Ranking the Miami Heat and the NBA's Top 5 "Big Threes"
The latest trend in the NBA is having a Big Three. Everyone is doing it. However, not all of the threesomes are effective.
The New York Knicks, for example, put together Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler in hopes of a championship. So far, that unit has failed to live up to expectations.
Without the right blend of talent and chemistry, three star players will be just that: three star players.
However, there are a few teams that got the formula right. The top three players came together to form a commanding force, with each player dominating his respective role.
Some teams, like the Spurs, have been doing it right for years, while others only recently joined forces. Here are the top five "Big Threes" in the NBA.
5. Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics may have lost a major piece of the original Big Three, but fortunately, they didn't have to look far to replace him. Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are still a big threat in the NBA, even without Ray Allen.
Last season, Rondo soared to new heights. The dynamic point guard averaged 11.9 points, 11.7 assists and 4.8 boards per game. In the postseason, he stepped it up to 17.3 points, 11.9 assists and 6.7 rebounds.
More impressively, Rondo registered six triple-doubles last season. He was the only player to have more than one over the course of the regular season.
Pierce is the team's captain and still comes through in the clutch, even at age 34. He averaged 19.4 points and 5.2 rebounds last year and still has much value to the C's.
After considering retirement, Garnett decided to return to Boston to give another run at the title. The power forward was a key part of the Celtics championship in 2008 and continues to be an emotional leader for the team.
In addition, Garnett was rejuvenated last season after assuming the role of starting center. As the Celtics' prized big man, his play visibly increased. Garnett averaged 19.2 points and 10.3 rebounds per game in the 2012 postseason.
One thing the Celtics have that other Big Threes lack is togetherness.
When Garnett and Allen joined Pierce in 2007, they understood that they would have to adopt different roles to ultimately win a championship. They put aside their egos and played with one common goal.
Even though Allen is gone, that winning mindset still remains.
While Rondo hasn't even reached his peak yet, Garnett and Pierce are on the decline. Both players are nearing the end of their careers, and it's evident on the court. One of the main reasons why the Celtics lost the Eastern Conference finals was because the veterans just couldn't keep up with the younger, more durable Miami Heat.
Led by the Big Three, the Celtics still have enough gas in their tank for one more championship run. With the self-proclaimed best point guard in Rondo and two effective veterans in Garnett and Pierce, the Celtics have one of the best triads in the league.
4. Los Angeles Lakers
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Although they've had their struggles in recent years, the Los Angeles Lakers have one of the best threesomes in the NBA.
Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol are extremely dominant on both ends of the floor. Obviously, Bryant is one of the best players to ever pick up a basketball. Add Bynum and Gasol—together known as the newest version of NBA's Twin Towers (in the shadows of the Rockets' Sampson/Olajuwon and the Spurs' Robinson/Duncan)—and the Lakers have a solid Big Three.
This core group went to three consecutive NBA Finals, winning two of them. Even though they were ousted from the postseason two years in a row in embarrassing fashion, it doesn't mean they are any less effective.
Bryant is a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame and arguably the second-best player in NBA history. He averaged 27.9 points per game last season on 43 percent shooting—not to mention that he was playing with a bad wrist.
Bynum is finally beginning to live up to his expectations as a dominant big man. Last season was his first truly healthy one since 2006-07, and you can definitely tell the difference. Bynum averaged career highs across the board with 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and two blocks per game.
On the flip side, the youthful center had numerous instances last season in which his maturity level was questioned. His attitude became a distraction and frequently caused disturbances amongst the coaching staff.
Bynum and Gasol make up one of the league's best frontcourts. Gasol is a top rebounder and knows how to score in the paint. His strong offensive tools and above-average passing skills make him one of the best power forwards in the game right now.
It's important to note that this Big Three may not be intact by the beginning of next season. The Lakers have already added Steve Nash to the lineup and are looking to bring Dwight Howard on board as well.
If this happens, swap out Bynum for Howard, and the L.A. Big Three would most likely place higher on this list as a result.
3. San Antonio Spurs
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If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
The San Antonio Spurs found a formula that works, and they've stuck to it ever since. With the help of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, the Spurs have become one of the most successful franchises in NBA history.
Together, they have won three titles (2003, 2005, 2007), and Duncan won one on his own, as well.
Duncan is a sure thing for the Hall of Fame. The center is one of the greatest players of his generation, and while his role on the team has changed over the past few years, Duncan is still a dominating force in the NBA. At 36 years old and playing 28 minutes per game, Duncan still managed to average 15.4 points and nine rebounds last season.
Parker is a seasoned veteran who doesn't seem to be slowing down any time soon. Last season was a great one for the French point guard, as he led the team in scoring with 18.3 points per game. He also averaged 7.7 assists and registered 12 double-doubles.
With Duncan taking a smaller offensive role on the team, Parker has had to pick up the slack. He has embraced his new responsibilities, but it's clear that he cannot carry the Spurs offensively.
Last, but certainly not least, is Ginobili.
He only averaged 12.9 points, 4.4 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game last season. Then again, he only started seven games. Ginobili plays a sixth man combo-guard role, similar to that of the Oklahoma City Thunder's James Harden, and he's one of the most valuable players on the team.
The best thing about the Spurs' Big Three is their chemistry. Duncan, Parker and Ginobili have a familiarity that the newer teams lack.
Although their reign seems to be coming to a close, the Spurs created one of the best threesomes of this generation.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
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Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden are the future of the NBA.
The three young stars led the Oklahoma City Thunder to the 2012 NBA Finals, where they ultimately lost to the Miami Heat. However, despite failing to win the championship, Oklahoma City's Big Three proved they will run the Western Conference for years to come.
At 23 years of age, with five years in the NBA, Durant already has three scoring titles to his name. The 2008 NBA Rookie of the Year took the league by storm, living up to the high expectations set for him. Durant is on track to be one of the greatest basketball players of all time, although he still has a lot to prove.
Durant averaged 28 points per game on 50 percent shooting in the 2011-12 regular season. In addition, for fantasy basketball fans, "Durantula" has the highest player rating in 2012.
Westbrook is Durant's right-hand man. The explosive point guard may be a bit unconventional at his position, but he knows how to get the job done. Westbrook averaged 23.6 points and 5.5 assists per game last season. His extraordinary quickness and athleticism are a huge advantage over some of the older, slower point guards.
Harden is the league's reigning Sixth Man of the Year. The backup point guard was a big reason for the team's success, as he provided consistent offense off the bench. In fact, Harden was the third-leading scorer behind Durant and Westbrook.
Unfortunately, his dominance diminished in the NBA Finals, where his 16.8 points per game dropped to 12.4—and he was part of the reason why the Thunder lost. Nonetheless, Harden is the perfect player to round out OKC's Big Three.
All in all, the three men play phenomenally together. The Thunder's Big Three are young, hungry and up next to take the crown.
1. Miami Heat
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It only makes sense for the Miami Heat to top this list.
In that moment, the Miami Heat became the villains of the NBA. Fast-forward two years, and the Heat are basking in glory after winning the 2012 NBA championship.
All the credit is due to none other than the Big Three.
James is the reigning NBA and Finals MVP. He averaged 27.1 points, 6.2 assists and 7.9 rebounds per game last season. He put up a triple-double in Game 5 of the finals to finally win his first championship. The former Rookie of the Year has racked up three league MVPs, two All-Star MVPs and five All-NBA First Team honors.
Frankly, James is just better than everyone else at the moment.
This postseason, we saw Wade take a slightly smaller role on the team. Not much smaller—he still averaged 22.8 points per game—but small enough to let James get into his rhythm and prevent a repeat of 2011's finals disaster.
Although he isn't as celebrated as his two superstar teammates, Bosh is an essential piece of Miami's Big Three. His length and smooth jumper automatically give the Heat an edge against competitors.
Together, James and Wade are an unstoppable force. Where one falters, the other picks up.
Now that those two are finally learning how to complement each other instead of taking turns, we are witnessing some of the best basketball seen in a long time. For example, James and Wade combined for a whopping 70 points to beat the Indiana Pacers in Game 4 of the conference semifinals.
The threesome is also dominant on the defensive end, with James once again leading the pack.
Without a doubt, Miami is the home of the best Big Three in the NBA. James, Wade and Bosh made a huge statement last season, but they must watch their backs, because OKC is right around the corner.