Ranking the Top Duos in the NBA

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The NBA is in an era where top duos run the league. This became the norm after the summer of 2019 when it seemed like every half-decent team had a star duo of some kind. Now, a few years removed from that crazy summer, let’s rank the best NBA duos entering the 2022 season. For this exercise, we will not be ranking any duos that have players set to miss significant time in the upcoming year (apologies to Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Jamal Murray).

Ranking the Top Duos in the NBA

5. The Jays

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown coming in here at five might be a surprise for some but it shouldn’t be. The most valuable player archetype in the league is the tall wing who can dribble, shoot, defend and create his own shot. The Boston Celtics have the luxury of having not one but two of those players on their roster. Tatum and Brown last season combined to average 51.1 points per game on a combined 47-39-82 splits. Doing this while also being two of the best defenders at your respective positions makes the Celtics automatic playoff contenders every season. Even last year when Boston had seemingly no depth, tons of injury issues, they squeaked into the playoffs on the backs of Tatum and Brown’s excellence. If it wasn’t for Leonard and Paul George, the Celtics’ star duo would be the best wing tandem in the NBA.

4. Heat Culture

Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo are the poster children for Miami Heat culture. They are both gritty tough players whose games are mostly based around their athleticism and defense. There is a reason this top duo made the NBA finals just 10 months ago. Similarly, how the Jays are like a discount version of another star duo, Butler and Bam are sort of the discount version of the Los Angeles Lakers duo (who we will get to a bit later). They are both tall, long, physical defenders who can score from the mid-range but excel in the paint. Although they aren’t quite as good at scoring the basketball as the Jays, their superior defense and playmaking ability give them the edge.

The Jays combined to average just under eight assists per game last season. Butler averaged over seven, and Adebayo is one of the best passing big men in the league. So since the playmaking gap is larger than the scoring gap between these two duos, it’s hard not to give Miami the edge. Not to mention, they were two games away from winning an NBA championship, while Boston’s duo couldn’t even beat Miami when they faced off two years ago.

3. The Reigning Champs

The Milwaukee Bucks are the defending NBA champions but don’t have one of the top-two duos in the league? Yes. Even the most biased of Bucks fans know that as good as Khris Middleton is, the reason this duo is so high is mostly because of the two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Bucks duo has one superstar (which is more than the previous duos can say), but the final top duos each have TWO superstars. That is tough to beat. But having a player who many (not me) consider to be the best in the league is enough to get you into the top three at least.

You might be thinking, if Antetokounmpo is enough to get the Bucks duo into the top five, why aren’t the four and five spots also taken by duos with a true superstar? This is because the Bucks are one of the rare teams that have one superstar but still have other all-star caliber players. Most teams either have two superstars or one superstar and not much else. The Bucks are somewhere in between which makes it fitting they slide right into the middle of the list.

2. We Live in Brooklyn, Baby

The almighty Brooklyn Nets will have to settle for the number two spot for once. If we were including the third-best player then maybe they would have the top spot. But since this is only about top duos, they slide in at two. I know Kevin Durant has said he is tired of being second place before but hopefully, he is cool with being here one more time. This is another case of a duo containing the potential best player in the league. Durant is coming off possibly his best playoff series to date where he hit one of the craziest game-tying shots you will ever see. All of this coming off an Achilles injury that held him out for an entire year! Last season, Durant averaged 27 points, seven rebounds, and five assists on a career-best, 66.6 true shooting percentage. These numbers are incredible!

Oh, and did I mention his running mate is James Harden, a player who was an MVP candidate before hurting his hamstring late in the season? Harden averaged over 24 points and ten assists for Brooklyn. The Nets are one of two teams with multiple top ten players in the league, in most seasons this duo would rank number one but…

1. It’s Showtime

Obviously, the top duo in the NBA is the one that has LeBron James and Anthony Davis. This is the only duo in the league who are undefeated in playoff series’ when both players are healthy. That alone should warrant the top spot but there is more. This duo is basically a supercharged version of the Heat Culture duo. James is like a better version of Butler while Davis is a better version of Adebayo. In their last healthy season together, James and Davis combined to average over 51 points per game. They did this while James led the league in assists and Davis led the Lakers to a top-three defense.

In the playoffs, they turned it up even more. They had a combined average of 55.3 points, 20.5 rebounds, 12.3 assists, and 4.7 stocks (steals+blocks). Those numbers are outrageous. They both also shot above 56 percent from the field which makes it even more mind-blowing. The Nets might have two top-ten players but the Lakers have two top-five players. This is the best duo since the Lakers had Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, it’s only fair they take the top spot.

 

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