The Greatest One-Two Punch? (Not Yet)

Superlatives not withstanding, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, after only two NBA Final games, have not earned to be on top of basketball’s Mount Rushmore as the greatest two man combination. It is a little bit of overkill but understandable. The Durant-Curry scoring talent has a way of blocking out the sun and rendering amnesia about who paved the way for them and what they did, as if the NBA’s inaugural season was 2010. The prisoner of the moment analysis for a duo who has won 0 NBA titles and 0 road games together is hyperbole at this point. It is two games, which is not to take away their brilliance. But can we please slow all the Curry and Durant best ever talk.

They have barely been together one season while the other great two-man combos, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, played in 35 Finals games, winning 24 of them. Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant played in 20 NBA Finals games, winning 13 of them. When you are talking about greatest ever, anyone up for discussion has to leapfrog MJ, Scottie, Shaq and Kobe. Sorry Curry-Durant. After two games you are not in the club. Not yet.

One of the most glaring pieces of evidence that has Curry and Durant on the outside looking in is that Durant has been in the league a decade and Curry has been in the league 8 years and neither Durant nor Curry have made the All-Defensive team. Not first, second or third team.

All-Defensive Team Number of Selections Playoff Defensive Ratings
Jordan-Pippen 17 102.6
Shaq-Kobe 8 103.6
Steph-Durant 0 101.0

Michael Jordan was on the All-Defensive team 9 times, first team all nine. Not only was he the best offensive player in the league, he was the best perimeter defender. Scottie Pippen was on the All Defensive team 10 times, first team eight times. Shaquille O’Neal was All-Defensive team three times. Kobe Bryant was All-Defensive team 12 times, first team nine times. Durant and Curry have a long way to go to be considered better than Jordan, Pippen, O’Neal and Bryant. Greatness implies both sides of the ball. It is not offense only.

But what about the duos? How do they stack up?

As far as their playoff usage rate, the ball in their hands, they are pretty equal. Jordan-Pippen’s usage rate was 29.5. Shaq-Kobe’s usage was 29.8 and Durant-Curry is 29.6. Jordan, Shaq and Curry- even with an extraordinary teammate- had playoff usage rates above 30.0. In this NBA Finals, Curry’s usage rate is 31.1. Shaq’s was 30.9. And Jordan’s playoff usage rate was Jordan-esque at 35.5.

Scoring is why we are even having this discussion. Jordan-Pippen in the playoffs scored 30+ points 73 times. They scored 40+ points 27 times, and 50+ points 7 times. Jordan of course, had most of the big time scoring games with Pippen only scoring 6 of the 73 dominant numbers.

Shaq-Kobe scored 30+ points 65 times. They scored 40+ points 14 times and never dropped 50 in the playoffs. Shaq and Kobe split their 30+ points outings in a shared excellence. However, Shaq in his prime was unstoppable. He had 11 of the 14 (40+) games.

Curry-Durant have scored 30+ points 11 times, 40 points once, a Steph clinic. But none of the retired players come close to the Curry-Durant offensive rating of 125.0. Jordan-Pippen’s offensive rating was 114.6. Kobe-Shaq’s offensive was a ho-hum 109.1.

Playoff Buckets 30 Point Games 40 Point Games 50 Point Games Off. Rating
Jordan-Pippen 73 27 7 114.6
Shaq-Kobe 65 14 0 109.1
Steph-Durant 11 1 0 125.0

Curry-Durant drop 55.7 points a game as a two man show this playoffs, 14 playoff games. Jordan-Pippen scored 48.8 points in 169 playoff games. Kobe and Shaq scored 49.0 points in 122 playoff games. What makes the difference in the scoring? Three point shooting.

Steph Curry in the 2017 playoffs has made three times the amount of three pointers by himself than the entire Bulls team in Jordan’s first title year. 63 to 30. In Shaq-Kobe’s first title year they made 50 less threes than this Warriors team in 2017.

Their shooting talent and the three point era means Steph Curry and Kevin Durant will be the most dominant offensive playoff duo the NBA has ever seen. But will they be the best?

Have to three-peat first. Have to lob an All-Defensive nod. Have to maintain consistency over time. Right now it’s two games and a lot of excitement about what may happen, not what will happen.


photo via llananba