Someone was talking about one-two punches in the NBA yesterday, then Mike Bibby and Ron Artest come out and throw up 64 (on 38 shots, by the way). Ron-Ron dumps in eight boards and six assists (and terrifying defense on Rashard Lewis). Bibby pulls out eight assists to two turnovers, even in foul trouble. It's a profile I can definitely deal with.
I don't think Ron-Ron/MB10 is a top five 1-2 punch yet. The talk must begin at Flash&Shaq. Billups and Rip deserve a look (even though Rasheed is ultra-valuable to that equation). Nash and Marion is a no-brainer, until Amare is back in a jersey. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison, AI and CWebb, Kidd and Carter, Brand and Maggette, Shuttlesworth and Lewis - all at least compete with Ron-Ron/MB10.
All this talk ties in a bit with Dennis Gallagher's recent piece on 82games.com regarding star players and championships. Gallagher argues that a team needs two proven stars (top 25 players, based on past awards) to have a good shot at winning a title. The data looks good, though relying on subjective award choices (especially defensive player of the year and All-NBA picks) to make roster decisions seems rather unprogressive.
The best thing about Gallagher's article is that he identifies the top defenders in the league as stars. Ron-Ron and Ben Wallace are both considered 'top tier' players in Gallagher's system, and Bruce Bowen, Larry Hughes and Gary Payton all make the second-tier team. (I don't think The Glove actually belongs in this group - perhaps the four-year window for recognition is a bit leniant. A Payton All-NBA 2nd team selection in 2002 means little now.) Recognizing the stacked deck great defenders give their team when it comes to winning hasn't even begun to be broached, but it's obviously important when you look at San Antonio and Detroit and their championship banners.
Regardless, I think a youngish Bibby and a younger Artest give the Kings a great offensive tandem, and half of a great defensive tandem. Brad Miller might compete with Rasheed Wallace and Manu Ginobili as the best offensive third banana in the league. Kenny Thomas is a solid role player, and fits a very specific need perfectly. You'd like one of Brad and Kenny to be a stronger inside presence, but you can live with the team defense the Kings are currently playing. Kevin and Francisco at the wing is promising - one as a Quentin Richardson clone with the attitude or back problems, the other as a jack-of-all-trades role-playing defender.
Things look good, as long as Bibby and Artest continue to develop into great players. I don't Mike will ever average more than 22 points a game, and a effective field goal percentage of 50% is about tops for him. His shot selection (and, as always, defense) should move towards improvement, though, as the other pieces prove themselves. Artest could easily become a 25 ppg guy - he just needs his touch to get more consistent, and in the mean time stop relying on the three-ball.
If both players do that and stay out of trouble, we could have the next great 1-2 punch on our hands.