Help-Side Column: Who has the best one-two punch of the Basketball Champions League?
ZAGREB (Croatia) - We're almost halfway through the Regular Season in the Basketball Champions League, and it's getting easier to recognize the shapes and strengths of teams around the continent.
This time around, we're focusing on the dynamic duos, the tandems, the one-two punches, the yins and the yangs, the SpongeBobs and the Patricks, the Tom Hankses and the Wilson balls, the Berts and Ernies, the Marios and the Luigis, the Magnums and the Higginses. Too complicated for you? Okay, let me make it crystal clear.
Which of these teammates do you see dancing along to Bill Withers' all time classic?
Don't get mad, yet
See, just like any kind of voting system that we put together, this one will have a lot of fans going just "I'll vote for them, they are my favorite team." Meaning, a lot of people will be upset there is no Galatasaray duo to offer here. Meaning, people getting mad. But just do what my wife does, please - hear me out first, get mad later.
Galatasaray are 1-2 and... Well, that's it. They are 1-2, they lost by a bunch of points to Tenerife and Sassari, right now they don't seem to have the best one-two punch of the group, let alone the League. So, are you really worried about Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine if the Chicago Bulls aren't even making the Play-Offs? Are you thinking "oh God, how do we stop LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan" or are you more concerned about those LeBron James/Anthony Davis; Nikola Jokic/Jamal Murray; Damian Lillard/CJ McCollum pairings?
Okay, hopefully that made it clearer.
Don't get mad, yet, yet
The other part of the exclusion is for the teams playing really good basketball. Like, let's take Brose Bamberg. I can't let you vote on your favorite one-two punch of Brose Bamberg when they are a one-two-three-four punch with Larson, Lockhart, Fieler, Kravish combination. It's not like you're going into a matchup with Bamberg and you just focus on two guys - they do their own thing of putting together a whole lot of blue collars, and letting the artists do their thing within the system.
Same goes for Casademont Zaragoza. ERA Nymburk. Tsmoki-Minsk are more of a Big Three threat with Rob Lowery, Kris Clyburn and Maksim Salash. SIG Strasbourg have five different players who could beat you. Limoges, Igokea, Oostende... You get it by now.
Thing is, it's a fine line between a dynamic duo and an all-round team. But it's my column so I get to bend the line as much as I want. It's okay to get mad now. We proceed to the ten Warren G feat Nate Dogg finalists of this poll.
(Don't tell me you don't know about Warren G and Nate Dogg.)
Keith Langford and Yanick Moreira (AEK)
Sure, AEK are loaded, they have a deep team, any one of their 30+ year-olds could destroy you. But you remove Keith Langford and Yanick Moreira from that team, and their whole offensive and defensive scheme has to change. AEK are 3-0, with some added fuel to the fire because they lost the Final in 2020. Both of them average more than 17 points in less than 24 minutes per game.
D'Angelo Harrison and Darius Thompson (Happy Casa Brindisi)
There's a reason why Happy Casa Brindisi are 9-1 in the Italian League so far. There's a reason why they score in bunches, like the 58 they had at the half against Filou Oostende in Belgium. The reason is the pace that Darius Thompson gives them, the engine behind everything they do, the silent killer who'll have a stat line of 15 and 8 and you won't even notice it. Unless he detonates a bomb or two above the rim. Oh, and now he's got a certified scorer next to him in D'Angelo Harrison. Brindisi are a bomb this season.
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Kyle Allman and Michale Kyser (VEF Riga)
I love you, VEF Riga. I'm not even ashamed to admit it.
DJ Kennedy and Amath M'Baye (Pinar Karsiyaka)
This one is completely by feel. I have no reason to select these two other than the fact that both of them always felt like leaders on the floor, always felt like their contribution is not completely shown in (impressive) stats. You give me a team and a couple of euros, I'm starting by calling DJ and/or Amath. And asking them to obviously take a gigantic pay cut because I doubt they would play for me for one euro each.
Sam Wiltjer and Kyle Dekker (Turk Telekom)
These two go so well together that you didn't even notice I mixed up their names and last names in the headline.
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Tamir Blatt and TaShawn Thomas (Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem)
Let's all say it out loud now. Tamir Blatt had a slow season in 2019-20. But it seems that the break suited him perfectly, because we are now witnessing the best Tamir Blatt ever, not just because of his league-leading 11.0 assists per game, but also because he played like a superstar for Israel in the FIBA EuroBasket 2022 Qualifiers in Spain. And one of the reasons why Tamir averages 11 assists per game is because TaShawn Thomas is probably the best finisher around the rim we've ever seen in this competition.
Vitor Benite and Thaddus McFadden (Hereda San Pablo Burgos)
So, you could argue that Jasiel Rivero is currently the best player of Burgos. You could argue that Alex Renfroe and Omar Cook are the tandem to fear over there. But you could also go and watch what Benite and McFadden did against Darussafaka on Wednesday. Vitor came off the bench, hit three straight triples just like that, put up 16 points in 12 minutes of play in the first half. And in the second half, Thad McFadden had four straight triples in four straight possessions. This is the thing, you may think you're close to Burgos, but Benite and McFadden bombs are what sends the game to +30 in a blink of an eye.
Marco Spissu and Miro Bilan (Dinamo Sassari)
All-European duo here. Also, I'm giving the point guard from Sassari and the center from Sibenik, Croatia, my vote. Don't tell anyone. Both of them were excellent for their national teams over the break.