1 on 1 basketball is one of the most entertaining things to watch if you’re a true hoops fan, and something you probably grew up playing in the backyard against your friends or siblings for years.
Sometimes, vastly skilled NBA players aren’t able to show up and brag about their 1 on 1 skills because they obviously need to focus on team effort and do what’s best for the team, as nobody can win a Championship on his own.
Nonetheless, we occasionally get to watch the greatest players in the world go at each other during isolation sets, especially when one star scores over the other and he just gets desperate to get him back on the other end of the floor.
Today, we’re going to take a look at the top 10 1 on 1 duels we would love to see at the gym, featuring some of the most skilled players in the NBA.
10. Ben Simmons vs. Lonzo Ball
Two of the best rookies in the last couple of years squaring up would be quite interesting to watch, especially because both of them are quite oversized point guards with a lot of crafty moves and both have proven to be living up to the task of leading their teams out of the gate and prove their doubters wrong.
Simmons strength and length would give him the upper hand in this matchup, as well as his ability to finish with both hands and speed to attack the rim, but Lonzo is a much better shooter even though his shooting form is unorthodox to say the least.
We expect this 1 on 1 matchup to get extremely physical, with Simmons constantly trying to post up Lonzo to finish below the rim, while Ball tries to knock down three-pointers to keep up with Simmons strength. In the end, we would expect Simmons to get a 21-18 victory.
9. Karl-Anthony Towns vs. Joel Embiid
This matchup would try to put an end to the “who’s the best young big man in the league” debate, with Karl-Anthony Towns and Joel Embiid going at each other as two of the most offensively skilled centers in the league.
Both players have outstanding footwork, great handles, a lot of range and the ability to create their own shot, but Embiid’s ability to finish through contact and constantly draw fouls would represent a great advantage here.
Also, even though Towns is a terrific shot blocker, he’s not very prolific defending in the post, while Embiid’s footwork down low is already elite, and he’s a much better defender, either in the backcourt or below the rim, so Embiid would take this matchup 21 to 16.
8. DeMarcus Cousins vs. Anthony Davis
We’ve already seen this happen before, but now that they’re teammates and have already learned a lot from each other, this one would be the closest matchup of all of the aforementioned.
Cousins' offensive skill set is slightly superior to Davis’, but the Brow has a clear upper hand when it comes to protecting the rim and establishing position even against top-notch opposition like Boogie.
This one’s set to be a huge nail-biter, but in the end, we’d expect Davis’ defensive dominance to be the main reason why he’s going to be able to escape with a victory against his teammate and friend, knocking him down 21 to 18.
7. Damian Lillard vs. John Wall
Two very similar young point guards are going at each other with this matchup, with both thriving thanks to his speed, handles and sick dribbling abilities, so there’s no clear advantage here for any of them.
Wall is a much better passer and a slightly better defender than Damian Lillard, and he’s obviously one of the fastest players in the league, but Lillard’s shooting stroke and clutchness are among the league’s best as well.
Lillard has unlimited range and can just pull up from anywhere on the court, but Wall’s change of pace and strength could be the X-factor in this 1 on 1 duel, helping him earn a 21 to 19 victory against Dame.
6. James Harden vs. Klay Thompson
James Harden is virtually unstoppable and is one of the most gifted and crafty offensive players in the league, but he’s about to face one of the best backcourt defenders in the world in Golden State’s Klay Thompson.
Both of them are among the league’s leaders in three-point shooting, either in attempts, buckets and shooting average, so we’re definitely in for a treat when this couple of sharpshooters try to outplay the others.
Naturally, Harden’s versatility and ability to create his own shot would give him the upper hand, but considering he’s not much of a defender, Klay could have a field trip shooting from beyond the arc. In the end, we’d expect the Beard to get a 21-17 victory.
5. Giannis Antetokounmpo vs. Kevin Durant
Well, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kevin Durant are also both very similar players, at least at first glance due to their length, speed, wingspan and ability to play and guard all 5 positions on the court with great ease.
Giannis is clearly stronger and more athletic than KD, but Durant has the capacity to connect from everywhere on the floor with his smooth jumper and ability to just create space and shoot over every opponent in the world.
This kind of matchup seems extremely favorable for Durant, not because he’s way better than Giannis, but because of how much of a rim protector he’s become, considering the Greek Freak does most of his damage below the rim. That’s why we’d expect KD to get a 21-15 victory here.
4. Russell Westbrook vs. Stephen Curry
This one’s also quite interesting, with Westbrook being a much better defender and a fastest and more physical player than Curry, although he’s nowhere near to him when it comes to jumping shooting.
Curry would try and make the most of his quick release and ability to shoot off the dribble, but Westbrook can torch him with his great speed, strength and athleticism, bullying him down low and putting him on a poster.
We don’t believe Westbrook is a better player than Curry, but considering his skill set and the fact that he’s always desperate to prove that he is the best player in the world, we’d expect him to school Steph with a 21 to 16 triumph.
3. LeBron James vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Sometimes, when we take a look at Giannis Antetokounmpo, it makes us think of a younger, more athletic version of LeBron James, although the King was a much better shooter than Giannis at that point of his career.
They’re both extremely fast, they’re both dominant post players and they can both just take off from the free throw line and let their opponents on a poster, but James’ handles give him a clear advantage against the Greek Freak.
James can also bully his way into the paint against a much lighter player as Antetokounmpo, but he’s going to have a very tough time trying to beat him, earning a 21 to 19 victory against one of the league’s rising stars.
2. Kyrie Irving vs. Stephen Curry
This debate has been on and on for a couple of campaigns now, and truth to be told, it’s pretty difficult to just settle down for one of them and say any of those guys could beat the other with ease.
Both have the best handles in the world, with Irving being a better dribbler and finisher but Curry being the greatest shooter in the history of basketball, and even a more versatile offensive player than Kyrie, if that’s even possible.
Neither of them is good defenders, but both of them have really quick hands to try and get the steal. For this matchup, we’d expect Kyrie to try and embarrass Steph and jump to an early lead, just to watch Curry outshoot him and get a 21 to 20 victory.
1. LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant
We’ve already witnessed this rivalry a lot of times, as both of them tend to take things on a personal level when they face off against each other, guarding each other on isolation on and on during clutch time.
Durant is a better offensive player overall than James and his repertoire is way more complete, as well as having the upper hand when it comes to rim protection due to his length, although James is also an elite shot blocker.
KD’s shooting makes him a huge threat from everywhere in the court, and he can just hurt you in dozens of different ways, and he’s keen to prove that he’s ready to carry James’ torch, so that’s why we’d expect him to get a 21 to 19 victory here.