James Harden and Russell Westbrook. LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Eventually there will be Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, plus Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
The NBA is stacked with elite duos that are NBA contenders, and figuring out which twosome will fit best together has become part of making a prediction for who will win the NBA title.
Kobe Bryant was asked that in an interview by ESPN and he went another direction (hat tip Hoop Rumors).
“It doesn’t matter. I think it matters what they put around those two guys, and then what is the offensive and defensive system they’re going to be executing. You could have marquee names and put those marquee names together, and guess if they could play together or not, but it ultimately comes down to what system do you have them in and how does that affect the rest of the guys.”
He’s right. The Warriors had a big three but do they win without Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, solid bigs, and everyone there buying into Steve Kerr’s system? LeBron and Irving in Cleveland needed Kevin Love and J.R. Smith (pre-meltdown mistake) to win in 2016. The big three of LeBron/Dwyane Wade/Chris Bosh had Ray Allen and other guys to hit big shots, plus they lost before they all bought into Eric Spoelstra’s system. The Spurs won five rings with Tim Duncan/Tony Parker/Manu Ginobili but always were the ultimate system team under Gregg Popovich.
It’s why a lot of pundits lean toward the Clippers when looking at the coming season — this was a 48-win, hard-to-play-against team well coached by Doc Rivers last season before Leonard and George showed up. But, will the Clippers be the same team and play with the same passion this season? Do the Lakers have the guard play needed to contend, and can Frank Vogel get them on the same page (can he keep his job)? Do the Rockets have the depth after their starting five? Will any of those teams fully buy into the coach’s system?
What makes this NBA season so fascinating and wide open is that every team has plenty of questions, there is no juggernaut. But next June, we may be talking less about the best duo and more about what Kobe said — which supporting cast and system worked best?
LOS ANGELES — It almost seemed effortless.
Anthony Davis simply got wherever he wanted on the court Sunday night. And he wanted to be in the paint, right in front of the rim. Davis shot 11-of-11 at the rim and 17-of-23 in the paint on his way to what his coach described as an “old-school, smash-mouth way of getting 50.”
Yes, 50. Davis had his best offensive game as a Laker going right through the size of Karl-Anthony Towns and the Minnesota Timberwolves, leading Los Angeles to a 142-125 win.
LeBron James did plenty — 32 points on 20 shots, plus 13 assists — but he battled foul trouble through the first half, and that’s when Davis put the team on his shoulders and carried them.
He carried then to the rim — Davis had 27 points on 12-of-15 shooting in the first half, and only one of those buckets from outside paint. Or, take a look at his shot chart for the game, it’s all about points in the paint.
“I was feeling very good tonight, very well rested, going against another great big man in Karl-Anthony Towns… you get up for those games, they’re a team that’s hungry,” Davis said.
Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins each had 19 to lead a balanced Minnesota attack. The Timberwolves hung around the game because they were getting buckets against the Lakers. It gave them hope.
“I yelled at them for giving up 125, but I don’t think anyone heard me,” Lakers’ coach Frank Vogel joked after the game.
The Laker defense was not great, but the way they got buckets it didn’t have to be.
Boston’s depth was on display for the past month with Gordon Hayward sidelined following hand surgery — the Celtics went 9-4 with a +5.9 net rating — but the team’s offense slid back to middle-of-the-pack without his scoring and shot creation.
They are not going to be without him much longer, Hayward could return Monday night, he told reports Sunday, via Chris Forsberg at NBC Sports Boston.
“Bone has healed, probably stronger than my right hand. There’s a plate in there with screws. The bone is good,” Hayward said Sunday after going through the team’s off-day practice. Boston did not engage in any live 5-on-5 action but Hayward sounded open to returning Monday.
“Tomorrow’s a possibility,” he said. “See how I feel when I wake up, go through shootaround, see how it goes.”
As one should expect, coach Brad Stevens was more cautious but said Hayward will be back “sooner than later.”
Hayward was having a bounce-back year through his first eight games, averaging 18.9 points per game, shooting 43.3 percent from three, pulling down 7.1 rebounds, and dishing out 4.1 assists per game. He’s been a critical playmaker for the Celtics next to Kemba Walker.
Hayward fractured his hand on a fluke play against the Spurs and required surgery to repair a fracture to his fourth metacarpal bone in his left hand (the bone that connects the wrist to the ring finger), the team announced Monday evening. Hayward has made a speedy recovery from that injury.
Boston hosts Cleveland on Monday then travels to Indiana on Wednesday.
LeBron James battled foul trouble in the first half against Minnesota, picking up four and only playing 12 minutes because of it.
When he was on the court, however, he was dominant — 16 points on 10 shots, with a couple of deep threes.
Then LeBron did this to Gorgui Dieng.
That’s just not fair.
In the video, watch the reaction of the Laker bench — that group is having fun.
The Lakers led 73-65 at halftime of this
defensive struggle game in Los Angeles. Anthony Davis had 27 on 12-of-15 shooting in the first half.
Miami just finds guys. And develops them. Kendrick Nunn is at the top of that list for them this season, playing like someone who will get Rookie of the Year votes so far this season. Don’t leave Duncan Robinson off that list, he has had some big games for the Heat lately.
Sunday it was Tyler Herro‘s turn. The rookie out of Kentucky scored 16 points through the fourth quarter and overtime against Chicago. That includes draining the game-winning three off an assist from Jimmy Butler.
That bucket held up as the final score, 108-105 Miami.
It also wasn’t Herro’s only big three in OT.
Miami improves to 17-6 on the season, and a part of that is they have rookies stepping up and contributing.