Top NBA Tandems
The Pistons finally ended the dominance of the Western Conference last June by winning the NBA Championship. Since then the balance of power seems to be shifting East. It started with Shaq being traded to the Miami Heat, which has been followed by the emergence of Lebron James and Dwayne Wade, and the above-mentioned trades. Although the Western Conference is still favored to win this year’s NBA Championship (Spurs), many of the league's best 1-2 combinations reside in the East, and this is how I think they stack up:
THE TOP SIX:
1) Shaquille O’ Neal and Dwayne Wade, Miami Heat
If you paired most of the players on this list with Shaq, they would jump to No. 1 because Shaq is the most dominant player in the game. Regardless of his regular season numbers, he will turn his game up a notch in the playoffs, and he is the only player in the league that no team can match inside. However, you also have to take stock in Wade being a great “sidekick.” Wade is at the top of the league in points and assists, while also contributing on the defensive end. He also has proven the ability to take control of the team, as the Heat are 3-1 in games without Shaq, and I have not forgotten how he led them to victory over the Lakers in overtime with a fouled-out Shaq.
2) LeBron James and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Cleveland Caviliers
Outside of Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan, all of the best 1-2 combinations have been with a dominant big man. The ability for a team to go inside-outside is so important to winning in the NBA. Now that Ilgauskas is healthy, he is an All-Star center, and by being paired with LeBron James, this duo has a chance to be a dominant force in the East.
3) Jason Kidd and Vince Carter, New Jersey Nets
The basis for this selection is the fact that Jason Kidd is probably in the top five or ten players at making his teammates better. I believe that Kidd brings out the best in any player that he is paired with, and these two players already complement each other well. I think Kidd sets Carter up for great scoring opportunities, but Carter also takes a lot of pressure off Kidd, as he can create for himself and the other players. The Nets are 17-17 since the trade for Carter, and if they can keep everyone healthy the rest of the season, I believe they will play better than .500 basketball.
4) Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton, Detroit Pistons
They won the NBA Championship last year, and the Pistons are the hottest team in the NBA right now. Although their statistics may not be as impressive as some of those ranked below them, winning championships is what the NBA is all about. The Pistons do have a lot of other pieces, but when the game is on the line, the Pistons are looking for Hamilton and Billups to make the big plays. They are both great free throw shooters and have proven to be good clutch players. They may not be the most explosive tandem and neither player is an All-Star, but until they are not the defending champions, it is unfair to rank them any lower.
5) Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker, Boston Celtics
When these two players had something to prove a few years ago, the Celtics charged their way to the Eastern Conference Finals. Their success was quickly followed by some selfish play and the trade of Walker. However, both Pierce and Walker have had outstanding seasons, and by uniting these two players, the Celtics have a chance to be an Eastern Conference contender. Walker is one of the NBA’s most versatile players and Pierce is one of the most explosive playmakers. It has taken them no time to show they still have good chemistry as they are 3-0 since the trade.
6) Allen Iverson and Chris Webber, Philadelphia 76ers
It is too early to rank this tandem any higher, especially since they are not off to a fast start like the Celtics. Iverson has been terrific individually and Webber deserves a lot of credit for making Sacramento one of the NBA’s best teams over the past three or four years. However, Iverson has to prove that he can mesh with another superstar, and Webber has to prove that he can be dominant in a different system. Webber is no longer the athletic or inside presence he was before his knee problems, so this is not a dominant inside-outside duo. If Webber’s ability to pass makes his young teammates better, and he plays well off of Iverson’s creativity, this duo certainly can move up the ladder quickly.
YOUNG UP & COMERS
7) Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison, Washington Wizards
It would be easy to rate them third, because they are both All-Stars, like the combinations of Shaq & Wade and James & Ilgauskas. However, these are two young players with almost no playoff experience. They will have to prove that they can win in the playoffs, before you can rank them higher. Every other player ahead of them on this list outside of Lebron has been successful in the playoffs. It is obvious that Arenas is becoming one of the best offensive players in the entire league and Jamison has always been a scoring machine. These guys might be the most explosive duo offensively in the East, and I am excited to see them do battle with the other top teams: Detroit, Miami and Cleveland.
8) Kirk Hinrich and Ben Gordon, Chicago Bulls
Bulls fans can finally see some light at the end of the tunnel. Regardless of what happens at the end of the season, it is nice to know that you have two emerging stars who each have two years or less experience in the NBA. They also should prove to be an exciting duo, as Hinrich plays with non-stop energy and Gordon will be one of the NBA’s best scorers. I am especially impressed with Gordon’s ability to take over games in the fourth quarter. If they can earn a spot in the playoffs this year it will go along way into propelling them up this list.
TO BE DETERMINED
9) Steve Francis and Grant Hill, Orlando Magic
This will eventually become Steve Francis and Dwight Howard if Francis stays with the Magic. Hill and Francis are both playmakers who can create for themselves and their teammates, but they are a different type of player. Hill will never be the athlete he once was, but he still has great savvy. Francis is explosive and tremendous in the open floor. They have had great moments this year, but the team chemistry since the Mobley trade has halted their progress. If Francis has the right attitude, he will be happy teaming with Dwight Howard as one of the East’s best inside-outside duos.
10) Jermaine O’Neal and Ron Artest, Indiana Pacers
Had Artest been playing this year, they could have been the best 1-2 punch in the league. What makes them special is that they are good on both ends of the floor. They also provide the traditional inside-outside combination with O’Neal being the second most dominant big player after Shaq in the Eastern Conference. The only question now is will they get a chance to play together again this year? Or even in the future?
We will post the best responses in the coming days.