The law of the land in the NBA has always made it obvious that you need at least one Superstar player to contend. Most teams to win the NBA Championship have had two top tier stars on their roster. Combinations like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen and LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have led their respective teams to incredible success. The current landscape of the NBA has seen this evolve into an even bigger deal. Stars are forming super teams together and now there needs to be three top stars on a roster to truly contend. Some rosters even have four All-Stars at this point.
Every team is hoping to form a “big three” that will give them the core needed to win it all. We’ll look at what each NBA team is working with this upcoming season. Unfortunately, the Boston Celtics have already been struck with injury losing Gordon Hayward for the year to hurt their big three. Most other teams will have their ideal big three in play as the season goes on. This complete ranking of all thirty teams is in order from worst to best “big three” combinations for the 2017-2018 NBA season.
30. Atlanta Hawks: Dennis Schroder/Kent Bazemore/Ersan Ilyasova
The Atlanta Hawks are clearly looking to tank in hopes of getting a high draft pick. We have seen the Hawks lose Paul Millsap, Al Horford, Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carroll all over the past few years after this core led them to 60 wins. Atlanta failed to pose a legitimate threat to the Cleveland Cavaliers and have decided to blow it up.
Dennis Schroder is the only player on the roster they can truly hope to build around. Realistically, they will need another young star or two better than him to make any noise in the near future. Kent Bazemore is a solid role player and Ersan Ilyasova should not be in a starting lineup at this point. Atlanta has one of the worst rosters and the overall worst big three.
29. Chicago Bulls: Zach LaVine/Robin Lopez/Lauri Markkanen
No team looks worse overall right now than the Chicago Bulls. Chicago sent Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves in a deal that got them Zach LaVine and very little else. LaVine is talented, but it looks horrible when the best you get for an All-Star is a promising player coming off a serious injury. It remains to be seen when LaVine will make his season debut for the Bulls.
Robin Lopez is the only established NBA talent on this roster. You have to figure the tanking Bulls will trade Lopez to a playoff team at the trade deadline. Finnish rookie Lauri Markkanen was one a draft pick Chicago acquired in the Butler trade that is showing something. Markkanen has looked good on the Bulls so far this season but that is still a very small sample size. Chicago’s rebuild will take some time for sure.
28. Phoenix Suns: Devin Booker/Josh Jackson/TJ Warren
The Phoenix Suns have already made headlines for the worst of reasons in this early season. Eric Bledsoe posted a message on social media stating he didn’t want to be on the Suns. Their best player is now sitting at home waiting on a trade. Phoenix decided to fire head coach Earl Watson and keep Bledsoe out of the locker room until a move is confirmed.
Devin Booker is the one obvious bright spot for the Suns. The talent of Booker makes it likely he will become a Superstar and elite three-point shooter in the next few years. Josh Jackson has talent but is getting absolutely destroyed so far in his rookie season. Phoenix doesn’t have much dynamic talent past that. TJ Warren seems to be the third best player on the roster, but he is a role player in the overall landscape of the NBA.
27. Sacramento Kings: De’Aaron Fox/Zach Randolph/Buddy Hield
The Sacramento Kings are trying to find a middle ground between their veterans and young talent. Sacramento added Zach Randolph, George Hill and Vince Carter all in free agency this past summer. Randolph is the only one that appears to be a heavily featured member of their offense. Rookie point guard De’Aaron Fox already looks impressive enough to pass Hill as their best point guard.
Buddy Hield would get the spot as the third man in the Kings big three as Sacramento is trying to see just how much he can contribute. Two of their three best players have the chance to be great but that will take a lot of time. Sacramento is going to be one of the worst teams this season. Randolph and the other veterans will probably be on the trade market before the deadline.
26. Brooklyn Nets: D’Angelo Russell/Rondae Hollis-Jefferson/DeMarre Carroll
Opening night was heartbreaking for the Brooklyn Nets when Jeremy Lin suffered a terrible injury. You could see the pain and heartbreak in Lin’s eyes when yelling “I’m done” to his teammates. Brooklyn had the dream of running a fast paced offense with both guards Lin and D’Angelo Russell playing alongside each other. We would only see them together for one game as Lin is now out all season.
Russell does look quite impressive for the Nets as he is getting a new beginning after a disappointing start to his career with the Los Angeles Lakers. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and DeMarre Carroll each are playing good basketball to start the season but neither man is a star. Brooklyn is bound for another poor season with the Cleveland Cavaliers owning their first-round draft pick.
25. New York Knicks: Kristaps Porzingis/Tim Hardaway Jr./Enes Kanter
Another New York team struggling to find talent is the Knicks. Following the offseason trade sending Carmelo Anthony to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Kristaps Porzingis is now the official face of the franchise. Porzingis shows tremendous skill and is likely going to be an All-Star fixture for many years going forward if nothing changes regarding his progression.
The rest of the team is less impressive. Tim Hardaway Jr. signed a massive contract with the Knicks in the offseason that made fans shake their head at the organization. Hardaway is off to an abysmal start showing he is not good enough to be one of the top players on a good team. Enes Kanter is currently the third best Knicks player, as he came over in the Anthony trade. Don’t be surprised if he is traded again as the Knicks have no chance at doing anything relevant this season.
24. Dallas Mavericks: Dirk Nowitzki/Harrison Barnes/Dennis Smith Jr.
The Dallas Mavericks are off to the worst start in the NBA, but they actually don’t have a terrible big three. Dirk Nowitzki is clearly at the end of his career. Despite being limited from what we remember him as, Nowitzki can still contribute and play well in limited minutes. Harrison Barnes is a talented guy that adds to a winning team as seen with the Golden State Warriors. Dennis Smith Jr. looks like a promising rookie that can excel in the NBA.
The issue here in Dallas is that they have little chemistry and fail to work well together. There are a lot of talented people on the roster but they can’t find a way to make everyone play well at the same time. We see one or two players well each night with the rest of the roster struggling. The Mavericks appear bound for the lottery and Nowitzki will sadly end his career this or next season on a losing squad.
23. Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball/Brook Lopez/Brandon Ingram
No team has more riding on progressing this season than the Los Angeles Lakers. It is no secret that Lakers want to add LeBron James, Paul George and any other Superstar on the free agent market next summer. Rookie Lonzo Ball and second year talent Brandon Ingram are the keys in creating a desirable roster. If they show the ability to play consistently well, the free agent Superstars will have more incentive to join.
Ball and Ingram have both been quite inconsistent to start the season. That changing for the better is the Lakers biggest task. Brook Lopez is the best overall player on the Lakers as a big man that can post in the paint and hit the three-pointer from outside. All three Lakers have talent but no one is breaking out to truly lead them.
22. Indiana Pacers: Myles Turner/Victor Oladipo/Darren Collison
The Indiana Pacers have been more successful in the early season than anyone could have expected. Indiana seemed closer to the bottom of the league heading into the season but seem respectable. Their big three gives them a chance to make the playoffs in the weak Eastern Conference. Myles Turner is only 21 years old but is already one of the better centers with a ceiling to get better.
Victor Oladipo has been the biggest reason for the Pacers playing effectively so far. Following a disappointing season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Oladipo joined Indiana as part of the Paul George trade. Oladipo is leading the offense to success. Darren Collison is his backcourt mate and both guys work well together running a successful offense. Their ceiling will be low this season but at least they aren’t terrible.
21. Philadelphia 76ers: Ben Simmons/Joel Embiid/Markelle Fultz
Philadelphia 76ers fans trusted the process and now have three very interesting young talents. Ben Simmons seems to be the favorite to win Rookie of the Year. Following missing a full year due to injury, Simmons looks incredible and may be the best rookie to enter the NBA since LeBron James. Joel Embiid also looks great for Philadelphia as the center any time he is on the court.
Injuries are the only worries when it comes to the progression and talent of Embiid and Simmons. The third player in this equation is top overall rookie pick from the 2017 NBA Draft Markelle Fultz. Philadelphia has ruled Fultz out due to injury but he is expected to return at some point this season. 76ers fans could have a tremendous big three for many years. The players each need to prove it in the long run.
20. Memphis Grizzlies: Marc Gasol/Mike Conley/Tyreke Evans
The Memphis Grizzlies have had one of the better big three combinations for years with Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and Zach Randolph. Their depth was always the issue along with a few teams having way more upside with their star trios. Memphis has hit a decline after losing Randolph in free agency. Gasol and Conley now have even less depth on their team.
Both stars are in the higher tier of players at their respective positions. Tyreke Evans is the third best player on the team. While it is a nice story that he is playing well, Evans shouldn’t be a top three player on any team today if they are looking to make the playoffs. Memphis badly needs more depth. If we were looking at the best big two duos in the league, they’d be higher on the list.
19. Detroit Pistons: Reggie Jackson/Avery Bradley/Andre Drummond
One team with a much underrated big three combination is the Detroit Pistons. All three members have a great deal of talent but seem to be underappreciated in the NBA world. Andre Drummond is very good in the post and a pretty good center if you can overlook horrible free throw shooting. Avery Bradley made his way to Detroit in the offseason and was a major reason for the Boston Celtics’ success last season.
The big variable in play here is how Reggie Jackson does as the point guard. There has been dissension between Jackson and the Pistons since he was traded there a few years ago. Jackson is already in trade rumors regarding Detroit acquiring Eric Bledsoe. The acquisition of Bledsoe would just upgrade the Pistons and push them higher up the list.
18. Charlotte Hornets: Kemba Walker/Dwight Howard/Nicolas Batum
The Charlotte Hornets are one of the teams in the NBA that can really go either way. We can realistically see them making the playoffs in the Eastern Conference and posing a threat to someone in the first round. However, they could also end up being one of the worst teams in the league in the lottery. They at least have three talented players leading them.
Kemba Walker has become the face of the franchise as one of the better point guards in the NBA today. The clutch gene of Walker also makes him an even bigger threat late in the game. Dwight Howard is nowhere near the player he used to be, but he is a great rebounder and solid scorer in the post. Hornets fans are waiting on the return of Nicolas Batum from the injured list. All three men will need to work effectively together to pose a threat.
17. Utah Jazz: Rudy Gobert/Ricky Rubio/Derrick Favors
Ricky Rubio joining the Utah Jazz and Gordon Hayward leaving in free agency completely changed the landscape of the team. The team has a more fun style with Rubio running the offense, but the overall ceiling is definitely lower. Utah fans still have a fun big three to root for in hopes of making noise. Rudy Gobert is already one of the premiere centers in the league and only gets better.
Derrick Favors is the third man in the big three and the most important. The Jazz will need someone else to step up in a major way to help out Rubio and Gobert. Favors has been on the verge of breaking out for years now. It appears he’ll continue be just another pretty good player that can’t stand out enough to impact the game.
16. Denver Nuggets: Nikola Jokic/Paul Millsap/Jamal Murray
The Denver Nuggets quietly have two superb players and a great young core behind them to compete for some relevance in the lower tier of the Western Conference playoff pictures. Nikola Jokic is already one of the top centers in the NBA and is only getting better as time goes on. The overall play of Jokic gives him the chance to be an All-Star in the stacked West.
Paul Millsap has consistently been superb making the last four Eastern Conference All-Star teams to little fanfare. The move to Denver is seeing him help them improve in a fun way. Jamal Murray is currently the point guard and continues to get better as he’s a young asset. Denver is in a good spot right now to do some minor damage now and have a brighter future later with this big three.
15. Miami Heat: Hassan Whiteside/Goran Dragic/Dion Waiters
The Miami Heat started the current “Big Three” era in basketball when bringing together LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Miami only winning two rings with the combination before it fell apart seems disappointing now that the rest of the league have similar teams now. The Heat have an entertaining middle of the pack trio right now.
Hassan Whiteside’s offense, defense and toughness make him a top center in the league today. Goran Dragic is a talented point guard that helps them out a lot, but he is nowhere the better players at his position. The wild in both life and on the court is Dion Waiters. Miami can see Waiters carry them to victory or destroy on any given night with his risky style of play. The Heat will likely be a later playoff seed in the East with these guys leading the way.
14. Toronto Raptors: DeMar DeRozan/Kyle Lowry/Serge Ibaka
Serge Ibaka being traded to the Toronto Raptors last season made the fans believe they would now have a contending roster led by a top tier Big Three. Unfortunately, Toronto would get swept in the second round of the playoffs and prove to still be a phony contender in the LeBron James Conference. They still have an impressive and talented Big Three despite failing to meet expectations.
DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry in the backcourt each helped bring Toronto into relevance the past few seasons. Both guys have been fixtures on the All-Star team. Ibaka however doesn’t bring enough to put them over the top. This is another instance of a tremendous duo being brought down a peg thanks to a weaker third player in the trio.
13. Orlando Magic: Nikola Vucevic/Aaron Gordon/Evan Fournier
The Orlando Magic appear to be the most improved team in the NBA this season if we believe their first few weeks of play. All three members of their Big Three have stepped their games up to bring the team to a hot star. Nikola Vucevic has quietly put up great numbers for years and remains one of the better big men now that he has improved his outside shot.
Everyone loves Aaron Gordon for his crazy dunks but forget he is young and continues to improve as an overall player. Gordon bringing consistency will be important as he shows flashes of brilliance. Evan Fournier has been among the most underrated guard over the past few seasons and is on pace to average over 20 points this year. Orlando has a great shot at the playoffs thanks to his big three carrying them.
12. San Antonio Spurs: Kawhi Leonard/LaMarcus Aldridge/Tony Parker
The past two decades have been dominated by the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference teams. You can guarantee the Spurs will have a great regular season every single year and be a threat heading into the postseason. One shocking aspect to San Antonio’s start is realizing Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker have yet to play a game.
Both stars are expected to return this season when 100% but the rest of the roster is carrying the workload. LaMarcus Aldridge is getting a chance to be the priority on offense and is thriving again after a poor season last year. The confidence of Aldridge finally shining in San Antonio is pivotal and should make for a better team when Leonard and Parker return to form a great Big Three.
11. Portland Trail Blazers: Damian Lillard/CJ McCollum/Jusuf Nurkic
Fans of the Portland Trail Blazers have benefited from having an exciting back court to watch with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Both men shoot the three-pointer consistently and can dominate the offense from anywhere on the court. Jusuf Nurkic has stepped up as their center to become a solid third man to pair with the two superb guards.
The problem is the rest of the Blazers roster is quite awful. Portland has arguably the weakest depth at the forward positions with no difference makers on the roster. As great as the big three is for Portland, it is also the reason why they will struggle to hold down a playoff spot. This trio consists of everyone that can make an impact for the Blazers. The good news is they provide lots of entertainment.
10. Los Angeles Clippers: Blake Griffin/DeAndre Jordan/Danilo Gallinari
The Los Angeles Clippers losing Chris Paul in the offseason should have hurt them but they seem to be better. Blake Griffin is the biggest reason for this as he is on a mission entering the season. Most basketball fans have forgotten about Griffin over the past few seasons with lackluster play and injuries taking him down a peg. Griffin being the face of the franchise again has given him more incentive to ball out again.
Fellow big man DeAndre Jordan is also playing impressive basketball once again as an elite rebounder and paint defender. The addition of Danilo Gallinari gives them a three-point shooter to try to make up for the losses of J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford. Gallinari will be a good addition as an underrated offensive piece for any team. The Clippers will be fine without CP3.
9. Boston Celtics: Kyrie Irving/Al Horford/Jaylen Brown
Gordon Hayward going down with an injury on opening night completely changed the Boston Celtics season. They would have been a top five big three combination, but they are now ninth. Hayward going down has given more minutes to some of the younger players on the roster. Jaylen Brown already is stepping up and appears bound for a breakout season.
Kyrie Irving is on a mission to prove he can be a Superstar without LeBron James at his side. Al Horford has always been very good and now has a bigger role without Hayward. As of this writing, Boston is on an eight game winning streak after starting 0-2 to show they are still a threat. Irving is the key to this big three working and he has to step it up without fellow All-Star Hayward there to help him carry the load.
8. Washington Wizards: John Wall/Bradley Beal/Otto Porter
The Washington Wizards were forced to make a franchise changing decision this summer. Otto Porter signed a max contract offer sheet with the Brooklyn Nets. Washington could have either let him sign with Brooklyn or give him their final max contract under the salary cap. The Wizards ended up paying Porter believing this big three will be enough to make the NBA Finals out of the East.
John Wall and Bradley Beal are both tremendous players and among the best at their positions. We can safely feel comfortable knowing they’ll have great seasons every year going forward for the foreseeable future. Porter is the big variable that can push them higher up the list or make them fall. The body of work last season and so far this year proves he is more likely to bring positive results.
7. Milwaukee Bucks: Giannis Antetokounmpo/Khris Middleton/Jabari Parker
Giannis Antetokounmpo has improved the Milwaukee Bucks standing within the NBA all on his own. The video game numbers of Antetokounmpo are actually real in today’s NBA. Many pundits believe he will be the favorite to win the MVP Award this season and could progress into the player that soon passes LeBron James as the best overall player.
For now, Antetokounmpo is a top 5-10 overall player with a great young core behind him. Khris Middleton is a very good offensive player that can hit the three-pointer. The big mystery will be how Jabari Parker performs when he returns from injury around the All-Star break. Parker looked like a great power forward last season before he got hurt. If Parker lives up to expectation and isn’t limited, Milwaukee can make some noise come playoff time.
6. New Orleans Pelicans: DeMarcus Cousins/Anthony Davis/Jrue Holiday
One of the biggest questions entering the NBA season was regarding how DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis would play together. They struggled on the court together last season in limited time when Cousins was traded to the Pelicans. The season is early so far but we have seen enough to know that the offense can work for New Orleans with both Cousins and Davis putting up massive numbers.
Jrue Holiday even looks great as the point guard working as the third best talent between the elite two big men. The rest of the Pelicans don’t provide much depth but this big three should be enough for them to contend for a late playoff seed. Davis and Cousins are arguably the two best men in the NBA today. There is no excuse now for them to not have a winning season.
5. Houston Rockets: James Harden/Chris Paul/Eric Gordon
An opposite story to the New Orleans Pelicans is the mystery of the Houston Rockets. Chris Paul joining them in the offseason led to questions wondering if both ball-dominant guards of Paul of James Harden could work together. We still don’t know the answer to that as Paul has been out with injury since opening night. Paul is expected to return in November or December so we’ll find out soon.
Talent wise, you will be hard pressed to find a better back court in the NBA today. The third best player Eric Gordon is another guard. Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni will likely go small late to get all three men on the court in crunch time. Houston is one of the few teams with a chance to challenge the Golden State Warriors and this big three is the reason why.
4. Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns/Jimmy Butler/Andrew Wiggins
The Minnesota Timberwolves shocked the world in the offseason on the night of the NBA Draft. While rookies were worrying about their future, Jimmy Butler ended up being the big story of the night when traded from the Chicago Bulls to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Butler is an all-around great player getting it done from both sides of the floor and is a legitimate All-Star.
Karl-Anthony Towns could be argued as already better than Butler. The big man can shoot from the outside, dominate the paint and run up the court. Towns represents the new era of centers as he can do it all. Andrew Wiggins has proven to be a great scorer as well and just needs to bring his defense up to get the most of this big three. The scariest thing about the Timberwolves trio is that they are all between the ages of 21 and 28 meaning this could be a force for years to come.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers: LeBron James/Kevin Love/Isaiah Thomas
LeBron James is still the best player in the NBA, but his Big Three finishes third in the overall rankings. The usual combination of LeBron, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving over the past three seasons would have ranked higher. Irving however requested a trade away from the Cavaliers in the offseason. Isaiah Thomas joined Cleveland in this trade.
We don’t know when Thomas will make his regular season debut as he recovers from a hip injury, but he may be the key to their success. Cleveland is struggling partly due to having an older back court that is struggling to shoot. Thomas is fast and a great shooter. Love is still one of the better power forward but no longer has the ability to dominate a game. The Cavaliers should be fine in the long run with the best player in the world and two very good superstars alongside him.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder: Russell Westbrook/Carmelo Anthony/Paul George
The Oklahoma City Thunder made the biggest splash in the offseason when it came to trying to contend for an NBA Championship this season. Russell Westbrook is coming off a historic MVP Award winning season that saw him average a triple double. The additions of Carmelo Anthony from the New York Knicks and Paul George from the Indiana Pacers saw the Thunder give up very little in return for two All-Stars.
Both George and Anthony have led their teams to the playoffs for many years until recently reaching an ending point with the Pacers and Knicks. It remains to be seen if this trio will have the chemistry and skill set overtake the Golden State Warriors. A potential playoff series would be must-see television for any sports fans. Until they prove they can beat the champs, the Thunder big three is second overall.
1. Golden State Warriors: Stephen Curry/Kevin Durant/Klay Thompson
There was no way to have any other big three at the top position. The Golden State Warriors dominated the playoffs last year going 16-1 en route to easily winning the NBA Championship. Golden State has such an embarrassment of riches that All-Star Draymond Green is snubbed from the Big Three. The combination of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant may see each man finish as the best shooter at his respective position.
Curry has won two MVP Awards and is already considered the most dominant shooter in NBA history. Durant is another MVP winner and added the Finals MVP with a tremendous playoff run last year. Many fans discount Thompson due to being behind these two, but the man once scored 37 points in a single quarter. Klay could easily average close to 30 points on most other teams. Golden State is close to unbeatable in a league full of super teams due to this big three.
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