensive warts to make this an elite offensive back court, while also breaking even defensively.
The Bulls, assuming the health of Balls knee, bring an elite level role player (Ball) who is a ++ defensive player to pair with a surefire all star and fringe all NBA guy in LaVine. The same basic situation as Atlanta, hoping one very good to elite defender covers up enough of the defensive deficit from your star scorer to be a + offensively without sinking the ship on D
Tier 3, holds Cleveland and Philly. I’m admittedly probably lower on Mitchell than most. However, his pairing with Garland feels eerily similar to the former pairing of Dame and CJ in Portland. Two elite scoring guards, who lack the size and defensive chops to ever be even remotely average as a defensive back court. The lack of defensive ability is why I rank them so low, even tho they’re a top 2 back court in the east on talent and accolades alone.
Philly might have the single most talented player in any east back court, if you think Harden isn’t completely cooked (personally, I think he’s not quite cooked, but maybe not so far off as to push them higher) and in Maxey, they’ve got a young talented guard who just hasn’t shown much of anything compared to his peers. Phillys place in this ranking is tied almost entirely to how cooked you think Harden is.
Anyway, this is generally how I see the top 5ish back courts in the east, what does everyone else think? Summer is almost done, only a little over two weeks until we’ve got real (preseason) basketball to talk about again!