When you talk about John Stockton, you cannot talk about him without talking about Karl Malone. When you mention Scottie Pippen, you almost have to mention Michael Jordan every single time. And when you think about Tony Parker, it is hard not to think about his 7-foot teammate – Tim Duncan. From the very outset, all of these duos were two peas in a pod, almost inseparable at birth. They were destined by the basketball gods to be together because their careers would not have been the same without the other person in their lives.
Tony Parker has been playing his entire career with Tim Duncan. Situations like these are rare, especially when you add Manu Ginobili and head coach Gregg Popovich to the mix. What these four had is absolutely special, and nearly impossible to replicate.
There are some players today that have been together from the very beginning as well. LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard look like they have been playing for years together in Portland. Lillard routinely hits buzzer beaters with poise and an inordinate amount of substance, while LaMarcus has now entered the MVP conversation.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have been playing together for the past 6 seasons in Oklahoma City. Both of them are still very young, but have already positioned themselves as the most lethal 1-2 punch in the NBA.
And then there is Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, who have also played six seasons together in Chicago. And at this point in their careers, it looks like they have the possibility of playing together their entire careers.
So, having said all of that, who are some of the up and coming 1-2 combinations in the NBA? What duos form the nucleus of a team’s core and identity? What duos will be the face of the new NBA landscape?
10. Trey Burke and Dante Exum - Utah Jazz
Trey Burke has quietly become a very efficient starting point guard in the NBA. The NBA is saturated with a gluttony of point guards today, so they are hardly diamonds in the rough. The point guard position may be the most competitive position in the NBA today. However, Burke has slowly become very confident with all of the playing time that he has been able to get on a poor Utah Jazz team.
Dante Exum is still a very raw and unproven player, but he went quite high in the draft because of his potential. Exum resembles a very young Kobe Bryant with his athleticism and IQ, and with the Jazz all in with their youth movement, Exum should get plenty of opportunities to make mistakes and learn from them.
9. Ricky Rubio and Andrew Wiggins - Minnesota Timberwolves
Pretty Tricky Ricky is the perfect point guard for the number one draft pick in the 2014 Draft – Andrew Wiggins. At this point in Wiggins’ young career, he is not at the point where he can easily create his own shot off the dribble. However, when it comes to finishing on the fast break, he may already be in the Top-10. Wiggins is one of the most athletic players in the NBA and has a body that resembles more of a track and field runner than a NBA player.
Wiggins is like a gazelle and Ricky Rubio happens to be one of the best passing point guards in the league. Rubio is a pass first point guard and with Wiggins running on the wing, Wiggins should be an easy 3 to 4 assists per game for Rubio.
2 Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel - Philadelphia 76ers
Last year’s Rookie of the Year does not have a lot of expectations on him because the Philadelphia 76ers will be terrible again this year, so it will allow him to gain a lot of experience through his mistakes. MCW had moments last year when he put up some gaudy numbers, but this year he has to keep his turnovers down to prove that he has some more control over the pace of a game.
Nerlens Noel was drafted last year, but he is technically a rookie this year because he did not play in a single game. This means that the Sixers have the potential to have last year’s Rookie of the Year and this year’s Rookie of the Year. Noel is one of the best defensive prospects in the NBA and if he can stay healthy, he will be one of the best interior defenders in the NBA.
7. Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Anderson - San Antonio Spurs
We all know that Kawhi Leonard was the Finals MVP last year and is possibly already a superstar. His offense might not be where other All Stars are at, but defensively, he may be the best perimeter defender in the NBA. Just ask LeBron.
As for Kyle Anderson, you may have never heard of him yet, but you will. The last pick of this year’s draft was the number two player in the country when he was a senior in high school. The reason why he slipped in the draft is because his game resembles Boris Diaw's. He is a 6’9” point guard that prefers to pass before he shoots, and he is on the perfect team to display his talents once he gets an opportunity.
1 Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo - Milwaukee Bucks
Jabari Parker is the leading candidate to be Rookie of the Year and will get plenty of opportunities in Milwaukee to put on display what he can do. Parker resembles a younger version of Carmelo Anthony and it is quite possible that he may average 20 points per game this year.
The Greek Freak experiment at point guard looks like it won’t happen, but once Giannis gets more comfortable in his growing body, and with the technicalities of the game, he will be one of the most complete players in the league. There aren’t many players that can put up numbers in every statistical category like him.
5. Lance Stephenson and Kemba Walker - Charlotte Hornets
Lance “Will Make You Dance” Stephenson is on a new team now and this change of scenery may do wonders for him after all of the drama he went through in Indiana. Also, after all of the humiliation he received for his histrionics last year, Stephenson should be a bit smarter with the way he approaches the game. He is a walking triple-double and it should be no different in Charlotte.
Kemba Walker has blossomed nicely in Charlotte. He is one of the most confident players in the league and has always been a winner. Now, he has to prove that he can play solid playoff basketball for a franchise that is starved to win.
4. Victor Oladipo and Nikola Vucevic - Orlando Magic
If, and this is a big if, Oladipo can stay healthy, he is one of the best combo guards in the league. He can pretty much do everything. He is not the best at anything, but he is above average at pretty much everything.
Nikola Vucevic already put up 15 points, 23 rebounds, and 4 blocks in the first game of this season. He is not talked about a lot because he is playing for a team that is barely old enough to drive, but Vucevic is the type of big man that you can build a solid team around.
3. Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe - Phoenix Suns
Goran Dragic won the Most Improved Player last season and it was phenomenal to watch as he helped lead the underdog Suns to nearly make the playoffs. The Dragon is a threat from anywhere on the floor with his 3-point shot and passes. And despite his boyish look, he is as tough as nails.
Eric Bledsoe signed a nice 5-year deal on September 24th for $70 million despite playing in only 43 games last year. But the Phoenix Suns believe in him and despite being undersized to play the two and not the best passer in the world to play the one, the Suns believe that Bledsoe is a solid basketball player before he is anything else.
2. John Wall and Bradley Beal - Washington Wizards
John Wall and Bradley Beal already believe that they are the best backcourt in the NBA, despite what anyone else thinks. With some playoff experience behind him now, Wall’s confidence is as high as ever. He is one of the fastest guards in the league and if he can figure out how to shoot a 3-pointer, he can move himself into Top 5 consideration for point guards.
Bradley Beal is also a very underrated shooter. He has one of the prettiest strokes in the league and is above average at finishing at the rim. Beal has had a history of injury problems in his young career, but if both Wall and Beal can stay healthy, the Wizards might be the third best team in the East.
1. Anthony Davis and Omer Asik - New Orleans Pelicans
This is what Anthony Davis did on opening night this past week. Davis put up 26 points, 17 rebounds, 9 blocks, and 3 steals. In just his third year in the league, Davis may already be a Top 3 candidate to be the MVP. The only thing that he has to prove is that he can be a leader than can take his team to the playoffs in the deep, deep West.
Omer Asik may be the perfect compliment to Davis. Davis is a bit frail and is more suited to play in the four spot than the five. And having a player like Asik who is a natural fit at the five and loves to do a lot of dirty work, makes him the perfect compliment to Davis. In fact, Asik had a pretty good night himself with 14 points, 17 rebounds, and 5 blocks. These two together could arguably form the best defensive frontcourt in the NBA and will cause nightmares for anyone trying to attack the paint.