The NBA's 10 Most Dynamic 1-2 Punches Under 25 Years Old
As Team USA is overseas crushing world records with players who were in high school just five years ago, the state of the NBA is becoming such that you can't be successful without the kind of young, athletic talent that many teams are giving up loads of money to add.
The trend of "The Big Three" is in full swing; just ask Mark Cuban next time you see him what his offseason strategy is in the summer of 2013.
But good teams also have young one-two punches. Here's a look at the 10 most dynamic combos under 25 years old heading into the 2012-2013 season.
Dallas Mavericks: Darren Collison (24) and OJ Mayo (24)
Cleveland Cavaliers: Kyrie Irving (20) and Dion Waiters (20)
Milwaukee Bucks: Brandon Jennings (22) and Ersan Ilyasova (25)
Memphis Grizzlies: Mike Conley (24) and Rudy Gay (25)
Washington Wizards: John Wall (21) and Bradley Beal (19)
Sacramento Kings: Tyreke Evans (22) and DeMarcus Cousins (21)
Utah Jazz: Enes Kanter (20) and Derrick Favors (21)
These seven pairs just missed the cut, partially because they are better candidates and partially because none have proven anything on the NBA level. Sure, Cousins and Evans have proved they can score, but call me when they make the playoffs.
Dallas, Cleveland and Washington will all have to wait and see if their duo makes the cut at the end of the season, but for now these guys are on the outside looking in.
Memphis and Utah have had early success with their duos, but with less notoriety and success than some of the other names on the list. There is so much talent to choose from that this section is certainly up for debate, with many of these names only a step or two behind the top 10.
10. Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon
Anthony Davis (19) and Eric Gordon (23), New Orleans Hornets
The New Orleans Hornets got a bit of luck with the No. 1 overall pick, but it will be no accident if their two best players end up being these two guys.
Gordon, of course, has had some health concerns, and Davis isn't proven by any stretch. But playing with Team USA will not only help his basketball IQ and conditioning heading into training camp, but it will help establish some credibility in the locker room.
These two could be in the bayou for a long time, so get used to seeing them play together, Hornets fans.
9. Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner
Jrue Holiday (22) and Evan Turner (23), Philadelphia 76ers
These two are the core of a young backcourt of a very competitive, defense-oriented team that took what they had and made it into something successful.
Each does more off the dribble than they should have to, and each has thrived when given the opportunity to showcase a little bit. Both struggle with consistency and shot selection, and they could be a lot higher on this list if they improve year-to-year like they did this past season.
8. Brandon Knight and Greg Monroe
Brandon Knight (20) and Greg Monroe (22), Detroit Pistons
Don't look now, but Detroit suddenly has put together three lottery picks and made themselves a solid core for the future. Throw in Andre Drummond to this duo, and the Pistons are starting to make some noise as one of those OKC-like teams.
Monroe might be the most underrated big in the league. Knight is another Kentucky guard to run the show and exhibit poise and grace far beyond his years. Look out for these two.
7. Kenneth Faried and Ty Lawson
Kenneth Faried (22) and Ty Lawson (24), Denver Nuggets
If you don't like the way Faried plays the game, I will fight you. Or he will. Either way, the kid has high energy, is developing a better post game and plays with a bright, young point guard.
Lawson has been getting quality playing time for so long now, it's hard to believe he's only 24. He's had a great mentor in Andre Miller, and he might have the quickest first step of any point guard in the league. There will be a lot of lobs featuring these two in the coming seasons.
6. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan
Blake Griffin (23) and DeAndre Jordan (24), L.A. Clippers
Both early college entries to the NBA draft, Griffin and Jordan play well off of each other in the post, and both bring the hammer down each time they go crashing toward the rim.
Jordan has that Tyson Chandler, late-bloomer vibe about him, while Griffin is a human highlight DVD these days. Chris Paul throwing you lobs doesn't hurt, and since both have plenty of technique to work on down on the offensive end, they won't push past No. 6 in our rankings.
5. James Harden and Serge Ibaka
James Harden (22) and Serge Ibaka (22), OKC Thunder
I know what you're thinking and, yes, I am using the Thunder twice. They have two sets of duos that are just about better than many other entire teams.
Harden is getting to be so slick in the transition and three-point game that it isn't even funny. Ibaka is an effective weak-side shot-blocker, and he's developed a nice 18-foot jump shot that he uses after Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook use their dribble up.
These guys are darn good, and it will be interesting to discuss the free-agent situation for both when the season ends. Is OKC willing to go over the tax to keep both of them?
4. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson
Stephen Curry (24) and Klay Thompson (22), Golden State Warriors
When Curry went down last season, Thompson stepped up the scoring, showing he could handle the load if necessary. With Curry back, Monta Ellis gone and defensive-minded Mark Jackson in charge, these two guys suddenly become important in keeping the numbers on offense high.
Either can score at will. You would like to see Curry be more aggressive towards the basket, and Thompson takes terrible shots, but you can't argue with results. These two are deadly when they cross halfcourt.
3. Roy Hibbert and Paul George
Roy Hibbert (25) and Paul George (22), Indiana Pacers
The young center the Pacers just signed to a max deal was a big reason they were dancing so deep into the playoffs.
Same goes for George, who matured tremendously during year two—so much so that he was checking LeBron and Dwyane Wade nearly every possession in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Hibbert has redefined what center is in Indianapolis, and you can bet the city was glad when the Pacers matched the Trail Blazers' offer sheet to the restricted free agent.
2. Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio
Kevin Love (24) and Ricky Rubio (22), Minnesota Timberwolves
I truly believe Minnesota would have snuck into that No. 8 playoff spot had Rubio stayed healthy last season. Heck, they might have pushed Dallas out.
Love was having an MVP-type season, and Rubio was quickly reminding people why he was a top-10 pick just a couple seasons ago. Factor all that in and all their new players to mesh with these two "untouchable" pieces, and the 'Wolves have a chance to be very good, very quickly.
They create matchup problems across the board. Maybe these two are the next John Stockton and Karl Malone. If they are, they're off to a good start.
1. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant
Russell Westbrook (23) and Kevin Durant (23), OKC Thunder
Saying "Westbrook and Durant" is coming to be about as easy as "PB and J" or "mac and cheese" these days. The two dynamic athletes, scorers and all-around stars are two of the faces of this league.
The scary thing is they're both only 23. That's right, rest of the league, the two guys you can't guard are only 23, so that means at least 10 years of game-planning and scheming around their ability to get to the rim and lead their team.
Can you imagine the impact they're going to have when we look back at the history books? Their affect on opposing coaches and fans is getting to the point of frustration and fame, and if that doesn't go along with "dynamic," I don't know what does.