Wob: What to Expect from the NBA’s New Superstar Pairings

Oct 21, 2019 11:30 AM EDT

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (left) and forward Anthony Davis (right).

  • The 2019-20 NBA season is headlined by star duos: LeBron and AD, Kawhi and Paul George, Harden and Westbrook, to name a few.
  • What should we expect from these newly-formed pairs, and can history point to data on when they'll hit their peaks?

It’s weird. Duos have always been a thing in the NBA, but nobody predicted them to be the face of the revolution responsible for replacing the Warriors empire. As the league shifts from the age of superteams to the tag-team era, we, as fans, get to experience going back to the future.

At the league’s inception, the game was headlined by two Boston Celtics stars: Bill Russell and Bob Cousy. Despite basketball’s evolution throughout the years, the DNA of success has always remained the same — we heard the noise, we just weren’t always listening.

Fast forward to present day, and the volume is boisterous. Or in the Clippers’ case with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the silence is deafening.

James Harden and Russell Westbrook reuniting in Houston. LeBron James coming through in the Klutch and getting Anthony Davis to the Lakers.

Kristaps Porzingis and Luka Doncic. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

The list just doesn’t stop.

Now that we’re here and have so many different examples to observe this season, the questions must be asked:

  • Do duos actually work? And if so, why do they work?
  • How long do duos have to play with each other to reach peak performance?
  • What are the most successful duos of all time?
  • Are there any trends duos share?
  • How much does a successful duo impact the overall production of the team?

To explore this further, we gathered individual regular season win share and team Net Rating data for the NBA’s most famous tag teams for as far back as the statistics were available.

(Note: the graph is interactive, so hover to see an individual year or click to remove a duo.)

Per Basketball Reference, ‘Win Shares’ is defined as “a player statistic which attempts to divvy up credit for team success to the individuals on the team.”

In layman’s terms, it is the advanced metric used to identify just how much of an impact each player has on the team’s production.

Net Rating, developed by author and statistician Dean Oliver, is the difference between a player’s Offensive Rating and his Defensive Rating, or, the number of points a team scores and concedes over 100 possessions.

What it all means