Ranking Best Superstar Duos Playing in 2013 NBA Playoffs

Daniel O'Brien@@DanielO_BRFeatured ColumnistApril 27, 2013

Ranking Best Superstar Duos Playing in 2013 NBA Playoffs

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    Star athletes make basketball such a captivating sport, and the 2013 NBA Playoffs boast a slew of exciting star duos.

    The Golden State Warriors feature a thrilling pair of sharpshooters and the Memphis Grizzlies have a tough front line, but where do those duos rank?

    Injuries to a few key superstars have affected some of the pairings, but it makes it all the more interesting when a new pair steps up in this win-or-go-home season.

    You can probably guess who tops our list. How do the remaining duos stack up against one another?

    *Rankings based on entire 2012-13 season, not just playoffs.

16. Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee Bucks

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    2012-13 Combined Stats: 36.7 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 12.5 APG, 41% FG, 32.5 PER

    Although the Milwaukee Bucks' demise is a foregone conclusion, we can't ignore the offensive prowess of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings. Between their shooting and passing, the pair accounts for an immense chunk of the team's offense.

    Unfortunately, it means the Bucks are subject to the duo's shot selection and playmaking whims. Ellis and Jennings hoist well over 30 shots per game, but only 41 percent of them go through the hoop.

    They're exciting to watch, but there's a reason they have a sub-.500 record and the worst PER on this list.

15. Chandler Parsons and James Harden, Houston Rockets

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    2012-13 Combined Stats: 41.4 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 9.3 APG, 46% FG, 38.3 PER

    Less than a year ago, this tandem didn't even exist.

    Chandler Parsons and James Harden joined forces in October and led the Houston Rockets to the No. 8 seed in the West.

    They're deadly in transition because they can both pull up for dagger triples or attack the rim effectively. Kevin McHale's offense is so dangerous because Parsons and Harden are great athletes and facilitators.

    Against the Oklahoma City Thunder, they have their hands full because Kevin Durant is a matchup nightmare, but Russell Westbrook's meniscus tear could provide some opportunities for Houston's young duo.

14. Ty Lawson and Andre Iguodala, Denver Nuggets

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    2012-13 Combined Stats: 29.7 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 12.3 APG, 46% FG, 33.2 PER

    One has blistering speed. The other has Spiderman acrobatics. Together, they form a potent end-to-end backcourt that has conference finals potential.

    Ty Lawson and Andre Iguodala aren't always the most productive scorers, but a combined 12.3 assists and just 5.1 turnovers in 2012-13 lifted the Denver Nuggets to the No. 3 seed in the West.

    Lawson's swiftness and body control are uncontainable, and Iguodala's swingman defense and transition skills allow George Karl to implement an efficient uptempo game plan.

    A 35-point, 10-assist effort in Game 3 against the Golden State Warriors showed how lethal Lawson can be, but unless he gets some help, a first-round exit is a distinct possibility.

13. Paul George and David West, Indiana Pacers

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    2012-13 Combined Stats: 34.5 PPG, 15.3 RPG, 7.0 APG, 46% FG, 37 PER

    Last spring, the Indiana Pacers' top combo would have been Danny Granger and Roy Hibbert. In 2013, it's budding star Paul George and rock-solid forward David West.

    George's multidimensional contributions as a shooter, slasher, defender, rebounder and passer compensated for a down year from Hibbert and injuries to Granger.

    Meanwhile, West played efficiently all season, shooting 50 percent from the field and turning in a 20.1 PER.

    George has been massively productive to start the playoffs, but West has been rather quiet. Frank Vogel needs both to be clicking once Indiana reaches the later rounds.

12. Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard, Los Angeles Lakers

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    2012-13 Combined Stats: 30.8 PPG, 21.0 RPG, 5.5 APG, 52% FG, 36.2 PER

    Mike D'Antoni lost Kobe Bryant, but he didn't lose the twin towers.

    Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol have been playing some of their finest basketball together recently, so it's a shame that the Los Angeles Lakers supporting cast is so feeble.

    Many fans and followers had dismissed Gasol's value to the franchise and noted how incompatible he was with the current system and personnel. The seven-foot Spaniard responded by notching 17.5 points, 12.1 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game in the last eight games of the regular season.

    An early playoff exit is inevitable, but this combo was fun to watch when they were at their best.

11. Josh Smith and Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks

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    2012-13 Combined Stats: 34.9 PPG, 18.6 RPG, 7.4 APG, 50% FG, 37.7 PER

    The Atlanta Hawks aren't scaring anyone these days, and that's partially because Josh Smith and Al Horford are a bit banged up.

    Larry Drew's young forward-center combo enjoyed a solid all-around 2012-13 campaign, but their playing days together could be dwindling due to Smith's impending free agency.

    Horford has quietly become one of the most imposing centers in the league. His 2012-13 campaign included 37-plus minutes per game, and even though he posted a career-high in field goals attempted, he maintained a 54-percent mark.

    If these two aren't playing at or near full strength, their time as teammates could be over in a matter of days.

10. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics

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    2012-13 Combined Stats: 33.4 PPG, 14.1 RPG, 7.1 APG, 47% FG, 38.3 PER

    Rajon Rondo's ACL injury put more pressure on Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to carry the Boston Celtics, and they answered the bell.

    However, the veteran duo needs help in the playoffs. Their squad is on the ropes after a trio of thrashings from the New York Knicks.

    Garnett still has a great nose for the ball and can impact the game on both ends, while Pierce has proven to be more versatile during Rondo's absence. Three or four years ago, these guys would have easily landed in the top five of these rankings. 

9. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors

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    2012-13 Combined Stats: 39.5 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 9.1 APG, 44% FG, 34.0 PER

    Of all the superstar duos competing in the playoffs, this one's got the best shooting touch.

    With David Lee sidelined, the Golden State Warriors' top tandem is the backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

    It's difficult for defenses to keep track of both guards at the same time, so one is inevitably bound to break free for a perimeter barrage. Heck, Curry himself is bound to break free even when double-teamed.

    Because they have the everyday potential to combine for 40-plus points and 10 assists, they could send the Denver Nuggets on an early vacation.

8. Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer, Chicago Bulls

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    2012-13 Combined Stats: 28.1 PPG, 20.9 RPG, 6.3 APG, 48% FG, 35.3 PER

    Even without Derrick Rose, the Chicago Bulls have a formidable duo capable of outplaying any frontcourt on any given night.

    Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer are one of the most underrated low-post pairs in the NBA because they do so much more than rebound and score in the paint. Both are superb facilitators who can catch at the high post, turn and diagnose the defense.

    Defensively, Noah supplies the kind of stingy defense and unrelenting energy that is rare in professional sports. His fortitude in playing through plantar fasciitis reveals just how gritty he is.

    Together, they can give absolutely everything a coach could dream of getting from a big-man duo.

7. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies

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    2012-13 Combined Stats: 29.5 PPG, 19.0 RPG, 5.4 APG, 48% FG, 37.5 PER

    What do you get when you combine a rebounding machine with the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year?

    The heart and soul of the Memphis Grizzlies.

    Marc Gasol's toughness and Zach Randolph's craftiness continue to stump athletically superior lineups. Their 19 rebounds per game and physical defense helped Memphis thrive rather than just survive without Rudy Gay.

    Can they exorcise last year's demons and upend the Los Angeles Clippers?

6. Deron Williams and Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets

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    2012-13 Combined Stats: 38.3 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 8.6 APG, 48% FG, 45.2 PER

    Brook Lopez and Deron Williams form one of the best guard-center duos in the NBA, but their playoff fortunes have soured because the Brooklyn Nets supporting cast isn't carrying its fair share.

    D-Will had a down year by almost every measure, but the progression of Lopez and the addition of Joe Johnson helped the Nets franchise return to relevance.

    The big question now is whether Brooklyn's stars can bring out the best in their teammates, as they are struggling to compete with an injury-plagued Chicago Bulls squad.

    At this juncture, their leadership will be tested more than their skill.

5. Serge Ibaka and Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    2012-13 Combined Stats: 41.3 PPG, 15.6 RPG, 5.1 APG, 54% FG, 47.8 PER

    Since Russell Westbrook is out indefinitely after surgery on his meniscus, Serge Ibaka steps up as Kevin Durant's main man for the next few weeks.

    Oklahoma City is lucky to have a frontcourt comprised of these two. They combined for 4.33 blocks per contest in the regular season and accounted for more than 40 points on 54 percent shooting.

    Ibaka has become considerably more dynamic offensively since he increased his range out to the arc, and Durant's efficiency has reached historic levels.

    Without Westbrook, there will be extra ball-handling, playmaking and decision-making responsibilities on Durant's shoulders. He's ready to take on the challenge, but does he have the wherewithal to lead OKC back to the finals?

4. J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks

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    2012-13 Combined Stats: 46.8 PPG, 12.2 RPG, 5.3 APG, 44% FG, 42.5 PER

    Before the 2012-13 campaign, most New York Knicks fans surmised that Tyson Chandler or Amar'e Stoudemire would accompany Carmelo Anthony in this slide.

    Little did they know, J.R. Smith was about to have a career year coming off the bench, hitting clutch shots and piling up points en route to the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award.

    Smith's demeanor, decision-making and execution have all upgraded, and he fits in perfectly with Mike Woodson's cast of veterans.

    What about 'Melo? Oh, he only won the scoring title and has the Knickerbockers on the verge of a first-round sweep of the Boston Celtics.

3. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers

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    2012-13 Combined Stats: 34.9 PPG, 12.0 RPG, 13.4 APG, 51% FG, 48.9 PER

    As Chris Paul and Blake Griffin go, so do the Los Angeles Clippers.

    Although the team added depth in 2012-13, Paul is the facilitator that makes it all work, and Griffin is the weapon that wears down defenses.

    Griffin's development as a post-up scorer and mid-range shooter opened up opportunities for the rest of the club, while Paul's culture of unselfishness yielded a team total of 23.9 assists per game.

    We only need to look at L.A.'s loss to the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 3 to see the duo's value. Griffin was held to two rebounds, while Paul mustered just eight points and four assists. Consequently, the Clips were soundly defeated.

    With Russell Westbrook out indefinitely, can the Lob City tandem establish itself as the top one-two punch in the West?

2. Tony Parker and Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs

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    2012-13 Combined Stats: 38.1 PPG, 12.9 RPG, 10.3 APG, 51% FG, 47.6 PER

    San Antonio Spurs mainstays Tony Parker and Tim Duncan carved up the competition for most of the regular season, and they're doing it again in the playoffs.

    Everyone is wondering when they'll fall apart, but Parker's not done improving, and Duncan is as powerful as ever.

    Having them on the floor at the same time is like having two Hall of Fame quarterbacks in the same huddle. Parker's assist-to-turnover ratio is nearly three to one, and Duncan's block-to-foul ratio is a robust 1.6. 

    Once they dispatch the Los Angeles Lakers, they'll face a younger adversary (the Golden State Warriors or Denver Nuggets) in the second round, testing whether there's one more title run left in the tank.

1. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, Miami Heat

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    2012-13 Combined Stats: 48.0 PPG, 13.0 RPG, 12.4 APG, 54% FG, 55.7 PER

    Star power goes a long way in the NBA, which is why the league's leading duo is poised to steamroll the Eastern Conference on its way to a repeat title chase.

    Erik Spoelstra's Miami Heat own an upgraded lineup and a superb set of role players, but LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are still the most spectacular combo on the planet. A combined PER of 55.7 says it all.

    Their presence is just as powerful on defense as it is on offense, as most teams learn the hard way with turnovers and transition embarrassment. James and Wade have learned how to create opportunities for each other and make life miserable for opponents.

    No one's going to hand them the Larry O'Brien trophy, but they'll have no problem being proactive and and climbing to the top.

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