With the expected resumption of the NBA season still over a month away, there are plenty of fun hypotheticals to consider in the meantime.
The NBA has entered an era of duos, and no game can showcase great basketball pairings better than NBA Jam. First sold to the public in 1993, this classic hoops video game franchise put two players against each other with power-ups and gimmicks that any fan can enjoy.
In the league’s hiatus, it’s fun to wonder how a 2-on-2 competition would look. Each team would pick a twosome, but not necessarily its most talented pairing. 2-on-2 isn’t 5-on-5; there are differences that must be accounted for when a team picks its couple.
For one thing, there’s a lot more space to operate. Fewer players means more court to work with. Getting off “your shot” is significantly easier in this setting, even if your jumper isn’t trustworthy or if the shot is relatively inefficient.
This also means that matchups play a bigger part than normal. Exploiting mismatches is tougher when you can hide bad defenders on lesser contributors; that’s a lot tougher in 2-on-2. Players who are matchup-proof are already pretty important in the modern NBA, but they’re even more vital in this environment.
For those reasons and many more, it makes sense that certain teams would not necessarily pair their best players. In some cases though, especially for those benefactors of the aforementioned era of duos, it will be that simple.
Which teams could build the best NBA Jam-style two-man squad?
This exercise is two-fold: choosing the right pair from each team, which will vary based on preference, roster construction, and several other external factors; and ranking them based on their feasibility against the rest of the competition.
So here is a list of every team, if healthy, ranked by how their top duo would fare in a 2-on-2 NBA Jam-style competition.