The NBA season is officially underway after a pair of games opened up the season on Tuesday night. Anthony Davis suited up for the Lakers for the first time against their new-look, cross-town rival L.A. Clippers. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are a dangerous pairing for the rest of the league, but are they the best? That’s what the DC Sports Staff is here to decide, so you don’t have to.
The best duo should probably include the league’s best player, and for that reason, I’m going with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. What can’t Leonard do? He is one of the best one-on-one wing defenders of all time, he is insanely good in crunch time and he has never been on a losing team, which is almost entirely because of his ability to contribute in a multitude of ways. Leonard’s calm and quiet demeanor have actually allowed him to be a fantastic team leader because his composure rubs off on his teammates, which was especially evident in Toronto’s postseason run last season. His sidekick this year, Paul George, may be the most similar player to Kawhi in the entire league. George’s claim to fame in his early career came through his tough defensive prowess and slashing ability, but his game has developed and he has become an elite three point shooter who finished third in the MVP race last season. AD and Lebron will give the Clippers duo a run for their money but are second best. I have to give the third-best duo to Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum because they have shown incredible consistency, and I expect Russ and James Harden to have major chemistry issues in Houston this season, given they are two of the worst team-players I have ever seen in the league.
Going into this season the most likely picks for the NBA’s best pairing of star players is going to be Lebron James and Anthony Davis, or Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. One can make an argument that James Harden and Russell Westbrook could be the best pairing of star players in the league right now. There is one pair of stars that is being slept on right now, and when the playoffs roll around, don’t be shocked to see them as the best pair of star players in the league. The two players I’m referring to are Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets. Their playing styles don’t interfere with one another the way Damian Lillard’s or CJ McCollum’s games can. Both are coming off tremendous seasons and are still getting better. Jamal Murray can score with the best of the best when he gets hot and isn’t too shabby of a passer, either. Last year in the playoffs, Murray averaged 21.3 points per game, and if he can play like that over the course of a full season, Denver is going to be in a great position come playoff time. Murray’s teammate Jokic is the key to this duo being the best in the league. There are few big men in the league who can do what “The Joker” can. Jokic is the best passing center in the league right now, and for a center he has some handles. He can score with his back to the basket or he can drain a three if you give him space. Jokic is at worst the third-best center in the NBA, but if he balls out this year he could possibly be the best center in the league. When these two are clicking the other super duos of the league better watch out.
Yeah, go ahead and take two players like everybody else. Couldn’t be me. I’m going with Golden State’s Stephen Curry and his head coach, Steve Kerr. Through the Warriors’ historic championship run, one thing has remained constant: Kerr figuring it out while Curry executes his game plan to perfection on the court. The biggest question mark around the Warriors this season is on the defensive end of the court. How are Curry and D’Angelo Russell supposed to defend some of the NBA’s most volatile backcourts such as Houston or Portland? Russell is a major defensive downgrade from Klay Thompson, who will likely miss the entire season with a torn ACL. The Raptors didn’t do too much of this, but in the 2018 NBA Finals against the Cavaliers, Cleveland would screen until Curry was forced to guard LeBron James. In theory, LeBron should take Curry to the rim and finish every time. But, Kerr was able to devise a scheme where Curry would let LeBron dribble by him and former Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green would leave his man to pick up James. Curry then would pick up whoever is left unguarded after Green switches onto James while the rest of the defense rotates. The Warriors swept the series. The moral of this story is as long as Steph is playing for Kerr, who can find ways to neutralize his star player’s weaknesses and emphasize his strengths, Golden State will be just fine.
I can’t wait to watch the Philadelphia 76ers this season! The dynamic duo of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid is going to undoubtedly bring a title to the City of Brotherly Love this season, a city that completely deserves one. The Sixers are so good on paper that anything less than a 82-0 regular season and a 16-0 playoff run will be disappointing. Ben Simmons might be the best player in the league. Did you see that 3-pointer he hit in the preseason? Steph Curry, eat your heart out. We have a new 3-point champion in town. And Embiid? Is there a more durable guy in the league? I think not. That guy is always 100% healthy and is guaranteed to start all 96 games in the Sixers quest for perfection this season. Simmons and Embiid are going to combine for 80 points every single game this season, so anything their supporting cast of Al Horford, Tobias Harris and Josh Richardson provides will be extra. Simmons and Embiid will win co-MVP after historic seasons. Just put the Sixers’ name on the Larry O’Brien trophy now because there is no way that they can possibly not win the finals this year. And if you think this is a jinx, you’re right.
Yes, Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons is good, but have you ever watch Carsen Edwards play basketball? That man can shoot the ball from anywhere. 30-footers? Easy. While on top of a moving vehicle? Cash. (Look out, Dude Perfect). Don’t even get me started on Grant Williams, one of the smartest rookies to come to the NBA in a long time. His decision-making skills are out of this world—his mom works for NASA, you know. Edwards and Williams are an electric combination that oozes confidence and professionalism. Williams is the Catan King of the league, not some measly “Prince” (ahem Mr. Simmons). Edwards went to Purdue University, which has graduated 23 astronauts, and his thighs can propel him to space, so he’s essentially one, too. No other teams have the space connection the Celtics do. Case closed.