The term Big-3 has become synonymous with a team’s core trio that helps comprise the nucleus of a team. There have been many Big-3’s throughout the history of the NBA. The Chicago Bulls had a Big-3 of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman. The Los Angeles Lakers had Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Michael Cooper. And the Boston Celtics had Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish. Since those days, there have been a lot of Big-Two’s and a bunch of solo acts, but there has recently been a resurgence of Big-3’s due to stars aligning forces with championship caliber teams or simply friends recruiting friends. Modern players know that the only way to win a championship now-a-days is by collaborating together and joining forces. It is nearly impossible to win a championship today by yourself. You not only need one superstar to help you win, you need two superstars, and an above average supporting cast. This, of course, has led to somewhat of an imbalance in the NBA where the strong get stronger and the weak get weaker, but in the hot pursuit of winning a NBA championship, ring-less veterans know that this is what it is takes to win. The following is a list of the top trio’s in the NBA today. These modern day Big-3 combinations form the foundation and nucleus of their teams. They are the core that their general managers believe will take them to the promised land. Some of them are still in their embryonic stages and have just formed, while others are bit longer in the tooth and even show some signs of gray, but together they form a core that solidifies the culture of a franchise.
10. John Wall, Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza
The Washington Wizards made great strides this year by advancing to the second round of the playoffs and taking the Indiana Pacers to six games. The Wizards have not been to the playoffs since the whole Gilbert Arenas debacle, but this year they were able to make a lot of noise in the NBA with an extreme makeover. After drafting John Wall with the number one pick several years ago, the Wizards continued to place their faith in their talented but raw point guard; they just need to surround him with more talent. So, what do the Wizards do? They draft Bradley Beal who has the second prettiest jumper after Ray Allen and is only 20-years-old, and they bring on veteran wingman Trevor Ariza who is a strong two-way player.
9. Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Mike Conley
If Zach Randolph was not suspended for Game 7 of the first round against the Oklahoma City Thunder and if Mike Conley did not injure his hamstring, it is very possible that the Grizzlies could have beat the Thunder in the first round. Gasol and Randolph arguably form the best frontcourt in the entire NBA and Conley controls the tempo of a basketball game better than most. So, what is not to like? These three are still relatively young and if they can stay together as a unit, the chemistry level and trust levels between them will only continue to grow.
8. Stephen Curry, David Lee, Klay Thompson
Their former head coach – Mark Jackson – said that Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson formed the best shooting backcourt in NBA history, and he may be right. Both Curry and Thompson shoot a superfluous amount of 3-pointers and routinely make most of them. With their 3-point bombs they can beat any team on any given night. They also have David Lee who is a walking double-double. Lee is in the top 3 for most double-doubles almost every season. He scores efficiently and rebounds in traffic despite his lack of size. He is one of the best dirty men in the business.
7. Paul George, Lance Stephenson, David West
You could easily make a case that this trio should be much higher on this list, but they are underachieving more than they are overachieving this season. Additionally, it was hard to determine whether or not to put Roy Hibbert on this list instead of Lance Stephenson, since Hibbert, after all, was the All-Star. However, the tragic nosedive of Hibbert’s game puts him at 3a or even 4 next to Sir Lance-a-Lot. Lance had the most triple-doubles in the NBA this season and does all of the intangibles for the Pacers. Meanwhile, David West is the rock of the team and continues to be the real leader for this team with his toughness and grit. So, if Paul George is able to develop into the superstar that he should be, this team could easily be in the Top 5 where they belong.
6. James Harden, Dwight Howard, Chandler Parsons
James Harden has proven that he can be the number one scorer on a team, but he has also proven that he is atrocious on defense. When Wes Matthews is demanding the ball in the post because Harden is on him, that is not a good look for a superstar. Fortunately, Harden has Dwight Howard looming in the paint for weak side blocks and defensive rebounds. For the most part, Howard had a successful season this year. He was relatively healthy and considering the fact that this was his first time playing with the Rockets, he did relatively well. Also, Chandler Parsons continues to improve all facets of his game with his consistent 3-point shot and perimeter defense.
5. LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard, Nicolas Batum
The Portland Trailblazers surprised everyone this year by making the playoffs. At the beginning of the season, most experts picked the Blazers to fall short of the playoffs, but the young Blazers blazed their way to the playoffs and finished with the 5th seed. In fact, they not only made the playoffs, they upset the Houston Rockets in the 1st round. LaMarcus Aldridge continues to blossom into an offensive force and even made the All-Star team this year. Nicolas Batum is one of the best two-way players in the NBA and may be the closest thing that we have today to Scottie Pippen. And Damian Lillard has become a Top 5 point guard with his clutch shooting, calm and collected poise, and ability to finish in the paint.
4. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan
Head Coach Doc Rivers has not only transformed the image of the Los Angeles Clippers, but he has transformed the game of Clippers center DeAndre Jordan. Jordan has become one of the best rebounding and shot blocking big men in the game. Along with Blake Griffin, he and DeAndre Jordan form the most athletic frontcourt in the NBA. At the head, is Chris Paul who has reminded everyone again this year why he is one of the best point guards in the NBA. The young trio fell short this year, but they have a bright future ahead – that is if they get a new owner.
3. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka
The Oklahoma City Thunder have one of the best Big-3’s in the NBA. They are young, they are athletic, and they may be the core of the Thunder for the next decade. Right now the only problem that the Thunder have is defining their pecking order. Serge Ibaka is clearly third on the list, but where the pecking order gets ambiguous is between Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Durant won the MVP this year, but Westbrook often plays like he is number one on the totem pole. If Russell Westbrook can continue to stay in attack mode, while learning to distribute the ball at the same time, this trio will one day be at the top of this list.
2. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili
The San Antonio Spurs Big-3 is the closest analogy for the way fine wine ages. They may be a bit long in the tooth, but the trio of Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili have the most playoff wins in NBA history. This year, they surpassed Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Michael Cooper with their 111th playoff victory. Between the three of them, they have three championship rings and barely missed out on their fourth championship last year in the Finals. This year, they look poised and ready to make their fifth trip to the Finals on their path to redemption.
1. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh
I hate to say it, but everyone owes LeBron James an apology. Maybe he should not have said what he said when he, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh joined forces, but if you can back-up your cockiness, than you have every right to boast. Since this trio joined forces three years ago, they have made it to the Finals every single season and have won 2 out of their 3 Finals. This season, they look ready to embark on another championship run to the Finals as they continue to fulfill LeBron’s prophecy of not one, not two, not three…but many, many more. If LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh can stay together just a little bit longer, they may be not only one of the best Big-3’s in the modern era, but of all-time.