With the conclusion of the 2017-18 NBA regular season in sight, there have been many headlines and several surprises. The Cavaliers seem to be imploding at a crucial point in the season. The Toronto Raptors have been playing better as of late thanks to epic performances from DeMar DeRozan and a serviceable bench— cruising into the second seed in the East behind the top seeded Boston Celtics in the process. The Warriors are threatening for a repeat. First year players have also surprised many this season, with great performances from Kyle Kuzma, Donovan Mitchell and Ben Simmons among many others who are in the conversation for rookie of the year.
With the era of super teams forming, we'll look at 8 NBA Big 3s that should be formed next offseason and 7 that should split up, which if one thinks about it— depends on many factors. One of which could be the ownership and coaching situation. Any team in the NBA could have three great players, but if that team isn't driven by a reputable coach then chances are they probably aren’t going to succeed. Another factor could be a team's camaraderie and fatigue. If a team only has three good players, but lacks bench depth then they probably won’t do well either. All of these and more are vital to any teams success, as well as providing sales pitches for Big 3s to stay with the team. With these things in mind, let's take a look.
15 Should Form: Kevin Love, Gordon Hayward, Anthony Davis (Boston Celtics)
The Celtics seem to be keen on doing whatever it takes to dethrone LeBron James in the East. They may very well do that this year, but the Celtics are aiming to build a dynasty in the next few years. They're already having a phenomenal season despite Gordon Hayward going down in the opening game. Next year, Kyrie Irving will already have Hayward back and the Celtics have the pieces to land Anthony Davis in a mega trade if they choose to pursue one. The Celtics could own the Eastern Conference for the foreseeable future if they land the modern big man in Anthony Davis. With how aggressive the Celtics have been the last couple of offseasons, they seem like the one team that would pursue Davis the hardest if the Pelicans put him on the trade market.
14 Split Up: Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony (OKC Thunder)
One has to believe PG-13 could leave OKC after this season if the Thunder fail to win a championship. At this point and time in George's career, he’s concerned about winning rings and earning his money, two things the Thunder may not be able to provide him heading into next season. This past offseason, Russell Westbrook signed a 5 year contract extension worth over $100 million. And with an aging Carmelo Anthony, along with two dominant players like PG and Russ, there doesn’t seem to be much incentive for George to stay beyond this season if they fail to beat Golden State.
When asked about the possibility of George leaving OKC next season and what other pitches could land him, Russ responded with, “We can compete for a championship, top that pitch”. There is some incentive for George to stay with OKC, but we’ll have to see going forward.
13 Should Form: Mike Conley, Rudy Gay and Marc Gasol (Memphis Grizzlies)
Although injuries and playing on mediocre teams have derailed Gays career in the NBA, one still has to believe Gay has a chance moving forward as one of the solid small forwards in this league. He just needs to surround himself with a reputable coaching staff and a team that has had more recent success, and the answer to that is the Memphis Grizzlies. The Memphis Grizzlies would be a viable option for Gay because they have an all star point guard in Mike Conley, a very versatile player in Tyreke Evans, a good big man in Marc Gasol and a reputable bench.
The Grizzlies have been lacking production from the small forward position for quite some time now, something Gay could easily provide them. Gay has averaged 11.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per game playing behind an injured Kawhi Leonard and an aging LaMarcus Aldridge. Imagine what he could do with a proven big man in Marc Gasol and an All Star PG in Conley.
12 Split Up: Andrew Wiggins, Jimmy Butler, Karl Anthony Towns
The Wolves have surprised many this season, in particular Jimmy Butler, who has proved to us all that he is still a star player in this league. Butler is averaging 21 PPG, 5 RPG and 5 APG and he has really made his mark in Minnesota this season.
However, in that same breath Wiggins, has been on the lower tier of production between the three, something he was not accustomed to before Butler joined the team. Wiggins had just signed a max deal expecting to be the focal point of the offense, but when Butler came along that obviously changed. Since Butler has joined the team, Wiggins has averaged just 17.7 PPG and 2.1 APG, both season lows since joining the team dating a few years back. Perhaps the Wolves can look to trade Wiggins and find a different missing piece to an elite big 3.
11 Should Form: Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and DeAndre Jordan (Toronto Raptors)
As previously mentioned before, the Raptors have cruised into the second seed in the East thanks to recent herculean efforts from DeMar DeRozan as well as a strong supporting cast. The Raptors have been lacking that third scoring option for too long and are in dire need of one if they want to truly contend in the East. The Celtics don’t appear to be dwindling anytime soon, and as long as LeBron is in Cleveland, the Cavaliers will be in contention almost ever year.
The prime backcourt duo of Lowry and DeRozan will only take them so far until the team realizes they need that third scoring threat and rebounding presence, and thats where they could use DeAndre Jordan. The Raptors have experimented with big men in the past in Biyombo and Ibaka, but I believe they should keep trying moving forward. The LAC are a mess, and if Jordan wants to contend for a championship he should certainly consider Toronto as his next move this offseason.
10 Split Up: Wesley Matthews, Harrison Barnes and Dirk Nowitzki
This season Harrison Barnes is leading the Mavericks in both PPG and RPG, while JJ Barea is leading the team in assists with just 6 per game. Dirk Nowitzki is certainly not the same player he was in the 2011 NBA Finals, and Harrison Barnes career has derailed even more since being released by Golden State. This big three will split up after this season due to Nowitzki's age and Barnes' declining performance.
The Western Conference has been getting better and better each year in terms of star studded teams and supreme talent, and the Mavericks simply don’t have enough pieces to match any of the powerhouses in the West today. We’ll have to see what Barnes and Nowitzki do this offseason, but their chances of staying together are not very likely. We're more likely to see a complete rebuild in Dallas.
9 Should Form: Avery Bradley, Paul Millsap and Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons)
Although Millsap appears to be on track to return by the All Star Break at the earliest, the Denver Nuggets will probably be long out of the playoff push by then. And this year hasn't been a bad one for Millsap, as he has averaged about 15.3 PPG and 6.2 RPG prior to his wrist injury. He just needs to be in a good situation with a good team moving forward in his career.
One of those potential destinations Millsap should consider moving forward could be the Detroit Pistons. There is much incentive for the Nuggets PF to join the Pistons, for they have a very good big man in Andre Drummond— averaging an impressive DD this season. And they also have recently acquired a solid two way player from the Boston Celtics in Avery Bradley. There is a lot of promise for the Pistons moving forward, and if they are able to land a player like Millsap, they will be in a better position to compete for a championship.
8 Split Up: Elfrid Payton, Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic
Since losing Victor Oladipo the Magic haven’t been the same team. And for this big three, I would see them reaching Splitsville for one reason and one reason only; injuries. These three have suffered injuries all season long and have failed to stay on the court this year, really diminishing their squads performance. Payton has been better in his assists category and he has improved his FG percentage, but I don’t see this trio staying together after this season.
Where these players may end up next season remains to be seen, but if the Magic really want to get back into competing in the East they will probably have to do something about this trio. The status quo doesn't look like it's going to get things done in the East, and there are plenty of options for them this offseason.
7 Should Form: Dion Waiters, Nicolas Batum and Hassan Whiteside (Miami Heat)
Both the Miami Heat and the Charlotte Hornets have been trying to get over the playoff hump in the East for quite some time now. It appears as though it will be the Celtics and Cavaliers conference for a while. This season Batum is averaging just 10.9 PPG, 4.7 APG and 4.2 RPG, all being career lows since signing with the team dating back a few years ago. Without a doubt, both teams will have to make some moves this offseason to keep pace with Boston and Cleveland, and this possible trio seems to be the most likely scenario.
Injuries have derailed Whiteside's career and Waiters has had his shortcomings, but if the Heat can find that third scoring option in Batum I feel that they would certainly be better off. And they will be better suited to compete for a championship come May.
6 Split up: Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokumpo and Jabari Parker
This season, the Greek Freak is averaging nearly 28.2 PPG, 10.1 RPG and 4.6 APG, really keeping himself in the MVP conversation this year. Although he hasn't developed a consistent outside shot yet, it's scary to think that the 23-year-old may not have reached his ceiling yet. That along with the fact that Brogdon among many others have been playing to expectations will make for a lot of decisions this upcoming offseason for Milwaukee. Not to mention the Bucks acquired Bledsoe from the Suns who has also played very well.
I include this Big 3, however, not because of Giannis, Bledsoe or Middleton, but Parker because he has failed to play a full season with the Bucks. The all star forward from Duke has shown signs of progression and improvement since stepping into the league with Milwaukee, but has failed to play a full season so it makes for a difficult assessment for the team moving forward. There may be a lot of interesting moves this offseason, and the Bucks could be one of them.
5 Should Form: John Wall, Bradley Beal and Blake Griffin (Washington Wizards)
The Wizards are right on the cusp of contending with the Celtics and Cavaliers, but again, they lack that third scoring option needed to legitimately contend for a championship. Although Griffin is clearly the man in L.A., he doesn’t appear to unhappy with his current situation, and could be open to a change of scenery. Both scenarios make for an enticing idea of a big three being formed in DC next offseason. The Wizards would need to make a lot of cap space in order to acquire Griffin, but it would be an intriguing option for them nonetheless.
This big three scenario would best work out for the trio in DC because they are all still in their prime and it would be intriguing for the rest of the league in luring other big name free agents as well. To put it in perspective, John Wall and Bradley have been consistently putting up 20 PPG since they stepped into the league. Very few others have been as consistent.
4 Split Up: Chris Paul, James Harden and Clint Capela
James Harden has impressed many this season averaging nearly 31.5 PPG and 9 APG, really making his case in the MVP conversation. He has had some help from Chris Paul as well as a serviceable bench. And they have Clint Capella, who when healthy can be a star big man in this league.
However, this big three makes the list because if they fail to beat the Warriors, should they face them in this year's playoffs, they will probably have to make some changes moving forward. This season the Rockets are +22 with Harden on the floor and +26 with Paul on the floor. However, when they are both on the floor along with Capella, their production has decreased to a certain extent. It seems like the Rockets will be able to give the Warriors a run this year, but depending on the outcome of this year, this big three could be split up after the season.
3 Should Form: Robert Covington, Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins (New Orleans Pelicans)
Yes, we already laid out the possibility of Anthony Davis getting traded to Boston, but if in fact the Pelicans keep Davis, and re-sign Cousins, they'll need to give them some help. Robert Covington should want to play with big men DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis because not only are they the best possible 1,2 punch the league has seen since Duncan and Robertson, but they also have a very underrated PG in Jrue Holiday and a solid supporting cast around them. These incentives and more should be enough to lure Covington to New Orleans next offseason.
To put things in perspective of how productive Covington has been this season with the 76ers, he has nearly the 4th highest tally in 3 pointers made. Only Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and James Harden have made more. Should Covington continue that production, it may entice teams like New Orleans into acquiring him next season. The problem for New Orleans is that they have to convince Boogie to stick around this summer too.
2 Split Up: LeBron James, Isaiah Thomas, Kevin Love (Cleveland Cavaliers)
LeBron James has without a doubt had an amazing season with the Cavaliers this year. When asked about his production level year in and year out with the team, LeBron was quoted saying “I almost feel like its accustomed of me to perform like this day in and day out, I think people take me for granted sometimes.” It's no secret LeBron makes any team he is on contenders, but the question everyone always seems to return to is will he stay in Cleveland?
It is certainly fair to ask the question, particularly every time after the Cavaliers lose a Final. Considering how many great years LeBron has ahead of him, I am a firm believer that this will be LeBron’s last go with Cleveland. At this point and time in LeBron career, he’s only concerned about one thing, winning rings. And make no mistake, he may leave Cleveland after this season if they fail to do exactly that.
1 Should Form: Dennis Schroder, Tim Hardaway and Kristaps Porzingis (New York Knicks)
The Knicks have been on the decline in the East for quite some time now. And although they got deeper in the forward position acquiring Enes Kanter in the Carmelo Anthony deal, they are going to have to find better guard play moving forward. I could see Schroder going there because Porzingis doesn’t appear to be leaving NY anytime soon and they need better guard play. More importantly, the Knicks need someone who can get other players involved, something Hardaway among others haven't proven they can do.
Perhaps this would be the most likely scenario if the Knicks were to clear their cap space. Signing a player like Schroder would help the Knicks moving forward as they try to compete with the Celtics and Cavaliers in the East.