The NBA season kicks off this month after a whirlwind offseason. The 2019 Free Agency market was the most exciting few weeks of the sports summer. Where was Kevin Durant going? Where was Kyrie Irving headed? Will there be blockbuster trades precipitated by player demands?
Well, we’ve now got answers to the questions. Stars have moved time zones, new partnerships have been formed and highly anticipated rookie seasons are about to begin. We’ve taken the time to look through the rosters of all 30 teams and highlighted and ranked each of their most dynamic duos.
Check it out and see if you agree!
30. Hornets – Terry Rozier, Miles Bridges
“Scary” Terry Rozier has a new home in Charlotte, and a new running mate. After a weird and disappointing season in Boston, Rozier was traded to Charlotte as part of the deal for Kemba Walker. This is Rozier’s opportunity to be the main man on an NBA team.
As for his running mate, Miles Bridges will be looking to improve on a lackluster rookie season in which he averaged just 7.5 points per game and shot under 50% from the field. Hopefully, the two can form a partnership that leads to wins.
29. Cavaliers – Collin Sexton, Darius Garland
Two young guards are the Cavs’ best duo? Yep, and that’s the reason there’s some cautious excitement in Cleveland about this upcoming season. High lottery picks two years in a row have been spent on Sexton and Garland in the hopes of creating a new identity for the Cavaliers in a post-LeBron James world.
Yes, Kevin Love is still with the team, but with a new head coach and a full-on rebuild in the works it’s likely the 31-year-old power forward will be trade-bait for a playoff contender looking for veteran help.
28. Grizzlies – Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr.
The Grizzlies are another team that has taken advantage of the lottery system and are banking on youth to drive them into a new generation of success. Creative guard Morant, and rangy big man Jackson will look to be that for Memphis.
In his rookie season, Jaren Jackson averaged 13.8 points on 50% shooting, to go along with 36% shooting from 3-point range. Those numbers should improve with a guard like Morant running the show.
27. Knicks – Julius Randle, RJ Barrett
The Knicks may have lost out in the big free agency circus, missing on targets Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, but they did win in the lottery. They were happy to select Duke swingman RJ Barrett with the number 3 pick in the draft.
Partnered with him is big man Julius Randle, who signed with the team in the offseason. Randle is still developing but has looked promising in four seasons with the Lakers and last season with New Orleans. Knicks fans will be hoping both players develop like they’re expected to.
26. Wizards – Bradley Beal, Rui Hachimura
Normally John Wall would be the first name on the team sheet to pair with Bradley Beal, but Wall tore his Achilles tendon last season and is expected to miss the entirety of the 2019-20 season. So, rookie Rui Hachimura steps into the void.
The two should play well together and have very complementary skills. Beal is the sweet-shooting playmaker, while Hachimura can stretch the floor with his shooting and size. The only thing that will prevent these two from developing together is if the Wizards front office decides to undertake a full rebuild and offload Beal for draft picks.
25. Kings – Buddy Hield, De’Aaron Fox
Kings fans will be wondering if this is finally the year the team takes the next step. For many years the team has been building through youth, but that youth has never quite developed to the level they want.
Buddy Hield and De’Aaron Fox are the current examples of this. Both are good players, but are they long-term answers to the Kings’ questions? The pair combined for 37 points and almost 10 assists per game in 2018-19. If the Kings are going to be a playoff team in 2020, they’ll need this duo to produce even more.
24. Pelicans – Zion Williamson, Lonzo Ball
Zion Williamson is the most highly anticipated rookie since LeBron James. He’s an athlete with an unparalleled combination of size and speed. Zion dominated college basketball last year and all eyes will be on the Pelicans this season to see what his game will look like at the highest level.
Lonzo Ball is another new Pelican to keep an eye on. Now that he’s out of the spotlight the Los Angeles Lakers uniform brings, Ball should be able to quietly develop his game and become the professional his father told us he would be.
23. Heat – Jimmy Butler, Justise Winslow
Jimmy Butler was one of the biggest names to move this off-season and the move to Miami was a questionable one considering he left a team that could be expected to challenge for a spot in the NBA Finals yet again.
The question for Jimmy Butler’s teammates is always: “can you work as hard as Jimmy”? If Justise Winslow proves to Butler that he’s in it to work hard and win, this pair will do just fine together. But if Jimmy doesn’t think Justise is as driven as he should be, expect the fireworks to start in Miami.
22. Magic – Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon
Everyone knows Aaron Gordon has hops. We’ve all seen his performances in the Dunk Contest during All-Star Weekends in years past. But he’s become a pretty good player too. Last season he averaged 16 points per game to go along with 7.4 rebounds per game.
Combine that with Vucevic’s 20 points and 12 rebounds per game and you’ve got the makings of an exciting team. They won their division last season, going 42-40. Can they make a run into the playoffs this season?
21. Hawks – Trae Young, John Collins
Trae Young was one of the most anticipated rookies of last season. Would his shot slinging style of play work in the NBA or would he be a bust? Well, he got off to a slow start but finished the season averaging 19 points and 8 rebounds a game. Not bad for a guy considered a “volume shooter” coming out of college.
It’s not just the Trae Young show in ATL as the Hawks also have 2nd year forward John Collins, who averaged 19 points and 8 rebounds per game last year. Can the duo lead the Hawks to a the playoffs in 2019-20?
20. Bulls – Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine
The Bulls have some exciting young pieces they are building around and the two most exciting of those pieces are Markkanen and LaVine. Both averaged over 18 points per game while Markkanen added an average of 9 rebounds per game.
Despite these two centerpieces, the Bulls slumped to a terrible 22-60 record last season. Under head coach Jim Boylen, the Bulls should be able to count on their two young talents to bring them some more wins.
19. Thunder – Chris Paul, Steven Adams
Who knows where Chris Paul will be playing in a month? But for now, he’s a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Wherever he’s playing he’s a much-needed upgrade at point guard, even in the latter days of his career.
Despite all the off-season moves, and potentially in-season moves Steven Adams will be holding it down for the Thunder under the rim. The big New Zealander set a career-high in rebounds last year and will be more of a focus on offense this season with last season’s leaders gone.
18. Raptors – Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam
You may be surprised to see the defending NBA Champions so far down this list, but remember that they lost the best player on the planet after they lifted the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Kawhi Leonard is gone, but he’s the rest of the Raptors squad is still intact.
Kyle Lowry has been the on-court leader for the Raptors for a decade, and now he will have to rely on breakout star Pascal Siakam. Siakam was a surprising (if not dominant) contributor during last year’s playoff run, and will be the main wingman for Lowry this year.
17. Suns – Devin Booker, DeAndre Ayton
The Suns have a lot to be excited about in their two stars Booker and Ayton. Everyone knows how good a scorer Devin Booker can be. He’s the youngest player to ever score 50 points in back to back games. The only thing Booker needs to improve is his consistency.
Add a dominant big man to the lineup and Booker should continue to improve. Sure, “dominating” is not the word Suns fans would use to describe Ayton’s play last season, but they are hoping he will take the next steps necessary to continue his development and become dominating.
16. Timberwolves – Karl Anthony-Towns, Andrew Wiggins
One of the big storylines of last season was the internal drama between Jimmy Butler and the Timberwolves young stars in Wiggins and Anthony-Towns. The front office chose to side with the young guns, and Butler was traded.
Really, who could blame them? KAT has shown the potential to be a generational talent at center, and Wiggins has flashed greatness as well. Freed of their grumpy older brother, will the kids begin to shine, or was Butler right about them?
15. Pacers – Victor Oladipo, Miles Turner
It’s going to be a rough start to the season for the Pacers with star guard Oladipo remaining out for the foreseeable future, and former wingman Bogdan Bogdanovich now playing for the Utah Jazz. Much of the responsibility now falls to Miles Turner.
This team was a playoff team last season with a healthy Oladipo and Turner. Does the team have enough to stay in contention until Oladipo returns? With a career average of 12.9 points per game, the Pacers are going to need a lot more production from Turner.
14. Spurs – DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge
It must have been tough for DeMar DeRozan to watch the team he spent most of his career with and didn’t want to leave, the Toronto Raptors, win the NBA title in their first season without him. That’s how it goes in professional sports, though.
In San Antonio, DeRozan and Aldridge for a formidable partnership. They both are averaging 19 points per game throughout their careers while combining for a career average of over 12 rebounds per game. They will need some more pieces around them if they are expected to compete in the West, but they should make the playoffs either way.
13. Mavericks – Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis
The Dirk Nowitzki era is over, and with it goes their massive European big man. Oh wait, here’s another in the form of Kristaps Porzingis. Yes, he’s coming off an injury that limited his playing time last season, but if he’s anything like he was before the injury Dallas fans should be excited.
Combine Porzingis with Luka Doncic, the Rookie of the Year last season, and the Dallas Mavericks have a good young core. Doncic should only continue improving with a dynamic big man inside who can stretch the floor with his 3-point shooting ability.
12. Pistons – Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond
What a frontcourt pairing. With these two lined up as rim protectors it’s amazing any team can have success in the paint against the Pistons.
The two combined for 23 rebounds a game, to go with a combined 42 points per game last season. Look for those numbers to rise as they come off their first full season together. This squad was a surprise playoff team in their first year under new coach Dwayne Casey last season, and look for them to continue to be in the hunt for a playoff spot this season.
11. Nets – Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan
If KD hadn’t injured his Achilles tendon in Game 5 of the NBA Finals last season, the whole NBA landscape could be different. But he did, so he doesn’t make our list, since he most likely won’t suit up for the Nets this upcoming season.
The Nets will look to change their team dynamics with the addition of new stars Irving and Jordan. They were surprisingly successful last year, but what will the new-look Nets be like this year? Any success this season will be appreciated as the real title challenge will be expected to come next season when Durant is back.
10. Nuggets – Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray
Nikola Jokic was a breakout star last season as the Nuggets made a run in the playoffs. While that run was cut shorter than they would have liked, the Nuggets had to be excited for what the future holds for their squad.
Jokic’s running mate, Jamal Murray, finally came into his own last season, his third in the league. Murray averaged career highs in points, assists, and rebounds per game. Look for the two of them to continue growing together and make another deep run into the playoffs next spring.
9. Jazz – Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley
Yes, Utah has veteran big man Rudy Gobert, but the most important player they have besides Donovan Mitchell is Mike Conley Jr. Conley came to the team via trade this off-season and will make Utah’s backcourt one of the most dynamic in the game.
Also, Mike Conley has been in the league for a long time. He knows what it takes to have a successful career. Utah needs that veteran presence on the court and in the locker room for Mitchell, who is still early in his career and prone to questionable decision making.
8. Celtics – Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum
The Celtics are looking for a fresh start at point guard with Kemba Walker. Last season, while being “led” by Kyrie Irving, the team self-destructed and faltered in the playoffs. Irving left and Walker came in. The transition should be smooth as Walker slides into a very skilled lineup.
Jayson Tatum will be given more playing time and more of the ball with Irving and Terry Rozier gone. The team has put their faith in Tatum and now it’s time to return that faith.
7. Warriors – Steph Curry, Draymond Green
The Warriors aren’t the first team on this list?!? Well no, because Klay Thompson isn’t playing the first few months of the season after his ACL injury last season. Even when he returns, the Warriors aren’t sure what they’ll get from their prolific shooter.
This means more of the load will have to be carried by the instigating Swiss Army knife that is Draymond Green. Often viewed as the least skilled of the Warriors leading trio, this will be Draymond’s time to show what he can do.
6. Trail Blazers – Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum
Not only is Dame Lillard one of the NBA’s best point guard’s but he’s also one of the league’s most clutch players. We all saw him send the Thunder packing with that series winning shot at the buzzer in last season’s playoffs.
Combine Lillard’s big game pedigree and leadership with McCollum’s scoring ability and you have one of the most dangerous backcourts in the league. Blazers’ fans were ready to challenge the Eastern Conference’s elite for the NBA title last season but came up short. Expect another deep playoff run with these two leading the way in Portland.
5. Bucks – Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton
The Greek Freak was the league Most Valuable Player last season and fans should expect him to continue where he left off when the league tips off in October. They came up short in the playoffs but expect a deep run again this spring.
Often overlooked because of Antetokounmpo’s dominance was the play of Khris Middleton, who averaged 18 points per game last season. Where Middleton really improved last year was in rebounds and assists, when he put up career highs in both.
4. 76ers – Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid
Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid form a dominating partnership when they are both on their game. Last season we were able to see a healthy Embiid, but a somewhat disappointing Simmons. If Ben Simmons will agree to fans’ requests and just shoot the ball sometimes, the 76ers will be tough to top this season.
The pair averaged 41 points, 19 rebounds, and 11 assists per game. Those are massive numbers and the 76ers will be counting on them again this season if they hope to compete for a spot in the NBA Finals.
3. Houston Rockets – Russell Westbrook, James Harden
This duo looks great on paper or in a video game, but what is yet to be determined is whether or not it will work on the court. Both James Harden and Russell Westbrook are ball-dominant guards, meaning they want to have the ball all the time.
With that said, they are both saying the right things about teamwork and sharing the ball. However, it’s preseason. Let’s see what they’re saying two months into the season or after a tough loss. But who knows, maybe old dogs can learn new tricks?
2. Los Angeles Clippers – Paul George, Kawhi Leonard
The NBA world was unsurprised when Kawhi Leonard chose to go to Los Angeles, but everyone was blown away when he chose the Clippers. Then, once the Paul George deal was announced, the bigger picture became clear. Kawhi was secretly playing matchmaker behind the scenes.
Now the Clippers boast one of the best duos in the league and are immediately in contention for an NBA title. Just look at how Leonard carried the Raptors and the city of Toronto to the title this summer. Can he do it again with a truly great running mate?
1. Los Angeles Lakers – Lebron James, Anthony Davis
Well, it took some time and it was ugly getting there but Anthony Davis finally got his move to the Lakers. Two of the NBA’s top fie players now play in the purple and gold of the Lakers.
This move will take some of the offensive and defensive load off of LeBron and allow him to do more of what he does best: driving to the basket and locking down opposing forwards. LeBron missed the playoffs for the first time in a long time last season, and undoubtedly he didn’t like the time off. The addition of Davis all but ensures we’ll be seeing the Lakers in the postseason again this year.