Palawan, the backcourt of the Portland Traiblazers is very much secured for the foreseeable future. Superstar point guard Damian Lillard and all-star caliber combo guard CJ McCollum both signed multiple year contract extensions for the Blazers this summer.
Both players deserve the max extensions given to them after fighting tooth and nail with the Golden State Warriors for the western conference title last season. Thinking that the Dubs, with Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala leaving and splash brother Klay Thompson out for the majority of next season, will be depleted come opening in October, the Blazers, like most teams this summer, built a “win now” culture and securing Lillard and McCollum gives them that potent combination to match up with retooled rosters in the West.
I personally consider the Lillard- CJ tandem arguably the best backcourt in the National Basketball Association outside the celebrated Steph Curry and Klay Thompson duo of the Warriors.
Some would say Bradley Beal – John Wall of the Wizards or perhaps the new combination of Russel Westbrook – James Harden could be better. Beal and Wall are a potent force, no doubt there, but their achievement pales in comparison to the consistent performance of the Blazers in the playoffs. The Westbrook- Harden tandem of today is still a “wait and see if they blend well together” scenario.
Lillard and McCollum have been backcourt partners for a while and that connection will go a long way in the playoff grind. CJ had such an outstanding playoff intensity and game in all their series match ups last season. Under rated most of his career, his contract extension only signifies the faith that the Portland head office staff has on his capabilities.
I personally enjoy watching the Blazers duo. They run rings around opponents and are both exciting to watch, on and off the ball. When watching games, I sometimes watch the shooting guards off the ball to see how they use screens, when to stay stationary, or when to make a dash to the corner. Personally, I see CJ McCollum and JJ Redick as two of the best cutters and off ball movers in the NBA today. Set them up well and give them an inch of space and their 40%+ 3 point accuracy as volume shooters will punish any defence not fast enough to react.
In the age of speed and small ball line ups, a solid backcourt is almost a guarantee to a strong playoff finish, perhaps even bagging the crown. The Dubs have proven time and again that it is the norm for consistency in today’s NBA.
Backcourt Strength in the PBA
In the local front, a few of the best catch and shoot and off the ball movers and shooters, past and present, in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) are the likes of Allan Caidic, Elmer Cabahug, James Yap, Jeff Chan, Marcio Lassiter and Matthew Wright. The local league has always played small ball by international standards what with our smaller average height. Small ball comes natural for us. Proof is that quite a few teams not only have a solid backcourt tandem. Some of them actually do a 3 – guard rotation in spots.
I will name a few guard troikas:
– La Tenorio, Stanley Pringle, Scottie Thompson (Barangay Ginebra)
– Jio Jalalon, Mark Barroca, Paul Lee (Magnolia)
– Chris Ross, Alex Cabagnot, Terrence Romeo (San Miguel Beer)
Some may argue about the trio of JP Calvo, Jeramy King, and Rashawn McArthy of the Columbian Dyip. And we look forward to a potential exciting Kiefer Ravena, Kevin Alas, and Juami Tiongson guard mix over at NLEX.
Even at the college level, Ateneo has proven to have a solid guard rotation with Anton Asistio, Tyler Tio and either one of the Nieto twins combining with a twin tower frontline.
Are we expecting a guard revolution in the local front? I believe so. Check the NCAA as they move to an importless environment next season. Who are the leading scorers in the MPBL? Almond Vosotros, Fil Am Mike Williams, Paolo Hubalde, and Jeff Viernes are some of the guards or wings you will see consistently on the leaders scoreboard.
My dad always told me that we are a “guard producing” country and I believe in that. On the international stage however, our wings should be point guards to get a chance to make it strong on higher level of professional ball. We should train out 6’2 players to not just shoot threes but also to set plays as early as high school varsity so they adapt naturally to the demands of a playmaker.
Team Pilipinas is on the right path pooling bigger guards, getting frontcourt muscle and height. If only we can adjust the PBA calendar to allow more training time for the good of the National cause.
(The writer is a senior leader in the Business Process Outsourcing industry managing Philippine countryside operations)