To win an NBA championship in this era, a franchise must have at least one superstar on their roster... scratch that, at least two superstars on their roster. Oh who are we kidding? Realistically a team needs at least three bonafide stars on their roster to have any chance of competing for an NBA title in this new era of NBA basketball. Hence where the coined term of needing a "Big 3" came from. The Big 3 is the new gold standard for NBA rosters and all teams should strive to form their own version, when possible.
Let's get one thing straight right now: LeBron James did not start the "Big 3" or the "superteam" trend. It was the Boston Celtics. In the summer of 2007, Boston went from being a single star team (Paul Pierce) into a stacked Big 3 team when they traded for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, both of whom were perennial all-stars by this time in their careers. The three-headed monster of Pierce, Allen, and Garnett immediately ascended to the NBA's throne by winning the 2008 NBA Championship. In 2010, LeBron followed the successful Boston blue-print when he joined forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh down in South Beach. That trio went to four straight NBA finals, winning two of them. Lebron now has a Big-3 in Cleveland, Golden State has a Big-4 (although they developed mostly drafted talent, making theirs a much more cost effective version), and even the Los Angeles Clippers have a poor-mans version of a Big-3.
Given the success of these Big-3's or "super-teams," it's no surprise that every NBA franchise is always looking for ways to start their own. This article looks at 15 teams that could foreseeably create a new Big-3 and begin a power shift in their respective conference. It won't be easy, but here's how it could happen for these fortunate franchises.
15 Boston Celtics
Big-3: Thomas, George, & Hayward
Let's get this list started with the originators of the modern Big-3 trend, the Boston Celtics. The Celtics are easily the second best team in the Eastern Conference behind the Cleveland Cavaliers, but will not be able to make that leap to the East's best team without forming a legitimate Big-3. They have one of last seasons MVP candidates already on their roster in Isaiah Thomas, along with the aging yet reliable Al Horford. But after that, there's a lot to be desired for their roster. So who forms their new Big-3?
There has been endless speculation about the possibility of the Celtics signing Gordon Hayward as a marquee free agent this off-season. This signing makes a lot of sense given their current roster layout and the fact that Hayward would be reunited with his former Butler coach, Brad Stevens. But if Boston wants to finally get past Lebron, they will need to put together a package of future draft picks (which they have plenty of) and either Marcus Smart or Jaylen Brown in an effort to acquire Paul George as well. A big-3 of Thomas, George, and Hayward would be a serious threat in the East.
14 Oklahoma City Thunder
Big-3: Westbrook, Griffin, & Gay
The Thunder have the reigning league MVP in Russell Westbrook and not much else. Part of the reason why Westbrook was the MVP this past season was because he literally had to do everything for the Thunder to get them into the playoffs, an impressive feat in its own right. It was clear in the playoffs though that Westbrook needs help if he ever wants to add a Championship ring to his collection of awards.
The Thunder can't expect Kevin Durant to come back and redeem himself with the franchise the way Lebron did after leaving Cleveland, so rule that out immediately. There is one superstar free agent that would fit perfectly with the Thunder and that is Blake Griffin. Griffin is from the Oklahoma area and played his college ball at Oklahoma. Throw in a two way player on the wing like Rudy Gay and you have the ultimate highlight reel squad. I actually really hope this one happens.
13 San Antonio Spurs
Big-3: Leonard, Aldridge, & Paul
The San Antonio Spurs had their own, lesser version of a Big-3 for a long time when Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili were all in their prime. That trio brought multiple titles to Texas and were a constant stalwart atop the Western Conference rankings. Nowadays, the Spurs are still very close to having a Big-3 given the fact that they found an absolute gem when the drafted Kawhaii Leonard out of San Diego State Universtiy. Leonard has developed into one of the NBA's best all-around players and will be an MVP candidate for the next decade or so.
The Spurs also have Lamarcus Aldridge on the roster and despite the obvious regression in his play during the 2017 playoffs, Aldridge is still a star. While Tony Parker has not yet signaled whether he will return or retire this offseason, it would be in the Spurs interest to form the last piece of their Big-3 by upgrading the point-guard position. Enter the first potential landing spot for Chris Paul. If Chris Paul really wants to win a championship, his best shot may be forming an alliance with Leonard, Aldridge, and Coach Greg Popovich in San Antonio. This would be a great fit and would ultimately keep the Spurs in contention for several more seasons.
12 Phoenix Suns
Big-3: Booker, Griffin, & Jordan
What was once a very proud NBA franchise (did you know the Suns have the 4th best all-time winning percentage in the NBA?) has hit rock-bottom in recent years and forced to finally do a full-on rebuild of their roster. While the losses of have piled up for the Suns over the past several seasons, it has allowed them to re-stock their roster with exciting young players. In fact, four of the Suns best players cannot even drink legally yet in Devin Booker (age 20), Marquese Chriss (19), Josh Jackson (20) and Dragan Bender (19).
All signs point to Booker being the next supreme offensive weapon in the NBA. He scored 70 points in a game against Boston last season and is third all-time for points scored before the age of 21, trailing only Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, and Lebron James. The kid is a superstar in the making. If the Suns want to forego the rebuild and win now, they could push hard for both Los Angeles Clippers big men by signing Blake Griffin as a free agent and making a trade for DeAndre Jordan. Booker, Griffin, and Jordan combined with the rest of the Suns young core could be a force out West.
11 New Orleans Pelicans
Big-3: Cousins, Davis, & Paul
The Pelicans were all the rave at the all-star break last season when they made the block-buster trade for disgruntled star DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins is one of the games most dominant big men when it comes to talent, but he also one of the NBA's biggest headaches. Cousins was never successful enough to carry Sacramento to the playoffs on his own, but he won't have to worry about that now that he is paired with Anthony Davis (aka "The Brow") in New Orleans.
With the two best big men on the same team, somebody has to be able to facilitate the offense and feed them with easy buckets. Enter Chris Paul. This may be an even better fit for Paul then the previously mentioned Spurs roster. With Cousins and Davis on the court, Paul would be free to run countless pick and rolls in which he would absolutely pick apart opposing defenses. It would also be a homecoming of sorts for Paul as he returns to the Charlotte area. A Big-3 of Paul, Cousins, and Davis is something that needs to happen and would make a playoff series against Golden State a lot more intriguing.
10 Los Angeles Lakers
Big-3: George, Lopez, & Ball
The Los Angeles Lakers are like the New York Yankees of basketball. They have the largest fanbase, celebrities are always commonplace at their games, and they attract some of the games best talents. The current Lakers roster is terrible, but is filled with potential. For fear of being subjected to the rath of Lavar Ball, we will go ahead and consider Lakers first round pick Lonzo Ball a star in the league. He is already a star, but whether his play can back it up is to be determined.
Still, Ball is the face of the Lakers franchise for the next decade. The Lakers also recently added all-star big man Robin Lopez to shore up their center position. The final addition would be trading for Paul George who has said numerous times that he plans on signing with the Lakers in 2018 anyways. The Lakers could expedite this process by trading a package of picks and either Brandon Ingram or Julius Randle to the Pacers for George. If they could pull it off, the new Lakeshow would be well on its way.
Let's even jump ahead a year.. The rumors have kept swirling that LeBron may be headed to L.A. and ESPN has reported LeBron has ruled out the Clippers. That leaves the Lakers as a heavy favorite. If George isn't traded to L.A. he'll definitely sign there next summer, leaving this as a very likely big 3.
9 Houston Rockets
Big-3: Harden, Love, and Jordan
The Rockets are a talented group designed around Mike D'Antoni's fast paced offense. Harden is the conductor of the offense and is a player who thrives with the ball in his hands. His game has risen to an all-NBA level and it won't be long before he has his own MVP trophy to add to his shelf. But like all teams not named the Warriors, the Rockets need some more help to advance out of the Western Conference.
Word has been out that the Rockets will go after Chris Paul, but this is not a great fit because of the fact that Harden needs the ball in his hands to unleash his full game. One fit would be Kevin Love who they could possibly get for one of their outstanding bench guards (Eric Gordon or Lou Williams). If they could give up a couple future picks to acquire an athletic center like DeAndre Jordan to help shore their shoddy defense but still get out in transition, they should do it.
8 Portland Trail Blazers
Big-3: Lillard, McCollum, & Monroe
Damien Lillard and C.J. McCollum create one of the most feared backcourt tandems in all of the NBA, but it hasn't been enough for the Trail Blazers to get over the hump and make a deep run in the playoffs. As good as those two are, it is evident that they need further support if they want to become a true threat in the Western Conference. It would be ideal for Portland to land another big man to pair with their elite guards.
Fortunately for the Trail Blazers there have been many rumors that Greg Monroe's time in Milwaukee could be coming to an end and if that is the case, Portland should be all over him. Although Monroe has never fully lived up to his draft hype, he does have solid career averages of 14 points and 9 rebounds per game. In Portland, Monroe would be tasked with providing a defense presence and gathering up as many rebounds as possible. Monroe can play power foward next to Jusuf Nurkic and give the Trail Blazers a two-man punch in both the backcourt and frontcourt. This would be a great fit for both parties.
7 Washington Wizards
Big-3: Wall, Beal, & George
If Damien Lillard and CJ McCollum create one of the most feared backcourt tandems in the NBA, then John Wall and Bradley Beal create the most feared backcourt tandem in the NBA. The Washington Wizards made some serious noise last season during their surprising run in the playoffs, mostly thanks to the heroics of Wall and Beal. But who could help get the Wizards over the hump next season?
Well according to John Wall, that person would be Paul George. Wall has stated that he is going to do his best to convince George to join the Wizards to help create one of the more high powered offenses in the league. While George seems to be set on playing in Los Angeles in 2018, if Wall can convince him to sign an extension with the Wizards then the team should do everything in it's power to facilitate a trade with the Pacers. If Wall can help pull this off, he would be both an on court and off court hero in Washington.
6 Dallas Mavericks
Big-3: Nowitzki, Jordan, & Lowry
The 2017-18 season will likely be Dirk Nowitzki's final hurrah. While the Mavericks appear to be on the brink of a major rebuild, it's well within the realm of reality to see Mark Cuban going full rambo GM in effort to salvage Nowitzki's final season and return the Mavericks to the playoffs. Not saying this would be wise, but it's the ultra-competitive Mark Cuban we are talking about so it's definitely possible.
The Mavericks have some exciting young pieces but if they can get a hold of DeAndre Jordan, they would surely take it. Jordan is like the girl who left Cuban standing at the alter (i.e., Jordan burned the Mavericks in free agency just two seasons ago) and as much as Cuban knows he should move on, he just can't stop thinking about her. Cuban could then try to convince Kyle Lowry to lead the Mavericks for a few seasons while mentoring first round pick Dennis Smith, Jr. This one is a long shot and would set the Mavericks back a decade, but it's Mark Cuban and he loves drama.
5 Miami Heat
Big-3: Whiteside, Anthony, & Dragic
Pat Riley hates to lose, so it's safe to assume that he will make some moves in order to ensure the Heat return to the playoffs in 2018. After years of having the best Big-3 in the league (Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh), the Heat now have an intriguing mix of young players to build around with center Hassan Whiteside being the focal point. Point guard Goran Dragic is still a stud, but he's getting older so the time is ticking in South Beach.
With the point guard and center positions taken care of, Miami could use more firepower in their offense. One name that could be of interest to the Heat: Carmelo Anthony. Although he's drawn the wrath of the Knicks fanbase, Anthony can still score with the best of them and would provide the Heat with a true crunch-time scorer. The Heat have already traded many of their upcoming future draft picks so they don't have much to lose by having a win-now attitude. Pair Anthony with Dragic and Whiteside and the Heat are all but guaranteed a playoff spot in the weak Eastern Conference.
4 Memphis Grizzlies
Big-3: Conley, Gasol, Gay
Between Mike Conley, Jr. and Marc Gasol, the Memphis Grizzlies have one of the best two-man games in the league. Seriously, their pick and roll is so fundamentally sound that it is beautiful basketball to watch. The Grizzlies have been one of the tougher teams in the Western Conference in this decade and thought they were creating a big-3 when they signed Chandler Parsons to a max-deal last summer. That move has backfired so far and Parsons was so bad that the team might want to consider moving on from him altogether.
But what NBA star fits the Grizzlies "grindhouse" personality? It's true, the Grizzlies are mean, defensive, and play an old-school style of ball. They absolutely need more scoring help from their wings though if they want to remain a factor in the Western Conference. A player the city would love to welcome back would be Rudy Gay, who played for Memphis in his first seven NBA seasons. Gay is a perfect fit for this team and would help provide a needed lift on offense as Gay has averaged nearly 20 points per game for his career. It's a great fit and solid homecoming.
3 Cleveland Cavaliers
Big-3: James, Irving, & George
Yes, I know that the Cavaliers already have a big-3 in LeBron, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love. Unfortunately (and incredibly), that much talent was not enough to get the job done in 2017 and it wasn't even that close to be honest. That is a testament to how good Golden State is, not how bad Cleveland is. But knowing Lebron and Dan Gilbert, the Cavaliers will not be content with finishing in second place.
The rumor mill has been buzzing all offseason that Cleveland would try to lure Paul George out of Indiana. If that's possible, the Cavaliers brass feels confident that Lebron could convince George to stay in Cleveland long-term and compete for numerous titles. George would give the Cavaliers a serious mismatch against most NBA teams and would make another finals rematch much more dramatic (at least on paper). Even if it's just for one season, it would be a lot of fun to watch Kyrie, Lebron, and George on the same team.
2 Charlotte Hornets
Big-3: Walker, Howard, & Milsap
Kemba Walker has developed into one of the most offensively gifted point guards in the NBA, averaging close to 24 points per contest last season. Walker is also shown a knack for making big buckets during crunch-time, a skill he developed while playing in college at Connecticut. The Hornets also just recently traded for big man Dwight Howard. Although Howard has faded since his early superman years, he is still fully capable of playing at an elite level.
With the always underrated Nicholas Batum at the small forward position, it would be beneficial for the Hornets to look for at least one more big piece in order to make a serious playoff push. With Jordan as the owner, it's easy to imagine Jordan Brand sponsored players Chris Paul or Carmelo Anthony joining the Hornets, but realistically the team should make a push for free-agent Paul Milsap. Milsap is a great competitor and has made four straight all-star games. Every great playoff team needs an all-around player and grinder like Milsap. This would be an underrated, yet stellar signing.
1 *Minnesota Timberwolves
Big-3: Butler, Towns, Wiggins
This is not something that the Timberwolves should do, this is more of an ode to what the Timberwolves have already accomplished this offseason. Yes, the Timberwolves have a big-3. You can argue that Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins are not established superstars yet, but it's undeniable that both are on the fringe of being some of the NBA's best. It's arguable that Towns, Wiggins, and Ricky Rubio could be considered a big-3 in the next two seasons. But when the Timberwolves traded for Jimmy Butler, it solidified the Timberwolves as a new power in the West.
This team could be scary good. If Wiggins and Towns continue to mature (physically and mentally), then this team will be a top four or five team in the West next season. If those two don't continue to mature, you can bet that Jimmy Butler will lite a fire under them given his uber-competitive nature. Look out Western Conference (except you Warriors, you have nothing to worry about).