The NBA is filled with star powered duos. The league has gotten more and more balanced each year, that even the bottom tier teams have an enticing one-two punch.
A prominent duo is not only based off each player’s personal success, but the camaraderie that the two players have together on the court.
This list is based on the current status of the best duos in today’s NBA, and barring no injuries.
15. Karl Anthony Towns and D-Angelo Russell: Minnesota Timberwolves
This one will take a little time, after Russell was acquired for Andrew Wiggins at the deadline. Towns and Russell should have pretty good chemistry established since they rose through the AAU circuit together.
14. Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray: Denver Nuggets
This duo has progressed each year, with Jokic’s unparalleled passing ability and Murray’s shooting, and there’s room to grow. They led Denver team to a three seed in the West this season, and just need to prove it consistently together in the playoffs.
13. Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert: Utah Jazz
On the court, this has worked, with Mitchell’s playmaking and scoring and Gobert’s paint-patrolling defense and rebounding. Off the court? Well, that’s been a bit more problematic since Gobert’s actions at the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, though some say they’ve patched things up. We’ll see.
12. Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry: Toronto Raptors
It might’ve seemed as if Lowry would finally be a first option with DeMar DeRozan and Kawhi Leonard elsewhere , but that’s not the case. Siakam emerged as an All-Star, with 24 points and 8 rebounds. Lowry remained steady, at 20 points and 8 assists, and the Raptors kept rolling to a surprising second seed in the East.
11. Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo: Miami Heat
After Butler was traded to the Heat, who would’ve thought he would find a running mate that could help him lead this Miami team to a four seed in the East? Certainly no one outside of Miami. Not a bad result considering that some said Jimmy came to Miami to retire. While they’ve paired well offensively, their real strength is their defensive passion and versatility, the latter of which is virtually unmatched around the NBA.
10. Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker: Boston Celtics
Walker slid in for Kyrie Irving, Tatum took a leap, and suddenly the Celtics were the third seed. Tatum averaged 24 points and 7 rebounds, and Walker added 21 points and four assists. Walker never played with anyone as good as Tatum in Charlotte.
9. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons: Philadelphia 76ers
On talent alone, this might be the top duo. But their games don’t really complement each other like some of the others. The collective numbers show that each performs better with the other off the floor, since their lack of spacing together tends to clog the lane. The individual numbers (Embiid with 23 points and 12 boards, and Simmons averaging a near triple double) are outstanding. Time will tell if they can figure it out.
8. Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis: Dallas Mavericks
Size and offensive skill. Doncic is already elite, and Porzingis was starting to get back to that level after a major knee injury. He’s also shown he’s comfortable being the No. 2 option. But can they defend well enough together to win anything meaningful, coming out of the West?
7. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum: Portland Trail Blazers
No backcourt in the NBA can score like this one, outside of a healthy Warriors squad. Defensively? Well, not always ideal. But Portland’s fall this season was due mostly to injuries. Assuming they stick together, they should be contending for a top-4 seed again.
6. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kris Middleton: Milwaukee Bucks
One’s the reigning and likely MVP: 30 points, 14 rebounds, and everything in between. Middleton has always been solid in every area, but he elevated this season, with a 21/6/4 statline, same as Paul George. Can Middleton be counted on when Giannis is crowded in the playoffs?
5. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson: Golden State Warriors.
They are the best shooting backcourt in NBA history. They just need to get healthy again. Klay Thompson didn’t rely on athleticism, so the ACL injury doesn’t seem insurmountable. Curry should be fine. They’ll be even better if Andrew Wiggins can give them a third threat, and take some pressure off.
4. James Harden and Russell Westbrook: Houston Rockets
The most controversial duo? Sure. James Harden is constantly criticized for his ball-pounding style of play and Russell Westbrook has been criticized in the past for only caring about triple-doubles. And they’ve both had down moments in the postseason, especially Harden. The stats, though, can’t be ignored. Harden leads the league in scoring and Westbrook was surging before the shutdown.
3. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving: Brooklyn Nets
We haven’t seen it yet, but have a sense of how good it could be. First, Durant needs to get healthy, but it appears that’s already happened. Irving needs to show, again, that he can share the ball and the spotlight. But this dueo has the potential to leap to No. 1 if their games connect as expected. They may be unguardable.
2. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George: Los Angeles Clippers
The top two-way duo. Only load management has kept them out of the top spot in the West. They can guard every position, score and distribute. George has something to prove in the postseason, but we’ve all seen what Leonard does there. Both in their prime, too. So this isn’t ending anytime soon.
1. LeBron James and Anthony Davis: Los Angeles Lakers
Rejuvenated by playing with another top-5 player,. LeBron put up 26 points a game along with 8 rebounds and 11 assists. LeBron has stepped aside in some ways for Davis, who can score at all three levels. Can LeBron continue at this pace? Can Davis hold up physically? And will Davis sign long-term? Those are the only questions. These two guys are the scariest duo for any team they go against.
Brady Hawk (@MiamiHawk607) is the youngest member of Five Reasons Sports, and the only one who aspires to be a sports agent. Hear him discuss this piece on Five on the Floor.