LeBron James and Anthony Davis
LeBron James and Anthony Davis talk during a Summer League game in Las Vegas on July 6, 2019.
(Ryan Young/Los Angeles Lakers)

Top NBA Duos: 1980-2019

James and Davis Offer a Rare Combo of Top-5 Talent
by Mike Trudell
Lakers Reporter

After the 2017-18 season, LeBron James and Anthony Davis were selected by voters as the two forwards on the All-NBA First Team.

It was the 12th time for LeBron, and 3rd for Davis to be recognized as a Top 5 player in the world.

Last season, James suffered the first significant injury of his career, limiting him to 55 games and a spot on the 3rd team, while Davis played in 56 games, including limited minutes after the All-Star break. As such, neither made the 1st team for the first time in several years*.
*The last time LeBron wasn’t on the 1st team: 2007.

Now, after an expansive trade with the New Orleans Pelicans, James and Davis are set to team up in the same frontcourt for the Lakers.

No basketball person should question either’s potential to get back on the 1st team, even against stiff competition in the frontcourt with reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George lurking (and Kevin Durant likely out for the season).

James, at age 34, will have had nearly seven months to get his body ready for the regular season, the most rest and recovery time he’s had since the summer of 2005. And Davis, just 26, played the fewest minutes since his rookie year in 2012-13.

That got us thinking about historically talented NBA duos. There haven’t been many occasions in which teammates both shared 1st Team honors.

In fact, dating back to 1980, only six sets of guys wearing the same jersey have shared the 1st team in the same season.

2006-07 PHX: Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire

2003-04 LAL: Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal
2002-03 LAL: Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal
2001-02 LAL: Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal

1995-96 CHI: Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen

1994-95 UTA: John Stockton and Karl Malone
1993-94 UTA: John Stockton and Karl Malone

1986-87 BOS: Larry Bird and Kevin McHale

1985-86 LAL: Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
1983-84 LAL: Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

There have also been 22 occasions since 1980 in which one team had one 1st Teamer, plus one 2nd teamer, including three sets of Lakers: Kobe (1st) and Pau Gasol (2nd) in 2010-11; Shaq (1st) and Kobe (2nd) in 2000-01 and 1999-2000; and Magic (1st) and Kareem (2nd) in 1984-85 and 1982-83.

Of course, it’s not about getting two players on the 1st team. It’s about winning championships. Yet, having high-end talent, and winning chips, tend to go hand-in-hand. Historically, the teammates to share 1st team honors were always extremely successful, more often than not winning titles.

Consider the staggering career numbers for both James and Davis:

LeBron: 27.2 ppg on 50.4% FG’s; 7.2 apg; 7.4 rpg; 1.6 spg; 0.8 bpg; 73.6% FT’s; 34.3% 3’s; 27.6 PER.
Davis: 23.7 ppg on 51.7% FG’s; 2.1 apg; 10.5 rpg; 1.4 spg; 2.4 bpg; 79.5% FT’s; 31.4% 3’s; 27.4 PER.

Now, how will James and Davis be impacted by one another?

In theory, it’s seamless. A ball-dominant player like James, and a fantastic play finisher in Davis. Imagine trying to defend a James/Davis screen/roll, or pick and pop? On the other end, while James, or any veteran that's played as many combined regular season and playoff minutes, shouldn’t be asked for the same level of defense in January or February as in the playoffs, the 26-year-old Davis can, and his physical gifts are incredible.

New head coach Frank Vogel and his experienced staff will be charged with helping to maximize what their talented duo get done within the larger system, no doubt, and Vogel has to be exciting when breaking out the white board over the summer.

Because, as history tells us, it’s not very often two players that are this good play for the same team.

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