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Advanced stat suggests Rubio, Butler form upper echelon starting backcourt

Jimmy Butler and Ricky Rubio are a top three backcourt based on this advanced stat.
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Based on one advanced stat – ESPN's Real Plus-Minus (RPM) – the Timberwolves boast one of the best backcourts in the NBA going into the 2017-18 season.

Ricky Rubio and Jimmy Butler, if they are Minnesota's starting point guard and shooting guard come October, will be one of only three backcourts in the NBA that rank in the RPM top 10 at their positions. Rubio ranked ninth among point guards last season and Butler was first among shooting guards.

The best point guard/shooting guard combo – based on RPM – belongs to the Rockets with Chris Paul (1st) and James Harden (2nd). Steph Curry (2nd) and Klay Thompson (4th) give the Warriors the second-best backcourt while the Wolves come in third.

What's RPM, you ask? It's basically the NBA's do-it-all stat that measures a player's value.

It makes a ton of sense when you see that the Warriors, who were unstoppable en route to winning the championship earlier this month, had the No. 2 point guard, No. 4 shooting guard, No. 3 small forward (Kevin Durant) and No. 1 power forward (Draymond Green).

Overall, defense killed Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. Wiggins didn't make the cut in the top 70 small forwards and Karl-Anthony Towns was 13th among centers. KAT was third in offensive RPM but 70th in defensive RPM.

FiveThirtyEight has since dubbed Wiggins the "Least Defensive Player" in the NBA.

"Possession by possession, there are a few defenders who are as bad as Wiggins. When Wiggins contests a shot, opponents have a 56.1 effective field goal percentage; when they are unguarded, they have a 56.4 eFG percentage. Fundamentally, getting a shot up against Andrew Wiggins is the same as getting an open shot."

Here's how the top five RPM starting backcourt combinations ranked.

1. Rockets

  • Chris Paul – 7.92 (1st)
  • James Harden – 4.81 (2nd)

2. Warriors

  • Steph Curry – 7.41 (2nd)
  • Klay Thompson – 2.33 (4th)

3. Wolves

  • Ricky Rubio – 2.49 (9th)
  • Jimmy Butler – 6.62 (1st)

4. Thunder

  • Russell Westbrook – 6.27 (3rd)
  • Andre Roberson – 1.24 (11th)

5. Wizards

  • John Wall – 2.26 (11th)
  • Bradley Beal – 2.25 (5th)

You'd have a hard time finding anyone who watches basketball who would prefer Rubio/Butler over Westbrook/Roberson or Wall/Beal, but the RPM is considered a valuable stat and it's good to see the Timberwolves rank high in it.

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