Three high-profile players. One worn-out moniker.
"The big three."
In today's NBA, it seems that any threesome capable of tying their sneakers and filling the stat sheet is given the overused label. With all due respect to Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson and No. 2 pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, no trio on the 7-59 Charlotte Bobcats is deserving of being called "the big three."
But if Brooklyn acquires Dwight Howard from Orlando, their talented threesome of Howard, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson would certainly fit the definition of a "big three," making the Nets a serious threat to the looming dynasty of the Miami Heat.
Miami's heavily scrutinized three-headed monster of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh won this year's NBA Championship by defeating Oklahoma City's young trio of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.
Combining the talents of three star players has always been a recipe for success in basketball. It worked in years past for the Lakers with Magic, Kareem and Worthy, and the same formula has brought championships to the current San Antonio Spurs dynasty.
After the Nets re-signed Williams, one of the top point guards in the league, and acquired Johnson from the Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn appears to be an improved team headed into the 2012 season, whether they start Howard or Brook Lopez at center. However, the addition of Howard would transform the Nets from a dangerous up-and-coming team to a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference.
Before this year's NBA Champion Heat made it out of the Eastern Conference, the Heat struggled mightily in their playoff matchup against the Indiana Pacers and their All-Star center Roy Hibbert.
Starving for a solution against the 7'2" giant, and without his top post player Chris Bosh, Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra opted to start inexperienced center Dexter Pittman in Game 3 of the Conference Semifinals. In the first three minutes of action, Pittman was manhandled by Hibbert, missed his only two shots, and picked up a personal foul.
Pittman nestled into his folding chair on Miami's sideline for the final 45 minutes, as Indiana took a 2-1 series lead.
If not for a heroic performance in Game 4 from James and Wade, the Heat would have came dangerously close to getting knocked out of the playoffs in just the second round; however, Miami's dynamic duo flipped the team's switch and the Heat went on to win the series in six games.
By using several different bodies to guard Hibbert and spreading the floor on offense to limit his dominance on the boards, Miami eventually solved the 7'2" puzzle. Hibbert's numbers fell from 14.6 points and 13.3 rebounds per night in the first three contests to just 10.0 points and 9.7 rebounds in the final three games.
The Heat may be encouraged by their new-found success defending the post, but nobody will mistake Roy Hibbert for Dwight Howard. Hibbert isn't the best big man in the NBA, Howard is.
A potential duo of Howard and Williams—considered by many to be the league's top point guard—would be deadly in pick-and-roll situations. Howard, at 6'11" and built like a broad-shouldered refrigerator, sets perhaps the most effect screen in basketball. With the Incredible Hulk setting the screen and sharpshooter Joe Johnson hovering around the three-point arc, Williams would feel like a kid in a candy store—if the candy store was located in the middle of an amusement park and handing out free Walkie-Talkies.
Brooklyn's potential "super-team" is more dangerous to Miami than any other Eastern Conference team.
Last year's top-seeded Chicago Bulls will benefit from the return of their MVP point guard Derrick Rose, but even at full strength, Chicago's supporting cast may lack the necessary firepower to beat the Heat in the playoffs.
The accomplished, yet aging Boston Celtics have made the playoffs every year since they acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in 2007, but with Ray Allen burning the Celtics to join the Heat last week, Rajon Rondo and the Celtics will enter a new era.
After the Heat, the Eastern Conference has an abundance of uncertainties. Playoff teams like the Pacers and Knicks will look to return to the postseason in 2012 with a slightly different outcome, while lottery teams like the Raptors and Bucks hope they've improved enough to become threats in the East this season.
Assuming they're able to pull off a trade for Howard, the new-look Brooklyn Nets have the best chance to unseat the Heat as kings of the East.
If Miami has one weakness on its star-studded roster, it's a lack of a true post presence, so if the league's premier center is moved to Brooklyn, the Nets could become the Miami Heat's kryptonite. Howard has career averages of 18.2 points, 12.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game, and he's averaged a double-double in each of his eight seasons as a professional.
Playing alongside Williams, an elite point guard capable of setting the table, Howard could feast on the offensive end, but his impact as a defender is simply insurmountable. Against attacking teams, such as the Heat, the presence of the three-time Defensive Player of the Year in the lane causes even LeBron or D-Wade to second guess their decision to drive.
As seen with Miami's recent signings Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, when teams have success, players want to join the party. So if the Nets add Howard and have early success, they'll likely only improve as they accumulate more talent over the years.
The Miami Heat are a very scary team right now. They have an incredibly talented team, and they'll enter 2012 with far less pressure than at any point since James and Bosh joined Wade in South Beach.
But despite the Heat's "big three" bringing a Championship to Miami, the potential trio in Brooklyn may be even bigger.