2012 NBA Playoffs: Is There a Better Trio Than Westbrook, Harden and Durant?

Marques EversollAnalyst IMay 6, 2012

The term "the big three" is used much too loosely in the NBA.

It seems that any trio of teammates is qualified to receive the label as long as they have even the slightest bit of name recognition.

To almost any basketball fan, Miami's trio of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh fits the criteria, but many fans simply consider their team's top three players as their "big three."

In New Orleans, the Hornets feature Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman and Jarrett Jack.

The Milwaukee Bucks have their own talented trio of Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis and Ersan Ilyasova.

While the definition of a "big three" is subject to debate, it's pretty clear that not all 30 NBA teams have three players that adequately fit the qualifications for the label.

I'm very sorry Mr. Ilyasova, but the Bucks simply don't have a "big three." Don't get too down on yourself though, "Ersanity" is taking Milwaukee by storm.

There are, however, teams outside of Miami that fit the description of a "big three." In Los Angeles, Kobe Bryant runs the show alongside two of the league's most talented post players—Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. There may be a little dust on the bottle, but the core of the Boston Celtics continues to be the aging trio of Pierce, Allen and Garnett, although Rajon Rondo is perhaps the team's best player.

Miami boasts one of the most attractive lineups in basketball. James is the best player on the planet, and Wade isn't too far behind. However, contrary to popular belief, the "biggest three" in the NBA is not in Miami.

Durant and Westbrook are a very dangerous duo.
Durant and Westbrook are a very dangerous duo.

It's in Oklahoma City.

The ultra-smooth Russell Westbrook, the bearded assassin James Harden and league MVP candidate Kevin Durant are very possibly the best three players on any one team.

The young Thunder team entered the playoffs this year with some valuable experience from its run to the Western Conference Finals just a season ago.

Oklahoma City won a series against Denver and another against Memphis before being ousted in 2011 by the eventual NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks. This year, the Thunder swept the defending champions in the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs.

The scariest part about Oklahoma City's trio isn't the spread of superstar talent across their lineup at point guard, shooting guard and small forward, nor is it 68.4 points per game they averaged in the regular season—it's their age.

Westbrook and Durant are both just 23 years old, and Harden is 22.

On three separate occasions earlier this season, Durant and Westbrook combined for 78, 85 and 91 points in a single game. Add Harden's 16.8 points off the bench to a heavy dose of Westbrook and Durant, and you've got yourself a recipe for 49 wins out of a possible 66.

The three young guns have transformed Oklahoma City into one of the most feared offensive attacks in the NBA, finishing in the top-five in points per game for two straight seasons. If a team is going to beat the Thunder, one thing is for sure—they'd better be able to score a lot of points.

Now into the second round, Oklahoma City awaits the winner of the series between the Nuggets and Lakers. Both teams could pose a threat to the Thunder, as the Lakers have as much playoff experience as any team in the field, and the Nuggets were one of just two teams that scored more points than the Thunder in the regular season.

Whether it's Los Angeles or Denver, Oklahoma City will in no way be intimidated in their next playoff series. The Thunder's time is now.

The "big three" in OKC is ready—and they're waiting.