Big Three Rankings

by September 04, 2008

by Earl K. Sneed

The days of MJ and Scottie are gone. So too are Hakeem and Clyde, as well as Kobe and Shaq. There’s not even a Shaq and Penny duo anymore. Basically, you won’t win a NBA title in this era with two standout stars and adequate role players anymore. As the C’s proved last season, it takes three players bringing different attributes to the table to make a winner.

Assuming that the Celtics have the right model, teams need a vocal big man with defensive vigor and an inside-outside game, an automatic jump shooter that can also operate with the ball in his hands and create his own shot, and an offensive assassin that can explode at will on any given night, at any moment during the game and from anywhere on the court. Granted, not every team can bring together players that are the same caliber as KG, Ray Ray and The Truth, but there are other combinations hoping for the same triumphant conclusion. With the Big Three in Beantown as the blueprint, it is time to rank the league’s best triplets and showcase the up-and-comers and one team headed down the down slope.

Top 10 NBA Big Three’s

1. Boston’s Big Three (KG, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce)

The bar was set high when Danny Ainge put this trio together, by fans, media and the Celtics themselves, but a year later they are undoubtedly the top threesome in the league, and they have the hardware and banner No. 17 to prove it. KG is the force in the middle- both offensively and defensively- making things a lot easier for perimeter players to play to their strengths. Ray Allen still has the prettiest jumper in the league –even when he goes through slumps like in the first two rounds of the playoffs, his j still looked on point when it left his hand- and he still has the ability to get in the lane. (Sasha is still asking: “Which way did he go?”) But the glue that holds the Celtics’ unit together is Paul Pierce. His ability to equal the other team’s best player offensively (see LeBron) and still defend the best opposing perimeter player (ask Kobe) makes him the most valuable of the “Boston Three Party.”

2. San Antonio’s Championship Trio

Championships speak for themselves, and the Spurs have plenty of hardware from the trio of Duncan, Parker and Ginobili. While the supporting cast may change, you know what you’re going to get from these three, even as they age. Despite the injured ankle, Manu will return to this squad at just the right time and they will be ready for another championship push come late Spring. While Duncan doesn’t concentrate on defense as much as he did in the past, his offensive game has not fallen off. Parker can still get in the lane at will, and when healthy, Manu is among the hardest to defend in the league.

3. Lakers Unproven Threesome

While you don’t know exactly what you’re going to get once Bynum returns to the floor, a discussion of the Lakers’ Big Three starts with Kobe, and that gives it a big boast to begin with. Having Pau for training camp and a healthy Bynum makes this a no-brainer. Pushing Lamar Odom to the fourth option will work well for this team, and it is a role that Odom will probably thrive in. The question is will Pau’s grace and skill set (slash softness) mesh well with the traditional power post play of Bynum, and is their a new high post-low post version of the Triangle offense that the Zen Master is waiting to unveil?

4. Rocket’s Unpredictable Manage-A-Trois

On paper, you’d figure that the combination of Ron Artest, T-Mac and Yao would rank higher, but the ever combustible personality of Ron Ron, Yao’s ever-present name on the next injury report and T-Mac’s inability to make it out of the first round of the playoffs before commenting on how great it is to be out of the first round of the playoffs, leaves me with buyer’s remorse until the playoffs arise. If Ronnie can keep from bragging about his “ghetto-ness” (which I hope he never loses his hood factor), Yao can stay on the court and T-Mac treats the playoffs like every other game, then the Rockets could be the best challengers to the Celtics’ title.

5. Upstart Hornets

Maybe David West is only good because he plays with the best young point guard in the league. Maybe without CP3, Tyson Chandler wouldn’t get so many highlight dunks. But when you get the three together, you have an unstoppable floor general that can do whatever he wants on the court, a clutch All-Star knocking down 15-foot jumpers at power forward, and a center that can run the court, is amazing above the rim and is near the top of the league in blocks. What’s best about the Hornets is that they are now proven and they could be together for a while.

6. Detroit’s Combos

You could literally take a combination of players from Detroit to make their case as the best Big Three, but the constant performances of Chauncey, Rip and Rasheed make the play of Tayshaun, Maxiell and Stuckey possible. Sure, Joe D. wanted to split the core of this roster up after repeated conference championship failures, but trading away mainstays of this team would problem not bring you back much value in return. They all get it as a team, and they commit on offense and defense. With the supporting cast that Sheed, Rip and Mr. Big Shot have around them, they should have multiple titles, but if they did then they wouldn’t be No. 6 on this list, now would they?

7. Dallas’ Unbalanced Three

Hall-of-Fame Point Guard at the end of his career, MVP trying to erase memories of choking in the Finals and a former All-Star trying to stay out of the news for drag racing and thoughts of offseason smoking roundtables, doesn’t sound like a recipe for success. The three can still ball, but unless J-Ho can return to All-Star form, J-Kidd gets his legs back and Dirk magically becomes clutch, then the City of Dallas won’t be making any more premature championship parade plans anytime soon.

8. Denver’s Offensive Mind State

A.I., Melo and J.R. can score with the best of them, but until they realize that there is another end of the court, they will never amount to much together. Good thing they have Marcus Camby to play defense behind them. What? What do you mean they traded Camby?

9. Washington’s Wizardry

Like the Nuggets, Washington’s triplets of Arenas, Jamison and Caron Butler can light up any squad for points, but they just don’t have enough of a commitment on defense to muster up making it out of the first round of the playoffs, let alone stop LeBron.

10. Jazzing Things Up

The Jazz don’t need much to go next to D-Will and Boozer, but the sharpshooting compliant of Kyle Korver is a decent fit. But expect Ronnie Brewer to upstage Korver, Mehmet and AK47 as the No.3 option.

The Young and the Promising

Portland’s Future Unit (Take Your Pick)

Should Brandon Roy return from his surgery healthy, as everyone expects, then the Blazers have a potential Big Three in the making that may terrorize the league for a long time to come. The Gentle Giant, Greg Oden, is a more than viable Rookie of the Year candidate after missing last season, and I just keep replaying Rudy Fernandez’s dunk on Dwight Howard over and over again in my head. If not, there’s still Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez waiting to blossom.

Philly’s New look

Elton Brand makes the combination of Iggy and Andre Miller that much better. The 76ers now have a true point guard, a post presence and an emerging young star on the wings. Throw in Thaddeuus Young, and Philly’s Big Three has help.

ATL Shawty!

Al Horford, Joe Johnson and Josh Smith may have shocked everyone by pushing the Celtics to the brink of elimination, but they are as athletic a trio you’ll find at their positions. With Bibby and Marvin Williams beside them, the Hawks are not one hit wonders.

Heating It Up on South Beach

We all know what D-Wade and Shawn Marion can provide, and no they aren’t young, but now we’ll get to see them together for a full season. Add in Michael Beasley and you have a versatile Big Three that should make a lot of highlight reels offensively.

Memphis Stars (Play off Nashville Star, you probably didn’t get it)

The thoughts of what Mike Conley, Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo could become are just scary. But for now, they’re just thoughts.

Has the Sun Set?

There was a time when the thought of teaming Amare Stoudemire and Steve Nash with Shaq would have dejected the hearts of the Western Conference, but after just barely surviving a first round sweep by San Antonio, I don’t think anyone cares.