With the NBA regular season officially underway after the shortest offseason of all time, it’s time to rank the top one-two punches in the Western Conference for the 2020-21 season. There is no shortage of talent out west, which inevitably led to some very talented pairings not making the top five.
Additionally, the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors don’t crack the top five for team-specific reasons. The Warriors are without Klay Thompson complementing Stephen Curry this season. If Thompson were healthy, they would find themselves in the top five. The Rockets aren’t included due to the long layoff of John Wall and the entire James Harden saga going on – there are simply too many unknowns in Houston.
With that being said, here are the top five duos in the Western Conference for the 2020-2021 NBA season.
5. Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum – Portland Trail Blazers
The only duo on the list that is made up of two guards, Lillard and McCollum are a nightmare for opposing backcourts on a nightly basis. Two of the premier scoring guards in the league, the teammates combined to average 52.2 points per game last season. The face of the franchise, Lillard, is what gives the Trail Blazers duo the edge over the teams behind them.
Lillard is coming off a career-best season and there’s no reason to think he won’t produce in the same impressive fashion this year. The knock-on Portland’s pairing is their defensive capabilities, and it’s a fair point to be made. Fortunately, they are more than capable of carrying the offensive load night in and night out like few combos around the league.
4. Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis – Dallas Mavericks
The Mavericks come in at No. 4 behind MVP favorite Luka Doncic and the uniquely talented Kristaps Porzingis. Still just 21 years old, Doncic had a breakout second season last year while leading a lethal Mavericks offensive attack. He put on an impressive performance in the bubble, especially in the team’s first-round playoff series loss against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Porzingis got hurt at the beginning of that series, an injury he is still recovering from as we enter January. Assuming he can bounce back and return to the player we all know he can be, the Mavericks have two of the most uniquely gifted talents in the Association today. With Doncic and Porzingis leading the way, Dallas’ offense will be among the best in the game once again this season.
3. Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray – Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets’ stud duo of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray gets the slight edge over the Mavericks’ duo because of what they were able to prove during last year’s bubble. Their comeback series victory over the favorite Clippers was a statement. Murray elevated his game to another level, showing he might be the perfect player to complement the one-of-a-kind big man, Jokic.
Jokic has started the new season off in absurd fashion, letting rival teams know the Nuggets are still improving. Through four games, the center is averaging 13.5 assists to go with 11.5 rebounds and 24.5 points. Not only is he averaging a triple-double early on, but he’s doing it with efficiency. 40 percent from behind the arc and 62.5 percent from the field. Anywhere near this level of production moving forward could make the Nuggets duo a threat to jump into the top spot.
2. Kawhi Leonard, Paul George – Los Angeles Clippers
But still, the Clippers’ duo that went through the devastating blown lead against the Nuggets maintains the higher ranking entering the new campaign. No excuses should be made for the team’s collapse, but we must acknowledge the unique circumstances of the playoffs as a whole last year. Those factors combined with the on-court talent of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George give them the edge over Denver, for now.
The biggest difference in the Leonard-George combination compared to the duos behind them is on the defensive end. A proven champion in Leonard plus a two-way stud in George results in the Clippers having the second-best duo in the Western Conference. Honestly, sometimes it really is that simple.
1. LeBron James, Anthony Davis – Los Angeles Lakers
The obvious choice is the right choice here as LeBron James and Anthony Davis are only a few months removed from winning a championship in their first year as teammates. It took little time for the Lakers’ leaders to start dominating last year, but they finished the season a full year later doing the same thing.
James averaged a career-high and league-leading 10.2 assists per game as he functioned as the team’s primary distributor last season. On the other side of the court, Davis anchored a Lakers defense that was among the best in the league. The iconic big man also helped his playmaking partner on the offensive end, becoming the first teammate of James’ to lead their team in scoring on a per-game basis – Davis averaged 26.1 per game while James averaged 25.3.
Things can change quickly in the NBA, but from where the league stands today, these are the five best duos in the Western Conference. There’s little room for regression among these rankings, as young and rising teams like the Phoenix Suns and New Orleans Pelicans are ready to make a spot for themselves in the top five.
Check out our rankings of the best Eastern Conference duos here.
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