Last week during a post-game press conference, Blazers coach Nate McMillan was asked, "Do you think Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge are the best young duo in the NBA right now?" Nate paused for awhile, mulling over the options, and ended up concluding that, yes, he did believe our young tandem was in fact the finest in the league.
Of course, asking Nate this question was akin to asking Bill Clinton's opinion on the best presidential candidate. This is not to imply that Nate's opinion carries any extra bias but he does spend 24/7 with these guys for about 8 months a year and he has built his offense entirely around them. Of course he has a dog in the fight.
As a writer for this site, I clearly have a dog in this one too, but I thought it would make for a healthy discussion. So, on we go to determine...
Which team has the best young duo in the NBA right now?
A few parameters. For our purposes:
"Young" is taken to mean a player that is roughly 25 years or younger (born in 1983 - present).
"Best Duo" is taken to mean the combined value of two players rather than the outstanding brilliance of one player and the passable skill of a tag-a-long.
"Right Now" is taken to mean playing games this season. Sorry, Greg Oden is off limits for this discussion.
Without further ado, I scanned each of the team's rosters at Yahoo! Sports. In my opinion, about 1/3 of the teams didn't have a duo worth mentioning but most teams did. I divided the worthy selections into a number of groups. First up...
The "Unbalanced Duos."
This category features some of the best players in the league, regardless of age, MVP candidates included. However, their best young running mate leaves a lot to be desired.
Cavs: LeBron James and Daniel Gibson. One could argue that LBJ by himself is the best young duo in the NBA. In fact, scanning the rest of the selections, I think most teams would probably trade their top 2 young players for James without thinking too long or too hard. However, we are looking for the best duo, and for once a "Booby" doesn't take home first prize. Terrible pun, my bad.
Hornets: Chris Paul and Julian Wright. Really, this one was Chris Paul and whoever else is under 25 on his team and, unfortunately, Tyson Chandler just missed the cut. The Hornets become the first major victirm of the semantics of this exercise as Paul and Chandler very well might be the best "young" duo if you stretch the working definition by a year.
Magic: Dwight Howard and JJ Redick. Pretty much the same situation as King James' Cavs except the Magic's roster is just about devoid on young talent outside of Superman. Let's keep it moving.
76ers: Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young. I love the new AI but Thaddeus' 7 points and 4 boards on a weak roster in a weak conference don't get the blood pumping.
Nets: Devin Harris and Sean Williams. Harris is one of the top young prospects at point guard (coveted by a number of teams) but his running mates on the Nets are mostly forgettable. Sean Williams has shown some promise but not enough just yet.
Kings: Kevin Martin and Spencer Hawes. These two are on here because Kevin Martin never gets enough recognition and Spencer Hawes is a unique individual. Otherwise, they were not carefully considered.
Our second group is the...
"Not Quite There Yets."
This group includes promising young duos that have the potential to be elite combos in the (near) future, but still require some seasoning.
Sonics: Kevin Durant and Jeff Green. I love Green; I really love Durant but the Sonics' record belies this duo's meaningful impact upon NBA games. With 3 years to go before either turns 25, they will be a mainstay on lists like this for years to come.
Lakers: Andrew Bynum and Jordan Farmar. Bonus points for these 2 for playing on such a successful team, however a different duo (Kobe and Pau) is responsible for the wins. Bynum seems to be developing a more total game down low; Farmar has the moxey and jumper to be an asset for a long time. Unfortunately, neither may get his proper due until Mr. Bryant moves on to retirement.
Our third group is known as...
Knicks: David Lee and Nate Robinson. Nate's huge game against the Blazers was incredible. David Lee is often mentioned as the last remaining asset with trade value on the Knicks roster. However, the Knicks are the Knicks and it's impossible to assess the relative value of talent on this team so they will get their own category.
OK, with all the riff-raff out of the way we are down to the top 10. I've split them into two groups. First, we have the...
These duos have already put up some serious production and logged big time minutes in the league this season (and perhaps in seasons past), however their combined contributions don't influence games to the same degree as the top five.
- Bucks: Bogut (13.6 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 2.6 apg, 1.8 bpg) and Villanueva (10.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg). Personally I think both these guys are soft, but their numbers are pretty good. Last place in the honorable mention category seems about right.
- Grizzlies: Rudy Gay (19.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.5 spg) and Mike Conley (8.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 4.3 apg). If not for their team's terrible record (and their franchise's pitiful owner) these two might have been higher on the board. Conley's numbers suffer because he shares time at the point with Lowry. Rudy Gay suffers because they print his last name on the back of his jersey and he plays in Tennessee. If Conley sticks around (doubtful), these guys could be rising.
- Twolves: Al Jefferson (21.1 ppg. 11.6 rpg, 1.0 spg, 1.5 bpg) and Rashad McCants (15.0 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.3 apg). Al Jefferson is a beast, one of the top 2 big men (along with Chris Bosh) listed in the top 10 duos. However, McCants doesn't do much well except shoot the rock and the Timberwolves lose points for losing so many games.
- Jazz: Williams (19.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 10.3 apg, 1.1 spg) and Ronnie Brewer (12.0 ppg, 2.9 rpg). Williams is neck-and-neck with Paul for best young point guard prospect and is probably personally responsible for 10 of Brewer's 12 points a game. If Brewer takes a leap in years to come, watch out for these two.
- Bulls: Luol Deng (17.5 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.0 spg) and Ben Gordon (19.5 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3.0 apg). Big numbers, big postseason production and big upside, these two just missed the top 5. Had the Bulls put together the campaign everyone thought they would this year, Deng and Gordon might have been a spot or two higher.
"The Top 5 Young Duos in the NBA."
- Warriors: Monta Ellis (19.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 3.7 apg, 1.3 spg) and Andres Biedrins (9.9 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 1.2 bpg). Their stock went soaring during last year's playoffs and nothing this season has given anyone reason to question these two building blocks. Ellis in particular looks like a future all-star while Biedrens fits perfectly into the Nelly-ball system. It will be interesting to see if these two are able to continue their production should Nelson choose to retire.
- Raptors: Chris Bosh (22.3 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 1.0 bpg) and TJ Ford (11.8 ppg, 5.7 apg, 1.1 spg). Bosh leads the league in Youtube views and can be counted on for consistent production; Ford finds himself in a battle for the point guard spot with Calderon. The Raptors would be wise to stick with the younger Ford, allowing this tandem to grow together (and fulfilling the wishes of 85% of BlazersEdge.com's readers by sending Calderon to Portland).
- Nuggets: Carmelo Anthony (25.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 3.4 apg, 1.1 spg) and Linus Kleiza (11.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg). At first glance, you might think these two are a better fit in the "Unbalanced Duos" group above. However, don't sleep on Linus, there are good reasons everyone wanted him at the trade deadline: he works hard, gets his points, and plays smart. Melo, well, he's Melo.. best individual player in the top 10 of this list and its not close.
- Hawks: Josh Smith (17.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 3.4 apg, 1.6 spg, 2.9 bpg) and Al Horford (9.8 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 1.0 bpg). Yes, these 2 lose points for playing in the weaker Eastern conference and, yes, they are collectively outscored by Anthony and Kleiza. However, Horford has been a legitimate ROY candidate by averaging right on a double-double and Josh Smith's freakish abilities to dunk from half-court, block shots in transition and win your fantasy league for you earn the young Hawks the number two rating on this list. What's even scarier? Marvin Williams also qualifies as an under-25 stud. Sure, Hawks management will screw this up, but for now the potential is a beautiful thing.
- Blazers: Brandon Roy (19.7 ppg, 4.9 rbg. 5.6 apg, 1.1 spg) and LaMarcus Aldridge (17.9 ppg, 7.4 rbg, 1.3 bpg). So after an hour and a half of reading, writing and statistical comparison, we came to the same conclusion that Nate did in about 20 seconds? Wonderful. The virtues of our top two players are well-known and by this point you can probably recite them line and verse. Brandon is a do-it-all All Star with crunch time cojones and a sick crossover. LaMarcus has a pretty jumper, a brand-new jump hook, and, according to his coach, "unlimited potential." Both he and Brandon will only benefit with the addition of Greg Oden next year. After conducting the above exercise, I feel more than comfortable anointing our top two "The Best Young Duo in the NBA."