Ranking Every NBA Team's Best Duo This Season

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistMarch 28, 2020

Ranking Every NBA Team's Best Duo This Season

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    The NBA is cyclical. In the 1980s, teams with a "Big Three" like Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish or Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy reigned supreme. In the '90s, the Chicago Bulls' duo of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen dominated.

    The most recent shift may have occurred just this past summer. In the wake of the Golden State Warriors' half-decade dynasty coming to an abrupt halt, the offseason became a bit of an arms race. And with more teams than usual going all-in, there was plenty of competition for a number of stars. The result was the league neatly falling into another era of power duos.

    Just about everywhere you look, teams are headlined by top twos. The distinction between those players and the rest of the rosters they're on is more obvious in some cases than others. But as you dig into team structures all over the league, the number of teams that are clearly led by a duo is quite large.

    To determine which duos were best in 2019-20, we'll use a mix of subjective and objective criteria.

    First, the subjective: each duo was selected with little regard to numbers. For example, using Damian Lillard and Hassan Whiteside would've pushed the Portland Trail Blazers higher up this list, but that's not the duo people associate with that team. Instead, Lillard and CJ McCollum make up the top two for that team.

    There were a few judgment calls made on that front with which some readers will disagree. Of course, disagreements are not uncharted territory for me and my readers at Bleacher Report.

    Now, for the objective side. After selecting all 30 duos, the following combined stats were found for each:

    Then, the duos were ranked 1-30 in each of the above. And finally, all 30 duos were sorted by the average of their ranks across those metrics.

    Before reading up on the results below, note that most of those stats are cumulative (think points) and not rate (think points per game). It means the list will skew a bit toward those duos that appeared in plenty of games this season.

30-21

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    30. Stephen Curry and Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors)

    Back to the methodology, this duo was obviously held back by a lack of availability. Stephen Curry only appeared in five games.

    If they're healthy next season, they'll undoubtedly fly up lists like these.

         

    29. Devonte' Graham and Terry Rozier (Charlotte Hornets)

    Few may have expected Devonte' Graham and Terry Rozier to play as much together as they did. In terms of traditional positions, they're both point guards.

    Each might have a higher ceiling when paired with a more traditional 2.

         

    28. Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen (Chicago Bulls)

    Zach LaVine posted a career high in box plus/minus, but Lauri Markkanen posted a career low.

    These two make for an intriguing guard-big combo, in theory, but Markkanen has to get back on track with the potential he showed as a rookie.

          

    27. Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell (Minnesota Timberwolves)

    Buddies Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell were a minus in the only game they appeared together. Their individual catch-all cumulative numbers bumped them up a couple of spots.

    Here's hoping we get to see a lot more of this duo that has a chance to be explosive offensively next season.

         

    26. Buddy Hield and De'Aaron Fox (Sacramento Kings)

    This is another placement that was affected by availability (though not nearly as much as Golden State's). De'Aaron Fox missed 19 games, and Buddy Hield took a bit longer to get going than he did in years past.

           

    25. Kevin Love and Larry Nance Jr. (Cleveland Cavaliers)

    There was obviously the temptation to go with Collin Sexton and Darius Garland (or one of the other younger players), but Kevin Love and Larry Nance Jr. were so much better by the advanced numbers than the rest of the squad that it felt wrong to keep them out of the exercise.

    The Cleveland Cavaliers' net rating was minus-3.2 with both on the floor, compared to minus-9.8 when both were off.

           

    24. DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge (San Antonio Spurs)

    In the playoffs and regular season combined, DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge have played together for nearly 4,000 minutes over the last two seasons.

    The San Antonio Spurs are minus-1.2 points per 100 possessions in those minutes. They're plus-4.9 points per 100 possessions in the 1,534 minutes in which both were off the floor.

            

    23. Mitchell Robinson and Julius Randle (New York Knicks)

    Of the 30 duos sampled for this project, the New York Knicks' Mitchell Robinson and Julius Randle come in at No. 7 in net rating swing.

    There are plenty of reasons from the last few years to harp on the Knicks, but they have an exciting young frontcourt. Randle's offense and Robinson's defense make for a good balance.

          

    22. Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier (Orlando Magic)

    The Orlando Magic's team defense is far better than its offense. The inverse may be true of their top two players, whose catch-all ranks lag a bit behind due to their marks on the defensive side of the ball.

    Within the next year or two, either one might be replaced in exercises like this by Jonathan Isaac, who looks like he could provide value on both sides of the ball. He may have even worked this season, but a season-ending knee injury 32 games in secured the spots of Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier.

          

    21. Christian Wood and Derrick Rose (Detroit Pistons)

    Christian Wood and Derrick Rose are in far different phases of their careers, but both blew expectations out of the water this season.

    Had Rose been more healthy and Wood gotten more minutes earlier in the season, this duo likely would've finished even higher.

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    20. Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans (Washington Wizards)

    Offensively, Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans make up one of the game's very best duos. When both were on the floor, the Washington Wizards scored a whopping 121.7 points per 100 possessions (99th percentile).

    If John Wall can come back to even 85 to 90 percent of his previous self, adding him to this sweet-shooting duo makes for a fascinating trio.

          

    19. Jonas Valanciunas and Ja Morant (Memphis Grizzlies)

    There were a few options here. Either Jaren Jackson Jr. or Brandon Clarke would've made sense with either of those named above.

    Ja Morant is clearly the face of the team, though. And the advanced numbers love Jonas Valanciunas more than anyone else on the roster. This thunder-and-lightning duo should have the Memphis Grizzlies in contention for the playoffs again next season, especially as JJJ and Clarke continue to develop.

          

    18. Spencer Dinwiddie and Jarrett Allen (Brooklyn Nets)

    Despite only appearing in 20 games, there's an argument to include Kyrie Irving here. But Spencer Dinwiddie and Jarrett Allen were both leaders of a Brooklyn Nets squad that made the postseason in 2019. They're more than worthy replacements.

    This season, they make up the Nets' top two in wins over replacement player.

          

    17. Jrue Holiday and Brandon Ingram (New Orleans Pelicans)

    Had the season gone on much longer, it would've been difficult to keep Zion Williamson out of this space. He and Brandon Ingram are tied for the New Orleans Pelicans' team lead in box plus/minus (with Jrue Holiday barely behind those two).

    Over the next couple of seasons, this may wind up being one of the game's best Big Threes. Ingram is 22, while Zion is 19. The future is bright.

            

    16. Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon (Indiana Pacers)

    With Victor Oladipo out for most of the Indiana Pacers' season with an injury, Domantas Sabonis emerged as an All-Star point center in the mold of his father and Hall of Famer, Arvydas.

    Malcolm Brogdon, meanwhile, dealt with injuries and saw his efficiency plummet in his first year with the Pacers. Still, career highs in points and assists per game are encouraging signs for a player who'll face less intense defensive schemes if Oladipo is back in 2020-21.

             

    15. Trae Young and John Collins (Atlanta Hawks)

    If the rest of the Atlanta Hawks' roster closes the gap on Trae Young and John Collins, the team could compete for a spot in the playoffs as early as next season.

    Young is a bona fide No. 1 scorer. And Collins is a walking 20 and 10. This duo has a chance to be the new-age Steve Nash and Amar'e Stoudemire.

           

    14. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers)

    For those who may have expected to see Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid in the top 10, there are a few issues here. First, both players dealt with injuries this season. Embiid alone missed 21 games.

    The bigger problem, though, was that the duo's net rating hit a new low. The Philadelphia 76ers were still a plus with both on the floor, but not by much.

    That may have a lot to do with how much these two played with Al Horford (the net rating is far better when both are on without Horford), but that won't be talked about as much as the fit between Simmons and Embiid.

            

    13. Devin Booker and Ricky Rubio (Phoenix Suns)

    If Deandre Ayton is able to stay on the floor, he may replace Ricky Rubio as early as next season. Right now, the Phoenix Suns' starting backcourt draws the analysis.

    The team was cruising to another lottery pick, but it was anything but a pushover when Booker and Rubio were on the floor. When those two were together, the Suns were plus-6.5 points per 100 possessions (86th percentile).

           

    12. Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam (Toronto Raptors)

    Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry both missed plenty of time with injuries, and the advanced numbers have tailed off a bit for Siakam over recent weeks.

    But in games in which both appeared, the Toronto Raptors had a ridiculous .732 winning percentage. That was the fourth-best mark in the exercise.

           

    11. Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz)

    Rudy Gobert remains a dominant defensive force, while Donovan Mitchell is becoming one of the game's most exciting young volume scorers.

    If Mitchell can improve his efficiency, playmaking and defense a bit, this duo will likely climb over the next couple of years.

10. Chris Paul and Danilo Gallinari (Oklahoma City Thunder)

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    This slide could have easily been titled "Chris Paul and Enter Thunder Player Here." The 15th-year point guard made the best of what could have been a tough situation.

    "This was the first move of Paul's NBA career that was squarely out of his hands," Rob Mahoney wrote of CP3's trade to the Oklahoma City Thunder for The Ringer. "There was no trade demand (like the one that sent Paul from the Hornets to the Clippers in 2011) and no player option (which allowed him to angle his way to the Rockets in 2017)."

    Paul, seemingly in the twilight of his career and on one of the league's most daunting contracts, was supposed to be in a holding pattern until some other team snatched him up. When that contract proved too difficult to move, Paul settled in and just played basketball.

    And when he was on the floor, his team played the game about as well as anyone.

    When CP3 was on the floor, the Thunder outscored opponents by 6.7 points per 100 possessions, a net rating that ranked in the 87th percentile. His net rating swing (the difference in that number when a given player is on or off the floor) ranked in the 98th percentile.

    "He's definitely the MVP no doubt," Danilo Gallinari, who was second on the team in wins over replacement player this season, told reporters of Paul. "His leadership … I've played with a lot of players in my 12 years in the league, I think he's the best leader that I've played with. And I think that when you want to find the MVP, leadership is one of the first things you need to talk about."

    CP3 may be the leader, but the one doling out the praise there can't be ignored. As one of the game's most modern and efficient scorers, Gallinari is an almost ideal 4 in today's NBA.

    He uses the mid-range sparingly, but he's plenty efficient from there. Consider that the empty calories of a scorer's diet. The fruits and veggies are threes and trips to the line. Gallinari was way ahead of the curve on shot selection.

    James Harden, Damian Lillard and Isaiah Thomas are the only players in NBA history who match or exceed Gallinari's career marks for threes and free throws per 75 possessions (a big part of why Gallo is 68th all time in career offensive box plus/minus). Harden and Lillard are the only players who match or exceed his marks there over the last two seasons.

    The ability to space the floor is huge in today's game. But the truly elite 4s can attack a closeout as well. Gallo's ability to draw fouls out of those situations makes him hyper-efficient.

    Combine that with an all-time great point guard on a "Hey, remember how good I am?" tour and it's not hard to see why the Thunder had a shot at home-court advantage in the first round.

9. Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics)

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    The Boston Celtics are no longer the plucky underdogs of Brad Stevens' earlier years at the helm, thanks in large part to 2020 All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker.

    When both were on the floor, Boston outscored its opponents by 12.6 points per 100 possessions, a net rating that ranked in the 98th percentile.

    The dominant play coincided with smart adjustments to shot selection. Both increased their three-point-attempt rates over what they put up last season. For the first time in his career, Kemba took that mark over 50 percent. Additionally, over 20 percent of his shots were twos from 10 feet and out last season. That number dropped to below 16 percent in 2019-20.

    Tatum similarly adapted to the modern game. On top of taking more threes, he nearly cut his rate of two-point attempts from 16 feet and out in half (from 16.9 percent of his shots to 8.5 percent).

    Other players deserve credit for this as well, but smarter basketball from the two All-Stars was a big part of why the Celtics went from 10th in offense in 2018-19 to fifth this season.

    The real secret to Tatum's superstar leap, though, was what he provided on the other side of the ball.

    His block, steal and defensive rebounding percentages all went up this season. And his ability to guard multiple types of players helped Boston play positionless with Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward.

    His rapid ascension to top-15 status is a game-changer for Boston, which appears to be set to compete for the foreseeable future.

8. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum (Portland Trail Blazers)

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    This is the only duo in the top 10 that has a sub-.500 record in games in which both played. That says a couple of things about Lillard and McCollum.

    First, their supporting cast was suspect coming into the season, thanks in large part to the front office unloading defenders like Al-Farouq Aminu and Maurice Harkless, but injuries truly devastated this squad.

    Second, and more importantly, these two are really good. And that's especially true when they play together.

    McCollum has been the full-time starting 2 since 2015-16. In that span, Portland is plus-4.6 points per 100 possessions with both McCollum and Lillard on the floor and minus-7.7 with both off.

    The difference is even more pronounced when you look at the same numbers for 2019-20 (plus-3.8 on compared to minus-10.4 off).

    Even with a 29-37 record and a negative point differential overall, the Blazers still managed to beat teams pretty thoroughly when both of the star guards were in.

    That's why, despite a seemingly annual tradition of "whispers" calling to break this duo up, Portland would likely have a difficult time doing just that.

    "We're in the era that teams like to put stars against each other," Damian Lillard told USA Today's Mark Medina. "With us being the two best players on our team, it's never been a competition. It's always been a partnership and a friendship. I always appreciate that from him. Our friendship is always first."

    The goodwill these two have built up over the years comes through in the way they play together. With some elite guards throughout NBA history, sitting back and watching another operate on offense might be difficult. That doesn't appear to be the case with Lillard and McCollum, who have each ceded possessions to the other for the sake of a hot streak or mismatch.

    Of course, the offense has been designed to afford both plenty of opportunities. Just under 30 percent of Portland's possessions per game are used by Lillard or McCollum in the form of an isolation or pick-and-roll.

    But even with so much telegraphed to opposing defenses, the Blazers scored 116.7 points per 100 possessions when the star duo was the floor, an offensive rating that ranked in the 93rd percentile.

7. Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis (Dallas Mavericks)

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    Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis finishing this high is impressive for a number of reasons:

    • Doncic missed 13 games, while Porzingis missed 16.
    • Porzingis took a while to get going after spending all of last season recovering from a torn ACL.
    • Porzingis is 24, and Luka just turned 21.
    • This is their first year together.

    To already be a top-seven duo in the NBA—despite the injuries, adjustment period and inexperience—is remarkable. And it bodes well for the Dallas Mavericks' future.

    "They possess vision, anticipation, appalling range, and are starting to trust one another in a free-flowing, spacious system," Michael Pina wrote of Doncic and Porzingis for SB Nation. "We're still at the ground floor of what they can do together, and already they've assisted each other's baskets more than any other teammates on the roster have. They cut, spot up, and curl off screens along the same wavelength."

    That was written back in December, and the synergy between these two uniquely gifted players has grown since then.

    Over the course of the entire season, Dallas scored 115.7 points per 100 possessions and outscored opponents by 6.7 points per 100 possessions when Doncic and Porzingis were on the floor. If you limit those numbers to games since Feb. 1, they climb to 117.7 and 13.6.

    The sample there is small (some would argue too small to analyze), but there was individual growth in that time frame as well.

    In his last 15 games, Porzingis averaged 25.2 points, 10.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.3 blocks. If he's closer to that level for all of 2020-21, and Doncic continues his upward trajectory, this team could be contending for championships earlier than expected.

6. Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray (Denver Nuggets)

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    Nikola Jokic is sixth in NBA history in career box plus/minus. He's been above 6.0 in that mark in four of his five NBA seasons, something only four other players—David Robinson, LeBron James, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan—can claim.

    The game behind those numbers is what's really fun about Jokic, though. The NBA has never seen a true center like this. The way he runs the offense—whether he's on the break, in the high post, on the block or at the top of the key—allows the Denver Nuggets to essentially start a shooting guard at the 1. And Jamal Murray thrives in that role.

    This year, he posted career highs in points (18.8) and box plus/minus (1.1). And the mesmerizing chemistry between him and the big man continued to grow.

    "I've never seen a combination like those two," NBA legend Tracy McGrady told ESPN's Jackie MacMullan last year. "You have a guy like Jamal, who comes off the pick and shoots the way he does, or passes it to a guy with the skill set of Jokic. Karl Malone was a great mid-range shooter, but he didn't have the skill set that Jokic has. Nikola can knock down the shot, he drives to the basket, he makes these incredible passes. He does so many things out of [the pick-and-roll] that no other big man can do."

    To have two players who can handle either responsibility in the pick-and-roll makes Denver incredibly difficult to defend. Switch it at your own peril. Good luck to the guard trying to keep Jokic away from the bucket. Trap the ball-handler, and the screener now has more space to score or find other teammates. Crowd the roller (or popper, depending on how the defense is read), and either can make you pay as a ball-handler.

    Like Doncic and Porzingis, this duo is still young too (Murray is 23, while Jokic is 25). They'll continue to get better at reading defenses and each other. That should be a scary proposition for the rest of the NBA.

    Denver was plus-6.7 points per 100 possessions with Jokic and Murray on the floor. And they both have a few years left before they hit their primes.

5. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George (Los Angeles Clippers)

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    With a more subjective approach (or one based more on rate stats), it would be easy to rank Kawhi Leonard and Paul George higher on this list. In terms of pure talent or potential playoff peaks, there's an argument to have them at No. 1.

    But the selected criteria gives quite a bit of weight to availability. Kawhi missed 13 games. PG missed 22. Had they appeared in more games, the Los Angeles Clippers might be neck-and-neck with the Los Angeles Lakers for first in the West.

    Going back to the metrics used to rank these pairings, Leonard and George finished third in winning percentage (.750), second in net rating (11.4) and fourth in net rating swing (12.1). When both star forwards actually played, the Clippers looked like a juggernaut.

    Defensively, there likely isn't another team in the NBA that can deploy as devastating a duo at the wing positions. Their length, athleticism and defensive IQ is the stuff of opponents' nightmares.

    And what they can do offensively may be just as scary. Both bring well-rounded scoring arsenals to L.A. Kawhi is one of the rare examples of players who can still put up a decent volume from the mid-range and be efficient overall. His playmaking took a leap forward this season as well—his 5.0 assists smashed his previous career high of 3.5.

    With defenses understandably keyed in on those two, there are open looks galore for Patrick Beverley, Ivica Zubac, Marcus Morris, Montrezl Harrell or whoever else may be sharing the floor with the star duo.

    And again, we may not have seen the best these two have to offer. Kawhi typically finds another gear for the postseason. And the chances of both missing as much time with "load management" will go down in the playoffs. The more time they spend together, the more chemistry they'll develop.

4. Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat)

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    When Jimmy Butler chose the Miami Heat over the incumbent Philadelphia 76ers last summer, many understandably questioned the decision.

    Bleacher Report's Yaron Weitzman explained at the time:

    "Butler, clearly, really wanted to play for the Heat. Living in Miami was probably a nice bonus. The second desire is understandable. The first seems to have left many confused. After all, isn't he the guy who has attempted to explain away every outburst and controversy—and, man, there have been a bunch—by claiming, 'I just want to win?'"

    But if he wants to win so badly, you ask, why would he choose the Heat over the Sixers? 

    "It's a fair question. The Sixers are championship contenders. The Heat are not. Butler no doubt knows this, though according to the plugged-in Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press, he was 'even more' sold after hearing Miami's plan for attacking the 2020 offseason. [Pat] Riley may have had a rough few years, but there's no reason to believe he doesn't have a strong plan."

    Fast forward nine months and Miami is ahead of Philly in the standings, while Butler is considered a likelier candidate for MVP than any Sixer by Basketball Reference's MVP tracker.

    His mentality seemed a perfect fit for Miami's notorious culture, as he explained to JJ Redick on the JJ Redick Podcast. And he may have found a kindred spirit in Bam Adebayo.

    The competitive drive of the third-year big is similar to Butler's.

    "Take your pretty jump-shooting bigs, and give me Bam," Kentucky assistant coach Kenny Payne said, per ESPN's Zach Lowe. "Give me the guy who will do anything to win—the guy who will block a shot at a critical moment, or switch onto a guard and shut him down."

    Bam's rise to All-Star status, fueled by that insatiable desire to win, was timed perfectly with Butler's arrival. If Miami can add a third star from the ballyhooed 2021 free-agent class, or continue to beef up the supporting cast, it can get back to contending for titles. 

3. James Harden and Russell Westbrook (Houston Rockets)

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    There still may be some kinks to iron out with the James Harden-Russell Westbrook pairing. Over the course of the season, the Houston Rockets were better when Harden was on the floor without Westbrook (plus-7.3 points per 100 possessions) than they were when both were on (plus-5.8). Both are still at their best with the ball in their hands, and Westbrook is obviously not a floor-spacer in the mold of a typical Harden teammate.

    All that being said, Houston's radical shift to micro-ball may have been an elixir. If we're done running pick-and-roll with Clint Capela, why not just make Westbrook a point center?

    Trading Capela and leaning exclusively on lineups devoid of a traditional center opened up the lane for Westbrook, who also started ditching threes around the same time Houston went all in on this philosophy.

    "We're giving him space for him to go out there and do what he does at a high level, what he's been doing for the last 12 years," Harden told reporters of Westbrook at the All-Star break. "You let him go out there and be himself. The comfort level is there. And it's still only been a few months since he's been here. He's still getting adjusted, but he's looking more comfortable and he's playing more free."

    That freedom is jumping off the stat sheets. Westbrook played 382 minutes without a center on the floor. He averaged 28.4 points per 75 possessions with a 59.2 true shooting percentage in those minutes, compared to 22.7 points per 75 possessions on 50.2 true shooting when he was on the floor with Capela.

    The extra room to operate benefited more than just Russ too.

    Capela last appeared in a Rockets game Jan. 29. After that, the dynamic on the net ratings flipped. Since Jan. 30, Houston is plus-7.4 points per 100 possessions with both stars on the floor and plus-6.4 when Harden is on without Russ.

    We still need to see this experiment in the postseason (fingers crossed) to have an idea of how viable it is long term. Recent losses to the Knicks, Hornets and Magic were concerning. But this new strategy, led by two MVPs, has shown more than enough flashes to intrigue.

2. LeBron James and Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers)

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    The LeBron James-Anthony Davis pairing made so much sense on paper. Pick-and-rolls, transition, two-man games with LeBron outside and AD in the post. Plenty were excited for all of it, but even optimistic prognosticators may have anticipated a bit of an adjustment period.

    Ultimately, there really wasn't one.

    This duo worked right out of the gate. Over the course of the season, they had a two-man net rating that ranked in the 95th percentile. Both put up over 25 points per game with above-average true shooting percentages. In Basketball Reference's MVP tracker, LeBron is No. 2, while AD is No. 4. Together, they make up the most prolific assist combo in the league (by a significant margin).

    Most importantly, they've made the Los Angeles Lakers legitimate title contenders.

    "It's everything I expected and more," James told ESPN's Dave McMenamin of playing with Davis. "Obviously, that's why I wanted him here. When you get a generational talent like that and you got an opportunity to get him, you just try to do whatever you can to get him."

    Now that he's in L.A., the Lakers once again have an all-time great wing-big duo. LeBron and AD follow in the footsteps of Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant.

    All three of those historic duos won rings together (the Lakers awarded Baylor a ring for the 1972 title, despite his retirement earlier that season). For an organization as accustomed to championships as L.A., anything less might be deemed a failure for the LeBron-AD partnership.

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks)

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    It may surprise some to learn that the Lakers aren't the only team with two players in the top 10 of Basketball Reference's MVP tracker.

    Giannis Antetokounmpo is the no-brainer. He's been the runaway favorite for the award for the majority of the season. The breakout of his teammate, Khris Middleton, was the unexpected development that took the Milwaukee Bucks to historic levels.

    Middleton posted significant improvements from 2018-19 in points per possession, three-point percentage, true shooting percentage and box plus/minus.

    Among the 10 players in NBA history who took at least 100 threes and matched or exceeded Middleton's 2019-20 marks for field-goal percentage (49.9), three-point percentage (41.8) and free-throw percentage (90.8), only Stephen Curry's 31.9 points per 75 possessions in 2015-16 eclipsed Middleton's 24.0.

    This was a truly great scoring season in which Middleton proved that he's more than a complement to Giannis. He's a star himself.

    As for Antetokounmpo, he's doing things that have never been seen before. He's the only player in NBA history to have a season with averages of at least 30 points and 15 rebounds per 75 possessions. And that's even lowering the bar a bit. His marks are 32.9 and 15.2. Throw in 6.4 assists, 1.1 blocks, 1.1 steals and a 60.4 true shooting percentage and we enter territory that defies analysis.

    Giannis is an unstoppable force. Think Shaq or Kareem, only with more passing and defensive versatility. Oh, and he put in 1.6 threes per 75 possessions this season, something those great bigs could never dream of (different eras, but still).

    Right now, he's 26th in NBA history in career box plus/minus. If (when?) he wins the 2020 MVP, he'll become just the 16th player in league history to secure that honor more than once. Add a ring to that resume, something this duo is capable of winning, and Giannis will start to enter rarified air in discussions on all-time status.