Column: Best backcourt in the NBA? Not the Wizards

WASHINGTON — “We’re definitely the best backcourt in the league.”

So declared Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal of himself and point guard John Wall at Wizards Media Day back in September. That refrain echoed early in the season by fans around Washington, as well as by Beal himself recently. It’s fun to say, and certainly brought some attention to a team on the rise, but let’s be perfectly clear — the league’s best backcourt will be on display at Verizon Center Tuesday night, but they won’t be wearing red, white and blue.

On Tuesday, the Wizards will host the Golden State Warriors and their dynamic, Splash Brothers duo of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Even the biggest Wizards homer has to admit that Beal’s preseason bravado was an overstep, considering the evidence.

Just look the numbers. The Warriors’ duo has made their name with offense, particularly three-point shooting. Curry set the new single-season mark for three-point makes in 2012-13 with 272, and led the league with 261 last year. Thompson, for his part, buried 223 last year and is in a dead heat with his backcourt mate this season, trailing 165-163.

That means the two of them have combined for 328 threes, more than two and a half times as many as Wall and Beal (120). And they’ve hit them at a higher rate, combining to shoot 41.8 percent from deep as compared to the 37.4 percent achieved by Washington’s backcourt.

But there’s more to offense than just shooting. Look at the production totals across every major statistical category  and the story remains the same. Curry and Thompson combine for nearly 14 more points per game than Wall and Beal, while also leading them in nearly every other statistical category (save for assists), all while committing fewer turnovers and playing in fewer overall minutes.

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Oh, and the Warriors own the best record in the NBA, despite playing in the tougher conference. At 43-10, they are 11.5 games better than Washington. Golden State has won at a higher percentage on the road (.704) than the Wizards have at home (.690), to say nothing of the Warriors’ 24-2 mark in Oakland. They’ve outscored opponents by an average of 10.6 points per game, Washington’s margin is +1.3.

Player plus-minus is a statistic designed to show how many points a team scores versus its opponent when a specific player is on the floor. Curry leads the NBA in plus-minus at +607, or 11.7 per game. Thompson is third, at +551 (9.9). Wall is 24th at +245/4.4, while Beal sits in 63rd at +136/3.2.

All that being said, Wall more than deserved his All-Star nomination. You could make a good argument that he’s been the best point guard in the Eastern Conference. But Beal has not broken through to the upper echelon yet.

It’s good to be confident — necessary, really, in order to have success at the highest level of professional sports. But while the Wizards have been making declarations, Thompson has established himself as the best two-way two guard in the league and Curry is stating his case for league MVP with his play on the court.

Curry and Thompson have each missed a single game this year, and the Warriors have lost both. That makes them 43-8 with both in the lineup and 0-2 without. Wall, meanwhile, has played every game, but the Wizards have gone 9-4 without Beal, actually winning at a higher percentage (small sample size alert) with their starting two guard on the bench.

Unfortunately for all of us non-Pacers fans, Curry’s missed game came Sunday against Indiana, as he nursed a sprained ankle suffered Friday night vs. San Antonio. His potential return Tuesday in D.C. may not be a welcome sight for the Wizards, but it would mean one thing — that for the first time all year, we can truthfully say the best backcourt in the NBA is on the floor in Washington.

Note: All stats current through Sunday, Feb. 22.

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