This summer has seen a monumental shift in power for the National Basketball Association. The league Champions have lost their super star, the Warriors’ dynasty is seemingly over, and King James has received a strong new addition to his squad. This offseason has finally restored balance to the NBA. Instead of a league filled with a few super teams, there is now a surplus of dominant tandems leading their teams in an attempt to earn the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Offseason acquisitions can make all the difference in reaching the promised land. Just two summers ago, Kawhi Leonard was traded to the Toronto Raptors and led them to Toronto’s first ever championship. Other moves, however, don’t provide that much change. When the announcement came that Lebron would be moving to the Lakers, many pegged them as a championship contender. However, this move only jumped Showtime up from 35 wins to 37. One player can’t single handedly win a championship. Even Kawhi Leonard needed help from Pascal Siakim in order to win the championship. Now that this offseason has shifted the league from super teams to powerful pairs, I ranked the most anticipated duos from both conferences.
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George; Los Angeles Clippers
This tandem is going to be tough to beat. These are two of the best two-way players in the league. Not only can both of these guys score whenever they need to with relative ease, they can also lock up their opponents best players. The Clippers did a phenomenal job this offseason. They were able to sway Kawhi Leonard from either staying with NBA Champion Tornonto Raptors or the always compelling Los Angeles Lakers. Trading for Paul George was what convinced Leonard to join the Clippers. While they may have given up valuable assets such as numerous draft picks and the promising Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the cost of an NBA Championship can be very expensive. However, with the skillsets that Kawhi Leonard and Paul Geroge posses, the Clippers put themselves in a fantastic position to finally win a ring.
Lebron James and Anthony Davis; Los Angeles Lakers
It finally happened; Anthony Davis is officially a Laker. After a drama filled season with the New Orleans Pelicans, Davis finally got what he wanted – a trade that sent him to play with his Taco Tuesday buddy Lebron James. While this duo should be exciting and explosive the Lakers role players will make or break the team. Regardless of whether players are able to step up or not, AD and the King should thrive. Lebron’s passing and playmaking ability combined with Anthony Davis’s shooting and post game will be incredible to watch. Lebron has never played with a dominant center, yet he still has three rings and eight finals appearances. Davis should complement Lebron’s game well enough that they can be a championship contender regardless of role players.
Steph Curry and Klay Thompson; Golden State Warriors
It should come as no surprise that the Splash Brothers are This high on the list. These are two of the best three point shooters of all time. Both have the ability to catch fire at any moment in time. In addition to this, their chemistry is out of this world. They have been playing with each other ever since they entered the league. There are some concerns about Klay Thompson since he suffered a ACL tear in game 6 of the NBA finals. However, this injury should not have the same effect on Klay as it has on other players. Klay has the ability to score at a high efficiency rate without even moving with the ball. In 2016, he dropped 60 points on only 11 dribbles in 3 quarters of a single game. Combine this ability of Klay, with the range of the 2 time MVP Steph Curry, it will be very hard to outscore this tandem.
James Harden and Russell Westbrook; Houston Rockets
The James Harden and Chris Paul duo was so close to reaching the finals in recent years. They just could never get over the mountain and defeat Golden State. The Rockets front office decided to trade future hall of famer Chris Paul for the triple double phenom and former MVP Russell Westbook. James Harden and Russell Westbrook were formally teammates in Oklahoma City. They were able to make the finals in 2012 but fell to Lebron and the Miami Heat. A lot has changed since then. Both Russ and Harden have improved drastically since then. They are also both past winners of the coveted MVP award. However for this pairing to work, they will both have to be more unselfish. Harden will have to learn that Russ will demand the ball more than CP3 would, and Russ will have to learn to trust Harden and let him do his thing as well. This new pairing may take time, but if the duo is able to work out their differences, it will pay off big time for the Houston Rockets.
Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving; Brooklyn Nets
This duo took the NBA world by storm when they announced their decision this summer to play for the Brooklyn Nets. This pairing combines the two players that are widely regarded as villains by NBA fans. Durant leaving the Thunder to go play with the Warriors who won 73 games the year prior, and Kyrie causing lots of locker room issues in Boston. However, no one can deny that both of these players can ball out. Their on the court skills are unparalleled. Kyrie Irving’s ball handling combine with Durant’s ability to get a bucket against anyone in the league will be exciting to watch. There are concerns regarding Durant’s torn achilles which he suffered in game 5 of the NBA finals. This is a valid concern considering many players such as Kobe Bryant have not returned to what they use to be after suffering an achilles injury. We will not likely see this tandem on the court this year, but both players are under contract through the next few years. If Durant is able to make a full recover and return to the player he was this past year, this will be quite an electric pairing.
Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons; Philadelphia 76ers
These two young players are the seeds of the famous “Process” that the Sixers underwent. This was the act of tanking for an extended period of time in order to acquire high draft picks. These were the two best players that Philly received out of this operation. It payed off big time. Both of these players were all stars last season, with Embiid being voted as a starter as well. They still need time to gel and the fit isn’t great but the talent that these two poses is through the roof. Ben Simmons is a jump shot away from becoming a clear cut top 10 player in the league, and Embiid’s potential is one of the greatest centers of all time if he can find a way to stay healthy throughout the course of a whole season. Both players defensive is out of this world. With Simmons being the perimeter stopper and Embiid serving as the rim protector, this duo is one of the most skilled defensively. There is room to grow for both of these players but the future is without question bright for both.
Damian Lillard and C.J Mccollum; Portland Trailblazers
This duo has been playing with each other ever since 2013. Back then the CJ Mccollum was just the scrawny rookie who would occasionally come off the bench and contribute but wasn’t much of a threat. Now he has turned into a 20 ppg scorer, a threat beyond the arc and a talented finisher as well. He and the four time all star Damian Lillard have chemistry that is second to only that of the splash brothers. One of the perks of this duo is that their clutchness is astounding. Damian Lillard has won two playoff series’s on buzzer beaters, including this past post season when he hit a deep three pointer over the reaching hands of Paul Geoge as the clock expired. Whenever, Damian Lillard is having an off night, Mccollum is fantastic at stepping up and hitting big time shots. He had 37 points in total after hitting shot after shot in the 4th quarter leading Protand to a 100-96 win over the Denver Nuggets in game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals. This duo is at the top of the ladder when it comes to getting a bucket late in the game.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton; Milwaukee Bucks
This past years MVP and his sidekick come in at number eight on this last. Giannis Antetokounmpo is flat out insane. He can score with ease, his defense is superb, and his desire to improve is phenomenal. This was enough to crown him MVP of the 2018-2019 season. Kris Middleton earned his first all star appearance this past season and signed a contract with Milwaukee to return their on a deal worth 5 years and $178 million dollars. These two players have improved greatly over their careers but there is one concern. Who is going to close out games? Last season Giannis took the lead in close games and was typically able to get the job done. However, if he was struggling or was being double teamed, the player that would typically step up in the clutch was Malcom Brogdon, who is now with the Indiana Pacers. If Kris Middleton can emerge as this player for the bucks, this team is going to be very difficult to defeat.
Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum; Boston Celtics
Kyrie has left Boston which made way for them to sign the UCONN hero Kemba Walker. This was a phenomenal signing by the celtics. Lose one star, sign the next best one. The loss of Al Horford will hurt Celtics greatly, especially since he signed with division rivals 76ers. However, if young stud Jayson Tatum is able to take his game to the next level, the Celtics will be just fine. Tatum and Walker have already taken the time to increase their chemistry since they were teammates for team USA in the FIBA World Cup. However for this duo to shine, they will have to count on the improvement of the 21 year old. Kemba Walker is an established star in the league who finally has the chance to prove that he can win in the playoffs now that he has signed with the Boston Celtics. However, in order to this Jayson Tatum will have to take his game to all-star level.
Luka Donic and Kristaps Porzingis; Dallas Mavericks
The fans will finally get to see this highly anticipated duo in action next season. Last season, the blockbuster deal that sent the New York Knick, Kristaps Porzingis, to the Dallas Mavericks took place. Kristaps Porzingis will be a fantastic complement to this past years Rookie of the Year winner Luka Doncic. Porzingis will benefit from Luka Doncic’s phenomenal playmaking with his own ability to space the floor with his three point shooting. Both of these players started their careers overseas. Luka Doncic was playing professional basketball since he was 16 years old, and Porzingis played in a European league before heading to the National Basketball League. Both players are very young. Doncic being 2o and Porzingis being 24. Their potential is sky high. It will be quite fun and exciting to see how this young European duo fairs this upcoming season.