Battle of the Big Fours: Power Ranking the Top 10 Cores of the NBA

Bob Sun Contributor IIIJanuary 21, 2013

Battle of the Big Fours: Power Ranking the Top 10 Cores of the NBA

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    Most NBA basketball teams do not have a big one, a big two, or a big three.

    They have a big four.

    From the Miami Heat to the L.A. Lakers, teams have a group of players that the team revolves around. Whether they're superstars like Kobe Bryant, or role players like Jason Terry, these players play a key role in the team's success. 

    Without further ado, here are the top 10 big fours in the NBA

    Teams with injured players such as the Chicago Bulls and Philadelphia 76ers will not be featured. In addition, Danny Granger and Raymond Felton are not included on the Pacers slide and the Knicks slide, respectively, due to injury, although they certainly would be if they were healthy. 

10. Indiana Pacers

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    Big 4:

    George Hill

    Roy Hibbert

    Paul George 

    David West

    Despite missing former All-Star Danny Granger, the Pacers have been playing very well.

    Paul George is getting well-deserved All-Star hype, and Roy Hibbert ranks fourth in the NBA in blocks per game at 2.73.

    This talented group is averaging a combined 58.2 points per game. They have a solid veteran in David West and three great, young players in Hibbert, Hill, and George. 

    They are a great defensive group, although somewhat lacking in scoring punch. However, once Granger gets back, Indiana will have that too. 

    These players have all contributed to the Pacers greatly. 

9. Memphis Grizzlies

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    Big 4: 

    Zach Randolph

    Marc Gasol

    Rudy Gay

    Mike Conley, Jr. 

    This Big Four is a more exaggerated version of the Pacers' all defense, no offense.

    All of these players bar Z-Bo are averaging more than 1 block or steal per game, but none are averaging more than 18 points per game. 

    Mike Conley is an All-NBA defender, and Rudy Gay might be, too, if he didn't have to share the spotlight with Conley and Tony Allen. Marc Gasol is one of the league's best foreign players, and Zach Randolph is an All-Star candidate. 

    Z-Bo and Gasol are a perfect match in the post. One likes the high post, one likes the low post. One can patrol the paint like the lapdog, the other hovers away from it once in a while. 

8. Boston Celtics

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    Big 4:

    Rajon Rondo

    Paul Pierce

    Kevin Garnett

    Jason Terry

    Three old guys and the league leader in assists.

    That's what the Celtics' Big Four consists of. 

    Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo both need to take a chill pill, but they provide a very good inside-outside duo that can score, pass, and defend. They are also both All-Star starters. Paul Pierce is 13th in scoring in the league, and is as clutch and consistent as they come. JET is a solid role player and, like the others, an NBA Champion. 

    Terry is the obvious weak link here. He's a capable three-point shooter and passer, but age has taken its toll on him. The former sixth man of the year once averaged north of 19 points per game, but is now barely in double digits. 

    Kevin Garnett, JET, and The Truth will retire soon. There's no way around it. 

    And when they do, the Celtics will crumble. 

    But for now, they're the eighth best core in the league. 

7. New York Knicks

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    Big 4:

    Carmelo Anthony

    J.R. Smith

    Tyson Chandler

    Jason Kidd/ Iman Shumpert/ Amar'e Stoudemire/ Chris Copeland

    I couldn't really make up my mind over the has-been, the wing defender, the player-coach, or the rookie of the year sleeper, so I chose them all. They've all been important to the Knicks thus far.

    The first three are locks, though. Melo is the second-leading scorer in the league, Tyson Chandler is the league leader in FG percentage and the reigning defensive player of the year, and J.R. Smith is a no-no-yes type of player that has already sunk a couple of game-winning shots for New York.

    In reality, New York doesn't have a big 4. It has a player who is the focal point of the offense and one who is the focal point of the defense, and a roster that is built around them.

    If they had a better fourth man, they would have been much, much higher.    

6. Los Angeles Clippers

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    Big 4: 

    Chris Paul

    Blake Griffin

    DeAndre Jordan

    Jamal Crawford

    Maybe the Clippers should be higher. 

    After all, they have the best point guard in the league, the sixth man of the year front-runner, the best dunker in the whole wide world, and a future star. But they got beaten by five teams whose talents surpass even theirs. 

    But the former shame of L.A. is still very, very formidable. 

    Between Crawford's crossover, Paul's lobs, and Griffin's slams, they have great talent. 

    However, they only have one, or two if you're feeling generous, superstars. 

    The Clips have the second best record in the NBA, but this has more to do with their bench than their big 4. 

    Once Dre and Blake mature, they may be the best. But until then, they're stuck at number six. 

5. Brooklyn Nets

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    Big 4:

    Deron Williams

    Joe Johnson

    Brook Lopez

    Gerald Wallace

    After a sluggish start, the Nets are greatly enjoying the P.J. Carlesimo era.

    Brook Lopez is a young and talented center, and has All-Star potential. Joe Johnson and Deron Williams are superstars, and both have blossomed under their new head coach. Wallace is an amazing defender. He can give guys like Carmelo Anthony trouble, despite being in the decline since his 2010 All-Star selection.

    Brook Lopez may not know what rebounding is, and Iso Joe won't score so much because of his limited isolation, but this group fuels Brooklyn and gives them hope for title contention.  

4. San Antonio Spurs

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    Big 4: 

    Tony Parker

    Manu Ginobili

    Tim Duncan

    Tiago Splitter

    Tiago Splitter gets the nod over Kawhi Leonard because, unlike sophomore Leonard, he is among league leaders in FG percentage, is averaging double digits in points, and is pulling down more than five boards a game.

    Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili simply refuse to go away. They've been in title contention for a really long time. I don't see any sign of decline from them, and they will likely remain at the top until Duncan retires.

    Among foreign players, this squad is in the top-five in every category, bar threes and steals. 

    They're awfully good, and fuel the Spurs. 

3. Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Big 4: 

    Kevin Durant 

    Russell Westbrook

    Serge Ibaka

    Kevin Martin

    Some of you will undoubtedly freak when you see OKC at number three, but let me explain first.

    The Thunder are very good, young and talented on both ends of the court.

    Russell Westbrook is a pickpocket, and Serge Ibaka averages three rejections a night. Kevin Durant is playing the best defense of his career. 

    They are also top-notch scorers, combining for a whopping 80.8 points per game. Kevin Durant and Westbrook are both in the top-10 in scoring, and Westbrook is in the top-five in assists.

    The only reason they're at No. 3 is because they only have two superstars, unlike the teams in front of them. 

2. Miami Heat

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    Big 4:

    LeBron James

    Dwyane Wade

    Chris Bosh

    Ray Allen

    This Big four consists of 3 superstars and the greatest 3-point shooter of all time. 

    LeBron is the best player in the game today, Wade is the 2nd or 3rd best shooting guard (behind Kobe Bryant and perhaps James Harden), and Bosh is one of the top PF/Cs. Ray Allen, who once struggled to get through screens and find open looks in Boston, is now serving a big role as Miami's sixth man. He has had some clutch plays and game-winning shots. 

    They also each have five combined rings. Last year the Heat beat the Thunder in the Finals, and LeBron has been a lot more relaxed since then. He's the type of guy that can look lazy on the court, but when you check the box score he has 25 points, 8 boards, and 7 dimes. Chris Bosh has embraced his role as a center and is performing well.

    Dwyane Wade has lost a step, but is still productive. Ditto Ray Allen.

    The Heat are title contenders, thanks to these four.  

1. Los Angeles Lakers

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    Big 4:

    Kobe Bryant

    Dwight Howard

    Steve Nash

    Pau Gasol

    I was tempted to just write "FOUR SUPERSTARS" and leave it at that, but I'll go a little further here.

    This isn't the Lakers' big four. This is virtually the entire Lakers team minus Metta World Peace and Earl Clark. 

    Yes, I still consider Pau Gasol a superstar. He can do extremely well when he has the post all to himself, as evidenced by his 25-point showing against L.A.'s loss to the Raptors. 

    Meanwhile, the Lakers boast the league's leading scorer and rebounder. They have a player from this group in the top 5 in every major statistical category (points, boards, dimes, blocks, and steals) bar steals. They have the best shooting guard in the game today, the best center, one of the best foreign players, and the best pure point guard not named Rajon Rondo or Chris Paul. 

    Yes, the Lakers have struggled, but this is more of a lack of a bench and depth beyond these 4 players and a horrible coach than their Big Four. 

    Having these four players is a coach's dream. They are the best Big Four in all of basketball.