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The scariest young duo (22 and under) in the NBA today: Joel Embiid/Ben Simmons, Jaylen Brown/Jayson Tatum, Nikola Jokic/Jamal Murray, or Karl-Anthony Towns/Andrew Wiggins?
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David Aldridge: Embiid/Simmons in a photo over Towns/Wiggins. (Not a big enough sample size yet for Jayson Tatum for Brown/Tatum to be considered, and I don’t think Jokic/Murray are there in the discussion yet.) We all know how Olajuwony Embiid can be at both ends when his dogs aren’t barking, and Simmons has been as good as advertised so far–though at some point, soon, teams will see that he wants to get to the middle of the paint every time down the floor, right? And, y’know, try to keep him from doing that? But until they stop him, he’s going to use every bit of that 6-10 to take that giant step that clears him to rise up and shoot or keep the dribble and power to the rim. But the reason I pick the Sixers’ duo is that we’ve still yet to see Towns and Wiggins get more personally involved at the defensive end for the Wolves. They’re both too athletic and smart not to impact games more defensively. Minnesota just shouldn’t be 30th in the league in Defensive Rating. No excuse for that. Philly’s not shutting down people by any means, but middle of the pack is better than DFL.
Steve Aschburner: Give me the Philly phenoms, who have the potential to be the league’s two best players at the traditionally two most important positions. Embiid’s skills are established; it’s all about his durability. Simmons is looking like the most legit tall point guard since … well, since the prototype, Earvin (Magic) Johnson. So if all four of our couples max out, the Sixers win. The Celtics’ pair, because of their role as forwards, is like having the best bishops in a game of chess. Denver’s guys don’t strike me as dominant, at their peak, as Embiid-Simmons can be, and Minnesota’s twosome needs to get serious about the defensive end before they win this showdown.
Shaun Powell: I’ll go with Embiid-Simmons with the understandable qualifier of “if they stay healthy.” Embiid can be just as good if not better than Karl-Anthony Towns, while Simmons is massively multi-dimensional and this gives him the edge on the others. The next step for everyone listed is to forge a kinship with each other and develop an understanding that winning trumps all, more than money or ego or buzz. That’s what all dynamic duos in NBA history had, with the exception of Shaq-Kobe at the bitter end.
John Schuhmann: Embiid and Simmons have a combination of size and skill that’s unmatched. Embiid is a seven footer who can do everything on the floor, while Simmons is a 6-foot-10 point guard with incredible vision. They still have some developing to do, but so do the other combinations listed. Wiggins and Towns are in the conversation and more polished offensively, but in their fourth and third seasons, are worse defenders than the Simmons and Embiid, with their 44 games of experience between them.
Sekou Smith: Embiid and Simmons are downright frightening when you factor in the size for their position, raw talent and injury history for both of these young superstars in training. Towns and Wiggins are a close second, while Jokic and Murray rank third on my list. As talented as all of these young duos are, I just can’t fathom drawing up a better pair of barely of age basketball players than Embiid and Simmons. They are like the perfect puzzle pieces in the “trust the process” franchise-builder kit. Their versatility, ability to dominate inside and out (as well as in transition) coupled with their upside (I usually dread the word, but it fits here) means there’s no telling where they go next. If their availability comes anywhere close to matching the rest of their respective talent profiles, Philly’s jumbo crew could be the standard-bearing duo in the not-too-distant future for the Eastern Conference.
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