Ranking Ricky Rubio-Kevin Love with Best 1-2 Punches in the NBA

Josh BenjaminCorrespondent IDecember 17, 2012

Ranking Ricky Rubio-Kevin Love with Best 1-2 Punches in the NBA

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    Throughout NBA history, the most successful teams have had a powerful 1-2 punch. The Chicago Bulls had Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, the Los Angeles Lakers had Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal and so on.

    The Minnesota Timberwolves are candidates to join these ranks in the very near future with their deadly tandem in the form of forward Kevin Love and point guard Ricky Rubio. Love is a double-double machine who can also hit three-pointers, while Rubio is a traditional point guard who passes the ball well on top of playing incredible defense.

    This is only Love and Rubio's second season together, but they worked well enough as a unit last year that they can definitely be placed among some of the NBA's best 1-2 punches today. They are still young and have a lot to learn about playing together, but give them time.

    Before long, we could very well be placing them on the same level as some of the NBA's current top tandems.

    All statistics in this article are accurate as of December 16, 2012

No. 9: Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee Bucks

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    On the outset, the idea of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings as a solid 1-2 punch seems like a disaster waiting to happen. Both are scorers, so one would think that a major clash of styles would happen here.

    In fact, it has been the exact opposite.

    Since Ellis' arrival last season, Jennings has assumed more of a traditional scoring point guard's role and has let his new teammate handle most of the offensive load. He has also added some defense to his game, averaging 2.5 steals to go with his 16.9 points and six assists per game.

    Ellis has picked up right where he left off in terms of how he played with the Golden State Warriors. He is averaging 19 points and has continued to be a fine playmaker, averaging 5.5 assists per contest.

    These two account for over a third of the team's scoring and also do their fair share of work on the defensive end. As a result, Milwaukee has been in the hunt for the Central Division crown all season long.

    Assuming Jennings and Ellis can maintain pace, the Bucks can easily make the playoffs and bring their balanced attack to the next level.

No. 8: Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Minnesota has been slowed by injuries this season, particularly ones to both Love and Rubio. Love has only just recently come back from a broken hand, and Rubio from ACL surgery.

    Love has struggled since coming back. He has averaged 19.4 points and 13.7 rebounds per game, but has shot just 35 percent from the field and 21 percent from long range, well below his career marks of 45 and 36 percent.

    Rubio has only played in one game, but made the most of his time on the floor. In just 18 minutes, he scored eight points and dished out nine assists while coming away with four steals in Minnesota's Saturday night victory against the Dallas Mavericks.

    The two have not had the chance to play together this season, as Love missed Rubio's return with an illness, but just watch. Once they're on the floor at the same time, they will both show just why they are not a tandem to be taken lightly.

    Rubio will create plays for Love so that his field-goal percentage can rise accordingly, and he will also show improvement of his own on offense. It's still early in the season, and this dynamic duo will improve enough down the stretch that the Timberwolves will make the playoffs this year.

    They simply bring out the best each other, and fans will get to see a lot of that as the season progresses.

No. 7: Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner, Philadelphia 76ers

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    Once again, the Sixers are a young and talented team that just need a go-to star in order to get over the hump. Andrew Bynum's knee troubles have denied them that thus far this season, but the team has continued to play hard without him and not give up.

    In doing so, a deadly 1-2 punch has formed in the unlikeliest of ways.

    Point guard Jrue Holiday has come out of the woodwork as one of the NBA's best scoring point guards this season, and he has found a phenomenal go-to guy in third-year forward Evan Turner. With help from their teammates, these two have kept the Sixers alive in the Eastern Conference race.

    Holiday is well on his way to his first All-Star season, leading the team in both scoring and passing with 18.4 points and 8.9 assists per game, and his defense has been good to the tune of 1.5 steals. He has also assumed the official role of leader on the floor, and his teammates are responding well to him.

    Turner has been even better, becoming the point forward that Philadelphia lost in trading Andre Iguodala. He can score, rebound, pass and play excellent defense. Switching back to his natural position of small forward has benefited him greatly, and he is averaging 17 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.8 assists over his last five games.

    On paper, the two may not look like much of a 1-2 punch. Heck, to call them a punch of any type could be arguable.

    Regardless, they have done a great job of working together to keep Philadelphia afloat in Bynum's absence, and they should thus be recognized as one of the league's best 1-2 punches.

No. 6: Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics

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    It's a shame that Paul Pierce is entering the twilight of his career while Rajon Rondo is entering the prime of his; otherwise, the two could help usher in a new dominant Celtics dynasty. Despite their being of different generations, however, both bring out the best in each other and won a championship together back in 2008.

    What makes Rondo and Pierce a true 1-2 punch is that each knows their role perfectly. Rondo is the playmaking point guard whose pass-first mentality makes his team better as a whole, and Pierce is the scorer who waits for his man to get him the ball.

    That said, while Boston may be struggling this season, these two are still playing some great ball together. Rondo is leading the league in passing with 12.7 assists per game, and Pierce is carrying the team on offense with 19.3 points per contest. It should also be noted that these two helped bring Boston within a game of a trip to the NBA Finals last season, but this next dynamic duo had other ideas...

No. 5: Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers

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    These two turned the lowly Los Angeles Clippers into Lob City last season and have continued electrifying the fans with their fast-paced and thunderous style of play. Paul serves as the facilitator, setting up the plays for Griffin to go above the rim and slam the ball home to the delight of fans, while Griffin serves as the exclamation point.

    Their on-court chemistry has the Clippers sitting in first place in the Pacific Division, and the team is currently on a nine-game winning streak. Both players have also been having sensational seasons, further establishing themselves as a fine 1-2 punch.

    Paul has been the ultimate floor general, averaging 16 points and 9.3 assists per game. His commitment to defense has not slowed down once, and he leads the league with 2.6 steals per game.

    Griffin, despite a sluggish start, is starting to turn things around for the better. He is averaging 18.2 points and nine rebounds per contest, and his and Paul's combined scoring accounts for a third of the Clippers' total offense.

    Now that the Lakers are struggling, these two finally have their fans and teammates believing that they can take over as the new kings of Los Angeles. They are playing with a bounce in their step and look more motivated than they did last season.

    And it is all thanks to Paul and Griffin, who got the ball rolling with Lob City last season.

No. 4: Tony Parker and Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs

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    Parker and Duncan have been playing together since 2001 and have since become the best duo in the NBA. Parker is a phenomenal scoring point guard who also makes his team better, and Duncan is a great power forward who can stretch the floor and also play tremendous defense under the basket.

    Now, I could go on with some numbers as to how each player best complements the other and how they benefit the team as a whole, but there is really just one number that everyone needs to know regarding why these two are the best 1-2 punch in the NBA.

    Since they started playing together, Tony Parker and Tim Duncan have won three championships together in 2003, 2005 and 2007. The two have accomplished in 11 seasons together what some NBA players don't ever accomplish in entire careers.

    More importantly, Duncan and Parker have not gotten too comfortable after winning three rings. Even though both have cemented their respective statuses as future Hall of Famers, they have played hard year after year in their quest for a fourth.

    They came close last season, losing in six games in the Western Conference Finals, but their Spurs are at it again this season. With the new incorporation of youth and everyone's commitment to excellence, they can easily achieve their goal and win another championship.

    At that point, they could very well establish themselves not only as the best 1-2 punch in the NBA today, but in league history.

No. 3: Kobe Bryant and Any Teammate, Los Angeles Lakers

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    Early in his career, Bryant was part of a deadly 1-2 punch that featured himself and future Hall of Fame center Shaquille O'Neal. Before their infamous feud tore them apart, they managed to win three consecutive championships from 2000-2002.

    Since then, Bryant has gone on to establish himself as one of the premier scorers and playmakers in the NBA. He has averaged 25.5 points per game for his career, but also 4.7 assists and 1.5 steals. Though he sometimes plays selfishly, he definitely has what it takes to make teammates better and succeed with basically anybody.

    Fans saw this once Pau Gasol became a Laker in 2008. At the time, the Lakers were struggling to get back into the championship mold, and providing Bryant with a reliable go-to guy proved to be the difference-maker. The Lakers made the NBA Finals in 2008, but then lost to the Boston Celtics.

    It did not affect the two, as they used the benefit of a full season together the following year to get back to the NBA Finals and this time walk away as winners, which they also did in 2010.

    Sure, the Lakers may be struggling now, but just wait. Once Steve Nash is back in the lineup, Bryant is going to become half of yet another incredible 1-2 punch. It may be Nash, it may be Dwight Howard and it may be Gasol again.

    No matter how you look at it, one thing is certain. When it comes to 1-2 punches, Bryant and his five rings basically run the table.

No. 2: Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Westbrook and Durant have played together their entire NBA careers and are the reason that the Thunder went from being constant cellar-dwellers to perennial contenders in such a short amount of time. They made their first trip to the NBA Finals last season and lost. Even in defeat, they regrouped in time for the 2012 Summer Olympics and helped bring home a gold medal for the United States.

    No matter what you may think of them or their team, they are one of the best 1-2 punches in the NBA, and here's why.

    Despite an occasionally itchy trigger finger, Westbrook is a fine scoring point guard who is also a legitimately good passer. He is averaging 20.8 points to go with 8.7 assists this season and is a fine athlete and playmaker on top of his offense.

    Durant simply does it all. He scores (27.5 PPG), rebounds (8.4 RPG) and even distributes (4.5 APG) from time to time.

    These two combine for 46 percent of their team's offense and also manage to make their teammates better at the same time. They are not just any 1-2 punch, but the type that most coaches can only dream of.

No. 1: LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat

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    LeBron James and Wade are entering their third season in Miami together, and their first two were nothing short of dreams come true. With the help of teammate Chris Bosh, James and Wade led the way on offense as the Heat made it to the NBA Finals in 2011, only to lose to the Dallas Mavericks.

    They improved enough as a duo last season to make it back to the Finals, this time walking away as winners. Both play a great offensive game and complement each other well with their respective skills.

    Wade is the slasher who drives the lane hard before either drawing a foul on a layup or pulling back to create something off the dribble, while James can simply score from any spot on the floor. Since becoming teammates, they have averaged a combined 65 points per game.

    Adding to James and Wade's status as a top 1-2 punch is the fact that both are also sensational athletes to begin with. Neither man's game is one-sided, and each brings their own unique skill set to the table.

    Love them or hate them, you have to respect just how well the two perform together.