Ranking the Best Player Rivalries in the NBA for 2013-14 Season

Bryant KnoxFeatured ColumnistDecember 10, 2013

Ranking the Best Player Rivalries in the NBA for 2013-14 Season

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    When LeBron James and Paul George face off, good things happen for the NBA.
    When LeBron James and Paul George face off, good things happen for the NBA.Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

    When you think of the NBA's best rivalries, it's tough not to consider your favorite teams. The Miami Heat will battle the Indiana Pacers out East, the New York Knicks will fight the Brooklyn Nets for the state of New York and the Los Angeles Lakers will continually spat with the L.A. Clippers over who owns Tinseltown.

    Basketball is a team sport, and all fans have their allegiances; but the NBA is a player-driven league, and those players make up just as many rivalries.

    For years, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James were the epitome of individual competition. The truth, however, is that the mystique surrounding the stars was stronger than the strife itself.

    The idea of a Bryant-James rivalry has faded with time, leaving new duos to come along and steal the show.

    The top rivals in today's game aren't all about bad blood. They're about competitiveness, mutual respect and the potential for epic battles for years to come.

    Then again, we all love a good skirmish now and again, proving that the league still has mutual hatred boiling within certain players.

10. Kobe Bryant vs. Dwight Howard

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    Consider this one an honorable mention at this point in the process.

    Entering their first year apart following their only year together, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard will likely downplay any potential rivalry. We'll hear about how the NBA is a business, how there's no hard feelings and how both players want to do whatever it takes to win a championship.

    Those are all politically correct answers to tough questions, but what fans want to see is two players compete who couldn't win together in the brightest of spotlights.

    If you've studied your history, you understand that Bryant knows how to feud with former colleagues. His later days with Shaquille O'Neal were far from enchanting, and even after Shaq was traded, their future interactions seemed colder than ever.

    This rivalry doesn't have that kind of history, but it's a fabulous opportunity for two players to prove to each other that they're in a better spot than they were last season.

9. Anthony Davis vs. Andre Drummond

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    They say dominant big men are a dying breed in the NBA.

    Andre Drummond and Anthony Davis say otherwise.

    Drummond and Davis making the cut is really about crossing our fingers that this becomes a prominent rivalry. Both have the potential to compete for Defensive Player of the Year season after season, and both have the ability to dominate above the rim when given the opportunity.

    In all honesty, you could take two young players at any position and make a case for them in this slot. Take Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving. Or Irving and John Wall.

    But what makes this matchup special is that it goes against the notion that basketball has become a point guard's game. Drummond and Davis are going to thrill fans moving forward, and more importantly, they have the potential to rejuvenate the big man's game.

8. LaMarcus Aldridge vs. David Lee

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    Sam Forencich/Getty Images

    The feud between LaMarcus Aldridge and David Lee won't get much air time, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

    In October of 2012, Lee told Matt Moore of CBSSports.com that if the Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers switched records, he'd be an All-Star over Aldridge. Those are hardly fighting words when it comes to trash talk, but Aldridge responded by pointing out that Lee's quote made him look better as a big man with a stronger record.

    Flash forward to Nov. 23, 2013, and the Blazers and Warriors end up scuffling during a third-quarter skirmish. In Lee's defense, he was far from the focus of the fight, but a play just minutes before is what really got tempers going.

    David Lee bumps LaMarcus Aldridge to ground and Aldridge is the one called for travel. Wesley Matthews gets a technical for defending L.A.

    — Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) November 24, 2013

    If the NBA is lucky, a rivalry has been sparked between these two organizations. Both are fighting for position in the playoffs, and both project to be very good for a very long time.

7. Victor Oladipo vs. Michael Carter-Williams

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    Any time you have two studs come out of one draft class, they're bound to be connected through the early part of their careers.

    That's what's happened with Michael Carter-Williams and Victor Oladipo, and the two found a way to make history in just their second matchup as professionals. 

    Via @EliasSports Michael Carter-Williams & Victor Oladipo are the 1st rookies to record their 1st triple-doubles in the same game

    — ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 4, 2013

    As of Dec. 10, NBA.com has these two as the top players vying for Rookie of the Year honors. That shouldn't change all season, and if we're lucky, there will be more battles to come as their careers move on.

    The 2013 draft was widely considered one of the worst entering the league in quite some time, so if these two can change that notion on their own, they'll be looked at as the saviors of their rookie class.

6. Kendrick Perkins vs. Zach Randolph

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    Here we go. A rivalry that is built off of physicality and mutual disgust for one another.

    In November of the 2012-13 season, Zach Randolph and Kendrick Perkins were both ejected during a game between the Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder. The two big men were jawing back and forth during a free throw by Russell Westbrook, and simply put, the referees had seen enough.

    After getting ejected in the 4th quarter, Kendrick Perkins & Zach Randolph had an altercation near the locker rooms. Police investigating.

    — Darnell Mayberry (@DarnellMayberry) November 15, 2012

    What makes this special is what happened next. Both players exited stage left, but according to the Associated Press (via ESPN), Randolph then approached Perkins behind the scenes near the locker rooms.

    This one could have gotten a lot uglier than it did, but it's safe to say that these two won't be hanging out any time soon.

5. Kevin Garnett vs. the World

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    Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    OK, maybe it's a bit unfair to declare that Kevin Garnett is in a constant feud with the entire NBA. 

    Then again, the man knows how to get under his opponents' skin, and his intensity has a tendency to rub people the wrong way in the heat of battle.

    For the sake of saving space, let's just take a look at a few players Garnett has feuded with in recent memory:

    • Ray Allen
    • Carmelo Anthony
    • Joakim Noah
    • Andrea Bargnani
    • The entire Miami Heat roster

    According to Chris Ballard of Sports Illustrated, the Big Ticket has even managed to draw hate from one of the league's most mild-tempered personalities, Tim Duncan.

    Garnett has a bad rap when it comes to beefs, and it's unfortunate because he's an incredible talent. He's the kind of guy you love when he plays for your team, but when he doesn't, he's a tough one to root for.

4. Zach Randolph vs. Blake Griffin

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    Joe Murphy/Getty Images

    Randolph makes his second appearance on this list, this time with fellow power forward Blake Griffin.

    Throughout the past two postseasons, the Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers have started a rivalry of their own. Memphis has learned that it can bully L.A. in a battle of physicality, and Griffin has taken the brunt of it down on the block.

    Here's an example of what to expect every time these guys get together. The two fight for position, lock arms, tumble to the ground and ultimately end up wrestling in front of a national audience.

    To escalate matters further, Randolph has said in the past that Perkins and Serge Ibaka are both tougher than Griffin, per NBA.com's Jeff Caplan.

    It's tough to say how many more years these two will do battle, but one thing that's for sure is that mutual respect can be left out of the conversation.

3. LeBron James vs. Carmelo Anthony

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    Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

    It goes without saying that James has encountered far more success than Carmelo Anthony at both the individual and team level.

    That said, the two will forever be linked by the 2003 draft, and they just so happen to be phenomenal scorers who play the same position.

    In 17 regular-season matchups, you might be surprised to learn that Melo has the advantage 10 wins to seven. In those 17 contests, he has posted 23.9 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game, while James has bested him to the tune of 25.2 points, 7.6 rebounds and 7.2 assists per contest.

    When you look at the playoffs, James has the clear advantage with four wins to one. The individual stats, however, are again closer than you might assume, as both players are averaging exactly 27.8 points per game in their showdowns.

    Whoever comes out ahead, we can all agree on one thing: These two entertain when they're on the floor together. Both have the opportunity to switch teams in 2014 if they want, but regardless of where they're playing, we know there are plenty more battles to come.

     

    *All statistics on this slide are courtesy of www.basketball-reference.com.

2. Kevin Durant vs. LeBron James

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    Not all NBA rivalries are built out of bad blood, and no duo epitomizes that more than Kevin Durant and James.

    Throughout the years, we've seen these two superstars bond off the court. They train together in the offseason, and while some believe that takes away from their competitive edge, the truth is that they do it so they can challenge one another to be the best they can ultimately be.

    Even more importantly, we've seen them compete in big-time contests. Every time they face off, it's must-see television, and the 2012 NBA Finals were an indication to many that they're the two best players in all of basketball.

    This is a rivalry based on competitive greatness and a true desire to triumph. Both players want nothing more than to win championships, and while James is doing what he can to keep his legacy going, Durant is desperate for his to finally begin.

    This will be the No. 1 rivalry in many people's eyes, but there's one that's growing and deserves the nod at this time.

1. LeBron James vs. Paul George

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    The NBA's newest rivalry is already its best.

    The Eastern Conference is a two-horse race, and it's not even close. The Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers are running away with their respective divisions, and James and Paul George are the two biggest reasons why.

    Dating back to the 2010-11 season, James has dominated the head-to-head series. However, when you compare, and more fittingly contrast the paths to stardom that these two have endured, it adds to the narrative that George is an underdog who fans just can't help but like.

    With James being as polarizing a figure as he is, he's become a target of animosity throughout the years. This rivalry isn't one that thrives off of hostility, but George recently gave The King billboard material whether he intended to or not.

    Two days before taking on LeBron James, Paul George says Kevin Durant is the NBA’s toughest matchup - http://t.co/vuG0wNqiVT

    — Kelly Dwyer (@KDonhoops) December 9, 2013

    These two are on a crash course to the Eastern Conference Finals, and it doesn't appear anybody will get in their way. Only one can compete for a championship in 2014, but both will contend for titles for years to come.