5 Young NBA Star Pairings That Won't Last Forever
All good things must come to an end, right?
Several young NBA pairings around the league are exciting to watch, but fans should savor every game they can. Most of these pairings won't last forever.
Young stars have been essential to the growth of the NBA ever since the league started, but young tandems have really become a mainstay in the league over the past decade or so.
Teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder (we'll get there in just a minute), have thrived with their young talent, making it so far as the NBA Finals.
When young superstars become free agents, however, it's difficult for teams to afford to keep both players. One of them must go, and the difficult decision is deciding which player should stay.
I won't get into the free-agency aspect of things, but I will be highlighting five young star pairings that won't be together within the next several seasons.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook
Might as well start with the most obvious one.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are two of the most dynamic players in the NBA as individuals. Put them together, and the Oklahoma City Thunder are a force to be reckoned with.
Durant is by far the better player, but Westbrook is a superstar in his own right.
The Thunder are undoubtedly Durant's team, especially considering the fact that he's averaged 26.4 points per game over the course of his young career.
Westbrook, on the other hand, has averaged 19.2 points and 7.3 assists per game.
One of them won't be with the Thunder when they hit free agency, though.
We already saw an example before the season started. James Harden packed his bags and was shipped off to Houston because they couldn't afford the contract he wanted.
Harden's sudden departure from Oklahoma City should be a precursor of what's to come at some point in the future. Either Durant or Westbrook will be on another team.
DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans
DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans won't be together for much longer either, and that's mostly because Cousins wants out of Sacramento.
The Kings, on the other hand, have no intentions of trading their young stud.
Then what's the easiest way to lose a player if the team doesn't want to trade him? Free agency, of course.
When Cousins becomes a free agent (if the Kings lack of interest in trading him is actually true), then you can be sure that he won't be back in Sacramento.
Cousins and his career 16.0 points and 9.7 rebounds per game will be taking their talents elsewhere.
Tyreke Evans will be left without a running mate in Sacramento, but there's no doubting the fact that the Kings will push hard to keep Evans with the team.
Evans has a career scoring average of 18.0 points per game and is one of the most dynamic young players in the league today.
Cousins and Evans may not be playing together for much longer, and if Cousins gets his way, they may only have a few more weeks of sharing the Kings offensive duties.
Jeremy Lin and James Harden
James Harden wasn't a superstar until he stepped on the court for the Houston Rockets, and Jeremy Lin is pretty much a superstar strictly by name. Either way, they are two of the biggest names in the NBA.
Both Lin and Harden are affordable this season, but Harden's salary dramatically increases next season and continues to increase until the 2017-18 season.
Lin is affordable for each of the next two seasons, but his salary will jump to nearly $15 million in 2014-15. After that season, he becomes a free agent.
Lin could seek the same amount of money on a long-term contract, or he could seek more money on a contract of sizable length.
Whichever route he chooses, the Rockets likely won't be able to commit.
Harden is the main man in Houston (he's averaging 26.3 points per game) and they have paid him as such. Having another high-salary guy on the team (when both of the players are approaching 30 years old) is not a good idea for any franchise.
Look for Lin to don a new uniform after his current deal with the Rockets expires.
Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings
At 27, Monta Ellis is quickly losing his status as a "young" NBA player. He's been in the NBA since 2005-06, and he's seen his fair share of NBA action.
Even still, he's about three years away from 30, so it's not completely outlandish to include him.
He and Brandon Jennings make for a dynamic backcourt with the Milwaukee Bucks. Ellis is averaging 19.6 points per game this season while Jennings is averaging 18.0.
Each player is a star in his own right, but only one of them will last in Milwaukee.
Ellis may never command a max contract, and while Jennings might, I don't predict money being the reason why this pair doesn't last.
In the end, it'll come down to the way the Milwaukee offense runs with two guards that enjoy chucking up a ton of shots.
With not much in the way of a frontcourt, the Bucks could look to deal either Ellis or Jennings for an upgrade under the basket.
This is a scenario that's in the best interest for all parties involved, especially Milwaukee.
Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio
I know we really haven't seen much from Ricky Rubio yet, but I firmly believe that he will blossom into a superstar in this league within the next two seasons.
While Kevin Love provides double-doubles every night with points and rebounds, Rubio has the potential to provide a double-double with points and assists.
The two contrast each other perfectly and will be a formidable pair in Minnesota for the next several seasons—but only for the next several seasons.
Love and Rubio will hit free agency at separate times, but it's going to be extremely difficult for the Timberwolves to retain both stars.
Love will undoubtedly command a max contract, while Rubio could earn himself one if he can stay healthy and perform up to his potential.
Having two max contracts on a team isn't exactly conducive to building a winner, so the T'Wolves may explore letting one walk.
It'll be difficult to replace the production of either player (especially in terms of rebounds or assists), but I just don't see Minnesota being able to hold on to both stars in a few years.