Ranking the Best Duos in the NBA
Reading Time: 4 minutes
In basketball, being 5 v. 5, each player on the court serves a purpose: to help their team win. In the past, we’ve seen stand-out players carry a team, such as Lebron James with the Cleveland Cavaliers. On the other hand, the Golden State Warriors, a team with a Big Three (or sometimes Four) dominated championship finals for the past five years—thanks to a group effort. The road to a championship title is one that every player dreams of and is thus highly competitive and rigorous. Triple threats, like the Miami Heat’s Big Three, for the last decade, brought entertainment and excitement to the court through teamwork. But times are changing, and with the numerous trades and signings made this past summer, it seems as though dynamic duos will now carry the weight of winning a ring amongst an especially vying pool of teams.
Ranking these duos poses difficulty because of my inability as a judge to distinguish between what makes an individual good and what makes a duo good. Some argue that Lebron and Anthony Davis aren’t the best duo, since they have each been game changers, without the assistance of the other. I based my rankings on chemistry, current records or statistics, and actual gameplay from this season. With that being said, injuries, which have plagued the Clippers, makes it hard to imagine what a duo could potentially be, due to their little to no games together.
With bias aside, here are my top five duos in the league, along with a few honorable mentions.
Lebron James and Anthony Davis; LA Lakers
At number one, Lebron James and Anthony Davis (AD) have made themselves a massive presence on a small court. Leading the Western Conference with a 19-3 record, the LA Lakers have surpassed all expectations. The pick and roll offense has been, and will perceivably continue to be, unguardable. James and AD are able to coexist, rather than play as individually incredible athletes, something which was speculated about before the season began. The chemistry between these two has posed real difficulty for the opposing defense, allowing both players to have high field goal percentages. As the top five players in the league right now, James and AD will easily take the Lakers to playoffs. With James’ cross-court vision, and AD’s unstoppable size, this combination has been invincible this season.
Paul George and Kawhi Leonard; LA Clippers
In the same arena as our Number One duo, Paul George (PG-13) and Kawhi Leonard dominate the court as both elite defensive and offensive players. Having two reliable men on both sides of the court is vital for the LA Clippers as they seek a title. Considering their lethal defensive skills, it will be a great feat to get past these two players, so godspeed to those who try. PG-13 has had a fantastic career, filled with many high scoring games and numerous steals. As defending finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard is the best player in the league, in my opinion. His ability to make shots in high risk situations and carry a team through finals will greatly benefit the Clippers against competitive teams this season. But with recent injuries, the two men have only played three games together. So, while it’s difficult to imagine what they could be, it’s easy to say that they won’t be anything short of amazing. Assuming both players stay healthy, the LA Clippers are a clear contender in the finals championship.
Russell Westbrook and James Harden; Houston Rockets
While many may be shocked by this ranking, the incredible improvement Russell Westbrook and James Harden have displayed after playing together speaks for itself. The biggest doubt people had about Harden and Westbrook stemmed from their “ball hog” styles. As two players who love to shoot, these hesitancies were definitely valid. However, based on the numerous games we’ve seen this duo play, it’s clear that they’ve adjusted to each other well. Harden plays off the ball more, and Westbrook has made his game about more than just shooting. While the Houston Rockets are fifth in the Western Conference, I believe that the duo holds a lot of potential, especially considering neither player is overwhelmingly dominant on the court. Westbrook and Harden’s ability to learn from each other this early in the season sheds some light on the prospective success for the Rockets this season.
Steph Curry and Klay Thompson; Golden State Warriors
The Splash Brothers have completely changed the face of basketball. With their impeccable long range shots and long-lasting chemistry, it’s a shame that we haven’t been able to watch these players show off after the terrible loss of Kevin Durant. When healthy, it should be assumed that Curry and Thompson will make it known that the Warriors’ reign in the Western Conference is far from over. We know the capabilities of these two players in big games, and this alone holds a great advantage above the new duos in the league. I’m excited to see where these two veterans take their franchise next.
Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving; Brooklyn Nets
Once again, injuries have deprived us of potential greatness on the court. As the only duo in the Eastern Conference on this list, the likeliness of the Brooklyn Nets making it to the playoffs is enticing. Durant is coming off a career-high season, but nothing is guaranteed after his crushing achilles injury, which 85 percent of NBA players return to play no more than two seasons after. Irving has shown his impeccable driving skills and insane handles on offense. Durant and Irving are clearly both hungry to redeem themselves from their last season, and that will carry them a long way. Durant has to prove that he can cause damage without the help of his All-Star Warriors teammates, while Irving is looking for recognition as a shooter and playmaker. When these two finally make it on the court together, the Eastern Conference will definitely adopt the competitive nature we currently see in the West.
Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum; Portland Trail Blazers
This OG duo could have a big year with their chemistry in offense, but they have to step up defensively to be seen as a real threat.
Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid; Philadelphia 76ers
With Embiid’s MVP playing level, the only thing holding the 76ers back is Simmons’s three-pointers.
Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis: Dallas Mavericks
This young duo has defied all skepticism this season. Luka has become an MVP candidate, and their chemistry can only go up from here, so I’d watch out for the damage the Mavericks create.