Wednesday , Dec , 24 , 2008 Oly Sandor

The east’s most surprising backcourt: Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby, Ben Gordon and Derrick Rose, or Vince Carter and Devin Harris?

Nobody expected the Hawks, Bulls, and Nets to have some of the game’s top backcourts. Thirty games in, these duos have been that special. Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby have put The ATL back on the NBA map, Ben Gordon and Derrick Rose have kept things moving in ‘The Windy City’, and Vince Carter and Devin Harris have sped up the rebuilding program in Jersey …

The east's most surprising backcourt: Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby, Ben Gordon and Derrick Rose, or Vince Carter and Devin Harris?

Each week, HoopsVibe drops a player comparison for fans to weigh-in on. We call it head-to-head …

Everybody likes Christmas surprises and gifts.

This season, several Eastern Conference clubs have been surprised with the gift of excellent play from their backcourt.

Before the season started, Atlanta, Chicago, and New Jersey likely thought they had solid guards. And, if things came together perfectly, they would get nice contributions from the one and two spots.

Nobody expected the Hawks, Bulls, and Nets to have some of the game’s top backcourts. Thirty games in, these duos have been that special. Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby have put The ATL back on the NBA map, Ben Gordon and Derrick Rose have kept things moving in ‘The Windy City’, and Vince Carter and Devin Harris have sped up the rebuilding program in Jersey.

In this edition of head-to-head, HoopsVibe the Blog examines what eastern backcourt has been the biggest surprise of 2008-09. As always, read the post, form your thoughts, and get at us in the comment box below.

Joe Johnson–Mike Bibby …

A few summers ago, Phoenix owner Robert Sarver refused to pay Joe Johnson like an elite player. In a controversial sign-and-trade, the 6-8 guard was dealt to Atlanta, where the club’s dysfunctional owners couldn’t agree on his contract and had to take their differences to court.

Looking back, the Suns were wrong, while the Hawks, despite doing their best to screw things up, were right. Johnson is an elite player. He scores in bunches, defends multiple positions, facilitates for others, and stays out of trouble.

The Arkansas alum and new partner-in-crime Mike Bibby punish opponents with their outside range and skill. They’re why the Hawks are 17-10 and a force in the Eastern Conference.

Ben Gordon and Derrick Rose …

After two summers of contract disputes with Chicago management, Gordon could have sulked through this season. Instead, the scorer has maintained a professional attitude and posted strong numbers: 21 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists per game.

Many believe Gordon automatically leaves as an unrestricted free agent come summer. I’m not so sure. Bulls’ management could re-offer that multi-year, multi-million dollar extension because of his play next to Rose.

Speaking of Rose, he is the organization’s best player since you-know-who. The rookie is averaging an astounding 18 points, 4 rebounds, and 6 assists. Best of all, he possesses a feel for the game that typically takes years to develop.     

Gordon, if he sticks around past this year, and Rose should get Chicago back to respectability.

 Vince Carter-Devin Harris …

Carter has matured. Years ago, when stuck with a rebuilding Toronto side, he admitted giving less than a full effort and then lobbied for a trade. This summer, with Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson long gone, ‘VC’ has accepted his role as New Jersey’s elder statesman and primary scorer.

The All-Star has company with Harris. The speedster, who joined the Nets last February in the Kidd trade, has quickly established himself as an All-Star level table-setter, dropping 24 points and 7 assists per evening.  

Carter and Harris have New Jersey holding firm at 14-14 and 7th place in the Eastern Conference.

Our Call As Biggest Surprise: Gordon and Rose.

Why: I thought Atlanta’s backcourt would have a solid year. After all, Johnson wanted to establish himself as a superstar, while Bibby, an unrestricted free agent in July, had to play for his next contract. I just didn’t expect them to be so good.

If focused, I knew Carter and Harris would be decent. Both are blessed with immense physical gifts; ‘VC’ still flies, while Harris is one of the league’s quickest players.

However, I had no expectations of Gordon and Rose. Big Ben’s reputation took a huge hit this summer and some expected the former Sixth Man of the Year to sit behind Larry Hughes and Kirk Hinrich. Instead, he has rediscovered the form and moxie that made him a hit during his first few seasons in the league.

Meanwhile, on paper, Rose had the tools to dominate: size, skill, and confidence. Still, how many point guards make an impact, let alone star in their rookie season? Of course, Rose only played a single year of college basketball, which makes his success even more amazing.

What Eastern Conference backcourt is the biggest surprise? Johnson and Bibby? Gordon and Rose? Carter and Harris? Get at us in the comment box below and come back to HoopsVibe the Blog for further NBA tidbits. Photo courtesy of MCLipsco.