As we follow the 2019-20 NBA season, we have seen plenty of changes throughout the league. Free agents signing with new teams, and familiar faces being traded to other teams as well. The free agency frenzy was certainly huge in the Eastern Conference, with superstars such as Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Kemba Walker signing with new teams.
With that being said, in this two-part series of top five active duos, we will be looking at the Eastern Conference. Previously, we had looked at the top five active duos in the Western Conference.
Do note that Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant were not listed because Durant will not be playing in the 2019-2020 season.
#1 Joel Embiid & Ben Simmons
Had Los Angeles Clippers' Kawhi Leonard stayed with the Toronto Raptors, it would be him and point guard Kyle Lowry or power forward Pascal Siakam at #1. However, now it is safe to say that the Philadelphia 76ers duo is the main one to watch in the East. Joel Embiid, who is considered one of the best big men in the league, is just getting started. While injuries had earlier slowed down his development, the 76ers certainly had hope for him. Enough hope that in the 2017 season, they signed him to a 5-year, $148 million contract. He has yet to play a full season but it's possible we don't see that since the organization wants to be careful with him.
As for Ben Simmons, he is an up and coming shooter. He has had his ups and downs as a player, with several fans around the league believing he does not have a good jump shot. It seems like he is beginning to get comfortable, averaging 16 points per game so far this season. The 76ers have yet to give Simmons a big contract, and that is likely to see if he can develop into a good shooter. For now, Embiid and Simmons will dominate the East at #1.
#2 Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton
If the Greek Freak had another starter next to him who was more than an average player, they too could've beeen #1 on this list. However, for now, forward Giannis Antetokounmpo has to deal with guard Khris Middleton. Middleton signed a 5-year, $178 million contract this past offseason and was certainly a big shocker. Most would say that Middleton is not worth this big a contract. Yet, he has been a vital player in key games for the Milwaukee Bucks and has been healthy for the most part since joining the team in 2013.
The Greek Freak is an unstoppable player and will continue to produce no matter what. He helped his team reach the Eastern Conference last season, only losing to Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors. The question this coming offseason will be whether Giannis will stay with the team as he has been rumored to sign with different teams. Given the amount of success he has had with the Bucks, it would be a huge shock if he is on a different team next season.
#3 Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam
With All-Star and NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard gone from the Toronto Raptors, it is certainly forward Pascal Siakam's time to keep this team competitive in the Eastern Conference. Point guard Kyle Lowry is aging and it is unclear how much longer he can play. In early October, Lowry signed a 1-year extension with the team that keeps him with the team for another season. This could mean either the Raptors want to keep him for one more season and possibly trade him next season, or sign him for a couple more years later on assuming he can still perform well.
As for Siakam, he signed a 4-year, $130 million contract in October as well. It was unclear what the organization would do with Siakam, considering he was part of a possible trade rumor between the Oklahoma City Thunder before shooting guard Paul George ended up being traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. It was certainly a smart move by the Raptors to keep Siakam, as he is an up and coming young player who will soon be the face of the team. In the 2019 season, Lowry and Siakam will be a great pair to watch. The future, for now, is unknown.
#4 Kemba Walker and Gordon Hayward
Gordon Hayward is back ladies and gentlemen. After his gruesome injury in the opening game of the 2017 season, his status to play basketball was certainly up in the air. Hayward came back in October of 2018 and while he wasn't the same player we once knew, he certainly bounced back and showed his recovery from that injury. Now in his third season with the Boston Celtics and with a new player, Hayward certainly has a lot to show the league and he has done that so far. He is currently averaging 20.3 points per game, 7.5 rebounds per game, 4.3 assists per game, and shooting 50% from the 3PT. If Hayward keeps that up, he will certainly help keep the Celtics near the top of the Eastern Conference.
All-Star point guard Kemba Walker signed with the Celtics this past offseason, leaving his previous team, the Charlotte Hornets. This was after now Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving left the Celtics. Walker was certainly the face of the Hornets and now has the job to continue to take the Celtics into the postseason. A change of teams shouldn't slow down Walker, considering he is a top point guard in the league. The duo of Walker and Hayward could go a long way if Hayward can return to the same form he once was in.
#5 Victor Oladipo and Myles Turner
The Indiana Pacers duo is probably the most underrated one on this list. They may sit at #5 but they can certainly be at the top. Guard Victor Oladipo, who will soon be back from a knee injury he suffered in late January, is expected to be even better than before. Oladipo is a young player who has improved each year and the injury he suffered was unfortunate but it was enough for him to be named to the 2019 All-Star roster.
As for big man Myles Turner, he is yet another young star who has the potential to be big in the NBA. Turner signed a 4-year, $72 million extension in October of 2018, which locked him with the team for the next few years. While injuries have been somewhat of an issue for Turner, he continues to produce both offensively and defensively. He was named NBA blocks leader for 2019, averaging 2.69 blocks per game. Hopefully, Turner can produce well this season to earn himself his first All-Star game.