To be successful in today's NBA, teams need to have a Big 3. While it's a very subjective term, in essence, a Big 3 consists of three ballers, at any position, who are playing at an All-Star caliber level. The Celtics possessed the original Big 3 back in the '80s with Bird, McHale, and Parish, in which they made five Finals appearances, and took home three NBA Championships. The idea became re-popularized a decade ago, when Boston brought in Garnett, Allen, and Pierce, leading the C's to a title in 2008. Some recent trios were Duncan, Ginobli, and Parker in San Antonio, James, Wade, and Bosh in Miami and James, Love, and Irving in Cleveland.
Although the term used to be reserved for the best of the best, every franchise is now seeking out the next Big 3. In a league restricted by salary caps, it's hard to maintain the team's core players for an extended period of time. We will take a look at some current Big 3s across the league, and determine their future. On the other hand, it's important to look from a GM's perspective, and figure out the Big 3s of the future. Get ready for 8 NBA Big 3s that will be formed this summer, and 7 that will split up.
15 Formed: DeAndre Jordan, Damian Lillard, & C.J. McCollum (Portland Trail Blazers)
There is no doubting that Lillard and McCollum are one of the best guard duos in today's NBA, but they lack a big threat down low to secure the paint. In order to thrive in a strong Western Conference, the Portland Trail Blazers need to bring in some strength to their frontcourt, because their current center, Jusuf Nurkic, isn't cutting it. That's where "DeAndre the Giant" comes in!
The Clippers big man has made it clear that he wants out in post-CP3 LA. He hired super agent, Jeff Schwartz, to represent him this season, after going two years without an agent. The Bucks seem interested in the All-Star center, but we think his high-flying capabilities would be utilized better in Rip City. Plus, there were talks back in 2013, before Rivers arrived in L.A., that would have sent Jordan to Portland!
14 Split: Kawhi Leonard, Pau Gasol & LaMarcus Aldridge
The Spurs are perennial powerhouses in the West, mainly due to their staunch discipline and faith in coach Gregg Popovich. But, with aging stars such as Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, and Pau Gasol, it's going to be hard for San Antonio to stay relevant. LaMarcus Aldridge, who used to be money in the clutch, has come up short the last few postseasons, and top-5 player, Kawhi Leonard, can't seem to stay healthy.
That's why the Spurs GM, R.C. Buford, needs to dismantle the team, and look toward the future. They could trade the 37-year-old Spaniard to a championship contender for some future picks, and maybe deal Aldridge in the coming season. Let's hope Leonard can stay healthy, as he is probably the best two-way player in the game, but for now, it looks the Alamo City's Big 3 will be split up next year.
13 Formed: LeBron James, Paul George & Lonzo Ball (L.A. Lakers)
Last, but not least, the potential Big 3 that everyone has been talking about: Ball, George, and James. With Magic at the helm in the front office, and Kobe Bryant out the picture, the Lakers seem to be a popular destination in free agency. LeBron has expressed his interest in moving to SoCal post-NBA, since he has two houses, and a production company there. George, an LA native, vocally made it clear that he wants to wear the purple and gold, which fueled his trade out of Indy in the offseason. Los Angeles was even fined $500,000 for tampering because of it!
Now, Ball has proven his basketball intelligence, but it has yet to translate to success on the court. With George and James on the receiving end of his spectacular assists, and rookie Kyle Kuzma playing at a high-caliber, we may see the Lakers back on top of the Western Conference in the coming years!
12 Split: Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo & Jabari Parker
Who would have ever thought Milwaukee would be a top-5 team in the Eastern Conference? With the emergence of Antetokounmpo as perennial All-Pro, the Bucks are looking to contend with both the Cavs and Celtics to make it to the next level in the playoffs. But, money always talks, and it seems unlikely that head coach Jason Kidd and GM Jon Horst will be able to keep their core together in the future.
In a league that's about the present, Milwaukee needs to bring in some high-level talent before the trade deadline in order to make a run this year. They failed to reach a contract extension with former second-overall pick, Jabari Parker, before the season, making him a restricted free agent in 2018. There is no way they will be able to dish out enough dough to keep the current team intact.
11 Formed: Andre Drummond, Isaiah Thomas & Avery Bradley (Detroit Pistons)
Experts aren't talking about this potential Big 3 in Detroit, but it all makes sense. Andre Drummond has emerged as one of the better centers in the league, and despite trade rumors in previous years, the Pistons want to build around their big man, as he's signed through 2021. With the addition of Avery Bradley in the offseason, and the Pistons sitting at the number four spot in the Eastern Conference, they need some additional talent to transition to elite status.
That addition should be point guard, Isaiah Thomas. While Reggie Jackson has performed well in Motor City, Thomas is a much better player. LeBron's future in Cleveland is up in the air, leaving Thomas' pending free agency in 2018 a huge problem for the Cavaliers. We will have to wait and see how it plays out!
10 Split: DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, And Jrue Holiday
Honestly, New Orleans' Big 3, is more like a Big 2. Yes, Holiday was once an All-Star, and backup point guard, Rajon Rondo, still has some gas left in the tank, but they aren't talented enough to go toe-for-toe with the guards in the West. "The Brow" is by far the most talented center in the league, but the Pelicans need more pieces around him to build their roster.
That's why New Orleans GM, Dell Demps, needs to deal DeMarcus Cousins before the trade deadline. Cousins will be a free agent at the end of the season, and to let him walk for nothing would be a travesty. The Cavaliers and Celtics have been rumored to be potential landing spots for "Boogie." One thing is for sure, through trade or free agency, the Pelicans Big 3 will be no more in 2018.
9 Formed: Anthony Davis, Lou Williams & Clint Capela (New Orleans Pelicans)
Alright, here is an interesting one. As we previously mentioned, Anthony Davis needs some help down in the Big Easy. With the impending loss of DeMarcus Cousins, the Pelicans need to fill their void in the frontcourt. Why not take a chance on up-and-coming star, Clint Capela? With Chris Paul distributing the ball in Houston, Capela has been on fire all season! He may not be on Cousins' level in present day, but the Swiss-born center's progression leads us to believe that he may get their someday.
Next, the Pelicans need to surround their two big men with a pure scorer. 31-year-old guard, Lou Williams, would fit that mold perfectly. While he has bounced around the league in the past as a reliable sixth-man, it's time to put the rock in his hands. Maybe then, the Big Easy could rest easy.
8 Split: Chris Paul, James Harden & Clint Capela
It's championship or bust for the Rockets in the 2017-18 season. With the addition floor general, Chris Paul, in the offseason, the offense has opened up for James Harden and company. They launch of threes at an alarming rate, yet seem to be on fire, hitting over 37% from behind the arc as a team on the year. Houston started off with a record of 25-4, yet recently entered a skid, since both Paul and Capela have been sidelined with minor injuries. If they stay healthy, Golden State better watch out come playoff time!
That all being said, both Capela and Paul are free agents in 2018, and it's hard to believe that Houston will dish out enough money to retain their Big 3. Who knows, maybe new owner, Tilman Fertitta, will cough up the luxury tax, but we are still unsure!
7 Formed: Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul & Carmelo Anthony (Miami Heat)
Put on your life jackets, the banana boat crew (minus LeBron) will be joining forces on the court next season! Paul and Wade will be free agents, and if things start to fall apart in Oklahoma City, it's unlikely that Anthony will sign his player-option. It's clear that these wily veterans are on their last legs, so they should at least gang up with their friends, and have a good time doing it!
Now, the real question is, where would these guys play? New York, New Orleans, Denver, Houston, and LA are pretty much out of the question. Maybe they can take their talents back down to South Beach, in the return of Miami's prodigal son. They probably won't be contenders, but they will damn sure sell some tickets.
6 Split: Marc Gasol, Mike Conley & Tyreke Evans
Back in November, Memphis surprisingly fired their head coach, David Fizdale. Many analysts were baffled by the move, but some experts think the driving force behind his termination was Marc Gasol's, displeasure with second-year coach. Fizdale had decided to sit the All-Star Center for the entire fourth quarter in a close game against the Brooklyn Nets in late November. Less than a day later, Memphis' skipper was canned.
Gasol has denied rumors that he was the reason for Fizdale's firing, citing the teams eight-straight losses early in the year. The Grizzlies should consider trading the 7'1" Spaniard before the deadline to stockpile future draft picks. Cleveland and Boston looks like buyers, and have the assets to get a deal done. There is no doubt that the core down in Grind City will look a little different next year!
5 Formed: Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell & Aaron Gordon
Before the season, almost everyone wrote of the Jazz, as they just lost their All-Star forward, Gordon Hayward, to the Celtics over the Summer. But, what experts didn't account for is the addition of floor general, Ricky Rubio, and Rookie of the Year candidate, Donovan Mitchell. Even though Rudy Gobert has been hampered by injuries throughout the early season, he has proven his capabilities, making the NBA All-Defensive First Team in 2017.
Sitting in the middle of a tough Western Conference, the Jazz need another piece to add to the puzzle to be complete. Why not take a chance on forward, Aaron Gordon, out of Orlando? With the Magic, Gordon has drastically improved his game this year since they allowed him to play the true forward position. With both Gobert and Gordon in the frontcourt, the Jazz could be back in the playoff hunt in no time!
4 Split: Paul George, Carmelo Anthony & Russell Westbrook
While stockpiling All-Stars has worked for both Cleveland and Golden State in the past, it hasn't panned out as planned in OKC. As we know, the Thunder acquired two-way player, Paul George, in the offseason, and picked up Carmelo Anthony a month before the season-opener. While the Thunder are hovering around fifth in the conference, their play has been wildly inconsistent, showing up for big games, but struggling against scrubs.
A lot of their struggles stem from Russell Westbrook's style of play. Now, he's not a ball hog, but "Brodie" has always had a difficult time sharing the rock in crunch time. With Anthony's lackluster performance thus far, we don't think 'Melo will pick up his player-option in 2018. George may be on the outs too!
3 Formed: Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward & Boogie Cousins
It was a crazy offseason this past summer that saw the shift in power within the Eastern Conference. Kyrie Irving couldn't shine to his fullest potential under the shadow of LeBron James in Cleveland, and Gordon Hayward packed his bags in Salt Lake City to join his former college coach, Brad Stevens, in Bean Town. Unfortunately for Hayward, he suffered a gruesome ankle injury in the season-opener, but is hopeful for the future.
Although, without their All-Star forward, the Celtics have flourished in the thus far. Kyrie Irving is playing out of this world (even if he does think it's flat) and rookie Jason Tatum has stepped up in Hayward's absence. While Al Horford has been solid option in the paint, Boston needs a better big man to firmly establish their dominance in the league. Queue "Boogie" Cousins, who we already mentioned will be out in New Orleans by next season. We think he would look great in Celtic Green!
2 Split: Isaiah Thomas, Kevin Love, And LeBron James
We have yet to see the full potential of Cleveland's Big 3, since Isaiah Thomas has been sidelined with a pre-existing hip injury. But, even with stellar play from James and Love, it's hard to see the trio staying together past 2018. If Cleveland doesn't bring home a championship this year, James will most likely decline his player-option, and search for a new home on the open market. As previously stated, IT4 is also a free agent at the end of the year, and with the LBJ out in the "Rock and Roll Capital of the World," it's hard to picture Thomas pledging his loyalty to the Cavs.
So where does that leave Kevin Love? He'll be 30 years old next season, and he's not the player Cleveland wants to build their team around. With aging veterans such as Rose and Wade on one-year contracts, newly appointed GM, Koby Altman, should dismantle the Cavs and start from scratch!
1 Formed: Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid & Markelle Fultz
Yes, we know, Philadelphia's Big 3 has already been established. But, top draft pick, Markelle Fultz, has been riddled by injury during his rookie season. He has only played in four games since the opener, and refused to take a jumper in those games, due to soreness in his shooting shoulder. Maybe the 76ers should rest him for the remainder of the season, since it worked wonders for Ben Simmons.
Luckily for Philadelphia fans, it seems like the rebuilding process is over. Despite the injury, Fultz has high hopes for the future. With rising star and social media pro, Joel Embiid, in the frontcourt, Philadelphia will be vying for a top spot in the Eastern Conference in the coming years. Now, let's hope they all stay healthy!