By BRANDON THEO DORSEY
College Contributor Network
Headlined by stars like Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and Kyrie Irving, guards are some of the most electric players in the NBA. Yet, in order for two guards to excel together, it takes a unique blend of talent and continuity.
Think back to the days of the Bad Boy Pistons when Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars carried the offensive load for Detroit. Both were gifted at their respective positions, but fell short to Boston for three straight playoffs. It wasn't until their fourth and fifth years together that the backcourt duo successfully brought two championships to the Palace.
While there are franchises with a pair of talented guards, they don't always have the necessary consistency to be included in this conversation.
The Suns, for example, had two excellent young guards last season in Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic. This offseason, they attempted to fix something that wasn't broken by signing Isaiah Thomas without committing (yet) to Bledsoe due to health concerns.
That backcourt, along with the new-look Hornets duo of Kemba Walker and Lance Stephenson, will be excluded.
It's debatable which guard duo shows the most promise, but the Raptors, Warriors and Wizards can each make an excellent case for best in the league.
Let's start with the team with the third best duo in the league, Drake's Toronto Raptors.
Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have a symphonic style of playing together in Toronto. This backcourt hosts a first time All-Star shooting guard and a feisty point in Lowry, who just inked a four-year, $48 million contract extension.
DeRozan is a tall two-guard who can slide to the small forward position, but last season he lined up primarily as a backcourt player.
It's safe to assume those two will be playing above the border together for at least a couple more seasons.
They complement each other with their uncanny ability to score inside and out, with the duo combining for 40.6 points per game last season. After a full off-season working with Dwane Casey's new Rudy Gay-less system, those numbers should increase just as they did when Gay was shipped to Sacramento last season.
DeRozan and Lowry work well together because they both favor the same side of the court. Last season, DeRozan took 185 more attempts from the left side than he did the right, with Lowry sharing a similar disposition (per Vorped). The 6-foot point guard has the ability to break down defenders and dump it down to the wiry high-flyer who loves to catch the ball around the short left-corner area.
It's documented how well of scorers DeRozan and Lowry are but they are also willing passers. They were the only two teammates to average over 20 points and four assists per game (Lowry 20.4 and 7.1; DeRozan 23.1 and 4.2) following the All-Star break. That's a backcourt that's difficult to stop, and it's likely the reason the Raptors made the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
Toronto didn't tally its highest win total ever, 48, by only putting up points; the defensive side of the ball was crucial as well. They were in the top ten as a team in both points allowed per game and defensive field goal percentage.
Lowry is a hound on defense. In a league where point guard is by far the strongest position, the former Big East standout defends them extremely well.
A key aspect to this ability is his meticulous way of analyzing opponents and this hasn't avoided the attention of his partner in crime.
"At his position, he studies every single guy on the team," DeRozan told Bleacher Report.
"Whether it's in transition or in the half court, he's anticipating the next move, and nine times out of 10 he's going to get there."
Lowry also drew an astounding 84 offensive fouls last year. For perspective, Derek Fisher was second with just 55.
DeRozan is no chump on defense himself. He averaged a shade over one steal per game and worked with Lowry to bother the opposing backcourt. According to 82games.com, the Raptors 5-year veteran held opposing shooting guards to a player efficiency rating of 12.7 -- below the player league average of 15.
The 6-foot-7, athletic shooting guard is expected to continue to grow defensively. Further, with his prototypical 2-guard body, DeRozan is quick enough to stay with any shooting guard and even cover point guards when Lowry needs a rest.
It will be nice to see how far the Raptors can go in an open East with this duo dominating the backcourt. They will not likely be a No. 3 seed again, but surpassing the 48-win mark is certainly feasible.
Brandon Theo Dorsey is a senior Broadcast Journalism major and Leadership Studies minor at Hampton University. He is a native of Missouri City, Texas and a proud Miami Heat fan since 2005 -- with pictures to prove it. Unless you're a Knicks fan, follow him on Twitter: @BrandonTheoD
By BRANDON THEO DORSEY