The NBA is in the midst of a new movement in terms of talent being spread throughout the league. For the first team in a long, long, while, the NBA does not exactly have that loaded, powerhouse, superteam that had been prevalent in many championship dynasties throughout the 21st Century. In the words of the mad titan Thanos from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the league is “perfectly balance, as all things should be”.
Across the league, we have an abundance of All-Star duos that really make for an all-around competitive climb to the NBA’s top mantle. While there are many around the association to note, we will count down the ten best duos in the NBA today.
10 Best Duos in the NBA
10. Portland Trail Blazers – Damian Lillard & CJ McCollum
Since the two rose to NBA stardom together, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum have had to scratch and claw to help make the Portland Trail Blazers a competitive bunch in a stacked Western Conference. As a small-market destination with little free agent appeal, Lillard and McCollum are homegrown franchise centerpieces.
As the two are in the midst of their primes, the time is now for Portland to strike on this window. The Oregon representatives have done a commendable job surrounding the star-studded backcourt with fitting pieces, but now they have to compete. The two provide so much offensive firepower that it makes their teammates’ weaknesses in that department. If all else fails for Portland, they have one of the best duos in the NBA at their disposal.
9. Phoenix Suns – Chris Paul & Devin Booker
The Phoenix Suns are in a position that has eluded them since the days of Steve Nash. With the introduction of Chris Paul to the scene, the team has prospered thus far, posting a Western Conference-best 5-2 record as of Monday night. Paul’s presence has gone exactly how well as fans imagined when he was dealt to Phoenix this offseason.
Before Paul’s arrival, Devin Booker was the Suns’ only source of offense. He always needed the ball in his hands to find his offense. He had to both facilitate and score, as his surrounding cast was not the strongest. However, now he has been able to defer to Paul to facilitate, and his offensive output has never been more efficient.
The Suns are in an interesting spot amongst the West’s top teams. If this duo can really hit their stride, there is no reason that Phoenix could not secure a home court position come playoff time. That is how strong this Paul-Booker duo can be, as are just as stacked as the other best duos in the NBA today.
8. Dallas Mavericks – Luka Doncic & Kristaps Porzingis
If there is one thing we know about the Dallas Mavericks, it is that they love their European stars. The young duo of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis has only been on the scene for a short while, but we have already seen great flashes of their potential together on the floor. Porzingis has yet to play in the 2020-21 season, but once he returns and the Mavericks are at full strength, they are going to be a sneaky favorite in the West.
Last season, the Mavericks produced one of the most efficient offensive seasons in recent NBA memory, despite being more short-handed in the talent department than other teams. Doncic, Porzingis, and company were able to overachieve because of how well the stars mesh with each other, and how their supporting cast is able to work off that duo. The two are still so young that we cannot gain of a full sense of what their ceiling together is just yet, but that one-two punch is going to be among the best in the NBA sooner than later.
7. Denver Nuggets – Nikola Jokic & Jamal Murray
Perhaps no other player benefitted from the bubble environment more than Jamal Murray did in the playoffs. He put forth one of the most impressive offensive performances in playoff history on a consistent basis and really made a name for himself as a formidable running mate with Nikola Jokic. Not to suggest he would not be able to replicate his performance in a typical playoff environment, but he made the most out of an unusual setting.
Nonetheless, now the Denver Nuggets have legitimized themselves among the NBA’s elite tier of teams. What makes Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray one of the best duos in the NBA is how unique their approach to the game is. Jokic, the big man, is the team’s facilitator. He is one of the most impressive and special talents the NBA has seen in a while. The way he sees the floor as a big man makes him a tough guard for opposing bigs. Murray is able to thrive off him because he has more opportunity to score, which he does in bunches.
If the two are able to grow together like they have since last season, then it will not be long before the Nuggets are in legitimate title contention.
6. Philadelphia 76ers – Joel Embiid & Ben Simmons
Something is very different about this year’s Philadelphia 76ers team. They experienced some major turnover this offseason from the front office to the coaching staff to the main rotation. However, where they have seen the most improvement has been from the source that was their biggest “problem” all last season; Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.
The two have started to mesh well with one another, with Simmons starting to stretch his arsenal a little longer and Embiid playing to his strengths more. They also made an upgrade at the head coach position with Doc Rivers, so perhaps his presence has had a domino effect on the All-Star duo. Philly holds the top seed in the East as of Monday night. If they can prove they belong as a top team in the Eastern Conference, then this duo truly is for real and a championship team can likely be built around Embiid and Simmons.
5. Milwaukee Bucks – Giannis Antetokounmpo & Khris Middleton
This one was a bit tricky for a few reasons. First off, the Milwaukee Bucks have the luxury of having three All-Star caliber stars on their team in Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday. You can pick and choose who you wish to pair with Giannis here, but regardless, they fall within the five-six range on this list.
Giannis is the most dominant player in the NBA today. Unguardable in every sense of the definition, there is little opposing teams can do to stop him. The issue that Milwaukee has had over the years is surrounding him with players that fit. Middleton and Holiday are of that caliber in terms of fit, but there is a steep drop-off in terms of star power between the two tiers. Based on continuity, I’ll place Middleton over Holiday for now.
Why this duo is lower than a top-three rank is because we have already seen them these last few years, and while the Bucks have been a very successful team in the regular season, they have lacked that extra gear needed for the playoffs.
These rankings are based on duos, and while Giannis is one of the best players in the league, he cannot be ranked by himself. If Middleton, Holiday, or anyone else is able to rise to his caliber or anywhere slightly near it, then they are immediately one of the best duos in the NBA. Until then, the Bucks are the Antetokounmpo show.
4. Boston Celtics – Jayson Tatum & Jaylen Brown
I sincerely wanted to move this duo up a few ranks, as they have truly elevated to being one of the best duos in the NBA. I believe I have seen enough to know this, but the rest of the NBA needs a little larger of a sample size first.
Despite being just 22 and 24 respectively, fans would think Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are seasoned All-Stars in the prime of their careers by their career experience to this point. They have each taken on a larger role with Kemba Walker out and the days of Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, and Gordon Hayward behind them. And the two have excelled.
While Tatum got plenty of recognition last year, it took Brown a little longer, but he is finally getting his respect. So much so, that it has become a legit argument that he may in fact be better than his running mate Tatum. Nonetheless, this is as good a debate to have for a team, especially with how young they are.
Tatum and Brown are All-Star, and likely All-NBA candidates if the season just abruptly ended today, and if they continue their hot streak, there is no denying them a selection come season’s end. All this, and they are still without Kemba for a few weeks. Once he returns and the team is at full strength, the rest of the NBA is in trouble, as it turns into a question of which of the three makes for the best duo in the NBA.
The Boston Celtics have this young tandem in tow for at least the next four-five seasons. Tatum and Brown are going to be among the best duos in the NBA for the foreseeable future.
3. Los Angeles Clippers – Kawhi Leonard & Paul George
The Kawhi Leonard and Paul George duo in Los Angeles is a bit of an interesting one. The tandem underperformed a season ago, and ultimately failed in their goal of an NBA championship. While this new season is barely underway, Leonard, George, and the Los Angeles Clippers have looked the highest of highs and also the lowest of lows. In between, Leonard and George have been excellent.
For a large bulk of last season, the two rarely shared the floor with one another. Load management and injury hobbles played their part on an overlapping basis, so we only got a smaller sample size than we would have liked. But this year, with new coaching and new play styles being incorporated, more adjustments are being made to allow the two stars to play to their strengths and have more of a voice than if Doc Rivers were around.
At their best, the Clippers are a two-way juggernaut from top to bottom that can give you buckets on one end and lock you up on the other. Leonard and George embody that style of play at an elite level, and if all goes according to plan this year, it should pan out to a championship run. They are certainly one of the best duos in the NBA.
2. Brooklyn Nets – Kevin Durant & Kyrie Irving
We are finally seeing the payoff of two free agent transactions orchestrated a year and a half ago. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving returned from injury this year and neither have looked like they have missed a beat since they last hit the floor. With a supporting cast as strong as theirs, on paper, the Brooklyn Nets may very well be the best team in the NBA.
Durant and Irving provide this team with so much firepower that it makes them impossible to contain on a nightly basis. Both can do so much with and without the ball that picking and choosing who to focus on makes it that much more challenging to defend. The only concern for them has to be health. In a season with the quickest turnaround, unprecedented circumstances, and with both of them coming back from extensive injuries, rest and recovery are crucial.
The Nets’ regular season record may not be a representation of this team at their best if the two sit out a large chunk of it, but when minutes matter more down the stretch, Durant and Irving will be ready. They come in at two in the best duos in the NBA.
1. Los Angeles Lakers – LeBron James & Anthony Davis
Was this a shock? Anthony Davis is arguably the best player that LeBron James has ever been partnered with. He’s for sure the best big man, and that may be all that matters. James is a facilitator, and Davis working off “The King” is what propelled this duo the Los Angeles Lakers’ 17th Championship last year.
With LeBron climbing in age, Davis provides someone his caliber to show up night in and night out and carry the load. The Lakers got even deeper this season, and their chances at repeating have grown. With the torch slowly being passed to Davis from LeBron in the City of Angels, and with Davis resigning his maximum extension, the real question is can Davis carry the Lakers past the days of “The King”?
They end off the list of best duos in the NBA.
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