Ranking the 7 Top One-on-One Matchups Between NBA Stars We'd Love to See
It's one of the most debated topics in the NBA, yet it's also something you'll probably never see on national TV.
When you see two players who are at the top of their game and play the same position, you want to see them take it out in a playground style one-on-one game in order to decide who's better once and for all.
While being the better one-on-one player hardly means anything in a team setting like basketball, it still gives bragging rights to the winner, as both players need the perfect blend of offense and defense to come out victorious.
Seeing two players at the top of their game in a one-on-one competition would be excellent for All-Star weekend. Replace the shooting stars competition with a few one-on-one games and you have a national spectacle that's going to draw heavy ratings.
The NBA could even make it similar to the card for a title fight, featuring several lower-tier players going at it and then having a main event to cap it off.
Of course, this is something we won't see. It's difficult enough to get superstars involved in something like the dunk contest, so it would be doubtful to see the likes of LeBron James or Kobe Bryant put their egos on the line for such an event.
It's too risky of a career and legacy move, and it's basically a waste of energy and preparation for a game that's going to last five minutes.
Still, we can dream. These seven matchups between some of the league's best players are exactly what dreams are made of.
7. Dirk Nowitzki vs. LaMarcus Aldridge
Two players with styles more similar than you'd think, LaMarcus Aldridge and Dirk Nowitzki, are two of the league's most dangerous power forwards, with both arguably being top five material.
While Nowitzki may be on the downside of his career (he spoke of his upcoming retirement recently), Aldridge is just entering his prime. However, it's still a beautiful thing to watch two big men with incredible offensive repertoires go at it.
Nowitzki, with his patented fadeaway, rainbow jumper, and Aldridge with his own high-arcing and nearly unstoppable mid-range jumper would make for a graceful game between two players that flat know how to play.
Outside of Aldridge's definitive advantage in athleticism and aggression, the players are very similar. They both thrive whether they receive the ball with their back to the basket or if they're facing up, and both know how to use the pump fake to perfection. Both power forwards are adept at driving immediately into the lane with the hope of an easy score near the rim or a trip to the foul line as well.
What Nowitzki does that Aldridge can't, however, is make the insanely difficult jumpers that has separated one player as a champion and the other as first-round fodder.
Aldridge is still coming into his own and just entering his prime at 27-years-old, but he has yet to unfold that ability to hit the type of shots Dirk has made over an illustrious, Hall-of-Fame worthy career.
Still, if you pair the two players together, Aldridge is going to have an advantage with his size and youth. LaMarcus is a mature player that can shoot as far out as 20 feet, play with his back to the basket, hit fadeaways, and take it to the rim when he's given the lane. Similar to Nowitzki and Chris Bosh, Aldridge is a dual-threat that has a great understanding of his potential and capabilities.
When it comes down to it, the matchup would end up being determined on whether or not Aldridge would be able to limit Nowitzki's high-arcing jumper or if Dirk can provide some resistance to LaMarcus' physical game.
6. John Wall vs. Kyrie Irving
We're not really sure how this happened, but the league is filled with a myriad of All-Star caliber point guards.
It seems that you could point out any team and they're more than likely to have a point guard who could arguably be an All-Star, if not for the plethora of point guards ravaging the league.
At just about any age you can find these great players. You could look at veterans like Steve Nash and Tony Parker, in-their-prime guards like Chris Paul and Deron Williams, athletic guards in their early twenties in Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook, and even those who have a hard time getting into bars, like Kyrie Irving and John Wall.
These point guards would put on a show, and Wall and Irving may have the best act.
Besides the fact that they are 21 and 20-years-old, respectively, it's the sheer idea of knowing just how good the two players currently are when they still have so many years of quality basketball ahead of them. Even Irving, who only played nine games at the NCAA level, impressed with a Rookie of the Year award following an incredible first season.
Irving averaged 18.5 points, 5.4 assists and 3.7 rebounds, while shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc. That ability to hit from deep, as well as a great deal of maturity, is what gives him an edge over Wall, who was a notoriously awful perimeter shooter last year, attempting 42 shots from beyond the arc and only converting three. It was no better his rookie year, when he attempted 115 and converted 34.
Wall did the right thing by taking fewer shots from outside, but he also made it a point to steer clear of possibly improving and adding a new dimension to his game. He still attempted 42 three-pointers. Knowing that only three went in has to leave people with the feeling that so much more could be expected.
But it's not all bad for Wall in this matchup, because he does hold a tremendous advantage in the athleticism category, as well as in size. He holds a two inch and 15-pound advantage over irving.
He's just as capable of keeping up with Irving, being arguably the league's fastest player and all, and would find little resistance in getting to the rim.
5. Chris Paul vs. Deron Williams
An excellent rivalry that's only going to continue until one of these players falls, Chris Paul and Deron Williams have been going at it since 2006 over who's the league's top point guard.
The beauty of each player's game is the fact that they can positively influence their team either through passing or scoring.
Paul has led the league in assists per game twice, and has averaged as much as 22 points per game. Williams has averaged over ten assists per game four times and has recorded as much as 21 points per game. Both players have seen moderate success, with CP3 going as far as the second round of the playoffs, and Williams finding himself in the Conference Finals with the Jazz in 2007.
You could give either player the nod as the league's top point guard.
However, it seems that the consensus has weighed in Paul's favor, which stems from how well he runs an offense, his ability to dictate the flow and tempo of the game, his quick and active hands, and the resounding ability to hit in the clutch.
While Williams can say the same, and boasts the league's most deadly crossover, he can only claim a PER as high as 21.1 For comparison, Chris Paul's highest PER was 30. So, yeah, there's a large difference in the overall influence each of these players have had for their team.
However, when it comes down to head-to-head matchups, Deron Williams has absolutely owned Chris Paul. Williams' teams have won 13 of 17 meetings, and he has a large statistical advantage individually.
Perhaps the most telling stat between the two are their field-goal percentages; Paul is shooting 43 percent from the field and 28 percent from deep, compared to Williams, who is shooting 52 and 41 percent respectively.
It's obvious why: Williams is a lot bigger and far more athletic. Chris Paul may know how to lead a team better than Williams, but his 6', 175 pound frame isn't nearly enough to thrive on either end against the 6'3", 210 pound Williams.
4. Andrew Bynum vs. Dwight Howard
This wouldn't be the most exciting matchup, since it would require someone to enter the ball to the post on every possession, but it would at least put an end to the debate on who is the league's top center.
To many, this isn't as close a matchup as it may seem, with many believing Dwight Howard is the league's best center.
If we were to go by stats and accolades alone, then, yes, Dwight Howard is absolutely the league's top center. He's averaged 20 points or better in four of the past five seasons, has led the league in rebounding four times, blocks per game twice, and has won three Defensive Player of the Year awards.
Andrew Bynum had yet to truly break out of his shell until last year, where he was healthy enough to average 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks.
In our first glimpse of Bynum playing a full season with great health since 2007, he impressed highly with his offensive capabilities. He showcased a repertoire that included solid footwork, a hook and even a short mid-range game.
Dwight Howard can't say the same for his offense. As great as it may be to see him average 20 points per game like he did with Orlando, there's disappointment knowing that he's supposed to be the league's best center and was given the role as primary scoring option. Unlike Bynum, who had to share with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, Dwight was the sole focus of the Magic offense and averaged a career-high of only 22.9 points.
Still, both players have time for plenty of improvement, with Dwight at 26-years-old and Bynum at 24.
In their lone head-to-head matchup last season, we saw Dwight record 21 points and 23 rebounds in 45 minutes, while Bynum could only muster 10 points and 12 rebounds in 25 foul-plagued minutes.
Clearly Dwight got the better end of that one, and it's no surprise. When Howard is playing physical and is hitting that sweeping hook of his, he's nearly unstoppable. And the scariest part is that his defense is by far the better part of his game.
This can only leave you to wonder how Bynum plans on scoring against the wide and muscular frame of Howard's in a game of one-on-one.
3. Russell Westbrook vs. Derrick Rose
Now this is a matchup with some explosive implications.
As intense as it would be to watch Kobe Bryant take on Dwyane Wade, or to see the league's two best players go at it, you're not going to generate the highlights that a Russell Westbrook vs. Derrick Rose matchup would end up creating.
Both standing at 6'3", both running the point, and both containing extraordinary athleticism for players their size, Rose and Westbrook have quickly taken the league by storm before either player has hit the age of 24.
Westbrook has an NBA Finals appearance and two All-Star games to his name, while Rose has claimed Rookie of the Year, league MVP and is three-time All-Star. Both players represent a bright future for the league when we see names like Kobe and Dwyane begin to fade away.
Rose and Westbrook share more in common than some may think. In fact, they're essentially the same player physically, with the exception of Westbrook's superior jumper. However, they are near opposites mentally speaking.
Derrick has always conducted himself as one of the league's most mature players and it shows with his decision-making. Russell, on the other hand, has been criticized many times for his immaturity and the inane idea that he can't work together with Kevin Durant.
Because a Finals appearance for two 23-year-olds that 'can't work out' may as well be the worst thing to happen.
In a matchup between the two players, you can expect to see plenty of crossovers and plenty of meetings at the rim. They both possess crossovers that would make the league's top perimeter defenders' ankles crumble, and can both take off a few steps from just within the free throw line.
6'3" isn't the average height for the league's top dunkers, so being that small and containing the hops of someone who stands at 6'6" gives a huge advantage when it comes to getting to the rim before the larger defender.
Neither player is a standout defender, which means there will be some highlights at the rim—either featuring Westbrook's insane dunking ability or Rose's ability to turn into a hybrid of a contortionist and Mr. Fantastic in mid-air.
2. Dwyane Wade vs. Kobe Bryant
Since their first meeting, Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant have made it personal in their matchups.
It doesn't all just stem from Shaquille O'Neal's move from Los Angeles to Miami, either. Bryant has always been looked at as the league's top shooting guard over the past decade, and Wade has been the waiting successor to the throne.
Kobe, unsurprisingly, has made it his purpose to play extremely physical against Wade, in order to show who's boss.
Sometimes you get great games and sometimes you get bad games; it really depends on how high each player is turning up the intensity level on defense.
When you have two of the league's top perimeter defenders going at it, it's not unusual to see both players struggling to get anything going. They're not just draining their energy from a physical standpoint, but from a mental one as well, due to how draining it could be to have a personal vendetta on the court.
Of course both players want to win, but with matchups likes these, where two superstars playing the same position face each other for at least 35 minutes, there is some personal animosity that has grown as well.
Even in their later years, Wade and Bryant have maintained their perches looking over every other 2-guard in the league.
In a matchup between the two, we'd see two entirely different games.
Bryant is most likely to rely on his fadeaway jumper, while Wade will attempt to utilize his strength and agility to get to the rim, as well as breaking out the patented step-back jumper.
Bryant's recognition of the lack of agility and athleticism he once possessed led him to perfect the jumper that he has become far more reliant on over the years.
Wade has yet to work on his jumper, although he may this offseason. He will need to if he wants to prolong a career that has proven resilient through every harrowing turn.
1. LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant
The creme de la creme of any one-on-one matchup pits reigning league and Finals MVP LeBron James against one of his close friends, workout buddy and MVP runner-up Kevin Durant.
In an extraordinary matchup between the league's two best players, we would see each player utilize their strongest attributes in order to find a seam in the opposition's defense.
While it may appear to be a landslide at first when you have LeBron's 270-pound frame barreling over Kevin's 6'9", 215-pound frame, you also must take Durant's incredible length and quick first step into consideration as well.
As incredible a defender as LeBron may be, Durant's length posed a huge problem for him and the rest of the Heat in the NBA Finals, with KD finishing the series averaging 30 points per game. Because he's a gifted jump shooter with range out to 30 feet, the defender always must be wary of giving up a jumper to a player who can thrive off of it for 48 minutes.
However, play him too close and he's liable to slip by, needing only two steps to get from the three-point line to the rim for an easy flush. Durant's length cannot be understated, because it does allow him to get closer to the rim than you'd expect. It's up to the defender on whether they want to risk giving up the drive or allowing Durant to get into a rhythm, which is far scarier than any throwdown.
Still, on the other end you have LeBron James, who Kevin Durant doesn't have a chance of stopping.
Even if Durant wants to play off of James and give up a jumper, LeBron could still end up forcing the issue of posting up the physically weaker Durant until he arrives to his destination. Being a well-rounded player has advanced LeBron's game to a completely new level, and it showed in last year's Finals when James abused Durant with his back to the basket.
When it comes down to it, we know that James has a chance of limiting Durant with his strength. You can't guarantee that with Durant, because LeBron is becoming better acquainted with the physical capacities of his body. But as much length as Durant has and as surprisingly fast as he can run, he's not going to be able to keep up with LeBron in a one-on-one setting on the defensive end.