Throughout the last 10 years in the NBA, there have been various combos of teammates that any NBA coach would drool over having to help reinforce their lineup. No doubt some great duos on that list from recent years have worked tirelessly to put their respective teams on their backs for deep post-season playoff runs. Some recent, obviously talented pairs of teammates we have seen include the Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combination in Oklahoma City, Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler in Chicago, and LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard in Portland.
Some other pairings of teammates have also come about through experiments or random mistakes. Take for example in 2012, the Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni experimenting around with lineups, deciding to roll the dice by entering an unknown NBA D-league call-up named Jeremy Lin into the lineup to play with an all-star in Carmelo Anthony. Or when a low pick in the 2011 NBA draft, Jimmy Butler, turns out to develop unexpected talents and become the future of a franchise next to the former star Derrick Rose. Whatever the case may be, in this column we take a look at what led various teammates to being separated from teams they were once prized possessions of.
All good things have to come to an end at some point, and some things will never be the same. The former NBA teammates in this column are ranked in order of their career success together and all 15 of these NBA teammate combos are equally never going to be together on the same team again.
14 Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love
The 2008 NBA Draft brought many current NBA stars into the league, and two players came in back to back picks from UCLA. Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook spent a year together in college leading the Bruins to a Final Four appearance in the big dance. Love led the Bruins with 17.5 ppg and 10.6 rpg while Westbrook put up 12.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg, and 4.3 apg that 2007-08 season.
Westbrook ended up being selected 4th by the Supersonics while Love was selected 5th by the Grizzlies and then traded to the Timberwolves. It would have been an exciting reunion to get to watch Love and Westbrook share the court together in the NBA, but now that Love has formed the big three with Lebron James and Kyrie Irving in Cleveland, it looks like he is committed to winning more championships with the Cavaliers.
13 Rajon Rondo and Demarcus Cousins
The Sacramento Kings had not made it to a single playoff series since 2006, but with the 5th pick of the 2010 NBA Draft, Demarcus ‘Boogie’ Cousins, Sacramento fans were hopeful they were on to something good. Cousins proved himself in the post with his monstrous strength and furious emotion, posting jaw-dropping numbers of 26.9 ppg, 11.5 rpg, and 1.4 bpg in the 2015-16 season.
Kings fans were even more hopeful going into that season with the pickup of Rajon Rondo, imagining an unstoppable pick-and-roll combo between the big man and the accurate passer. Rondo did meet and maybe even exceed expectations, tying his career-high of 11.7 apg in a season with a decent 11.9 ppg in the 2015-16 season. Although the two teammates developed an unlikely relationship, since they both had been known for their hard attitudes, Rondo ultimately decided to leave the Kings to join the Bulls for the 2016-17 season. As Rondo’s career is dwindling to a close, we can’t imagine Rondo and Cousins being partnered up again in another lineup experiment.
12 Carmelo Anthony and Jeremy Lin
Who knew that an undrafted, Harvard graduate in Jeremy Lin would end up playing on the biggest stage next to the 3rd overall pick in the 2003 draft, Carmelo Anthony? The ‘Linsanity’ takeover was an entertaining period in the 2011-12 season that had basketball fans all over the world hooked. Lin put up an eye-popping line of at least 20 points, 7 assists, and 1 steal in each of his first five career starts, helping lead the Knicks to a seven-game win streak during the time.
Anthony was still the consistent and true leader of the Knicks, finishing that season with a line of 22.6 ppg, 3.6 apg, and 6.3 rpg, but nothing more came of this teammate combination. The Knicks decided to let go of Lin at the end of the season after losing to the Heat in the first round of the playoffs, and Lin has been passed around to four different NBA teams since 2012, but you have to admit it was exciting while it lasted.
11 Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry
Before the Splash Brothers and the insane three-pointers, there was Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry. Ellis ran the show for the Warriors back in the 2009-10 season with a solid line of 25.5 ppg, 5.3 apg, and 2.2 spg when Curry was just the 7th pick out of the 2009 NBA Draft.
Although Ellis was putting up strong performances, it wasn’t enough to carry the Warriors into any playoff runs during his tenure in Golden State. Curry did manage to put up an acceptable line of 18.6 ppg, 5.8 apg, and 1.5 spg in the 2010-11 season, but it’s nothing like the MVP-type numbers we are used to seeing him put up consistently today. It’s obvious that these two teammates did not mesh well together, but it’s fair to assume that things turned out pretty well for the Warriors when they decided to get rid of Ellis and go all-in on Curry.
10 Deron Williams and Brook Lopez
Taken 10th in the 2008 NBA Draft, Brook Lopez has been with the Nets franchise during its transition from New Jersey to Brooklyn. Lopez received some extra help when the Nets traded for point guard Deron Williams from the Jazz in 2011. Williams displayed a strong line of 21.0 ppg and 8.7 apg in the 2011-12 season with the Nets, but it wasn’t until the next season they would reach the post-season for the first time since 2007.
Lopez put up an average of 20.7 ppg and grabbed 6.0 rpg in the 2013-14 season leading the Brooklyn team to the Conference Semifinals, but they would lose to the overpowering talent of the championship-winning Miami Heat. Brook Lopez looks to stay put in Brooklyn, as it has been his only team his whole career, but Deron Williams has been on the move multiple times over the years, so don’t count on these two being teammates again in the future.
9 Andre Iguodala and Lou Williams
Back in the 2005-06 season, the Philadelphia 76ers were actually a relevant team, thanks to one of their valuable players Andre Iguodala and a great bench player in Lou Williams. For a three-season stretch, Iguodala did not miss a single game, averaging his best line of 19.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg, and 4.8 apg in the 2007-08 season. Williams was always a go-to bench player to come in and put up points, averaging his best numbers of 14.0 ppg and 4.2 apg in the 2009-10 season.
Together, Iguodala and Williams took Philadelphia to four different years of playoff runs, their furthest run coming in the 2012 post-season win they lost to the Celtics in the Conference Semifinals. Although the two teammates didn’t take their team far into the post-season, it was an exciting period for Sixers fans before the disappointing decline we have observed in recent years. Iguodala is now happily locked in with the Warriors and Lou Williams has bounced around to four different teams in the last five years.
8 Dwight Howard and James Harden
It was pretty shocking when James Harden decided to leave the Thunder to take his talents to the Houston Rockets in 2012. What shook the basketball world even more was when Dwight Howard decided to team up with James Harden in Houston in 2013. Harden was breaking out as a superstar after being only a sixth man off the bench in Oklahoma City. Harden was annihilating every team offensively since joining the Rockets in 2012, specifically averaging 29.0 ppg, 7.5 apg, and 6.1 rpg in the 2015-16 season.
Houston fans were filled with optimism following the addition of the superman Howard, expecting the Rockets to make some deep playoff runs for years to come. But expectations fell short for Howard, as he struggled to put up the usual stats compared to his Orlando Magic days, although he did post a line of 18.3 ppg, 12.2 rpg, and 1.8 bpg in the 2013-14 season.
There was also a struggle for who help the leadership role, which led to tensions between the two. Howard ended up leaving Houston after the 2015-16 season, making that his fourth team in the last five years. Harden looks to stay committed to the Rockets, so don’t expect to see these two in the locker room together again.
7 Danny Granger and Paul George
The 17th pick in the 2005 NBA Draft in Danny Granger and the younger 10th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft in Paul George joined forces in Indiana to go on a four-year playoff run together. Granger peaked in his career with 25.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg, and 2.7 apg in the 2008-09 season, and when George arrived in 2010, Granger started his decline. George averaged his best numbers with Granger with 21.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg, and 3.5 apg in the 2013-14 season, but at that point, Granger was on his way out.
Nonetheless, the Pacers were consistent playoff contenders because of this duo, managing to make it to the Conference Finals before facing and falling to the Lebron James era of the Miami Heat. Although George missed Granger in his prime years, the two made for an exciting combination for Pacers fans for four years. We won’t be seeing these two playing together on the same team again because Granger has been averaging career low numbers while George has developed into the Pacers all-star.
6 LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard
Although these two players were only together a short while in Portland, I consider them stronger and more valuable players than the teammates previously listed in this column when looking at their stats. LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard took the Trail Blazers to the playoffs 2 years in a row together, and Aldridge put up 23.2 ppg, 11.1 rpg, and 2.6 apg in the 2013-14 season.
Aldridge posted similar numbers the season after, but it wasn’t enough to keep him satisfied with early exits from the playoffs each year. In a similar fashion to Kevin Durant walking out on Westbrook, Aldridge left Lillard for the much stronger and experienced San Antonio Spurs in the 2015-16 season. Don’t expect to see these two making a reunion after this hard breakup, especially now that Aldridge is playing a big role in the Spurs lineup.
5 Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith
Denver gained its prized possession in the 3rd overall pick of the 2003 NBA Draft. Carmelo Anthony came into the league ready to make a statement, averaging over 20 ppg in every season of his career. In the 2006-07 season, the Nuggets added a shooter in J.R. Smith who would become a long-time teammate of Anthony.
Anthony’s most valuable line came with 28.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg, and 3.8 apg in the 2006-07 season. But Denver didn’t have much luck from 2007 to 2008 when they lost 8 straight playoff games to the Spurs and Lakers combined. The 2008-09 post-season was the teammates deepest run into the Conference Finals with the Nuggests before losing to the Lakers.
The two shared the same locker room once more in New York and went on two more years of playoff runs together in the 2012 and 2013 post-seasons, but never reached any further than the Conference Semifinals. Smith and Anthony won’t be seen again on the same team because Smith has found his home with the championship-winning Cavaliers and Anthony has his own problems to deal with in New York.
4 Josh Smith and Joe Johnson
When the Atlanta Hawks come to mind, two fan favorites who helped build this consistently strong franchise were Joe Johnson and Josh Smith. Johnson’s sparkling line of 25.0 ppg, 4.4 apg, and 4.2 rpg came in his 2006-07 breakout season. Smith was similarly a consistent and reliable offensive weapon for the Hawks, averaging over 16 ppg and 8 rpg over the five-year period that the two took Atlanta to the playoffs.
Because of these two teammates, the Hawks have been a playoff contender year after year since the 2007-08 season, but they haven’t had the greatest luck, having a tendency to getting swept in the Conference Semifinals twice in 2009 and 2010. Johnson and Smith meant a lot to Atlanta during their time there, but since 2013, each have been passed around the NBA to various teams, and it is unlikely they will end up in the same locker room again.
3 Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu
Something magical was brewing after Orlando landed Dwight Howard as their first overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft. The superhuman Dwight Howard and sharp shooter Hedo Turkoglu joined forces together and were consistently an offensive threat over their years as teammates. These two teammates led the Magic to three straight years of playoff runs together and one trip to the NBA Finals in the 2008-09 season.
Howard put up monstrous numbers of 20.6 ppg, 13.8 rpg, and 2.9 bpg in the 2008-09 season, really proving himself as a monster in the post and crashing the boards. Turkoglu was a reliable shooter from downtown, averaging his best numbers of 19.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg, and 5.0 apg in the 2007-08 season. This teammate combination really worked well because it required any team's defense to closely monitor Turkoglu every time he had the ball behind the arc, creating some space for Howard to work with down low in the paint.
Since 2009, Turkoglu was moved around the NBA and Howard tested free agency bouncing from the Lakers to the Rockets and now ended up in Atlanta. It’s unlikely to see Turkoglu reuniting with Howard since he’s averaging the lowest numbers of his career and is nearing retirement.
2 Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler
The Chicago-born basketball star Derrick Rose was the 1st pick of the 2008 NBA Draft and began his career with the Bulls, ready to step in and assume the leadership role that would come with the hiring of Tom Thibodeau in 2010. Rose earned his MVP award in the 2010-11 season, tearing it up on the court with a line of 25.0 ppg, 7.7 apg, and 4.1 rpg, but Thibodeau had even more to be excited about in the upcoming season.
With the 30th pick in 2011, the Bulls selected their future star Jimmy Butler, the defensive specialist from Marquette who wasn’t even considered to be a threat on the offensive end at the time. Butler slowly proved himself on the court and earned himself more playing time, jumping from 8.5 mpg in the 2011-12 season to playing 38.7 mpg in the 2013-14 season while Rose was sidelined by his debilitating knee injuries.
Together, Butler and Rose led the Bulls to four years of deep playoff runs, but it wasn’t satisfying management enough, which led to the trading of Rose in 2016 to start the rebuilding era in Chicago. Now, as Rose’s value drops, it’s unlikely these two will be together again as Butler’s value continues to grow in Chicago.
These two precious cornerstones of Oklahoma City led the franchise to an NBA Finals back in 2012 before falling to the Miami Heat, and the Thunder never came as close to achieving the ultimate goal ever since. The two seemed to have had one of the best, brotherly bonds any teammates could have in the NBA, but after experiencing failure season after season and not reaching the Finals again, something had to give.
Although Durant posted his MVP line of 32.0 ppg, 5.5 apg, and 7.4 apg in the 2013-14 season, he couldn’t accept living in the shadow of the Warriors after the Thunder blew their 3-1 series lead to Golden State in 2016, so he ultimately decided if he couldn’t beat them, he would join them. Unfortunately, Westbrook wasn’t viewed as an asset compelling enough to keep Durant around for another try, which led to the current poor state of their relationship. Durant has found a new home with the splash brothers and Westbrook is out for revenge, so besides the peaceful All-Star outing, don’t expect to see these two on a team together again.
1 LeBron James and Dwayne Wade
We all remember “The Decision” when LeBron James decided to take his talents to South Beach and play for the Miami Heat back in 2010. Miami already had their main leader in Dwayne Wade and with the addition of James, Wade posted a line of 25.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg, and 4.6 apg in the 2010-11 season. It took time for the group to get on the same page, but four straight years of NBA Finals appearances for the Heat was a major success.
James put up major numbers averaging over 26 ppg, 7 rpg, and 6 apg in his four years in Miami, so you could say Wade and James hit their groove on the court, winning two NBA championships in 2012 and 2013. When remembering this super duo’s time together and considering that James left to return to his hometown in Cleveland, we can’t have hard feelings for either Wade or James. The two peacefully separated, James to return to “the land”, and Wade to eventually come represent Chicago, so it’s fitting that they hang up their jerseys to end their careers in their respective hometowns.
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