Every NBA Team's Top 'NBA Jam' Duo

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistJuly 2, 2020

Every NBA Team's Top 'NBA Jam' Duo

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    Boomshakalaka!

    Celebrating NBA Jam never gets old. It is ageless. Everything about this arcade-basketball masterpiece is wonderfully hyperbolic.

    To-the-moon-and-back slams. Unreasonable three-pointers. Razzle-dazzle handles. Burnt rims. Basketballs with flames emanating out of them. Defense so maniacally, brutally over-the-top it'd make the Bad Boys Detroit Pistons squeamish. The iconic catchphrases.

    Oh, the iconic catchphrases.

    So, if you're wondering why we're about to build the best present-day NBA Jam duos for every team, the real question is: Why not?

    Tandems for each squad will not be chosen by mindlessly selecting the two best players on the roster. That's the move in many cases. But fit also matters. Is it the shoes? Not exactly. We want players who will both complement each other while embodying the spirit and style of this game's distaste for realism.

    It's also shoes.

Atlanta Hawks: John Collins and Trae Young

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    Prioritizing defense is definitely not the right way to build an NBA Jam dyad. Circus offense reigns supreme. John Collins and Trae Young typify that style.

    Young has highlight handles and will throw some truly unrealistic passes. I look forward to heat checks from mid-court and his throwing down the first dunk of his career.

    Collins is made for this setting. He is a human pogo stick who spreads the floor and, in this environment, will have the green light to bring the ball up the court. His moon-boots vertical should translate into plenty of impossible blocks.

Boston Celtics: Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker

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    No bigs? No bigs.

    The Boston Celtics' center rotation doesn't offer much of a reason to put together a traditional one-two punch. Daniel Theis is good, but he's not NBA Jam material. Enes Kanter wants for that same it factor. Robert Williams III can clear a few buildings but lacks an expansive enough offensive portfolio. Rolling with Grant Williams is overthinking things.

    Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker it is. The former is a given. He blends shot creation, spot passing and the capacity to tussle with rival bigs. He absolutely has to be in the lineup if it doesn't include an actual center—and because he's Boston's absolute best player.

    Walker is less of a cinch. Jaylen Brown has a case if we're catering to defense and above-the-rim finishing. Marcus Smart deserves some consideration for his guts off the dribble and bulldog defense. Gordon Hayward...honestly didn't receive much consideration.

    Moving forward with Walker's escape-artist handles invariably makes the most sense. The Celtics' duo will be at a size disadvantage no matter what. Walker lets them own it on offense.

Brooklyn Nets: Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving

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    Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are the only picks for the Brooklyn Nets if we're assuming full health. (We are.)

    Irving is an ankle-breaker off the dribble and a threat to fire at will from anywhere on the floor. His finishing around the rim gets a little dicey in an environment that pays no mind to physics, but that also means he'll hammer down a slam or 50 himself.

    Overly critical thinkers might consider someone other than Durant. What does he look like now at full strength? Will he create the same level of separation off the bounce? Pull-up as quickly? Uncork the occasional monster jam?

    Let's not bend our brains. Even a dramatically reduced version of Durant is going to, at minimum, splash down threes over every single opponent he faces. Plus, the Nets don't have any glitzy alternatives.

    Pairing Irving with Spencer Dinwiddie or Caris LeVert is asking for defensive trouble without guaranteeing the necessary offensive upside, and neither Jarrett Allen nor DeAndre Jordan quite moves the needle enough to jilt Kevin friggin' Durant.

Charlotte Hornets: Miles Bridges and Devonte' Graham

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    Building the Charlotte Hornets' NBA Jam twosome isn't hard. It also isn't that pretty.

    Devonte' Graham is a must. He's the basis for everything the real-life Hornets do. They rely on his probing off the dribble to generate offense for everyone else. That dependence doesn't go away just because gravity is optional around these parts. He will down a bunch of threes and fling nifty alley-oop passes and has, on occasion, mustered the juice to finish above the rim.

    Selecting his partner is much less of an exact science. Cody Zeller intrigues. P.J. Washington and Cody Martin earned cursory consideration. But winding up with Miles Bridges just...feels right.

    And obvious.

    Bridges has his own brand of pop off the ball and can get by opponents when attacking in a straight line. He also adds a respectable enough set jumper to comfortably beat out the glaring rebounding and defensive edges Zeller holds over him.

Chicago Bulls: Zach LaVine and Otto Porter Jr.

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    Full disclosure: I'd pay good money to see Coby White let loose in NBA Jam. But Zach LaVine cannot be bounced from the lineup, so the rookie is automatically out.

    Wendell Carter Jr. is (likely) the reflexive pick to partner up with LaVine's high-wire finishing and off-the-bounce shot-making. I'm not sold. He hasn't shown enough on offense. Injuries and an inconsistent role under head coach Jim Boylen haven't helped matters, but NBA Jam duos must be made up of two players who will both consistently look at the rim.

    Lauri Markkanen will pop up on some radars. He doesn't do it for yours truly, either. His offense has topped out at borderline accessory status, and he'll give off deer-in-headlights vibes on defense against most frontcourt opponents.

    Shoutout to anyone calling for Kris Dunn in a Marcus Smart-like role. I hear you, I respect you, and I will now, reluctantly, be moving on from you.

    Otto Porter Jr. is LaVine's most interesting sidekick if he's healthy. Anyone who can log small-ball-4 minutes can be the biggest player on the floor in NBA Jam, and he brings more functional offense to the table than Thaddeus Young.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Kevin Love and Collin Sexton

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    Kevin Love and Collin Sexton are at once clear-cut picks and not entirely consensus.

    Does a healthy Kevin Porter Jr. deserve a nod over Sexton? Eh. Probably not. What about Andre Drummond or Larry Nance Jr. over Kevin Love? Maybe. They're the better rim assaulters.

    Whatever. The Cleveland Cavaliers are getting a little more above-the-rim steam from their point guard than most other teams. Sexton can unleash hell around the basket and doesn't always need a long runway to get the job done.

    Passing could get a little thorny between these two. The ball will be in Sexton's hands a great deal, his first and second inclinations are to look for his own shots, and he's not the most seasoned alley-oop orchestrator.

    That's fine. Love lets the Cavaliers finish inverse alley-oops.

    Sexton can lift off, and Love will throw a touchdown pass the length of the floor or something. Bake in his three-point shooting and he's the most sensible big-man partner for his sophomore teammate.

Dallas Mavericks: Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis

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    This just in: Duh.

    Luka Doncic's playstyle translates nicely to NBA Jam. Literally-what step-backs have their place in an everything-goes setting, and even if he doesn't always blast through opponents at the rack, he's elusive enough on the move to facilitate the most ridiculous dunks for his teammate. He will also hang in the air forever on floaters that inevitably have just enough arc to clear the outstretched hands of any bigs at the hoop.

    Kristaps Porzingis is a pretty easy pick to be the Dallas Mavericks' No. 2. A healthy Dwight Powell's sweet, sweet chemistry with Doncic warrants some perfunctory thought. He is the better rim-runner while Porzingis is the superior floor-spacer.

    Pick-and-pops aren't NBA Jam staples. This is a playground. On steroids.

    But big men chucking threes is never not valuable, and Porzingis will finish enough airborne catches to keep Doncic happy and derail enough dunk attempts at the other end to keep head coach Rick Carlisle, who will obviously be on the sidelines for some reason, from keeling over in frustration about the near-complete and total absence of defense.

Denver Nuggets: Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray

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    Truth time: There was a moment or two in which Nikola Jokic didn't seem like a surefire inclusion. Paul Millsap and Michael Porter Jr. were both considered and, in some ways, felt a little more apropos.

    Fortunately, those inclinations didn't last.

    Jokic's passing belongs in NBA Jam. He'll toss full-court dimes, bust out handles he actually doesn't have on the break, bulldoze opponents down low even after losing 40 pounds and drop in nifty trick and flip shots that don't quite scream "NBA Jam!" but are no less effective.

    Poster-dunk devotees may still have the impetus to choose someone else. Jamal Murray has enough spring in his step to talk them out of it. He will be the mid-air finisher for this doublet and sprinkle in his own from-scratch yams, all while fulfilling the NBA Jam quota for jumpers that have no business falling but actually do.

Detroit Pistons: Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose

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    Putting together the Detroit Pistons' NBA Jam coupling took more time than you'd probably expect.

    Christian Wood proved to be the toughest cut. He can put the ball on the floor, stroke threes, sprint like hell off the rock and two-hand catch some would-be posters at the rim. But picking him would entail leaving off a fully healthy Blake Griffin.

    Which, yeah, no.

    Griffin and Derrick Rose might collectively want for shooting, but the former introduced more on-the-move jumpers into his arsenal during the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons. The defense...well, whatever.

    Choosing both Griffin and Wood is an acceptable alternative. I'd allow it. But Rose turned in a productive 2019-20 campaign, during which he set up plenty of corner threes after collapsing defenses and proved to be a reliable finisher from both point-blank and in-between range.

Golden State Warriors: Stephen Curry and Draymond Green

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    Leaving off Klay Thompson doesn't sit right. "He's on fire" isn't just an NBA Jam feature for him. It is his natural state.

    Still, the Golden State Warriors have Stephen Curry. He checks the volcanic-shooting box a zillion times over. And while yours truly is married to the idea of running implausibly small lineups, this fetish would work better with Andrew Wiggins than it would Thompson.

    Draymond Green gets the No. 2 spot by default with the other Splash Brother off the table. His downhill passing will work in NBA Jam and meshes well with Curry. What he lacks in alley-oop finishing he'll make up for by party-crashing possessions at the other end before enemy bigs have the opportunity to leave the ground.

Houston Rockets: James Harden and P.J. Tucker

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    Playing James Harden and Russell Westbrook is too small even by the Houston Rockets' standards. (Right?) They need a sturdier defensive presence and someone better equipped to space the floor around Harden's dips inside the arc.

    Then again, P.J. Tucker isn't going to muck up a ton of alley-oop attempts or throw down his own. Westbrook still has the sheer force to do both. 

    Perhaps he was eliminated too soon. Tucker only has two inches on him, and how useful, really, is absurd corner-three shooting in NBA Jam?

    In tandem with Harden? It will most definitely be valuable. And at any rate, the Harden-Westbrook pairing on defense is more fragile than the Trae Young-John Collins model. Give me the low-usage, scrappy-defending Tucker and let Harden tap into his breadth of step-backs, subtly powerful smashes and pinpoint passing to the corners.

Indiana Pacers: Victor Oladipo and Myles Turner

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    Full-force Victor Oladipo is made for NBA Jama scorer who trafficks in difficult, self-manufactured jumpers, high-wattage slams and, without fail, defensive efforts capable of neutralizing highlight-factory possessions.

    Completing the Indiana Pacers' two-man arrangement takes a tad more thought. Domantas Sabonis is both gall and guile. He can toss alley-oop passes to Oladipo and knock around opponents.

    But Myles Turner has his own mean streak, at least above the rim. There's something tantalizing about an NBA Jam coupling in which either member can take off, in this world, from beyond the arc and lay a smackdown on the iron.

    Turner pairs this mid-air interchangeability with better three-point shooting and more high-rise blocks on defense. Sabonis comes close to currying favor over him, but not close enough.

Los Angeles Clippers: Paul George and Kawhi Leonard

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    Traditionalists will attach Montrezl Harrell or Ivica Zubac to one of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. That's not entirely off-base, but...like...c'mon.

    Both George and Leonard can handle defending most power forwards. They won't be hopelessly overmatched versus opposing 5s—particularly when so many other squads are steering into hybrid combinations (because I'm forcing them to do so).

    No other hypothetical dyad is more transposable than the Los Angeles Clippers' PG13-Kawhi partnership. Either one can table-set for the other, they both can get up for thundering dunks, and this offense will be littered with a nice mix of unassisted and assisted jumpers.

Los Angeles Lakers: Anthony Davis and LeBron James

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    Imagine not picking Anthony Davis and LeBron James.

    Their two-man game is NBA Jam nirvana. They can even run inverted pick-and-rolls if they want. Davis is no stranger to facing up from a distance, and LeBron going downhill, with or without the rock, remains one of the most terrifying sights in basketball.

    Shooting could be an issue when—not if—the Los Angeles Lakers deploy this twosome. Davis is a floor-spacer only in volume, and calling LeBron a league-average three-point marksman verges on generous.

    At the same time, King James has added traces of a step-back and off-balance jumper to his perimeter routine. That's good enough for me.

Memphis Grizzlies: Ja Morant and Brandon Clarke

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    Apologies to Jaren Jackson Jr. You came oh-so-close to earning one of the Memphis Grizzlies' two spots.

    Ja Morant's selection isn't obvious. It's a mandate. Ankles shatter at the sight of him. His handle, passes and gymnast finishes are spectacle. He is NBA Jam personified.

    Drafting his co-star can go one of two ways: Jackson or Bradon Clarke. Jackson can bomb threes, and his handsy defense won't prove as detrimental during a game in which he can't get whistled for fouls.

    But Clarke is more of an offensive trampoline. That matters. It also helps that he sports a quaint floater and can make more complicated passes.

Miami Heat: Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler

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    Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo were born to be NBA Jam partners.

    They run on murderous motors. No other team has two players who will exhaust their stores on every defensive possession. And they work nicely off each other on the more glamorous end. Both can bring the ball up the floor, initiate sets in the half court and play either side of an alley-oop.

    The Miami Heat have prospective pairings that promise more shooting. Adebayo doesn't have three-point range, and Butler is canning only 24.8 percent of his outside attempts this year. That's a concern, but it's not worth losing sleep over when both are so good at generating scoring opportunities inside the arc for themselves and their compatriots.

Milwaukee Bucks: Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton

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    Giannis Antetokounmpo blurs the line between big and wing. Deploying him as the de facto former in NBA Jam is neither a stretch nor calculated gamble. It's the right call. He's fit for this workload.

    Antetokounmpo has played more than 400 possessions at center this season, during which time the Milwaukee Bucks have a defensive rating of 94.8 (100th percentile). Opponents are also shooting only 41.8 percent against him at the rim, the stingiest mark in the league among 125 players to make at least five appearances and contest three or more point-blank looks per game.

    (Yes, I just cited these stats in an article about NBA Jam duos.)

    Everything else about Antetokounmpo's play style fits the video game motif like a glove. He annihilates the rim on an every-possession basis, and the chaos he creates with his off-the-dribble bursts benefits everyone around him.

    Pretty much any one of Milwaukee's other players qualify as a viable partner—Eric Bledsoe, Brook Lopez, Khris Middleton, George Hill, whoever. Selecting the best of the bunch is a great strategy whenever there can be no wrong answer. But Middleton is the extra-right answer. He provides a nice balance of self-sufficient scoring and complementary shot-making, to go along with secondary-initiation chops.

Minnesota Timberwolves: D'Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns

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    D'Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns are effortless offensive fits. Their two-man game will nuke every defense that isn't the Los Angeles Clippers into submission.

    Towns elevates their ceiling with a wing-like floor game. He is a pick-and-pop wizard and craftsman on the block, but he can face up from above the break and zip by defenders off the dribble.

    Stopping opponents will be a problem. And while defense isn't pointless in NBA Jam, the Minnesota Timberwolves don't offer an appealing enough alternative.

    Replacing Russell with Malik Beasley, Jarrett Culver or even James Johnson doesn't guarantee a major defensive uptick. And anyone suggesting Towns get yanked from the equation is free to see themselves out.

    Minnesota's NBA Jam strategy will be to score more than the other side. Bold, sure, but it just might work.

New Orleans Pelicans: Jrue Holiday and Zion Williamson

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    Zion Williamson's spot on the New Orleans Pelicans' NBA Jam squad is etched in stone. His dunktastic finishes cannot be left on the bench, and he moves well enough off other ball-handlers to play with anyone else.

    Figuring out who fills the role of anyone else isn't easy. Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram have arguable cases.

    Jrue Holiday is the middle ground between them. He is comfortable shimmying between on- and off-ball duties, isn't afraid to look for his own shot, has the experience of a primary setup man, hits just enough of his threes to spread the floor and will work his butt off on defense.

New York Knicks: RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson

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    Here's hoping Mitchell Robinson's empty-gym three-point range spills over into NBA Jam.

    Building the New York Knicks' perfect playground couplet is mind-meltingly hard. Their roster is light on functional shooting, complementary offense and operable ball-handling. This decision would be a lot easier if they never traded Marcus Morris Sr. to the Los Angeles Clippers.

    Settling on Robinson and RJ Barrett is a pure ceiling play. Robinson will devastate with his into-the-rafters dunks and blocks. Barrett's change-of-pace handles aren't quite NBA Jam currency, but he can hit the jets around the rim and has the on-the-move knowhow to run a two-man offense.

    Lackluster spacing threatens to torpedo the offense. Neither player is a proven shooter, and the threes Barrett does take usually aren't coming off the dribble. But the defense can't withstand slotting him next to Bobby Portis, and none of the Knicks' other ball-handling options are bankable enough to get the nod over Barrett.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Steven Adams and Chris Paul

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    Who else is already second-guessing this selection?

    The Oklahoma City Thunder have so many potential worthwhile pairings. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander can be subbed in for Chris Paul. Steven Adams can be yanked for Danilo Gallinari. Dennis Schroder probably doesn't deserve preference over anyone, but his frenetic offense is absolutely NBA Jam material.

    Ending up with Adams and Paul amounts to the safest play. Gilgeous-Alexander isn't yet ready to pilot an offense on his own. Sticking him next to Gallinari offsets that concern but comes at a steep defensive cost.

    Paul also has the off-the-dribble advantage over his mentee. He lives to catch fire with unassisted jumpers. That he's more qualified to run the two-man game with Adams—a must-have finisher in this setting—gives him an additional leg up.

Orlando Magic: Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon

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    Jonathan Isaac originally joined Aaron Gordon on the Orlando Magic's NBA Jam docket. But that duo didn't offer enough ball-handling.

    Gordon has appreciably improved his pick-and-roll initiation and decision-making but needs another playmaking outlet. Isaac isn't in the business of creating his own shots or draining threes at a high clip.

    Evan Fournier meets that criteria. He can find buckets on his own and hurt defenses as a spot-up sniper when Gordon gets going downhill.

    Playing Isaac would be a boon for the Magic's defense, but Gordon can cover just about anyone. NBA Jam lineups cannot solely be built around stopping power anyway. Every team is going to get buckets. Offensive panache takes precedence, and Orlando will have a lot more of it with Fournier next to Gordon.

Philadelphia 76ers: Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons

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    Blame Bleacher Report's Bryan Toporek, our resident Philadelphia 76ers guru, if you're against the Joel Embiid-Ben Simmons combination.

    Tobias Harris was originally slotted beside Embiid, the thought process being that he'd space the floor around Philly's behemoth while offering a dab of off-the-bounce creation. Toporek overrode that logic, specifically citing the Sixers' need to throttle the Boston Celtics' much smaller arrangement.

    Perhaps this pans out. Embiid and Simmons can both reach the rim at will, and in a prospective matchup with Beantown, Harris will get roasted on defense by Jayson Tatum or Kemba Walker.

    None of this means clumpy floor balance won't be Philly's undoing. It might be. Embiid has experience behind the rainbow, but a career 32.2 percent long range clip isn't intimidating anyone. Simmons is 2-of-23 from distance (8.7 percent) since entering the NBA.

    The Sixers will have to win with physical, switchable defense and by living at the rim on offense. Worse plans have been laid.

Phoenix Suns: Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton

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    Convention rules the day for the Phoenix Suns. They're pairing their best shot-creator and shot-maker with a dynamic big man who has spent most of his career thus far finishing assisted buckets.

    Phoenix's defense will be implosive. Ayton will swallow more shots around the basket than most expect, but he and Booker will otherwise get thrown around.

    This isn't a fatal flaw. The Ayton-Booker connection will be potent enough on offense. Booker doesn't receive the credit he deserves for his setup skills, will convert backbreaking shots inside the arc and can function as an off-ball finisher when Ayton is soaking up touches.

Portland Trail Blazers: Carmelo Anthony and Damian Lillard

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    Journey off the predictable path with me, won't you?

    Damian Lillard's inclusion is non-negotiable. He has limitless range colliding with sneaky intensity at the rim. You cannot build anything remotely close to the Portland Trail Blazers' best NBA Jam duo without him.

    Carmelo Anthony's selection is far more controversial. The Blazers have at least three more organic-feeling partners for Lillard: Zach Collins, Jusuf Nurkic or Hassan Whiteside. All three will provide much more defensive resistance, especially when they're taking the opening tip versus actual bigs.

    Yet the genre of defense played by Collins and Nurkic isn't meant for NBA Jam. It is less emphatic and more tactful. Whiteside is the player who can come up with the high-rise blocks. Coupled with his cogent rim-jogging, he's the traditionalist's pick for Portland's No. 2.

    Sue me. I'm voting for offensive dynamism. And the fun factor. Melo gives the Blazers another level of off-the-dribble scoring and a better outside threat to play off Dame. His defense may be disastrous, but his one-handed swipes at the ball will play nicely in NBA Jam terms, and he has the heft to stand ground against burlier bigs and forwards.

Sacramento Kings: De'Aaron Fox and Richaun Holmes

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    Partnering De'Aaron Fox's speed, vision and finishing with Richaun Holmes' energy and own finishing is too easy. Marvin Bagley III's injury-plagued down year makes it that much easier.

    This twosome should live in transition off rebounds (unless head coach Luke Walton is on the sidelines demanding they slow things down). The aggregate outside touch is a little rocky, but not unworkable.

    Fox at least has experience launching jumpers off the dribble, and Holmes jacked up threes for a minute in Philly. He'll have the green light from downtown here.

San Antonio Spurs: LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan

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    Go ahead and leave off DeMar DeRozan if you're feeling trendy. My question: For whom?

    Dejounte Murray isn't a dynamic enough scorer. For all he does on defense, Derrick White doesn't play at NBA Jam speed. Lonnie Walker IV isn't ready. Patty Mills has a strong case but underwhelms as a from-scratch scorer.

    DeRozan is harder to justify if he's playing alongside someone who can't swish threes. LaMarcus Aldridge doesn't pose that problem. He can spread the floor around DeRozan's under-control probes. And before you comment on his dearth of NBA Jam speed, he can still end opponents at the rim.

    Now, if athletic defense (or actual defense) is your thing, this San Antonio Spurs duo won't hold. Murray or Walker is the pick in that case. Their shot-taking and -making are just too high variance for my tastes. It might make more sense to use Rudy Gay as a substitute for either Aldridge or DeRozan if you're after a more malleable defensive look.

Toronto Raptors: Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam

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    Though the Toronto Raptors are flush with entertaining NBA Jam possibilities, combining Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam is the ideal construction, and it isn't really close.

    Their chemistry is effortless. They can play off one another or manufacture their own looks. Both are capable off-the-dribble three-point shooters, and Siakam assures the Raptors maintain the orthodox big-man-finishing element of their offense.

    Scant few other pairings will be as disruptive on defense. Lowry's charge-hunting doesn't matter in arcade-game world, but he's the quintessential nudge; he'll force plenty of turnovers on-ball. Siakam isn't the best rim protector—he's more wing than big in many ways at the less glamorous end—but he has the presence to intercept showboating trick passes and erase a few might-be devastating yams.

Utah Jazz: Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell

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    Feel free to factor in off-court rockiness and choose another Utah Jazz duo, but Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell may already be fine, and this is the only pairing that makes an iota of sense.

    Nobody else on the roster has the frontline defensive presence to work with Mitchell. Utah would need to embrace a Jayson Tatum-Kemba Walker model, but it doesn't have a defensive wing with the former's range. Joe Ingles and Royce O'Neale would be bullied by any actual bigs they line up against. Rolling the dice on super-duper small-ball when the Jazz have a two-time Defensive Player of the Year still guarding (near) his peak is not the move.

    Mixing and matching is more palatable when Gobert is the constant. Ingles or a healthy Bojan Bogdanovic are workable complements. But Ingles doesn't have the requisite attack mode of a primary ball-handler, while Bogdanovic lacks the necessary playmaking bandwidth. Mike Conley can theoretically bridge the gap, but he's struggled to forge chemistry with a rim-running big.

    That leaves Mitchell and Gobert, together. This feels right. Mitchell could use a partner who opens up the floor on offense, but he's a relentless attacker who can manufacture space with the threat of his own finishing above the rim.

Washington Wizards: Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans

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    If you can't defend them, try to outscore them.

    Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans are going to get wrecked on defense. Beal has held his own more in previous seasons, which, fine. Bertans is less of a mystery. He isn't quick enough to hang against playmaking forwards and won't provide much deterrence around the rim versus finishers who can, you know, dribble.

    But the Washington Wizards don't have the roster to prioritize NBA Jam defense. Using Thomas Bryant or Rui Hachimura instead of Bertans won't do much, if anything, and lowers the offensive ceiling. Gary Payton II would be interesting if he were four to seven inches taller.

    And so, offense on offense on offense is the right way to go. Beal is a certified buckets-getter and setup man who also pulls defenses outside the paint when he doesn't have the ball. Bertans can launch uber-deep threes in motion and will catch fire at least once a quarter.

    Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of NBA.comBasketball Reference or Cleaning the Glass. Salary and cap-hold information via Basketball InsidersEarly Bird Rights and Spotrac.

    Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@danfavale) and listen to his Hardwood Knocks podcast, co-hosted by B/R's Andrew Bailey.