If teams want to win the championship, it often comes down to who can assemble the most cohesive set of stars, and that begins with the duo of superstars. These are the players that often carry the team forward and who tend to know each other's games inside out.
The NBA currently has a plethora of high-scoring talent, with some teams lucky enough to have a trio of superstars. On that note, let's have a look at the league's best pairings and how they could help their teams win a title this year.
#5 Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson
Although their pedigree is well known as one of the greatest duos in NBA history, the pairing of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson ranks low, owing to the latter's impending return from injury. Without Thompson last season, Curry carried the Golden State Warriors into the NBA play-in tournament, where the team narrowly missed out on the playoffs despite Curry leading the league in scoring.
Curry averaged 32 points per game last season, and while it is unlikely he will do the same again this campaign, having another elite shotmaker on the floor is only going to draw some of the swarming defenses away from him. It could also propel the Golden State Warriors back into the postseason. Depending on how quickly Thompson can get back into his pre-injury flow, it could make the team title contenders too.
Before back-to-back season-ending injuries, Klay Thompson was averaging 20 points a night and shooting above 40% from the deep. With Curry, Thompson will be one of the most feared duos this season, likely to run teams ragged in offense and grabbing steals in defense to launch fast breaks.
#4 Chris Paul and Devin Booker
Although age is beginning to catch up with Chris Paul, he still did Point God things last season. The 36-year-old averaged 16.4 points, 8.9 assists and 1.4 steals while shooting close to 50-40-90 (49.9, 39.5, 93.4). Combining with the team's natural scorer, Devin Booker, it was no surprise that the Phoenix Suns made it to the NBA Finals this year.
The duo combined for 36.5% of the Suns' points and 49% of their assists last season, with those numbers rising to 42.6% of points and 56.4% of assists in the playoffs. Paul's arrival has helped continue to build Booker's status as a superstar, and has taken the ball out of his hands, allowing him to focus on creating space and finding his spots.
#3 LeBron James and Anthony Davis
Since both struggled with injuries last NBA season, the LA Lakers' star duo doesn't crack the top two on this list even though they were arguably the best duo in the 2019-20 campaign. Nevertheless, LeBron James and Anthony Davis come into the 2021-22 season with a decent summer of recuperation and have a new star to team up with in Russell Westbrook.
LeBron James was still an NBA All-Star last year, and was selected into the All-NBA Second Team. Davis was also an All-Star, and averaged 21.8 points, 7.9 rebounds and over a steal and a block per game while he was on the floor.
The duo won't quite have the same link-up Lakers fans have been used to in the past two seasons considering the fact that James will likely give up some of his ball-handling duties to Westbrook. However, they could still terrorize opponents in the paint, and should be a formidable pairing at the rim in defense.
#2 Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton
Narrowly missing out on the top spot is a duo that has played together longer than any other on this list. Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo have been in Milwaukee for eight years now, and were finally able to deliver an NBA championship this summer.
The two know each other's games inside out, and have the ability to step up when the other is injured. A prime example of that came towards the end of the Eastern Conference Finals when Antetokounmpo was sidelined.
Middleton dropped 26 points, and grabbed 13 boards in game five before putting up 32 points in game six along with seven assists and three steals. When he returned, Antetokounmpo was in his elements, and won the NBA Finals MVP award after averaging 35 points and 13.2 rebounds.
Although Middleton was snubbed from the NBA All-Star game, he averaged 20 points and six rebounds during the 2020-21 campaign. He is the perfect running partner for the Greek, happy to facilitate the latter's greatness while being an outlet on the perimeter, connecting with over 40% of three-point attempts last season.
#1 Kevin Durant and James Harden
Lingering injuries meant NBA fans weren't able to see the full force of the Brooklyn Nets' big three last season. Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving were only on the floor together for a total of 14 games in both the regular season and the playoffs combined.
If fully fit this year, the Nets will be a frightening prospect for the rest of the league, and the tandem of Kevin Durant and James Harden could be absolutely lethal.
James Harden took little time endearing himself to the Brooklyn faithful, stepping up on several occasions when Durant and Irving were sidelined. The most spectacular example of that came in February when Harden led the Nets back from a 24-point deficit to overcome the Phoenix Suns, scoring a dagger three that eventually won the Nets the game.
Although Irving is a core component to how the team plays, Harden has taken up point guard duties since arriving on the East Coast, and amassed 10.9 assists per game last season for the Nets. Combining that with Durant's ability to score 30 points a night should propel Brooklyn to the top of the Eastern Conference after narrowly missing out last season.