Every NBA franchise is trying their best to form a big three to contend for an NBA Championship. The past few decades have shown that every franchise will need a strong trio at the top of the roster to lead them. Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman outdid the Utah Jazz in the very close 1997 and 1998 NBA Finals series thanks to having three stars as opposed to two. The Boston Celtics started the trend over the past decade with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen dominating together. Recent years have seen the big three become a must to make an impact. The Golden State Warriors dominance started thanks to Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
LeBron James’ outlook for his teams has added importance to another level. The main reason he joined the Miami Heat was to unite with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Even his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers formed thanks to Kyrie Irving being on the roster and Kevin Love being targeted in trades. The league currently has a plethora of teams trying to thrive with a great trio of stars leading the way. Some have a chance to make noise this season with their stars all on the same page. Others have a weakness or lack of chemistry that will doom them. Both sides will be examined here for the upcoming season. Find out where your team ranks. These are ten NBA big 3s that will thrive this season along with ten that will flop.
20 Thrive: Stephen Curry/Kevin Durant/Klay Thompson (Warriors)
Let’s get the easy one out of the way first. There’s no scenario where the Golden State Warriors big three fall apart next season. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have been dominating the league together for the past four seasons. Kevin Durant joining them for the past two seasons have made them unbeatable.
The scariest thing is any of them could suffer an injury and Golden State would still be okay with Draymond Green as the next star in line.
Warriors fans even got more spoiled by DeMarcus Cousins joining the squad. Curry, Durant and Thompson are still the big three for the team and arguably the best in the league at their respective positions.
19 Flop: James Harden/Chris Paul/Carmelo Anthony (Rockets)
Clint Capela is a better player than Carmelo Anthony, but we all know Anthony will get more touches than him on the offense for the Houston Rockets. It was a risk adding Anthony to the team hoping he’d return to his prior superstar status alongside James Harden and Chris Paul.
Houston won 65 games last season and fell just a win short of dethroning the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. The addition of Anthony’s style could ruin the chemistry of Paul and Harden leading the way. Many expect the Rockets to decline with this new big three causing them to implode.
18 Thrive: DeAndre Jordan/Dennis Smith Jr./Luka Doncic (Mavericks)
The Dallas Mavericks made some impressive moves this offseason to try to create a roster to build around. Last season saw Dennis Smith Jr. show potential as a great talent with the potential to become a star. Dallas drafted Luka Doncic in the recent NBA Draft. Many pundits believe he’s the best overall talent in this draft class.
A combination of Smith Jr. and Doncic will grow together even better with the addition of All-Star center DeAndre Jordan. Two young play-making guards and an established big man is a great big three for a young team to find relevance. The Mavericks may not make the playoffs, but their new core will thrive to set up a brighter future.
17 Flop: Damian Lillard/C.J. McCollum/Jusuf Nurkic (Trail Blazers)
The Portland Trail Blazers are one team with an unknown future in the overall landscape of the Western Conference. Last season saw them impress getting the third seed in the West. Unfortunately, the optimism was erased when Portland was swept in the first round by the New Orleans Pelicans.
Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic are the big three for the Trail Blazers as they try to shine again.
The rest of the roster is a mess following the departure of Ed Davis and other role players.
Lillard is reportedly unhappy and the team does not express much excitement about contending. There’s a better chance of them flopping than thriving next season.
16 Thrive: D'Angelo Russell/Rondae Hollis-Jefferson /Jarrett Allen (Nets)
One of the teams with a surprising bright future is the Brooklyn Nets. Last season saw a few of their young talents start to progress and show their potential. D’Angelo Russell is the best overall player on the roster. The potential of Russell is to become a superstar, and he is in a contract season which usually means great things.
Jarrett Allen looks like a potentially great center. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has great athleticism and superb defensive skills. All three players should take a huge leap forward this season. Brooklyn may have an outside chance at the postseason with so many other teams tanking in the Eastern Conference.
15 Flop: Giannis Antetokounmpo/Eric Bledsoe/Khris Middleton (Bucks)
The Milwaukee Bucks have enough talent to make a run in the Eastern Conference, but there are a few issues surrounding the team. Giannis Antetokounmpo is among the best players in the league today. Milwaukee will do everything to build around him.
The problem is some of his teammates have struggled to gel with him.
Antetokounmpo and Eric Bledsoe reportedly did not get along after Bledsoe was acquired the Bucks.
Khris Middleton does have chemistry with Antetokounmpo, but he still needs to take a big step forward. The questions surrounding this big three will doom them and potentially lead to trades during the season.
14 Thrive: Joel Embiid/Ben Simmons/J.J. Redick (76ers)
The future is bright for the Philadelphia 76ers following their great season last year. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are already big stars with the potential to become top 5-10 players in the entire league. Philadelphia is hoping that a third person can create a legitimate big three.
Markelle Fultz is the obvious choice, but the disappointing rookie season makes it hard to trust him. JJ Redick luckily re-signed with the 76ers this past offseason. It gives them a superb outside shooter to make up for the weakness of Simmons. Expect Philadelphia to finish with the second seed in the Eastern Conference thanks to this big three.
13 Flop: Blake Griffin/Andre Drummond/Reggie Jackson (Pistons)
The Detroit Pistons made a stunning trade last season when acquiring Blake Griffin from the Los Angeles Clippers. Griffin has regressed from an All-Star starter into someone barely in the discussion when thinking about the All-Star rosters. Detroit is hoping they can rebuild his career and contend with him as face of the franchise.
Andre Drummond is a great center paired with Blake in the front court. The issue here is that the Pistons have a terrible backcourt. Reggie Jackson has been a disaster as point guard and will continue to hurt their roster. The big three of Jackson alongside Griffin and Drummond will struggle to make the playoffs again.
12 Thrive: Zach LaVine/Lauri Markkanen/Jabari Parker (Bulls)
There are a few rebuilding teams with some hope for their future. The Chicago Bulls are towards the top of that list when looking at the young assets they’ve acquired. Chicago made a controversial move signing Zach LaVine to a max contract this offseason, but he certainly has the talent to become a superstar.
Lauri Markkanen will be entering his second season and has massive potential.
The Bulls made another big move in the offseason signing Jabari Parker away from the Milwaukee Bucks. Parker has put up impressive numbers on the court but has been sidelined with injury issues. A return home to Chicago may be the best thing for Parker as he forms a young big three Markkanen and LaVine.
11 Flop: DeMar DeRozan/LaMarcus Aldridge/Pau Gasol (Spurs)
The San Antonio Spurs saw a huge change in the offseason with three franchsie greats leaving them. Manu Ginobili retired, and Tony Parker left to join the Charlotte Hornets. Kawhi Leonard demanded a trade and was dealt to the Toronto Raptors for DeMar DeRozan.
The future of the Spurs franchise will see DeRozan as the new leader. LaMarcus Aldridge will try to form a superstar duo with him. Both men are among the most underrated players in the league. The reason they will flop is that they don’t have a third star. An aging Pau Gasol is the only other difference maker on the roster. San Antonio may miss the playoff in the loaded Western Conference this season.
10 Thrive: Victor Oladipo/Myles Turner/Tyreke Evans (Pacers)
The Indiana Pacers have a chance to do great things this season. Victor Oladipo emerged as a superstar last season and led the Pacers to the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. Indiana fell just one game short of eliminating LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round.
Myles Turner is the biggest piece here as he has a huge potential. The young big man needs to take a major step forward this season, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t do so on a rising team. Veteran Tyreke Evans joined the Pacers in the offseason and should give them a third player to go to in the closing minutes of big names.
9 Flop: Kevin Love/J.R. Smith/Collin Sexton (Cavaliers)
LeBron James leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers put them in a terrible spot moving forward. Kevin Love is clearly the only star on the roster right now, and he may very well be the only above average NBA talent for them. There’s not much help for Love to make any noise in the Eastern Conference this season.
As bad as LeBron leaving was for Cleveland, trading Kyrie Irving away last season was a bigger regret.
The only asset from the trade left is rookie draft pick Collin Sexton. There is a lot of potential in Sexton, but it’s unlikely he’ll reach that instantly. J.R. Smith can be argued as the Cavs third best player which lets you know why they’ll fall apart.
8 Thrive: Nikola Jokic/Paul Millsap/Isaiah Thomas (Nuggets)
The Denver Nuggets have a chance to make noise in the Western Conference this upcoming season. Aside from the Golden State Warriors, there is no roster significantly better than them when looking at their depth. Denver has a great starting lineup along with a few superb bench players.
The big three on the roster will ultimately be the ones that lead them to success or failure. Nikola Jokic is a rising superstar and could become the best big man in the league this season. Paul Millsap is consistently great, and Isaiah Thomas recently joined to add firepower to the backcourt. Expect the Nuggets to have a high seed in the West.
7 Flop: Kawhi Leonard/Kyle Lowry/Serge Ibaka (Raptors)
The Toronto Raptors made the boldest move of the offseason when trading away franchise star DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard. Raptors management believes the risk is worth it for Leonard to lead them to the NBA Finals even if he is just there for one season.
Leonard reportedly did not want to play for Toronto. DeRozan was beloved in the Raptors locker room. Players like Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas can’t be thrilled about losing their close friend for someone that doesn’t want to be there and plans to leave next season. This is going to be a disaster for Toronto unless Kawhi sets the tone right away that he’s still a superstar and wants to be there.
6 Thrive: Russell Westbrook/Paul George/Steven Adams (Thunder)
Last season featured the Oklahoma City Thunder having the most disappointing big three in the league. Russell Westbrook and Paul George each impressed with All-Star seasons.
The problem was Carmelo Anthony failing to fit in and hurting the team most of the time he was on the court.
George and Westbrook showed they have a bond when throwing a party for George’s re-signing. Anthony was not invited and later would get traded. Oklahoma City should be better without Anthony on the roster. It also gives center Steven Adams a chance to contribute more. The Thunder could become a real contender in the Western Conference this season.
5 Flop: John Wall/Bradley Beal/Dwight Howard (Wizards)
The Washington Wizards made a huge move when trading Marcin Gortat away and signing Dwight Howard to a free agent contract. John Wall has been vocal about his anger towards the Wizards failing to improve as playoff contenders. Howard joining Wall and Bradley Beal has the potential to make them contenders or cause them to fall apart.
There doesn’t appear to be any middle ground for Washington, and Howard has a horrible track record in recent years of being a problem in the locker room. It is easy to envision the Wizards getting off to a poor start and never recovering. Howard sulking and Wall ranting by December is the safest bet for Washington.
4 Thrive: Donovan Mitchell/Rudy Gobert/Ricky Rubio (Jazz)
No team surprised as many fans in the postseason last year than the Utah Jazz. Very few people paid attention to their impressive regular season. However, all eyes were on Donovan Mitchell when he dominated the first round of the playoffs over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Mitchell looks like he can become a superstar as quickly as this season. Center Rudy Gobert is already one of the top defensive big men and has great chemistry with Mitchell. The acquisition of Ricky Rubio gave them a missing piece. All three guys work perfectly together and could lead the Jazz to a deep run in the playoffs.
3 Flop: Karl-Anthony Towns/Jimmy Butler/Andrew Wiggins (Timberwolves)
The offseason reporting about the Minnesota Timberwolves provided nothing but negatives about the future. Jimmy Butler joined the team in the summer of 2017 and reportedly hated his first season in Minnesota. Poor chemistry with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins has Butler already involved in trade rumors before his contract expires.
Towns is the only fixture on the team in terms of both long-term star power and instant success.
The Timberwolves must do anything to keep him happy. Wiggins is the biggest variable. A disappointing season saw him become a forgotten man. If he doesn’t improve, Minnesota could fall out of the playoff picture and blow up the roster.
2 Thrive: Kyrie Irving/Al Horford/Jayson Tatum (Celtics)
The Boston Celtics have an outstanding roster with great players at every position starting and coming off the bench. Jayson Tatum was the biggest surprise last season. The incredible playoff run saw Tatum step up as a superstar with Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward injured.
Irving remains the biggest superstar on the team and will likely look to dominate before heading into free agency next summer. The always underrated Al Horford was the best overall player for Boston last season and led them to great success despite injuries and a young roster. Celtics fans have hope for the NBA Finals with this big three along with a great supporting cast.
1 Flop: LeBron James/Lonzo Ball/Brandon Ingram (Lakers)
LeBron James will enter his first NBA season in almost a decade without two All-Star caliber players on the roster. The Los Angeles Lakers convinced James to sign with them despite not adding any other big names during the summer. Young talents Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball must step up to form a credible big three.
Los Angeles will likely make the playoffs if James stays healthy, but it’s hard to envision them contending with this big three. Ingram and Ball will likely struggle to play at the level LeBron expects from his teammates. Don’t be surprised if one or both are traded during the season to give James another All-Star before the postseason.