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Future backcourt rankings: Where Pistons’ Jaden Ivey, Cade Cunningham rank among NBA’s top guard duos

Future backcourt rankings: Where Pistons’ Jaden Ivey, Cade Cunningham rank among NBA’s top guard duos



Investing in your backcourt is an investment in your future in the NBA’s current perimeter-focused age.

Strong guard play, whether on or off the ball, is frequently a sign of league success. For instance, the Warriors matched a 21-year-old Klay Thompson with a 23-year-old Stephen Curry in 2011. They now have four NBA championships to show for it after 11 years.

Curry is an all-time great and Thompson is a generational talent in his own right, but it would be dishonest to ignore their greatness. Nevertheless, Golden State has set an example for other teams to follow, and many of them have paired up young guards in the hopes of creating the backcourt of the future.

Who will make up the future backcourt? The Sporting News selected the top young starting backcourts in the NBA in an effort to sort through the league’s youthful guard pairings. The only requirement was that both players had to be under 25 for the first game of the 2022–23 season (Oct. 18, 2022).


Next, let’s talk rankings.

Which team in need of a rebuild has the strongest young core?

Future backcourt rankings in the NBA: Sacramento to Memphis

9. The Spurs’ Tre Jones and Joshua Primo


Jones and Primo now have the opportunity to start alongside one another in San Antonio’s backcourt thanks to the offseason transaction that sent Dejounte Murray to Atlanta. Primo has the potential to be spectacular in the NBA, but it probably won’t be with Jones, who is most likely just a stopgap until San Antonio finds a long-term starter as a lead guard, as the Spurs prepare for the future.

8. Cole Magic, Anthony, and Jalen Suggs

Orlando seems to have a lot of guards, but Anthony and Suggs are the best players among them. While they meet the prerequisites of youth, talent, and athleticism, the overlap in the tasks they’ll be expected to perform complicates their fit.

Given that Anthony and Suggs are both regarded as true point guards, their diminutive stature may present challenges on the defensive end of the court.


7. Kevin Huerter and De’Aaron Fox, Kings

Fox is a sixth-year NBA player, although he won’t turn 25 until December. Huerter, who joins Fox in Sacramento after being the outcast in Atlanta, joins Fox in the backcourt after averaging 23.2 points and 5.6 assists last year.

@KevinHuerter image via Twitter: 2n0XUnbMG6 Kings of Sacramento (@SacramentoKings) July 7, 2022

Huerter has shown to be productive and efficient for a Hawks team that has many mouths to feed, while Fox feels like he’s been on the verge of making an All-Star leap for years now. Huerter has playoff experience and is a talented individual, but before passing more judgment, we must observe how the two perform.


6. Pacers players Tyrese Haliburton and Bennedict Mathurin

Haliburton and Mathurin are leading the Pacers as they bring in a new era of basketball.

Mathurin, 20, is a fierce competitor who seems prepared to contribute on Day 1. Haliburton, 22, has displayed glimpses of success over his first two seasons, including averages of 17.5 points and 9.6 assists on.502/.416/.849 shooting splits after being acquired by Indiana at the deadline.

Summer League debut for Benn Mathurin: 23 PTS, 56 FG%, 4 REB @BennMathurin | #PacersSummer July 9, 2022, Indiana Pacers (@Pacers)


Since guard play is essential to Rick Carlisle’s system, Haliburton and Mathurin can get along well right away.

John Wall is slated to start for the Clippers in the gallery (SMG)

5. Rockets Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green

In contrast to several of the combinations that include at least one rookie, our coupling consists of two well-established players who shared the field frequently in 2021–2022.


Green, who has a solid chance of becoming an NBA superstar, is where it all begins. The former No. 2 overall pick initially struggled, but after finding his rhythm, he finished the season by showcasing all of his talent and earning a spot on the All-Rookie First Team.

Porter is still relatively new to playing the point guard position, but his statistics from the last seven games of the season show otherwise. During those contests, he averaged 28.7 points, 7.4 assists, and 7.3 rebounds. Similar to San Antonio, Houston’s backcourt may not be what it will be in the future, but it is currently rather strong.

4. Cavaliers Darius Garland and Ochai Agbaji

Agbaji ends up as Garland’s backcourt partner in this scenario because Collin Sexton’s restricted free agency is questionable.


Agbaji hasn’t yet appeared in an NBA game, but he is now riding high after winning the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award in 2022, where he helped Kansas win the national championship. Having stated that, Garland is the main focus of our ranking.

At the age of 22, Garland established himself as one of the league’s top guards by averaging 21.7 points and 8.6 assists per game in 2021–22, making the All-Star jump. The most thrilling aspect? Garland has the largest five-year contract in Cavaliers history, worth $193 million, for his continued improvement.

“Stay true to yourself. We like the Darius you have been and are still being.” @dariusgarland22, #LetEmKnow July 9, 2022, Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs)

Soon, Garland might be sufficient to elevate Cleveland to the top of this list.


3. Pistons’ Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey

Ivey and Cunningham have the potential to be the ideal match given everything that has been mentioned about unknowns; their potential is simply too great to ignore.

The quantity of work Cunningham produced as a rookie made it clear why he was chosen first overall in 2021. Even though Cunningham did well as a rookie, there is still room for him to get better, which he will unavoidably do when the pace of the game slows. The prospect of an All-Star-like surge in Year 2 is not completely unheard of.

The @DetroitPistons won at home thanks to Cade Cunningham, who performed like a seasoned veteran!


27 PTS, 6 AST, and 4 STL from @CadeCunningham_ — NBA, April 1, 2022 (@NBA)

Despite going fifth overall, Ivey was largely regarded as one of this year’s top prospects, especially by TSN’s draft expert Kyle Irving. Ivey, who will be 20 on opening night, may develop at the same rate as Cunningham, who will be 21.

Detroit’s backcourt holds the keys as it is entirely focused on the future.

2. Thunder’s Josh Giddey and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander


The outlook for Oklahoma City is clearer every year.

The Thunder’s roster features a lot of guards, but none stand out more than Giddey and Gilgeous-Alexander, two guards who combine for a jumbo-sized pair at 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-8, respectively.

Giddey collaborating with SGA to create something spectacular

Days before the 2022–23 season kicks off, Giddey turns 20 and is already a top passer. He had four triple-doubles as a kid while averaging 12.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 6.4 assists in the league. Gilgeous-skill Alexander’s set as a fluid scorer with a natural feel is well complemented by Giddey’s ability to set up and make plays.


Gilgeous-Alexander, who will be 24 the next season, has previously played in four seasons and twice made the playoffs. OKC could be a couple more years away from making the transition to being a playoff contender, but SGA is almost there.

Giddey and Gilgeous-Alexander might hasten the Thunder’s ascent to competitiveness as part of the vision.

1. Grizzlies Ja Morant and Desmond Bane

Where do I begin? There are many All-Stars and stars on this list, but Morant is the only guard who even comes close to becoming a superstar.


Because of his close to superstar status, Morant was included in MVP discussions and ultimately finished eighth in the 2022 MVP race. Morant, who will be 23 next year, has already established himself among the “elite” guards.

Michael Jordan: “I would’ve fried him too,” says Ja Morant

What about the pairing, though?

Last season, Grizzlies squad with backcourt of Morant and Bane won 56 games and secured the second seed in the West despite Morant missing some time due to injury.


Bane, who turned 24 this off-season, averaged 18.2 points per game last year while shooting an eye-popping 43.6 percent from 3-point range on almost seven attempts a game. The combination of Morant’s penetrating, playmaking, and quickness with Bane’s floor spacing makes them a formidable team.

Do they possess restrictions? Sure. However, despite these restrictions, they managed to win 56 years in just their second season of dating. The past, present, and future are all converging here.