On July 28th, Bleacher Report published an article which ranked the Top 10 Duos in the NBA today. It was no surprise that the Thunder’s Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook topped the list. The two have been one of the league’s elite duos since they first teamed up back in 2008. After reading the article I started to wonder, where would Durant and Westbrook rank amongst the NBA’s greatest duos ever? Well I decided I’d do a little research and find out just that. Now before anyone points out that the two have yet to win a ring let me say this. Almost every single of the NBA’s top duos had at least one other future hall of fame player on their team. Just look at the ’86 Celtics. That team had five hall of famers, two of which make this list together. Two of the best running mates ever, John Stockton and Karl Malone, never won a ring in their 18 seasons together. So being a great duo doesn’t always mean winning rings. After all, teams win championships.
Now in order to compare Durant and Westbrook to the other great pairs throughout the league’s history, requirements must be established. Since the Thunder’s duo has been together for 6 seasons I decided that only duos that have been together that long can make the list. It makes since considering two players together for less time than that would have a hard time getting enough done to make a mark in the league’s history. Also, I’m only going to take each pairs first 6 seasons into account. That way every pair has the same sample size being compared. Championships will not be taken into account since we established that it almost always takes more than two players to win one. I’ll average each players stats over the 6 season window and show how much the two accounted for on their own. Also, personal awards and accolades will be taken into account. Since the list will include players from the 80’s through today it would be almost impossible to rank them from best to worst. This will instead do exactly what the title says, compare Durant and Westbrook to the greats. As fans of the game and its history though we all have our own opinion on which duo is on top of the rest. With that being said, feel free to comment and say who you think was the best. Now lets get started.
The stats shown are the combined average per season for the pairs first 6 seasons together. It shows points per game, assists per game, rebounds per game, steals per game, blocks per game, Player Efficiency Rating and Win Shares. Also shown are the combined amount of personal awards, such as All-Star appearances and MVPs. The numbers in parentheses represent the number of All-Star game MVPs and Defensive Player of the Year awards that the duo won.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook
PPG-48.9 APG-10.5 RPG-13.7 SPG-3.0 BPG-1.3 PER-47.2 WS-21.4
All-Stars-8 (1) All-NBA Teams-8 MVPs-1 Scoring Titles-4 All-Defensive Teams-0
For their first 6 seasons, Durant and Westbrook have been a fixture of the All-Star game and All-NBA team rosters. The two have also combined for one of the most impressive combined PERs and Win Shares in recent years. It’s clear that each player is one of the top players in the world. One thing that stands out though is the duos lack of defensive accolades. Luckily, the two make up for that with one of the highest combined scoring totals that any duo has ever had over a period this long. If Durant and Westbrook improve their defensive prowess within the league then they could easily go down as one of the best duos the league has ever seen. At the rate the two are on, it doesn’t seem like Durant and Westbrook show any signs of slowing.
Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen
PPG-48.6 APG-11.3 RPG-13.1 SPG-4.8 BPG-1.9 PER-47.6 WS-26.6
All-Stars-8 (1) All-NBA Teams-8 MVPs-3 Scoring Titles-6 All-Defensive Teams-9 (1)
When any NBA fan is asked who the greatest duo ever is, almost all will answer Jordan and Pippen. The two excelled in every aspect of the game. Just look at their stats during their first 6 seasons together. Not a single stat shows a need for improvement. The two also accumulated a laundry list of awards together. What’s probably most impressive about the two was their balance. Jordan is to this day one of the best scorers ever. Pippen, on the other hand, was on of the greatest on-ball defenders in league history. It’s no wonder why the pair is always at the top of everyone’s list of the greatest duos that the NBA has seen.
Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
PPG-41.6 APG-13.5 RPG-16.8 SPG-3.2 BPG-3.1. PER-46.7 WS-22.7
All-Stars-10 (2) All-NBA Teams-9 MVPs-1 Scoring Titles-0 All-Defensive Teams-3
These two are best known for being the main pieces in the Showtime offense for the Lakers. They fit together perfectly. Magic, who was a pass first point guard, had one of the best big men ever to dump the ball to. Kareem and his “Sky Hook” were responsible for so many of Magic’s assists. You could also say that Kareem and his scoring record benefited greatly from Magic’s passing skills. The pair are still arguably the greatest duo in Lakers history, but a couple more pairs that make this list might disagree. Now when one mentions the Showtime Lakers, it’s hard not to mention this next duo.
Larry Bird and Kevin McHale
PPG-40.6 APG-7.7 RPG- 17.6 SPG-2.2 BPG-2.8 PER-42.7 WS-22.4
All-Stars-7 (1) All-NBA Teams-7 MVPs-3 Scoring Titles-0 All-Defensive Teams-3
Every NBA fan automatically pairs the Showtime Lakers with Bird’s Celtics. In fact, you could say the two teams are one of the most famous duos in NBA history themselves. Larry Bird is constantly mentioned as one of the best players ever. The guy was complete in every facet of the game. Add a low post juggernaut like Kevin McHale and it’s no shock that the pair is still talked about today. They may not have been one of the more athletic and exciting duos to watch, but they sure did achieve a lot together. The stats prove that.
John Stockton and Karl Malone
PPG-40.3 APG-15.8 RPG-13.7 SPG-4.4 BPG-0.9 PER-43.0 WS-22.7
All-Stars-7 (1) All-NBA Teams-8 MVPs-0 Scoring Titles-0 All-Defensive Teams-3
“Stockton to Malone!”, a line you would hear a dozen times a game if you ever watched the Jazz in the 90’s. The greatest “Pick and Roll” in league history helped make these two so famous and inseparable. You can’t bring up one without adding the other. The two may have been the best example of two teammates constantly feeding off of each other. Stockton, the record holder for most assist in a career, set up Malone for countless dunks and lay-ups. Malone, the second highest career scorer, helped Stockton Stock-pile an insane number of assists in their time together. The two may not be the greatest duo ever, but their names are forever linked together.
Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant
PPG-47.6 APG-6.9 RPG-16.6 SPG-2.0 BPG-3.1 PER-49.7. WS-20.3
All-Stars-8 (2) All-NBA Teams-10 MVPs-1 Scoring Titles-1 All-Defensive Teams-5
In the league’s history, there hasn’t been a more dominating and unstable duo. Shaq and Kobe took the league by storm, dominating everyone in their path. It seemed like a match made in heaven. A hall of fame Center with an up-and-coming Shooting Guard to be his Robin. However, the two’s time together would soon hit rough waters. Each had an Alpha Male issue which soon tore the duo apart, as well as the team apart. It’s also no surprise the duo had the lowest combined assist average. Although the two ended on bad terms they managed to accomplish quite a bit together. Just look at those numbers.
Tim Duncan and Tony Parker
PPG-37.3 APG-8.8 RPG-14.9 SPG-1.8 BPG-2.6 PER-43.6 WS-21.5
All-Stars-7 All-NBA Teams-6 MVPs-2 Scoring Titles-0 All-Defensive Teams-6
When you look at this duos numbers compared to the rest you might not be quite as impressed. Don’t get me wrong, they still put up solid numbers together. The thing is, these two are one of the best duos for a lot of intangible reasons. If you’ve watched the NBA for the last decade you know exactly what I mean. They just mesh perfectly together. Tony Parker has never been what you would call a super star. He’s never had to be anything more than someone to run the offense while Duncan carries the team. The two might not dominate the box score, but they win. That makes up for everything.
I’d like to give an honorable mention to Bill Russell/Bob Cousy, Willis Reed/Walt Frazier and Jerry West/Elgin Baylor. All three of these duos rank among the best pairs all-time. However, each duo played before blocks and steals were a recorded stat, so the numbers would be tough to compare. Anyways, if you’ve managed to make it this far then you can see how Durant and Westbrook hold their own with the league’s best. The exciting thing is they have all the potential to pass everyone on this list. Durant and Westbrook have already claimed their spot as one of the best duos of their generation. Give it a few more years and we might see “Durant and Westbrook” atop everyone’s list. Until then we can just watch as Durant and Westbrook continue to grow together.