There was one a time when three, as in “Big Three” was the magic number in the NBA, with teams looking to have a trio of stars to lead them to their championship dreams. This season, as more and more players paired up with one other superstar, having a duo became acceptable again, and is giving the NBA a chance to have one of their best seasons in years. Of course the debate has begun, with many asking who has the best duo in the league; the answer, at least for Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel, now walks into his locker room every day now.
Speaking this week, the new head coach of the Purple and Gold said, “We got the best of them, of all the duos. We have two top-five players, two guys that really just do it all. And I’d put those two guys against anybody in the league.”
The duos that Vogel are willing to put up LeBron James and Anthony Davis up against are mainly in the Western Conference, and even include another duo that will play their home games in the same arena. Not only will the Staples Center see James and Davis play this season, two more new arrivals, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will also play there as members of the Los Angeles Clippers. Another duo has been reunited in Houston as Russell Westbrook joins James Harden with the Houston Rockets; the duo once played as teammates with Kevin Durant as members of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
There’s another Western Conference team being called a sleeper by many, the Portland Trailblazers, who are led by Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. People are hot on this duo because other than a 2018 playoff loss to New Orleans, the Trailblazers have only been eliminated by the Golden State Warriors during the NBA’s second season since 2016. With the Warriors looking to regroup this season, many think this could be the year Portland’s duo takes the next step and reaches the NBA Finals.
It will take until the 2020-21 season for the NBA to see how well Kevin Durant looks back on the court and how well he plays with his new running mate, Kyrie Irving, who are both now members of the Brooklyn Nets. For how the best duo in the Eastern Conference is Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers; however, last year’s MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo didn’t need a running mate to lead his Milwaukee Bucks team to the NBA’s best record.
Early in the season, taking the duos in Portland and Philadelphia who have already played together makes sense. As the new duos form and build chemistry over the course of the regular season, where they rank in the standings will prove how well they play together as teammates. With Paul George expected to miss the start of the season and LeBron James expected to have his work load managed, the regular season will likely turn into an 82-game preseason schedule for both Los Angeles teams, with each team not going full throttle until the playoffs.
Until then, and unless they prove they can’t play well together, taking James Harden and Russell Westbrook to have the best regular season as a duo would be my bet; but the two former MVPs are likely not going to do much in the playoffs when it matters most, because, well, they never have before.