With the break-up and injury to the Golden State Warriors’ Fab Four All-Star starters, the NBA was looking a bit different this season. The Warriors had won three out of the last four NBA titles and were in the NBA Finals for four straight years before this season began. But with Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry sidelined and Kevin Durant left for Brooklyn, the Warriors have sunk to the bottom of the NBA team standings.
New favorites have emerged and one common denominator among these new contenders is the presence of a dynamic duo which has led the team to success this season. Let’s take a look at the best player duos during the 2019-20 NBA season:
Denver entered the break with the sixth-best record in the entire NBA and third in the Western Conference. The Nuggets have dealt with injuries to different starters all season long and they had as many as three-down simultaneously in January. Denver got all its pieces back the following month but was a measly 5-6 since February 12th as they tried to work everybody back. I
Despite their recent struggles, Denver has managed to stay in the Top 3 in the West, thanks mainly to their 1-2 punch of Jokic and Murray.
Jokic is Denver’s version of the unicorn as the multi-talented seven-footer is having another all-around season. Jokic was averaging 20.3 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 6.8 assists this season while the sharp-shooting Murray was putting up 18.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game. This inside and outside combination has been the key to Denver’s success in the last two seasons and will continue to be the key players for the Nuggets for many years to come.
This duo isn’t as dynamic as the ones on this list but they are just as effective as a pair. The Milwaukee Bucks own the best record in the league and the main reason behind that is 2019 NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo who at -400 at SportsBetting as of 03/22/20, is also the NBA betting favorite to win the 2020 NBA MVP award because of his stellar play this season. The Greek Freak continues to improve his game and he averaged 29.6 points, 13.7 rebounds, and 5.8 assists, 1.0 steal, and 1.0 block per game this year. But while Giannis has done it all for his team, he couldn’t have led the Bucks to the top of the mountain alone.
The 28-year old Middleton earned his second consecutive All-Star nod this season. The former 39th pick of the 2012 NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons is averaging 21.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 4.1 assists this season. Middleton is knocking down 41.8% of his three-pointers this year and is shooting a career-best 49.9% from the field this season. Middleton’s ability to knock down the three-pointer, with consistency compliments Antetokounmpo’s game which still lacks the outside shot that will make him almost unstoppable.
The Mavericks have made some good moves in the last couple of years. First, they traded for the rights to Luka Doncic and then they landed Kristaps Porzingis in a trade with the New York Knicks. Now Dallas has a European dynamic duo which has the potential to be the best in the league. The Mavericks entered the pause with a 40-27 overall record. While that is just 7th in the West, the Mavs were just four games off 4th place in the conference and if the season continues, Dallas could still climb the standings.
Luka Doncic is having a phenomenal season. The 2018-19 NBA Rookie of the Year was named to his first All-Star game this season and is averaging close to a triple-double this season.
Doncic was Top 20 in the league in scoring, rebounding and assists, including Top 10 in scoring and passing. He was putting up 28.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 8.7 assists this season. According to ESPN, he had the 4th best PER (efficiency) rating among all NBA players at 27.75. Porzingis was still trying to return to his old form when the season was halted. The Latvian Unicorn was coming off a long hiatus due to a knee injury but was still averaging 19.2 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game. If Porzingis gets back to his old self, this duo has the potential to be Top 3 in the league.
The expectations were high for the Sixers this season after their young stars got another year of experience under their belt last season. But Philadelphia struggled to play on the road during the 2019-20 season, going 10-24 away from the Spectrum Center this season. How bad is that? Well, the New York Knicks were 10-23 on the road when the season was suspended. Anytime you’re worse than the Knicks is unacceptable. However, the Sixers were 29-2 at their home floor and that’s the reason why they were still holding a playoff spot when the league went on a break.
It didn’t help that Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons were hurt right before the season was paused and the Sixers were just 5-5 when the action was halted. The good news for them was Embiid returned from injury in their last outing but they were still without Ben Simmons who suffered a back injury. Embiid and Simmons have been one of the most talented NBA duos in the last couple of years but they haven’t been able to take the Sixers to the big dance. This season Embiid averaged 23.3 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game while Simmons had an underwhelming year with 16.7 points, 7,8 rebounds, and 8.2 assists per game. Despite the inconsistency this year, this is duo is a force to be reckoned with in the league.
Okay now, so don’t be mad at me for putting this duo in the third spot on our list. That’s because if we’re talking about the 2019-20 season, Paul George was out for so many games and Kawhi Leonard kept on taking days off due to load management. Leonard and George played just a total of 760 minutes together this season or roughly 16 games on the floor together. Clippers were +11.2 points over their opponents when these two play together and in recent weeks before the stoppage of play, both were healthy and the Clippers had climbed to second place in the Western Conference.
The Leonard/George tandem is probably the most talented duo in the league if you consider skills, accomplishments, and age. But we’re talking about this season so I think they rank just third overall.
Leonard was averaging 26.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game this season while PG was putting up 21.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per contest. If both stay healthy, the Clippers will be a tough team to beat in the playoffs, if the season resumes at all, because Leonard is a known beast during the postseason and George should back him up with the needed number.
When the Rockets traded for Russell Westbrook last summer, many wondered how this recent experiment by Mike D’Antoni would work. The Rockets already have a ball-dominant superstar in James Harden and they added another a possession-heavy guard in Westbrook. But the Rockets proved their critics wrong when Houston was a Top 4 team in the West earlier this season.
The Rockets though went 1-4 just before the break and were heavily outplayed during that period, going a combined -64 points against their opponents.
James Harden started the season like an unstoppable scorer but he’s slowed down since January 1st, shooting just 31% from three-point range since the calendar turned to 2020. Despite that, Harden is still having a fantastic season with 34.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 7.4 assists while playing with a much-improved defense. Russell Westbrook had been a double-double machine in the last couple of years but has sacrificed some of his ball-time because of Harden. Despite that, Brodie is still averaging 27.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 7.0 assists per game.
The Los Angeles Lakers duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis was the best pairing in the league during the 2019-20 season. The duo helped the Lakers clinch their first playoff berth since 2013 and were the two main reasons why. Even with LeBron James last year, the Lakers missed the playoffs bus but after trading for Davis during the summer, Los Angeles has been the dominant team in the Western Conference. The Purple and Gold have held the best record in their conference since the start of the season and they have been the most consistent team in the West.
The 35-year old James is playing in his 17h season but has still put up MVP numbers and was playing like one just before the season was paused. James averaged 25.7 points, 10.7 assists, and 7.9 rebounds per game this season while Davis was equally dominant at 26.7 points, 9.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.4 blocks, and 1.5 steals per game. AD was among the favorites to win the 2020 NBA Defensive Player of the Year award while LeBron was giving Giannis a run for the 2020 NBA MVP trophy.
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