Valuing an NBA “Big Three”

The sports media is often unfair and cruel on this subject when discussing a big three unit of the National Basketball Association.

By experience, the sports pundits have more discussions on who is the most potent force in a Big Three than analyzing how great they are as a collective unit.

Who is the best player in a trio is often a subject of hotly contested debates. Just pause for a moment and observe how these topics dominate sports articles and debates on Big threes:

Lebron is the strongest of the Miami Trio even if it was supposed to be Dwayne Wade’s team. Kevin Garnett is more valuable to the Boston Triad even if it was supposed to be Paul Pierce’s team. If one is forced to let go of one among Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson or Kevin Durant, who would it be?

Other instances often point who is the weakest link in the trio.

Chris Bosh is often maligned as the weakest ingredient of the Miami Big Three when in fact he was very instrumental in the Miami Championship run (Who lured the Big Ticket, the paint protector of the Celtics, to chase the three point line during the early days of the Miami trio?), Ray Allen of the Boston Big Three (Will a coach be willing to leave this guy open even for a fraction of a second?) and Manu Ginobili of the Spurs’ Big Three (Seriously, he once killed a flying bat with his bare hands flying over the hardcourt.).

Dennis Rodman is not even in some conversations about the Bulls’ clearly trio during their second three-peat run. Ditto to James Worthy of the 80’s Lakers and Andrew Bynum of the Kobe era Lakers.

There had been just a trickle of discussions on how great a trio is collectively compared with the above.

In a way, I felt these “breaking it down” and “individualizing the group” analyses are out of line. They are called Big Three because they are a group and they should be treated as one.

I find it amusing when one would say Kobe finally won a championship on his own when the Lakers got one after the Shaq-Kobe era.

Kobe certainly did much of the damage to opponents after the Big diesel left but also certainly did not do it alone! A huge chunk of the success can be attributed to the Lakers pulling off a heist by swapping Kwame Brown for Pau Gasol. The statement would be more appropriate had Kobe got a championship with Brown instead of Gasol. But seriously, it would be highly doubtful if that would ever happen. Kobe may not have one without a teammate of similar capabilities to that of Gasol.

Michael Jordan was clearly the Alpha male in the fabled Bulls line-up and was clearly the main reason why the Bulls had the six championships during the 90’s and Scottie Pippen was the clear second fiddle but they probably would not have the second three-peat without the Worm. Having Rodman in their line-up during the couple of Utah series was certainly a key factor in the duel.

Had Malone not faced anybody in the Bulls line-up who can stop his massive frame from marching towards the basket with impunity, the Utah Jazz might have already won their first championship. That might be the same in the case of Shawn Kemp and the Seattle Supersonics.

Rodman’s belonging to the tiny group of guys who clearly has the physical capability to neutralize a Karl Malone or a Shawn Kemp was way, way underappreciated.

Bottomline, Big Threes should be taken collectively rather than individually.

Watching supposedly weakest link Kevin Love of the Cleveland trio drop 34 in the first quarter against the Portland Trailblazers last November 23 and another supposedly inferior member Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors erupt for 60 points in just 29 minutes against the Indiana Pacers last December 6 got me more firm about my stance on Big Threes.

Oh, by the way, these numbers aren’t just great, they are all-time NBA records. Thompson’s 60 points are the most points scored by a player ever under 30 minutes since the shot clock has been implemented. Love’s 34 is the highest point total scored by a player ever in the first quarter. It is only second to the all-time high in a quarter of 37, which is incidentally owned by Thompson when he dropped 37 in the third quarter of their match against the Sacramento Kings last January 23, 2015.

These feats prove it would be a disservice to them when Big Three components are being compared against each other. Each component brings something to the table that makes the entire unit click to greater heights.

It may not even be tangible things like statistics. The mere presence of a member, whether on offense (I believe Ray Allen’s presence on the floor is what he contributes the most. He cannot be left alone at all times. This instance would probably confirm this: Give the Heat one championship and take away one from the Spurs because Ginobili left him to track a rebound but the entire Spurs unit had to pay because that small room for an opening resulted to a clutch trey during game six of the 2013 NBA finals that kept the Heat’s chances alive) or on defense (like how Rodman collar defensive rebounds and interceptions to give the Bulls more possessions, Garnett towering over the paint for the Celtics or DeAndre Jordan lurking to swat shots for today’s Clippers trio), might be enough to make opponents cover for fear.

Sometimes, weakest links are the most valuable assets to a trio because they are the ones sacrificing decreases in the individual tangible stats in exchange for the increase in the intangible chances of winning games.

Not every member of a trio could become highest statistical producers for their team, you know.



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