By Joseph Cervantes
10. Donovan Mitchell X Mike Conely
Donovan Mitchell is improving every year and has made himself as one of the best young players in the NBA. Coming into his third season in the league, Mitchell will look to take another step forward. The Utah Jazz made it known after last season that they wanted to acquire a scoring point guard alongside Donovan Mitchell, and they did just that. Mike Conley is one of the most underrated players, as he never made an all-star appearance. The twelve-year vet has shown no signs of decline, coming off this past season averaging a career-high 21 PPG. If Conley takes some of the scoring load off of Mitchell, the Jazz will be a legitimate threat in the Western Conference.
9. Nikola Jokic X Jamal Murray
Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray are both coming off astonishing seasons this past year as they led there team to a 54-28 record. In there first playoff appearance ever, they averaged a combined 50.7 points, 19.9 rebounds, and 13.0 assists. Unfortunately, they lost to an experienced Blazers team in 7 games, but they both showed glimpses of superstar talent during that series which is something the Nuggets organization should be delighted about. In pick-and-rolls, the Murray-Jokic combination is unstoppable because Jokic is a threat from all locations. Leave him alone on the perimeter and he will sink a triple. If any team is looking to stop this Nuggets team in the future, they’ll have to first solve the unsolvable two-man game of Jokic and Murray
8. Joel Embiid X Ben Simmons
Former ROTY Ben Simmons is coming off an astounding season as he made his first All-Star appearance in only his second year playing. Joel Embiid, on the other hand, has established himself as arguably one of the best centers in the league after averaging an impressive 27.5 PPG while also making the All-NBA second team this past season. This dynamic duo has the potential to be one of the best in the league however, Embiid’s incapability to stay healthy for a full season and Simmons’ lack of shooting is what’s stopping them. Nonetheless, this duo has worked hard this off-season and are both very talented young players.
7. Giannis Antetokounmpo X Kris Middleton
The reigning league MVP along with his All-Star teammate will look to bring the Bucks a championship after coming up short in the Eastern Conference Finals. Giannis took the league by storm last season, dominating with a kind of style we have never seen before. Khris Middleton erupted last season averaging 18.3 PPG and earning his first All-Star appearance. Middleton has developed into a great “three and D” player and gives Giannis a dependable side-kick. Despite his incredible season, Antetokounmpo struggled in the Eastern Conference Finals. When Toronto adjusted to put Kawhi Leonard on Giannis, he was held to just 20 points a game. If he can find a way to expand his perimeter game, look for the Bucks to be heavy favorites in the East
6. Damian Lillard X CJ McCollum
Damien Lillard and CJ McCollum have arguably been one of the best backcourts in the NBA these past few seasons. Their chemistry only seems to get stronger and better as they play together more often. They reached the WCF this past season, which is something the Blazers should be delighted about. When Lillard shined in the Oklahoma City series, McCollum willingly took a step back and let Lillard do his thing. Similarly, when McCollum was playing well in the Denver series, Lillard took a step back. Trading for Hassan Whiteside could be the missing piece for them to make a championship quest once again.
5. Steph Curry X Klay Thompson
Klay Thompson and Steph Curry have been one of the most dangerous duos the league has ever seen. They both have changed the game when it comes to the three point shot and how effective it can be. Unfortunately, Thompson suffered a gruesome injury in Game 6 of the NBA Finals and will likely be back after the All-Star break. Once Klay gets healthy, this duo will be one of the deadliest in the league because of there unmatched chemistry when playing together.
4. James Harden X Russel Westbrook
James Harden and Russel Westbrook are both coming off spectacular seasons as they showcased NBA fans with historic seasons. Harden and Westbrook make such a dynamic duo because each player can facilitate and create offense for others. Westbrook has averaged 10.4 assists per game over the last four seasons and Harden has averaged 8.8 assists during the same span. They would each be able to play off each other and create offense for one another, whether Westbrook is kicking out to Harden behind the line or whether Harden is throwing lobs to Westbrook. Harden and Westbrook finished first and second in MVP voting in 2017 and have each been top 5 MVP finishers in three of the last five years.
3. Kevin Durant X Kyrie Irving
Once Durant gets healthy from his Achilles injury, he and Irving will form one of the most lethal scoring combinations in the NBA. Durant is a 7’0 guard with an unblockable shot and limitless range while Irving can get to the rim with a killer dribble and the ability to creatively finish around the rim. Together, there isn’t a defense that can stop both of them. Durant was arguably playing the best basketball in the playoffs this past season before the heartbreaking injury. He was averaging a spectacular 32.3 PPG while leading the Warriors past the Clippers and the Rockets. Once Durant is back in the starting lineup, which is likely to be the 2020-21 season, Brooklyn will be instant title contenders and surely be the favorites in the Eastern Conference.
2.Kawhi Leonard X Paul George
Fresh off a championship, Kawhi Leonard will get a chance to play with the best teammate he’s ever had in his career. (Tim Duncan wasn’t in his prime when Leonard was with him on the San Antonio Spurs.) Leonard and George both had astounding seasons this past year on both ends of the floor. They both finished in the top 10 in MVP voting this past season as well as earning multiple All-Defensive and All-NBA teams throughout there career. Both players are capable of locking up the opponent’s best player on the defensive end while simultaneously carrying the offensive load on the other end. Now that Kawhi won’t be double-teamed as often anymore while playing alongside another superstar, his offensive game is expected to reach another level.
1. Lebron James X Anthony Davis
Lebron and Davis are both eager to start their journey for a championship run after coming off disappointing seasons this past year filled with injuries and team drama. They are arguably two of the top five players in the league and are both favorites to win MVP this upcoming season according to DraftKings. James is getting older, but he is still putting up MVP numbers and is just as unstoppable on his drives. His intelligence and court vision are only getting better, and it will come in handy finding Anthony Davis around the basket. Davis is also a monster in his own regard, bringing All-Defensive team-caliber work and elite all-around scoring ability. Both of these players are coming into this season with a chip on their shoulders and something to prove, which is why every team should be fearful of this duo.