The Winningest Tandems

Dre Alvarez (@nerdnumbers) is a Co-Editor for the Wages of Wins Network and is also in charge of handling the stats data. He’s a long time fan of Colorado Sports, depending on the weather. He’s an even bigger fan of the stats, data and all things nerdy.

It Takes Two to Tango

Looking at teams with two great players is always fun. Today I thought I’d go through all of the possible combination of positions to find the best set of players to ever play.

Before we get started, let me explain my methodology.  I begin with tandems where both players produced more than 10 wins in the same season.  In other words, a tandem only counted if both players hit the 10 Wins Produced mark. I then looked for tandems with multiple years on the same team.

Given this criteria, here are the top tandems.  Enjoy!

Top Backcourt (PG and SG)

En Garde!

Terry Porter and Clyde Drexler from 1987-1992 on the Portland Trail Blazers

  • Terry Porter (PG) – 17037 Minutes Played, 0.247 WP48, 87.7 Wins Produced
  • Clyde Drexler (SG) – 17524 Minutes Played, 0.320 WP48, 116.7 Wins Produced
  • Total – 34561 Minutes Played, 0.284 WP48, 204.4 Wins Produced

In six seasons these two anchored a great Portland team. They helped the Blazers to four 50 win seasons and two finals. This tandem is overshadowed by the Jordan-Pippen duo of the same period. Still, they are the greatest backcourt of the last 30 years.

Top Pass and Shoot (PG and SF)

There was this other guy too.

Dr. J and Mo Cheeks from 1980-1983 on the Philadelphia 76ers

  • Maurice Cheeks (PG) – 10001 Minutes Played, 0.257 WP48, 53.5 Wins Produced
  • Julius Erving (SF) – 10896 Minutes Played 0.291 WP48, 66.1 Wins Produced
  • Total – 20897 Minutes Played, 0.275 WP48, 119.6 Wins Produced

Dr.J had been a great player for a decade. In 1980 he got Mo Cheeks to back him up and the 76ers managed to make it to two finals. In 1982 Moses Malone came aboard and this team won it all. Sadly Dr. J’s age kept this tandem from staying on top. However, they helped the 76ers to 244 wins, 3 finals appearances and a title in four years. Not too shabby!

Top Pick and Roll (PG and PF)

Pick and Roll!

John Stockton and Karl Malone from 1988-2001 on the Utah Jazz

  • John Stockton (PG) – 37640 Minutes Played, 0.330 WP48, 259 Wins Produced
  • Karl Malone (PF) – 42171 Minutes Played, 0.289 WP48, 254 Wins Produced
  • Total – 79811 Minutes Played, 0.309 WP48, 513 Wins Produced

This pair was great for fourteen consecutive seasons! In that time they managed twelve 50 win seasons and two finals appearances. Stockton and Malone are the epitome of a top tandem and they have the numbers and results to back it up.

Top “Small” and Tall (PG and C)

Who’s turn is it to be MVP again?

Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1980,1981,1982 and 1985 on the Los Angeles Lakers

  • Magic Johnson (PG) – 9938 Minutes Played, 0.430 WP48, 89.1 Wins Produced
  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (C) – 11426 Minutes Played, 0.265 WP48, 63 Wins Produced
  • Total – 21364 Minutes Played, 0.342 WP48, 152.1 Wins Produced

Thirty years later and this duo remains the best point guard and center combo I can find. Magic hit the ground running and Kareem still had some life. Every season these two were both healthy the Lakers won 55+ games and also won the NBA Championship. Sadly — because of Kareem’s age (he played college ball in the 1960s) — their window was short, but it was certainly sweet.

Top Wings (SG and SF)

How would you feel if you became a synonym for side-kick?

Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen from 1990-1993 and 1996-1997 on the Chicago Bulls

  • Michael Jordan (SG) – 18596 Minutes Played, 0.382 WP48, 147.9 Wins Produced
  • Scottie Pippen (SF) – 18369 Minutes Played, 0.259 WP48, 98.9 Wins Produced
  • Total – 36965 Minutes Played, 0.321 WP48, 246.9 Wins Produced

Once Pippen hit his prime, this duo tore through the league. In their six great seasons together the Bulls never failed to get less than 55 wins.  And they also collected five titles [and a 6th title in 1997-98]. Sadly, Jordan took a break in the middle (and by 1998 Pippen had faded). It’s pretty easy to call this one of the greatest tandem of all time.

Top Shooting Power (SG and PF)

Pace yourselves.

Reggie Miller and Dale Davis from 1993-1995 and 1997-1998 on the Indiana Pacers 

  • Reggie Miller (SG) – 14016 Minutes Played, 0.190 WP48, 55.5 Wins Produced
  • Dale Davis (PF) – 11665 Minutes Played, 0.221 WP48, 53.6 Wins Produced
  • Total – 25681 Minutes Played, 0.204 WP48, 109.2 Wins Produced

These two are the weakest tandem on the list. They are also the only one to fail to make a finals while both players were playing at their peak (they did make it in 2000 when Reggie Miller had faded). Reggie Miller was good but possibly over-appreciated and Davis was great and possibly under-appreciated. However, I think the Pacers would be happy to get them both back at this point.

Top Shaq and Kobe (SG and C)

Bickering like an old married couple.

Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant from 1999-2004 on the Los Angeles Lakers 

  • Kobe Bryant (SG) – 16114 Minutes Played, 0.216 WP48, 72.6 Wins Produced
  • Shaquille O’Neal (C) – 15213 Minutes Played, 0.339 WP48, 107.5 Wins Produced
  • Total – 31327 Minutes Played, 0.276 WP48, 180.1 Wins Produced

That’s right, this duo was good enough and popular enough to name the category. From 1999 to 2004 they managed to lead the Lakers to a threepeat and four finals. There were ups and downs and they split up a few seasons too soon. Still, they rightfully earn their spot.

Top Forwards (SF and PF)

Big Stiffs

Larry Bird and Kevin McHale from 1985-1988 and 1990 for the Boston Celtics 

  • Larry Bird (SF) – 15188 Minutes Played, 0.401 WP48, 126.9 Wins Produced
  • Kevin McHale (PF) – 13222 Minutes Played, 0.239 WP48, 65.9 Wins Produced
  • Total – 28410 Minutes Played, 0.326 WP48, 192.8 Wins Produced

These two made up part of the greatest front court ever assembled. Bird and Parish were the big producers, but McHale definitely helped. Injuries limited him late in his career but his time at the top with Bird was well spent. The Celtics hit 50 wins every season with Bird and McHale playing hot and the Celtic also went to three finals (including one victory).

Top Mixed Bigs (SF and C)

Two out of three aint bad.

Larry Bird and Robert Parish from 1981-1987 and 1990-1991 for the Boston Celtics 

  • Larry Bird (SF) – 26672 Minutes Played, 0.372 WP48, 206.5 Wins Produced
  • Robert Parish (C) – 23407 Minutes Played, 0.253 WP48, 123.5 Wins Produced
  • Total – 50079 Minutes Played, 0.316 WP48, 330.1 Wins Produced

The Celtics of the 80s were lucky enough to have a trio of great players. But  before there was the big three it was just Larry Bird and Robert Parish. These two helped the Celtics to 50 wins every season Larry Bird was healthy. They also tacked on three titles for good measure.

Top Two Towers (PF and C)

I intended to keep it at one tandem a category. I ended up making an exception here and we get a tie!

No, you’re a power forward!

Tim Duncan and David Robinson from 1998-2002 for the San Antonio Spurs  

  • Tim Duncan (PF/C) – 14535 Minutes Played, 0.297 WP48, 90 Wins Produced
  • David Robinson (PF/C) – 11243 Minutes Played, 0.298 WP48, 69.9 Wins Produced
  • Total – 25778 Minutes Played, 0.298 WP48, 159.9 Wins Produced

David Robinson waited a long time for his title. As soon as Tim Duncan joined the Spurs these two were a top tandem. Sadly David Robinson was already near the end and faded in 2003. These two managed to start San Antonio’s streak of 50 win seasons (it stands at 12 or 14 if you adjust 1999 season for 82 games). Tack on two titles and these two are the best Front-Court ever assembled.

We’re better than Robinson and Duncan!

Charles Oakley and Patrick Ewing from 1989-1991,1993-1994 and 1997 for the New York Knicks

  • Charles Oakley (PF) – 15574 Minutes Played, 0.226 WP48, 73.2 Wins Produced
  • Patrick Ewing (C) – 18027 Minutes Played, 0.245 WP48, 91.9 Wins Produced
  • Total – 33601 Minutes Played, 0.236 WP48, 165.1 Wins Produced

These two just barely manage to put up a fight against Duncan and Robinson by having six seasons of greatness together (as opposed to five). They had four 50 win seasons and a trip to the finals. Oakley managed to contribute even as he faded by getting Marcus Camby to the Knicks via trade.

Summing Up

Hope you enjoyed the list. . With the exception of Oakley and Ewing vs. Robinson and Duncan the winner was usually clear cut. Still, I’d love to hear any names I may have missed.


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