Best Frontcourt Duos in the NBA for 2021-22

| October 4, 2021 8:50 am PDT

In today’s NBA, you don’t typically see a dominant frontcourt. Teams have transitioned from two imposing big men to a center and a small-ball, power forward. However, there are still frontcourt duos that have immense talent.

Some of these guys have been together for a few years, while others have never played together. For those that haven’t played together, their talent and potential fit.

With that in mind, let’s check out the best frontcourt duos in the NBA in 2021-22.

5. Zion Williamson & Jonas Valanciunas (New Orleans Pelicans)

This is our lone frontcourt duo on this list that has never played together. The New Orleans Pelicans acquired Jonas Valanciunas in a move to upgrade the center position.

Last season, the Pelicans had Steven Adams alongside Zion Williamson. Adams is a solid player but when you look at the numbers, they aren’t on the same level as Valanciunas.

  Jonas Valanciunas Steven Adams
Points 17.1 7.6
Rebounds 12.5 8.9
Field Goal Percentage 59.2 61.4
Double-Doubles 49 13

When you look at the career numbers, Valanciunas has averaged 12.9 points and 9.2 rebounds. In eight seasons, Adams’ numbers are 7.6 points per game and 8.9 rebounds.

Adding Valanciunas will help the Pelicans, but everyone knows the star of the frontcourt is Williamson.

Williamson came into the NBA with untapped potential. He only played in 24 games his rookie season, but his 22.5 points per game were good enough to earn a spot on the All-Rookie First Team.

Last season, Williamson made his first all-star game. He averaged 27.0 points and 7.2 rebounds on his way to becoming one of the league’s best young players.

New Orleans hasn’t had much success in the Williamson era. In his two seasons, they are a combined 61-83. Is an upgraded frontcourt duo enough to lead New Orleans to the playoffs?

For me, it’s going to come down to how they fit on offense.

Williamson is capable of making shots on the perimeter, but he would rather live in the paint. Surprisingly, Valanciunas attempted more three-pointers than Williamson last season.

With both players favoring the paint, I’m curious to see how the spacing works.

They could even use Williamson as a point forward. He is extremely hard to stop when going downhill, and maybe Valanciunas moves into the corner for an open look on the baseline.

We don’t have much to go off with this duo, but I see some potential.

4. Domantas Sabonis & Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers)

While most teams are moving to a smaller option at power forward, the Indiana Pacers remain committed to their two big guys in the frontcourt. That frontcourt features 6’ 10” Domantas Sabonis and 7’ 0” Myles Turner.

The duo teamed up when the Pacers acquired Sabonis ahead of the 2017-18 season. Originally, both players played center, so they didn’t play together very often.

In 2019, the Pacers moved Sabonis to power forward. He and Turner started in all 62 games that season. Sabonis made his first all-star game while averaging 18.5 points, 12.4 rebounds, and 5.0 assists.

Turner’s numbers remained consistent but he elevated his defense in 2020-21. Despite missing 25 games, he led the league with 3.4 blocks per game. He also averaged 12.6 points and 6.5 rebounds.

Last season, Sabonis earned his second consecutive all-star selection. Check out his numbers from the season.

  • 20.3 points
  • 12.0 rebounds
  • 6.7 assists
  • 1.2 steals
  • 53.5 field goal percentage

Indiana made the playoffs in 2020 before losing in the play-in tournament last season. They have the talent to make it back to the postseason this season. A lot of that talent comes from the frontcourt.

What makes this frontcourt so great is the two players excel in different facets of the game.

Sabonis has a great all-around skill-set that allows him to handle the ball and make precise passes. That’s why he is a top-five power forward in the NBA.

Turner’s main asset is his shot-blocking ability. He has averaged at least two blocks in four of his six seasons. Then, there’s also the fact that he can step out and shoot from beyond the arc. He has shot over 33 percent from three-point range in four straight seasons.

This frontcourt has what it takes to lead Indiana to the playoffs.

3. John Collins & Clint Capela (Atlanta Hawks)

When you talk about the Atlanta Hawks, everyone wants to discuss Trae Young and his star power. However, their frontcourt is a very underrated aspect of their team.

Capela spent the first six seasons of his career with the Houston Rockets. Despite being undersized (6’ 10”) for a center, we’ve seen Capela develop into one of the best rebounders in the league.

In his first season with the Hawks, he led the NBA with 14.3 rebounds per game. He also set a career-high with 2.0 blocks per game.

While Capela is the type of player who lives in the paint, John Collins is a versatile player that can contribute in a multitude of ways.

Collins played three seasons without Capela. His production increased over time, capping out at 21.6 points and 10.1 rebounds in 2019-20. It’s not surprising to hear Collins’ rebounds dropped to 7.4 per game last season.

While his playing time dropped, his shooting numbers remained efficient.

  • 55.6 field goal percentage
  • 39.9 three-point percentage
  • 83.3 free throw percentage

I feel like no one talks about that aspect of his game. Everyone knows about his athleticism and dunking ability but he is a great shooter.

He shot 40.1 percent from three-point range in 2019-20 and has never shot below 55 percent from the field in a season. That shooting ability allows Atlanta to space the floor with the duo.

Just like we mentioned with the Indiana Pacers duo, the Hawks duo is a great fit because they excel in different areas of the game.

We just talked about Collins’ athleticism and shooting ability, but his defense has room for improvement. Capela has established himself as an elite defender.

After reaching the Eastern Conference Finals last season, Atlanta has high expectations going into this season, and Capela and Collins will play a big role in their success.

2. Michael Porter Jr. & Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets)

We couldn’t talk about the best frontcourts without including the one that featured the 2021 MVP.

Truthfully, I may be cheating a little with this one because Michael Porter Jr. did play a lot of small forward last season. However, we saw him play the power forward positions in small-ball lineups, and I expect that to increase with Paul Millsap leaving in free agency.

Nikola Jokic has been in the NBA for six years, but this duo has only played two seasons together.

Over his first four seasons, Jokic steadily improved and made the All-NBA First Team and all-star team in his fourth season (2018-19). In his first season with Porter, we didn’t see his numbers change that much. However, both players had a big 2020-21 season.

  Nikola Jokic Michael Porter Jr.
Points 26.4 19.0
Rebounds 10.8 7.3
Assists 8.3 1.1
Field Goal Percentage 56.6 54.2
Three-Point Percentage 38.8 44.5

We’ve seen Jokic play at an All-NBA level, so the improvement isn’t the most surprising thing. With Porter, he averaged 9.3 points and 4.7 rebounds in his rookie season.

The Denver Nuggets have finished third in the Western Conference in each of the last two seasons. They made the Western Conference Finals in 2020. The talent level is there but can this duo allow them to take the next step?

Denver will face some adversity early in the season without Jamal Murray. We know Jokic will keep his role, but Porter will have to step up as the second star. Considering how well he played last season, I think he can handle it.

Both players are expectational on the offensive end. They can both score at will and shoot the ball at a high clip. That’s why the Nuggets are so hard to stop.

When the Nuggets move into their small-ball lineup, this duo will be tough to beat.

1. Tobias Harris & Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers)

This frontcourt duo is the epitome of a changing league. In the 1990s, there’s no way someone like Tobias Harris would play power forward. He is only 6’ 8” and wouldn’t have had the physicality to play down low.

When Joel Embiid came into the NBA, he wasn’t a three-point shooter. Last season, he shot 37.7 percent from beyond the arc.

Because the modern-day NBA values shooting and athleticism from the frontcourt, the Philadelphia 76ers have the best duo in the league.

Harris played for four teams before joining the 76ers midway through the 2018-19 season. He and Embiid have played just two full seasons together. In that time, we’ve seen both players play some of the best basketball of their career.

Let’s look at their cumulative numbers from the last two seasons.

  Joel Embiid Tobias Harris
Points 25.8 19.6
Rebounds 11.1 6.9
Assists 2.9 3.4
Field Goal Percentage 49.5 49.2
Three-Point Percentage 35.4 38.1

Embiid made the all-star team in both seasons and made the All-NBA Second Team last season. Had he not missed 21 games, there’s a good chance he would’ve won MVP.

Individually, both players perform at a high level. Last season, we saw their success play a big factor in the team’s record.

Philadelphia had the best record in the Eastern Conference. They looked like a legit championship contender until they blew it in the Conference Semifinals.

There is essentially no chance Ben Simmons will return to Philadelphia. Because of that, we’ll likely see Embiid and Harris take on a bigger role this season. As much heat as Simmons received, he is still one of the game’s best defenders.

Harris can fill Simmons’ void on the offensive end. He obviously has more shooting and can drive to the bucket and hit shots on the post. Embiid isn’t as strong of an on-ball defender, but he is an imposing player in the paint.

It’s on these guys to lead Philadelphia to a championship.

Other Top Frontcourt Duos in the NBA for 2021-22

  • Anthony Davis & Dwight Howard (Los Angeles Lakers)
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo & Brook Lopez (Milwaukee Bucks)

Dwight Howard is back with the Los Angeles Lakers after a season with the Philadelphia 76ers. He is past his prime, but he is still a capable rebounder and shot blocker. Anthony Davis struggled last season but everyone knows he is one of the league’s best big men.

Once known as an interior scorer, Brook Lopez has completely changed his game to become a shot-up shooter. He has shot over 30.0 percent from three-point range in each of the last five seasons. Meanwhile, Antetokounmpo’s resume speaks for itself. He makes up 90 percent of this duo.

The NBA has certainly changed over the last 20 years. We’re no longer seeing two big men in the paint. In turn, there are only a few elite frontcourts in the league.

It’s only a matter of time before the NBA season begins. You can prepare by checking out my top point guards and shooting guards in the NBA.

Nicholas Sterling

Nicholas has been a Sports Writer with since May 2021. He has a rich sports background, writing about NASCAR, NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, Golf, etc. Nick is always ready for a new challenge.

He enjoys rooting on D.C. sports teams, including the Commanders, Wizards, and Capitals.

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