In the age of the internet, fantasy sports have spread like wild fire, as fans everywhere want to showcase their skills as fledgling general managers. These leagues allow participants to assemble teams with combinations of players who, in reality, would never find themselves on the same squad. Some fantasy leagues begin anew each year with a draft. In other leagues, participants carry their rosters over from one year to the next; these are often called “keeper” or “legacy” leagues. This latter type of league is fascinating in that GMs develop a level of comfort with their team’s strange player juxtapositions. For instance, an NBA keeper league might have a team with Joakim Noah and Lebron James on the same squad—two bitter rivals, but when merely considering stats, not a bad fit. Personal beefs notwithstanding, Lebron and Noah could do great things together.
Back in reality, a new paradigm has taken hold of and begun to pervade the NBA, one that is reminiscent of the aforementioned fantasy leagues. Players have begun to team up. Perhaps this trend started when ageing superstars Karl Malone and Gary Payton joined forces with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal in the early 2000s. That Los Angeles Lakers team did well that season, but ultimately the season was a disappointment, as the Detroit Pistons defeated L.A. in the NBA Finals.
It is safer to say that this “team-up” trend started when the Boston Celtics signed Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to play with Paul Pierce. That team won a championship in its first season, and since then, other players have embraced this strategy. The Miami Heat are the pre-eminent example of this strategy. Since teaming up, Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh have won two back-to-back championships, an impressive feat.
Given the Heat’s success, this trend will not dissipate in the near future. Obviously teams have always tried to consolidate as much talent as possible, but the NBA has never seen such a willingness amongst its players to team up. Gone are the days of bitter rivalries, and an atmosphere of friendliness has taken over. But is this necessarily a bad thing? It certainly fits well in this age of the internet, fostering a deeper imagination in fantasy GMs. For most people, the unsettlement of the line between fantasy and reality usually leads to insanity. However, for sports fans, especially rabid fantasy GMs, the unsettlement of said line can be fun and exciting.
In that spirit, this list looks at ten “team-ups” we would love to see in the NBA. If these team-ups became realities, they would probably be quite successful. Since this list is fun and playful, there is no specific order to these rankings—just ten team-ups that would be, well, cool. Let us know the team-ups you would like to see.
10 Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant
9 Kevin Love and Derrick Rose
8 Marc Gasol and Pau Gasol
7 Lebron James and Kyrie Irving
6 Joakim Noah and Roy Hibbert
5 Dirk Nowitzki and Tony Parker
4 Anthony Davis and Damian Lillard
3 Rajon Rondo and Kevin Durant
2 Chris Paul and Chris Bosh
1 Stephen Curry and Tim Duncan
Despite Tim Duncan’s age, this could be a formidable team-up. Few players possess the unshakeable aplomb that Duncan has. Indeed, he could provide a calming influence for Stephen Curry, who, though extremely talented, often gets trigger happy. Duncan, moreover, would afford Curry the opportunity of playing without the ball in his hands, something Curry did more of in college. Off-ball screens and movement, aside from confounding the defense, can free up a player like Curry for open jump shots. This team-up is unlikely to happen, so bask in its imaginative glory!
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