NBA Playoffs 2012: Which Team Has the Better "Big Three"
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Get your popcorn ready; the NBA Finals is finally upon us! The matchup between the Heat and Thunder is a tantalizing one that features several story lines. At the top of the list: Who is the better player between LeBron James and Kevin Durant?
That is a debate I will raise at another time. Instead, I will choose to go a tad bit further for now: Which team possesses’ the better Big Three?
Everybody understands by now that LeBron and Durant are the two best players in the NBA. I do not believe that there are many people who would dispute that. LeBron has the raw ability that has not been witnessed in the NBA in decades. Durant is a great scorer and has developed a more well-rounded game, which was evident when he guarded Kobe Bryant and Manu Ginobili for stretches in the playoffs. Both guys are determined to outdo the other.
James has shown a distinctively different approach since he and the Heat saw themselves staring at a 3-2 hole in their series against the Celtics. The fun-and-games version of LeBron James disappeared, and what emerged was a more business-like LeBron James.
LeBron and Durant alone make up for what is a must-see NBA Finals, but they only represent one-third of their respective teams' Big Three.
Newsflash: Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Russell Westbrook and James Harden are pretty darn good!
LeBron James has been fantastic in the playoffs—so good that Dwayne Wade has not had to do much. This element has worked out perfectly because Wade appears to be a little bit hobbled by nagging injuries.
However, that has not stopped Wade from being his dominating self at times. After all, he scored 41 points against the Pacers in Game 5 of their second round series. Wade’s counterpart, Russell Westbrook, is more like Wade than any other player in the league. Westbrook sets the tone offensively for the Thunder with his athleticism and pure reckless abandon—or to use a better term, fearlessness. Westbrook and Wade are one in the same, with the exception that Westbrook is 23, seven years younger than Wade.
While some people view the Thunder as Durant’s team, I do not. Westbrook is a pure 1b to Durant’s 1a on the Thunder’s hierarchy chart. In any major NBA markets, Westbrook would not be downgraded to secondary star status the way that he is for the Thunder.
The same can be said for both Chris Bosh and James Harden. Neither the Heat nor the Thunder would be in the NBA Finals without the contributions from these two undervalued players. Both of them would be the top star on nearly two-thirds of the teams in the NBA. Many of us have short memories, but Bosh led the Raptors to the playoffs twice. Bosh provides what the Heat lack, which is size and rebounding.
Which team has the better tandem?
Defensively, Bosh has stepped up too. His shot-blocking ability was showcased once he made his return from an abdominal strain. His return made the Heat formidable again.
As for Harden, he would be the starting shooting guard on any team that does not have Kobe Bryant, Joe Johnson or Wade. Once Harden is put in the game, the offense flows through him. He can get to the basket at will, and he is an irritant on defense. Why his star does not shine as bright, I believe, is because he has a 1990’s approach to the game. It seems as if Harden does not care about being on the highlight clips; he just wants to contribute to a championship.
Many of us seem hell-bent on mentioning the Big Three of the Heat in our water cooler conversations. The team the Heat will be facing in the finals has a Big Three of their own.
So, which Big Three is better? The question is now up for discussion.
Follow me on Twitter @ernestshepard.
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