Welcome to NBA Jam week on NBA.com where all week long we're celebrating the remarkable collection of star duos throughout the NBA and viewing the upcoming season through the prism of what these duos mean entering 2019-20.
Superstar duos are taking over the NBA, which aligns perfectly with the video game NBA Jam.
In a game where you play two-on-two with the freedom to choose whichever two players you'd like, teams have a number of combinations that could create fun and exciting pairings for the user.
Here, we break down superlatives for different player combinations that would work to and against your favour in NBA Jam.
At first thought, this was a tough decision to make. After diving through the rosters, we realized this is more self-explanatory than you would think.
The Orlando Magic have a Slam Dunk Contest champion in Terrence Ross and a could (should)-have-been Slam Dunk Contest champion in Aaron Gordon.
Ross won the 2013 Slam Dunk Contest as a member of the Toronto Raptors, throwing down a Vince Carter tribute and a between-the-legs dunk over a child. Gordon put together arguably the most impressive dunk contest in history in 2016, yet finished in second place to an equally impressive performance from Zach LaVine.
The NBA Jam announcer might pass out from the amount of times he'd have to scream "boomshakalaka!" with these two on the virtual court at the same time. Say a prayer for those virtual rims, too.
- Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_)
"Swatted away!" duo
Take the guy that made quite possibly the biggest block in NBA history.
The Block. https://t.co/S9NKYIVMEO- NBA TV (@NBATV) June 20, 2016
Place him alongside a three-time blocks champion and perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
And you've got two guys that offensive players should be aware of at all times. Since they do it in different ways, pairing James with Davis means that opposing players aren't safe in the halfcourt or in transition.
Now place this duo in the virtual world in NBA Jam; just when you think you had a fast break opportunity, LeBron seemingly comes out of nowhere to deny you two easy points. You get the ball again and get past James only for AD to send your shot to the other end of the floor, setting LeBron up for a monstrous dunk of his own.
Yeah, good luck getting a bucket against these two.
- Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21)
"From downtown!" duo
Who else would this have been? It's obviously the Splash Brothers.
Stephen Curry is the greatest shooter who has ever lived. Klay Thompson might just be the second-greatest shooter who has ever lived. Together, this duo is a nightmare to play against in real life, never mind a video game where pulling up from halfcourt is essentially the same as spotting up right at the 3-point line.
We've seen Curry knock down 13 3s in a game twice already, setting the NBA single-game record. We've also seen Thompson bury 14 3-pointers in a game, stealing that record right in front of his teammate's eyes.
Raining 3s with both of these players on fire for all four quarters of a game of NBA Jam sounds like fun, right? For the user, yes. For the opponent, it sounds like a broken controller.
Pat Bev. The Klaw.
There's a reason why the LA Clippers are viewed as having one of the most fearsome defences before even stepping foot on the floor.
Beverley is notorious for the way in which he takes pride on the defensive end, using his strength and basketball IQ to incessantly annoy his defensive assignment, even when he's at a size disadvantage. Kawhi is revered as one of the best defenders in the league as his size and strength allow him to guard essentially all positions.
Both are a pain to deal with.
Now imagine this duo in the NBA Jam world where the physicality is turned up to an even higher notch. Pretty much anything goes. You honestly might not get the ball up the court.
Shutouts just don't happen in the video game world, but against a duo like this … I wouldn't rule it out.
This one goes out to the Minnesota Timberwolves' pairing of Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.
This is no disrespect to KAT and Wiggy - it's just that the T'Wolves finished 36-46 last year and if the NBA season was played in virtual games of two-on-two in NBA Jam, they'd be one of the best teams in the league.
Towns is a gifted 3-point shooter as a big man. His shot blocking would get a boost in the game due to his size, so he'd be able to guard pretty much any other big while his ability to stretch the virtual floor opens things up nicely for Wiggins.
Wiggins is a high-flyer and that bodes well in NBA Jam, being able to attack the rim with thunderous dunks while the opposing team's rim protector is out on the perimeter guarding Towns. If they aren't, it's any easy kick-out as you'll hear "from downtown!" as Towns rains an open 3-ball over, and over, and over again.
This pairing would be tough to stop in the NBA Jam world. It'd be nice to see it come together in real life, too.
Better than real life player
Zach LaVine is a budding star in this league.
After dealing with injury and a change of scenery, he posted a career-high 23.7 points per game in his first full season as a Chicago Bull, a figure that was good for 16th in the league. The numbers were there as was the efficiency, as he posted shooting splits of .467/.374/.832.
In addition to his scoring ability, LaVine's elite athleticism has resulted in his being a two-time Dunk Contest champion, putting forth some of the best performances the contest has ever seen.
Still, with all that working in his favour, a lack of sustained personal success and team success has kept the 24-year-old from fully earning the "star" label.
Place him in the virtual world of NBA Jam and he's not just a star … he's a bonafide superstar. In a game where 3-pointers and dunks reign supreme, you have a guy that excels at doing both at a high level.
LaVine's ability to fill it up from the perimeter or dunk over essentially anyone in his way would make him virtually unstoppable. When one of the league's up-and-coming stars transforms into a literal cheat code, he becomes the game's overachiever.
This was the easiest superlative to pick from the get-go - it's Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray.
Jokic is the most perplexing star in the game. Nothing about his stature screams "NBA superstar" and yet, he's a certified NBA superstar and potential MVP candidate. He's as skilled as they come at 7-feet tall and his passing ability is magical, like something we've never seen before from a centre. Yet in translation to a video game, his play style doesn't exactly fit the bill.
In the oldest versions of NBA Jam, there's only four attributes - speed, defence, shooting and dunking. Three of those four attributes would be extremely low for Jokic and his playmaking ability doesn't factor into his video game character.
Murray would still be a solid companion and his game translates fairly well to NBA Jam, but with how Jokic would go from one of the best players in the NBA to one of the worst players by this video game's ratings, this duo was without a doubt the winner of the "underachieving duo" title.
Better in real life player
Luka Doncic did a little bit of everything in his rookie season.
The 20-year-old ran away with the 2019 Rookie of the Year trophy after posting averages of 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game, doing things we don't often see from rookies. He's truly looking to be a once-in-a-generation type of talent.
Like Jokic, Doncic lacks in athleticism but makes up for it with his intangible skill and feel for the game. Unfortunately for Luka, that doesn't necessarily translate well into the video game world.
He isn't the quickest or the highest leaper and while the stepback triples have become somewhat his signature, Luka's 32.7% shooting from beyond the arc would translate to his being a good - but not great - shooter in the game.
Essentially, the way the NBA Jam world works, we would only be able to tap into a fraction of one of the league's brightest young star's potential. But it's no fault of his.
Diaper Dandy duo
This one goes to the Memphis Grizzlies' 20-year-old duo of 2018 No. 4 overall pick Jaren Jackson Jr. and 2019 No. 2 overall pick Ja Morant.
This would be one of the most fun duos to play with in NBA Jam. Jackson Jr. is a big man who can knock down 3s consistently and has the potential to be an elite shot blocker and rim protector. Morant is a high-flying guard whose speed and dunking attributes might not be maxed out as a rookie, but most certainly will be within a few years time.
If you give this pairing two-to-three years, they might be the best video game duo in the entire NBA if they progress the way they're expected. Could you think of anything more fun than a guard with max speed and dunking and a big man with max defence and 3-point shooting?
Jackson Jr. and Morant are going to be a problem in Memphis and they'll be well-worth the watch in their first season together.
Super-sub players (offence and defence)
Sometimes, you're faced with tough decisions at the player selection screen when you're tasked with taking just two guys.
Lucky for the gamer, you get a chance to make a substitution during the halftime break.
When taking New Orleans, it's almost a no-brainer to take Zion Williamson and Jrue Holiday to get things started but at the half, if you need some shooting fast, is there anyone better than JJ Redick to throw in the game?
Behind the Splash Brothers, Redick is probably the league's most potent 3-point shooter, and can make the biggest of leads disappear … especially if he's On Fire.
If you elect to play with the Boston Celtics, you're probably going to go with a duo of Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum. Great. If halftime rolls around and you need to impose your will on the defensive end, Boston has just the guy to put in the game.
Marcus Smart's grit translates perfectly into the gaming world as he would certainly be one to get in a shove or two. His hustle would be unmatched and he would be the guy to make things a little more difficult for the player you just didn't have an answer for in real life.
The real possibility of both Redick and Smart being reserves this upcoming NBA season means this art is imitating life …or life imitating our hypothetical art. Or both.
Either way, these two are the definition of super subs.