It's common knowledge in the NBA. If a team has the best player in a playoff series, that team will win.
But as more and more superstars join together, the need for multiple top-tier talents is becoming vitally important. One or two All-Stars leading a strong supporting cast just won’t cut it in today’s NBA.
This has caused a movement across the league to create multiple “Big 3s” in hopes of claiming the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Here are my rankings of the top 10 “Big 3s” in the NBA.
The criterion is simple. Assuming full health, which three would I most want this coming season?
Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph don’t mesh together perfectly, but they still are really good players who can do more than just score. Marc Gasol’s defense and smarts put the finishing touches on this trio, making them one of the strongest frontcourts in the NBA.
This is more of a duo plus one. Chris Paul’s presence alone makes it worthy of a top-10 placement. He’s one of the five best players in the world, and he instantly made the Clippers a serious playoff contender.
Blake Griffin is overrated, in my opinion, but his toughness and leaping ability are good complements to Paul. Caron Butler is no star, but he does provide perimeter scoring and defense.
As we have now seen after one season, this trio is better on paper than in actuality.
Carmelo Anthony’s ball-stopping offense and the lack of a consistent pick-and-roll game for Amare Stoudemire can make New York’s offense quite stagnant at times.
Still, the Knicks made the playoffs last year and won a game against the eventual NBA champions. Anthony and Stoudemire are still great players, and Tyson Chandler erases a lot of their defensive shortcomings.
Although they’re not as talented as other top trios, Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace fit together just as well as any three-way combination.
Williams can score and facilitate as a point guard, Johnson can knock down the open looks that Williams creates and Wallace is a terrific athlete who plays awesome defense and grabs rebounds.
Four years ago, Rajon Rondo was the one guy many thought would hold back Boston’s original Big 3 of Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. But now, he’s the centerpiece of arguably the East’s second-best team.
Pierce and Garnett will be at least 35 when the 2012-2013 season begins, but year after year, they defy Father Time and led by Rondo become one of the league’s most dangerous teams come playoff time.
This trio will keep the Celtics just as strong as ever.
Much like Boston, San Antonio has seen a change in the pecking order of its top stars.
Tim Duncan has graciously taken a back seat to Tony Parker’s world-class talent. That’s what puts this trio over the top.
Manu Ginobili has always accepted that he’s best off the bench as a sixth man. Parker deferred to Duncan early in the decade, and now Duncan defers to Parker.
They all know what’s best for the team.
I know, Derrick Rose won’t play much of this year, and he won’t be at 100 percent when he does. But as I said in the intro, I made this list assuming full health.
Luol Deng is a terrific supporting player. He scores, plays terrific defense, grabs rebounds and does many other little things.
I decided to go with Joakim Noah over Carlos Boozer as the third banana because of his defense, toughness and rebounding. If Boozer was playing like he did in Utah, he would be a great complement to Rose and Deng. But he’s not, and Noah’s overall game is superior to Boozer's.
OK, this is a foursome, but who can you take off that list?
Kobe Bryant just missed the scoring title last year. Steve Nash is still one of the best point guards in the world. Pau Gasol helped the Lakers progress from making the playoffs to appearing in three straight NBA Finals and winning two of them, and Bynum may be the best low-post scorer in the league.
You can take any three of them and still have a trio that tops just about any other in the NBA.
All three of these guys are extremely successful in their own way; Durant shoots, Westbrook drives and Harden facilitates.
Westbrook and Harden were heavily criticized during and after the NBA Finals, and some of it was deserved. Most of it, however, seemed to be the result of the media needing someone new to be the lightning rod of criticism now that LeBron James was no longer a target.
While off their game, they still took the Miami Heat to five games in the NBA Finals. Imagine how good they’ll be this year now that they have a year of Finals experience under their belts.
They’re coming off their first championship together. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade don’t exactly complement each other, but one of them is the best player in the world and the other is at least a top 10.
Add a top-20 player in Chris Bosh who complements their games with jump shooting, and you have yourself the best trio in the game.