The NBA Superteam Era is dead. Kawhi Leonard made sure of this when he dismantled the Golden State Warriors and rejected Lebron James’ attempts to lure him to the Los Angeles Lakers. The landscape has shifted to “Super Duos,” with players now desiring to team up with friends or individuals who complement their skills and can share superstar duties. Here’s a look at the NBA’s best “Superstar Duos” heading into the 2019-20 NBA Season:
Tier 3 – The “Up and Comers” NBA Player Duos
12. Devin Booker / Deandre Ayton (Phoenix Suns)
In their first season together, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton led the Phoenix Suns to 19 wins. The Los Angeles Lakers went 31-19 when Kobe joined Shaq in the starting lineup during the 1998-99 lockout-shortened season. Though Booker and Ayton aren’t quite “Shaq and Kobe 2.0” status, both are extremely talented individuals who should create a formidable inside-outside combination for years to come. With a full year under their belt and improvement at the head coaching position, the 2019-20 NBA Season should bring improved chemistry and many more wins.
11. Luka Doncic / Kristaps Porzingis (Dallas Mavericks)
Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis haven’t played a single game together but are already expected to form the best pick and pop tandem in the league. Porzingis has spent the entirety of his Dallas Mavericks’ career admiring the 2018-19 Rookie of the Year, but the “Unicorn” will need to make an immediate impression if the Mavericks hope to make an impact in the Western Conference. This duo’s success depends on how well Porzingis recovers from a torn ACL that will have sidelined him for close to 20 months once the 2019 NBA Season begins. Charles Barkley expects this pair to turn into the greatest “one-two punch… for the next 10 years.”
Tier 2 – The “Star” NBA Duos
10. Giannis Antetokounmpo / Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks)
Despite being selected to the 2019 Eastern Conference All-Star team, many still aren’t sold on Khris Middleton as a max player. This pair’s position is propped by Giannis Antetokounmpo’s supernova athletic ability. But Middleton’s capability as a three-point shooter (career 39%) carries great value when paired with Antetokounmpo’s slashing playmaking. Middleton contributes in a number of ways and is the perfect teammate for Antetokounmpo’s needs.
9. Donovan Mitchell / Mike Conley Jr. (Utah Jazz)
Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley Jr. are no “Stockton and Malone,” but the two have the opportunity to create their own legacy as the next great Utah Jazz duo. Conley’s experience with the “Grit and Grind” Memphis Grizzlies will be vital in helping Donovan Mitchell take the next leap in a competitive Western Conference.
8. Damian Lillard / CJ McCollum (Portland Trail Blazers)
The 2019-20 NBA Season may be the last time we see this version of the Portland Trail Blazers. Though they reached the Western Conference Finals, the Golden State Warriors made quick work of the Blazers in 4 games. Damian Lillard recently signed a 4 year / $191 Million supermax extension and CJ McCollum is entering the penultimate season of his rookie extension. If this duo is unable to take another step in a much more open NBA landscape, 2019-20 may be the last season they share duties in the Blazers backcourt.
7. Nikola Jokic / Jamal Murray (Denver Nuggets)
Nikola Jokic is a perennial MVP candidate and Jamal Murray has shown consistent improvement throughout his first three years in the league. Denver Nuggets’ Coach Mike Malone has described this twosome’s chemistry as “almost romantic” in describing the ways this pairing plays off each other in their uniquely styled offense. The top pairing under-25, this dynamic duo has the potential to keep the Denver Nuggets atop the Western Conference for years to come.
6. Joel Embiid / Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers)
This is the rare combination in which the big man has the better outside game that his perimeter counterpart. In order for this duo to take the next step into the tier below, Ben Simmons will need to make a significant improvement to (or at least develop) his jump shot to help create spacing for Joel Embiid down low. The 76ers are primed to be the best team in the Eastern Conference for years to come, but such success hinges on how Embiid and Simmons are able to harmonize on the hardwood.
Tier 1 – The “Elite” NBA Superstar Duos
5. James Harden / Russell Westbrook (Houston Rockets)
News of this trade sent social media in a whirlwind, with many asking the same question: is one ball enough? A lot has changed since James Harden and Russell Westbrook played together in Oklahoma City; Harden has blossomed from a mini-bearded Sixth Man of The Year, while Westbrook has grown accustomed to leading-man duties. But you don’t pass up on pairing two MVPs in their prime. While this fit may be questionable, the sheer talent of this NBA superstar duo alone is worth the gamble.
4. Kevin Durant / Kyrie Irving (Brooklyn Nets)
Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving had been plotting to team up since 2018. Unfortunately, they may have to wait to see their dream come to fruition while Kevin Durant rehabs from a torn Achilles suffered in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. Durant and Irving have reached the pinnacle of success while playing roles in other legendary duos. With the Brooklyn Nets now the forefront of New York basketball, this duo will have the chance to cement their place in basketball lore by bringing an NBA Championship to the Big Apple.
3. Steph Curry / Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)
The 2019-20 NBA Season will be a gap year for the “Splash Brothers.” With Klay Thompson recovering from a torn ACL that should sideline him for the majority of the season, Steph Curry will be left to man the ship with his temporary replacement, D’Angelo Russell. Despite Thompson’s injury, this duo’s success should place them above every other combination on this list; however, the moves that took place this offseason have this Warriors’ combo embracing their newfound underdog role.
2. Lebron James / Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers)
1. Kawhi Leonard / Paul George (Los Angeles Clippers)
The Los Angeles “Superstar Duos” is the result of blockbuster moves each team made this offseason. The Lakers paired two top-five players by acquiring Anthony Davis to team up with Lebron James. But the Clippers’ one-upped their in-town rival by signing two-time NBA finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, who has staked his claim as the best player in the league. And with his recruitment of Paul George, Leonard paired himself with an elite superstar who has no problem taking control of both ends of the floor. All roads now run through the Staples Center and the battle for Los Angeles is to sure to result in many “epic” matchups between these two for years to come.
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