While basketball is a 5 man game which requires all players on the court to be on the same page, teams that have two elite players working together often find themselves at the top of the standings.
This article covers duos that excel within a certain aspect of the game.
2for1Hoops blog is co-authored so we appreciate the collaboration necessary for a successful two-man operation and think it would be appropriate to look at the elite one-two punches in the league.
Let us know what you think in the comments section!
Best Shooting Duo
Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson
Golden State Warriors
John W. McDonough for Sports Illustrated
Yes, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are the best shooting duo in the league.
No, it’s not particularly close.
The Splash Bros have been numbers 1 and 2 on the 3PM list for 4 years straight, and combine for 6 of the 7 single best seasons from 3 as well. Neither Curry nor Thompson has ever dipped below 40% from three, as their career averages are 44% and 42% respectively.
These so marksmen are prototypical floor spacers capable of getting hot and hitting from anywhere, allowing them to overcome even the best defense. Two years ago Curry shattered the most 3’s in a season by sinking 402 shots from deep. Last year, Klay Thompson scored 60 points, with only 11 dribbles… in only 29 minutes!
These two marksmen could very well be the two best shooters ever and are the no-brainer addition as our “Best Shooting Duo”
Best Passing Duo
James Harden and Chris Paul
Ron Turenne/Getty Images
Next season, the Houston Rockets will feature two magnificent passers in James Harden and Chris Paul.
Harden averaged a league best 11.2 assists per game, while Paul was fourth with 9.2. Both players will once again have an opportunity to post gaudy assist totals given the Rockets floor spacing and shooting. Harden and Paul also rank in the top five in the “secondary assist”, or “hockey assists”, indicating their unselfish knack for putting teammates in positions to score.
Once these two talents figure out how to best play off each other, the potent Houston offense should soar to even higher heights.
The Rockets were 4th in the NBA in assists per game last year with 24.6. That number should rise as the Rockets hum the ball around the perimeter and score at ridiculous levels.
Best Player/Coach Duo
Kawhi Leonard and Gregg Popovich
San Antonio Spurs
Greg Popovich and Kawhi Leonard are a match made in Heaven.
The 15th pick in 2011, Kawhi has increased his scoring average from 7.9 as a rookie to 25.5 last season solidifying himself as a top 5 player in the league.
Gregg Popovich, famous for his uncompromising coaching method and hard-ass mentality, swears by Kawhi. After a game in April, Pop said of Kawhi: “obviously, in my opinion, Kawhi is the best player in the league right now. He’s the best two-way player and does it all with such class, it’s impressive.” Kawhi Leonard’s soft-spoken and workmanship mentality next to Pop’s charismatic, creative coaching makes for the best player-coach dynamic in the league.
Both individuals have unlimited amounts of respect for each other and are the cream of the crop in the National Basketball Association.
Most Cohesive Duo
Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan
(DAVID DOW / NBAE/GETTY IMAGES)
Kyle Lowry described his backcourt mate in Toronto by saying, “I’d call DeMar a best friend. A genuine, awesome, great guy. It’s beyond friendship if there’s a word for that. Family, that’s the only other word for DeMar.”
These two are great friends off the court, but their relationship extends on the court, where they are both three-time All Stars. Lowry and DeRozan both signed contract extensions recently, and their play has led to 4 straight playoff berths and a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2016.
The Raptors Franchise is anticipating another successful season behind their two cohesive stars.
Best Defensive Duo
Draymond Green and Kevin Durant
Golden State Warriors
While Kevin Durant is best known for his scoring prowess, his move to the Warriors has brought out a more complete and dominant two-way player.
In his first season in Golden State, Durant averaged a career high 1.6 blocks per game and elevated his defensive play in the playoffs.
The Warriors defense is obviously anchored by Green, the 2017 Defensive Player of the Year. Green is phenomenal defensively: he leads the league in steals and is capable of guarding all five positions at a high level. The length of both players makes the Warriors defense so tough to score in the paint with surrounding players like Klay Thompson and Andre Igoudala to guard the perimeter.
Draymond’s disruptive defense and high motor is well chronicled, but with Durant committed to playing both sides, the Warriors will remain an elite defense
Most Exciting Duo
Russell Westbrook and Paul George
Oklahoma City Thunder
Last year Westbrook averaged 30 plus points, 10 plus rebounds, and 10 plus assists making him the second player ever to average a triple double. Paul George, despite a slow start, stepped his game up in April leading the Pacers to the postseason with a 5-1 record behind his NBA-high 32.8 points, 4.5 assists, and 8.2 rebounds.
Westbrook and George both elevated their game in the postseason as they were in the top 10 for points, steals, rebounds, and assists. In 2017 Westbrook led the league in fast break points with 6.7 as he boasts an explosive burst in the open court and can finish above the rim with either hand.
George is one of the few players in the league that can actually match up with Lebron and Durant physically and athletically as he stands 6’ 9” 220 and has the quickness of a guard. This pairing provides a lethal dunking punch as Westbrook and PG13 attack the rim mercilessly and look to create posters on a regular basis.
This pairing provides a lethal dunking punch as Westbrook and PG13 attack the rim mercilessly and create posters on a regular basis. George gives Westbrook a wing counterpart who can initiate offense, create shots, and defend at a high level.
OKC is in for an exciting season behind their two explosive superstars.
Most Underrated Duo
Mike Conley and Marc Gasol
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Memphis has been in the playoffs for six straight years, and a large part of that because of the consistency of their point guard center combination.
In their ninth year together, the 32 year old Marc Gasol made his third All Star Team showcasing his low post scoring, increased outside touch, excellent passing, and high-level defense. Meanwhile, Mike Conley flourished with a career high in points while increasing his efficiency from two and three.
The Grizzlies are a small market team so Conley and Gasol’s skills often get overlooked compared to other players at their respective positions.
Both players are talented and should continue to produce, as the Grizzlies battle in the constantly improving Western Conference.
Most Competitive Duo
Lebron James and Kyrie Irving
David Liam/ Getty Images
We may have seen the last of Lebron and Kyrie on the same team. After 3 final appearances and 1 ring the Cavs are in a “peculiar place” heading into 2018. That being said, the combo of Lebron’s dominance as a playmaker coupled with Kyrie’s elite shooting and clutch offense has been a scary tandem.
Last year the two combined for a league-best 51.6 points per game and 14.5 assists. Both of these guys want to win badly and will do anything in their power to make it happen.
The two moments that stand out came in Game 7 against the Warriors in 2016. The “Lebron Block” on Iguodala followed up by Kyrie’s 3 with 53 seconds left sealed the deal to defeat the best regular season team ever.
With Kyrie is reaching his prime and Lebron aging like a fine wine the two will continue to shine