A look back through history and there have been dozens of dynamic duos that seemed to share a telepathic communication and find tremendous success playing alongside one another. Jordan & Pippen, Magic & Kareem, Stockton & Malone, Kobe & Shaq, Bird & McHale, Cousy & Russell are just a few of these brilliant duos, and there is a current crop in the NBA that could reach similar lofty heights. With the playoffs just about to begin, it is now that these duos could cement their legacy.
A lot of teams have experimented with a “Big 3” in recent years, with some finding success, but it is often the dynamic duo which will be the most effective and entertaining to watch. This could be a little and large combo that run the pick and roll, a backcourt duo that run defences ragged, or a towering frontcourt duo that dominate down low and create havoc for opponents trying to contain them in the post. Sometimes it is players with opposing skill sets that work best, such as one player that excels on the offensive end whilst the other does the dirty work on the defensive end and gets the necessary stops.
Watching a duo working together can be fantastic to watch and is refreshing to see after a lengthy period where teams would rely on 1 “superstar” that runs endless isolation plays. Basketball is a team game, and sometimes a duo can be the most effective. There have been some excellent duos so far this season, with a few recognisable partnerships still shining, whilst there are also 1 or 2 new ones which look particularly promising for the future.
Westbrook & Durant is a notable omission, but they have played very few games together this season and it could be argued that they are better off without each other.
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10 Dwight Howard & James Harden
Although it has largely been the James Harden show this year with Dwight Howard forced to sit out a large chunk of the season, these two form a formidable duo and in time could become one of the best combinations in recent times. Harden possesses excellent shooting ability and can attack the hoop, whilst Howard has developed a powerful game in the post, and he is also an excellent defender. When Howard and Harden combine for a pick and roll it will usually end in a Howard dunk or a Harden bucket, and this could create a host of problems for teams in the post-season.
Although the Rockets and Harden have impressed with Dwight sat out, there is no denying that his presence on the court makes a huge difference to the team. Each night you can count on Harden for a huge 27.5 PPG as well as 5.6 RPG and 6.9 APG, whilst Howard puts up a reliable 15.8 PPG and 10.6 RPG in just 30 minutes.
9 Kyle Lowry & DeMar DeRozan
It has been a long time, but Raptors fans have had a lot to cheer about the last two seasons. This year they have been one of the best teams in the East and clinched their second straight Atlantic division title, and they currently have a tied franchise best 48 wins, with 1 game left to play at the time of writing. They have achieved all this playing an exciting brand of basketball, and this is largely thanks to the backcourt duo of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. This duo has rejuvenated the entire franchise, and the “We the North” campaign has created excitement and an identity for Raptors fans.
Lowry is playing like a complete PG with averages of 17.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG and 6.8 APG, whilst the 6’8 SG DeRozan adds 20.1 PPG, 4.6 RPG and 3.5 APG. The dynamic duo share a brilliant connection, and they will be desperate to advance after a painful first round exit to the Nets in Game 7 last season.
8 Bradley Beal & John Wall
The Wizards have assembled a terrific team since drafting John Wall in 2010, including Nene, Marcin Gortat, Paul Pierce and Bradley Beal who they picked up in the 2012 draft. The backcourt duo of Wall and Beal has emerged to become one of the best in the NBA, and they are still learning to play alongside one another which is an exciting thought for Wizards fans.
Wall possesses remarkable dribbling skills, he is lightning quick and a great scorer attacking the basket. He is also an elite passer and particularly when driving to the basket; he currently sits 2nd in assists with 10 per game. Beal meanwhile shoots 40.9% from behind the arc, and this outside threat compliments Wall’s game who can drive and kick the ball out or score it himself depending on what the defence does. Beal is also a capable secondary playmaker and is developing into an excellent 2 guard.
In addition to 10 APG, Wall also puts up 17.6 PPG and 4.6 RPG, whilst Beal chips in 15.3 PPG, 3.8 RPG and 3.1 APG. This gives the Wizards plenty of firepower, and when you add in the shooting and experience of Pierce, along with the interior presence of Gortat and Nene, you have a formidable team that could go far in the playoffs.
7 Joakim Noah & Pau Gasol
The addition of Pau Gasol has proved to be just what the doctor ordered for Chicago, as it has provided some much needed firepower down in the post and it has also helped to develop one of the best front court duos in the NBA this season. In Noah and Gasol you have two of the best passing Big Men in the game, as well as two elite defenders and rebounders. They complement each others game well and both are able to find the open man whether they are in the post or out at the free throw line.
Although Noah’s production is down this season, the Bulls are a much more complete team and if Rose is able to slot back into the team then they will give anyone in the East a run for their money. Gasol leads the league in double-doubles and is the oldest to do so (34) since Patrick Ewing in 1996-97, and with Gasol shouldering plenty of the scoring (18.5 PPG) it enables Noah (last seasons Defensive Player of the Year) to do what he does best – set picks, grab rebounds, defend, fight for loose balls, fire up the crowd and of course annoy the opposition to no end.
6 Marc Gasol & Zach Randolph
You will not find a frontcourt more formidable or bruising than the one down in Memphis, and any team knows they are in for a tough night when they face the Grizzlies. Physically they are imposing with Gasol at 7-foot-1 and 265 pounds and Randolph at 6-foot-9 and 260 pounds, and they both know how to throw their weight around down in the post. They are also both highly skilled Big Men who are much improved when playing alongside one another. The Grizzlies sat 2nd in a fierce Western conference for a large chunk of the season, and although they have slipped in the standings they will prove a tough opponent for any team.
It is on the defensive end where the Grizzlies and this duo excel, but both Big Men are more than capable scorers and both could score 20+ on any given night through a combination of post moves or 18 footers. They are also both intelligent players who can make the right pass, and coming to Memphis has rejuvenated Randolph’s career. Gasol chips in 17.3 PPG, 7.7 RPG and 3.8 APG, whilst his partner in crime contributes 16.1 PPG, 10.5 PG and 2.2 APG
5 LeBron James & Kyrie Irving
It has been a fascinating season in Cleveland where things were not going to plan for many months. They have since found the winning formula and are now expected to reach the Finals. Their plan of creating a Big 3 with LeBron, Irving and Love has not worked, and this has left Kevin Love as little more than an outside shooter and it will be interesting to see what happens this summer.
LeBron and Irving have learnt how to play alongside one another, but they are not a duo that shares a connection like the others on this list. Instead, they are 2 elite scorers that have found a way to gel (history proves this is a rarity). This backcourt firepower makes them very difficult to defend as they can both shoot, attack the basket, handle the ball and make a smart pass. They may not be a traditional duo, but with LeBron putting up 25.3 PPG, 6 RPG and 7.4 APG whilst Irving adds 21.9 PPG, 3.2 RPG and 5.2 APG, this is a deadly one-two punch that could go all the way.
4 Damian Lillard & LeMarcus Aldridge
This lethal little and large duo is a big part of what has turned Portland from a struggling team into one of the best in the West, and their youth makes them a fantastic prospect. When Lillard and Aldridge are both firing then the Trailblazers are tough to stop and they can both score from all over the floor.
They have formed a connection and work well together, and they can flawlessly run the pick and roll. Lillard is an excellent 3 point shooter if defenders go under the screen, but he can also attack the basket or make the correct pass if defenders go over the top. Aldridge favours shooting 18 footers, but he also has the strength to bang down low and get high percentage shots at the basket. Lillard contributes 21 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists whilst Aldridge adds 23 and 10 rebounds; this is key to the Blazers success. They are also a joy to watch and their youth makes their connection even more impressive.
3 Chris Paul & Blake Griffin
Like many great point guards, Chris Paul works best if he has a Big Man who can attack the basket alongside him. He has formed a duo with Tyson Chandler in the past, but now he and Blake Griffin are one combo which is to be feared. They are one of the most entertaining duos in the league with dozens of alley-oops, and their games compliment each other perfectly. Again it is the pick and roll which teams find so difficult to stop, and particularly with Paul’s midrange shot, incredible handles and passing ability. Griffin is freakishly athletic but has added an outside shot to his game, making him unpredictable and difficult to contain. CP3 is leading the league in assists with 10.2 per game, and many of these are to his partner in crime and put up above the rim for a highlight play.
This is the perfect example of a fantastic duo as they both compliment each others game and perform best when playing alongside one another.
2 Tim Duncan & Tony Parker
There is of course much more to San Antonio’s success than the duo of Parker and Duncan, but the understanding that the two share means that anytime they are both on the floor then the other team will struggle (on both ends of the floor). Their partnership has grown and developed over the years and is one of the best of all-time. They have four rings together and in January they moved into 2nd place on the most wins for a duo list, behind Stockton & Malone. They are now at it again as the Spurs have come from nowhere to rise up the Western conference and are (at the time of writing) on an 11 game winning streak.
Both players are highly intelligent and you will often see them conversing during the game, no doubt coming up with plays which Popovich has no problems letting them run. Their numbers may not dazzle and they are both on reduced minutes, but this is one of the most effective duos in the league and you wouldn’t bet against the Spurs in the postseason. They of course also have Ginobli, who comes off the bench to create an incredible trio, and once again the Spurs are playing the best team basketball in the league and a lot of this is down to Duncan and Parker.
1 Steph Curry & Klay Thompson
This season Curry and Thompson have formed the best backcourt in the league, and this is the driving force in helping the Warriors to be the best team in the league. Not only are they prolific shooters that work well together, the “Splash Brothers” are also having fun whilst doing it. Both have excelled individually, but they also seem to challenge each other and bring out the best in one another. Curry averages 23.9 per game whilst Thompson is pouring in 21.6 each night, but of course they bring much more to the table than their remarkable scoring as both can pass, defend and run the offense.
The Warriors are the most entertaining team to watch this year, and a large part of this is seeing Curry and Thompson go to work and play off one another. You can be sure that coaches around the league are already desperately trying to come up with a way to contain this dynamic duo, which this season has been the best in the league.
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