The best duos in basketball, analyzed from the perspective of an annual fan
More so than any other professional sports organization, the National Basketball Association (NBA) is a league of copy-cats. While the winners of the NBA Finals hoist up the Larry O’Brien Trophy, every other team in the Association takes notes.
When Magic Johnson led the Los Angeles Lakers to five NBA Championship victories in the span of a decade, there was an influx of untraditionally sized point guards. Players like Penny Hardaway, Jalen Rose and Steve Smith were highly coveted due to their towering heights as ball-handlers.
The NBA continued its progression when the Detroit Pistons overthrew Magic’s Lakers. Unlike any other team in the league at the time, the Pistons used three All-Star caliber guards in rotation. Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars and Vinnie Johnson captained the backcourt for the “Bad Boys” of Detroit. Only four years later, the Houston Rockets took home two straight championships with Kenny Smith, Sam Cassell and Vernon Maxwell filling out similar roles.
Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors ran roughshod over the league for five years. They even got some late contributions from fellow All-Star DeMarcus Cousins. For those of you counting at home, that’s four players who can alter a game at will on the same team. The Warriors took the foundations of the “super team” that Boston’s Big Three and LeBron’s Miami Heat laid down, but they turned it up to eleven.
It may seem illogical for an era of two current All-Stars to supercede an era of three, but the Toronto Raptors vanquishing the Golden State Warriors in the 2019 NBA Finals changed the direction of the league. Two of the stars from that series, Durant and Kawhi Leonard, sought to suit up for a team that was located in a city more comfortable to them.
To prevent themselves from falling behind, other teams who already had one superstar signed another to join in on the NBA’s newest requirement for winning. Some teams, who already had two stars on their roster, instantly found themselves among the candidates for being the league’s best. For your “viewing” pleasure, I will present you with the top five duos in today’s NBA.
At Number five is the reunited duo of James Harden and Russell Westbrook. The two last played together in Oklahoma City in 2012. While their championship aspirations didn’t pan out then, they have a realistic chance to take home the gold this year.
The duo of Harden and Chris Paul was a failure. I understand that is a harsh statement, but in the Western Conference, they were the only real threat to the Golden State during their reign. They had their chance in several playoff series, but they could never get over the hump that is Curry, Thompson and Durant.
However, with the Golden State Warriors being a shell of what they once were, they have legitimate reason for hope after trading Paul for Westbrook.
Westbrook is a freak of an athlete. No other player in the league puts his body on the line as much as he does. In transition, Westbrook is scary. I’d move out of the way too. As for Harden, he’s one of the greatest scorers in NBA history. He gets away with traveling every game with that step back move, so he potentially has the referees working for them. The two are MVP candidates when alone, so coming together will either be magic or create very passive aggressive tweets.
Coming in slightly above Harden and Westbrook, but not as good as the number three duo, is Kyrie Irving and Durant. As the great Roy Ayers would say, “we live in Brooklyn, baby.” Durant is likely out for the season. To combat that, Irving took 33 shots in a loss to the Timberwolves on opening night of the season.
If Durant could make it work in the Golden State, I’m sure he could make it work in Brooklyn with now only one other mouth to feed. Plus, the duo admits they’re best friends, and that makes sense. They both seem a little out there. Between one guy making a fake twitter account to defend himself and the other as a flat-earther we really have two peas in a pod here.
The third best duo in the NBA today is Curry and Thompson. Listen, you can’t discount winning. All that these two have ever done together is win. It very well may be all they know.
They’re the best shooting backcourt in NBA history. I’d go as far to say that Curry is the best shooter in the history of the NBA. I know. Really going out on a limb there. No other duo in the league today can match their volume for scoring, particularly the three point shot. Their play styles complement each other perfectly, as they should for all the championship rings they have between them.
Curry effortlessly creates his own shot with his ball handling abilities. You can’t double team Curry either, as Thompson is the best spot-up shooter in the league. You’re going to get burned by them; it’s really just a choice of which one you’d rather do it. Plus, they won 73 games in the 2015-2016 season without Durant.
Taking the silver medal for best NBA duo is the dynamic pairing of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. These two guys are in the running for the best players at their positions, so it makes sense for the combination of them to be this high on the list. They’re probably the physically strongest duo on this list, and that makes sense when you watch them play.
They bully the players they go against, as their body frames are one in a million. LeBron is used to running an offense, but he may be exerting too much energy in this new role. But honestly, it probably won’t be a problem. LeBron is LeBron. He’ll find a way to flourish.
In the preseason, the Los Angeles Lakers were crushing teams with the pick and roll between LeBron and Davis. These two can feasibly get to the basket whenever they want. They’re imposing. Los Angeles’ second best basketball team has the second best duo.
The number one duo in the NBA today is Leonard and Paul George. No, this isn’t a case of recency bias. Leonard and George will lead the Clippers to their first NBA Championship.
For Leonard, it will be the second year in a row he brought a franchise its first title. I truly believe people forgot just how good Leonard is. When he didn’t play in the 2017-2018 season, I think he was forgotten. At that time, he was a top five player in the world. After winning a championship last season, it’s hard to put him outside the top three.
As for George, he had a career year last season. He averaged 28 points, 4.1 assists and 8.2 rebounds. Even more impressive, he averaged 2.2 steals a game. As it is the case for a few other duos on this list, one of the players is out injured. But unlike the others, there’s no doubt George will play this season.
Leonard and George are the most “team-first” players on this list, and that’s exactly what you want in a duo. The defense and relentlessness puts this duo over the top.
~Matthew Morhiser, Staff Writer~