Ranking the NBA's Top Trios
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Last season the Heat, Celtics, Thunder and Spurs were the last four teams standing in the NBA playoffs, and each team was led by a trio of stars (Boston had four). Miami and Oklahoma City met in the NBA Finals, and they also arguably had the best two trios of stars in the league.
To win a championship in the NBA, it takes multiple stars. The Heat showed with their 'Big Three' that having three stars and a bunch of role players was enough to win a championship.
These are the best 10 trios in the entire NBA. With apologies to Celtics and Bulls fans, players that have suffered season-ending injuries or haven't played this season were not included.
10. Houston Rockets
Harden and Parsons are an excellent young wing duo.
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James Harden, Omer Asik and Chandler Parsons
Points Per Game: 51.5
Rebounds Per Game: 22.1
Assists Per Game: 10.3
Combined PER: 53.5
The Houston Rockets have one of the best young cores in the NBA. James Harden, Omer Asik and Chandler Parsons are all 26 or younger, and there is only one 30-year-old on the Rockets' roster.
Harden is the third-best shooting guard in the NBA, and quite possibly a top-10 player. He is currently fifth in the league in scoring and 10th in PER. He brings more to the table than just scoring, averaging 4.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game as well.
Omer Asik is one of the top defensive big men in the league. In his first season as a starter, he is averaging 11.6 rebounds and just over one block per game. His 7', 255-pound frame allows him to clog the lane and defend even the biggest opponents without needing a double team.
Chandler Parsons was a second-round pick in 2011, but he has become one of the better young wing players in the NBA. He is second to Harden on the Rockets with 15.1 points per game and is third on the team with 3.7 assists. He is 6'9" and a very good rebounder for a small forward, averaging 5.5 rebounds per game, second only to Asik.
The Rockets currently hold the eighth seed in the West, and they look to have a very bright future. Their core of Harden, Asik, Parsons and Jeremy Lin are all signed through 2014-15 (the Rockets have two team options for Parsons), according to Hoopshype.
The Rockets also have room to sign a max-contract free agent this summer, so look for them to be higher on this list in the future.
9. Chicago Bulls
Deng, Boozer and Noah average 27.4 rebounds per game.
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Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer
Points Per Game: 44.0
Rebounds Per Game: 27.4
Assists Per Game: 9.2
Combined PER: 50.2
While they are awaiting the return of Derrick Rose, the Chicago Bulls still have one of the best trios in the NBA, led by their two All-Stars.
Joakim Noah has been one of the best centers in the league this season. He averages 12.1 points, 11.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.3 blocks per game.
His ability to anchor the NBA's fourth-best defense while averaging the most assists by a center in the league has made him Chicago's most valuable player this season.
Luol Deng made his second straight All-Star Game this season, as he has led the Bulls in scoring and been their best wing defender. At 6'9" with very long arms, he can give any wing player problems, and even some power forwards.
Carlos Boozer is very different from Noah and Deng, as he is a good scorer that is below average defensively. He gives the Bulls a low-post scoring option and can stretch the defense a bit with a very good mid-range jumper.
If Rose were healthy and in MVP form, the Bulls would have a trio much higher on this list. However, these three made the cut because they are the best rebounding threesome of any group on the list, and they have kept the Bulls in fifth place without Rose seeing the floor this season.
8. Indiana Pacers
The Pacers' trio has the size to give the Heat problems.
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Paul George, David West and Roy Hibbert
Points Per Game: 45.3
Rebounds Per Game: 23.5
Assists Per Game: 8.5
Combined PER: 53.5
The Pacers have the best chance to beat the Heat from the East, and that has much to do with their trio of Paul George, David West and Roy Hibbert.
Paul George is just 22, but he was an All-Star this season. He is 6'8" and very athletic, making him an excellent wing defender. He leads the team with 17.8 points per game and is second in rebounding and assists. He is one of the future stars of the NBA.
David West is the locker-room veteran for the Pacers and is still very productive at age 32. He averages 17.4 points per game and has the highest PER on the team at 20.7.
Hibbert is one of the best defensive centers in the league, using his 7'2" frame to clog the lane and challenge shots. His scoring and shooting percentages are down this season, but he is still scoring double digits for the Pacers.
The Pacers have the most efficient defense in the NBA, according to ESPN, and they have players to give Miami problems in a potential playoff matchup.
7. Brooklyn Nets
Brooklyn is home to one of the best trios in the game.
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Brook Lopez, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson
Points Per Game: 52.9
Rebounds Per Game: 13.5
Assists Per Game: 12.1
Combined PER: 56.8
The Nets have a very solid, yet expensive, trio of stars.
Brook Lopez is one of the best young big men in the league, averaging over 18 points per game with a 24.6 PER, fourth in the NBA. He has also raised his rebounding and blocks to 7.2 and 2.2 per game, respectively.
Deron Williams was in the conversation for top point guard in the league a couple years ago, but he has fallen a bit. He is averaging just 7.5 assists per game, 1.5 below his career average. Nonetheless, he is still a top-five point guard.
Joe Johnson is still a very solid scorer, averaging 16.8 points per game, and at 6'7", 240 pounds, he is a tough matchup for most shooting guards.
However, he is averaging his fewest points since the 2004-05 season, and his shooting percentage is the lowest since 2003-04. His production is not what the Nets thought it would be when they traded for him over the summer.
The Nets have the seventh-best trio in the league, but it remains to be seen if this core can contend for a championship. The team is just sixth in the East, and they have almost zero financial flexibility moving forward.
Lopez, Williams and Johnson will make more than $50 million per season through 2015-16, according to Hoopshype. Johnson is 31 and Williams is 28, so this may be the ceiling for this Nets team.
6. New York Knicks
The Knicks have one of the best frontcourts in the league.
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Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Amare' Stoudemire
Points Per Game: 53.5
Rebounds Per Game: 22.6
Assists Per Game: 4.2
Combined PER: 65.4
The Knicks have fallen off a bit after their hot start to the season, but they are still third in the East and are one of the biggest challengers to Miami's conference throne.
Carmelo Anthony is the leading scorer in the league and has made the move to power forward very smoothly. His combination of size, strength and offensive skill make him one of the toughest matchups in the entire NBA.
Tyson Chandler was the 2012 Defensive Player of the Year, and he has kept up his stellar defense this season. He is both a great one-on-one and help defender and is fifth in the league in rebounding.
Offensively he is limited, but he knows his role. Chandler leads the league in shooting percentage at 65.5 percent, 4.4 percent higher than the next player.
Amare' Stoudemire has missed over half of the season with injury, but now that he is back he is playing well in a sixth-man role. He is only playing 22.8 minutes per game as he eases back into the rotation, but he has been very efficient when he has played. His 21.66 PER is currently 17th in the league.
Anthony and Stoudemire give the Knicks very solid scoring options that they surround with three-point shooters. Chandler was essential in Dallas' Finals victory over the Heat in 2011.
If these three players can develop good chemistry before the playoffs, they could be very dangerous to the Heat in a potential matchup.
5. Los Angeles Lakers
It has been a rocky first season together for the new-look Lakers.
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Points Per Game: 55.4
Rebounds Per Game: 20.1
Assists Per Game: 14.2
Combined PER: 58.2
The Lakers are the only team on this list that would not be in the playoffs if the season ended today. Despite that, the team has the league's best shooting guard, one of the top centers and an elite shooter that can still play point guard at a high level.
Kobe Bryant is third in the NBA in scoring and still rebounds at a very high level for a shooting guard. While his athleticism is not what it was at the beginning of his career, he his still a very good wing defender at 34 years old.
Dwight Howard is no longer a top-three player in the league because of back and shoulder injuries, but he does lead the league in rebounds and is fifth in blocks. His ability to challenge shots in the paint is incredibly valuable to the Lakers defensively.
While Steve Nash is no longer one of the top point guards in the league, he still shoots over 50 percent from the field and 43 percent from behind the arc. Bryant takes over a lot of the ball-handling responsibilities for the Lakers, but Nash still has the ability to get into the paint and set up his teammates.
With Pau Gasol out for possibly the rest of the regular season, these three players will need to play at a very high level to get the Lakers to the playoffs.
They wouldn't be favored to win the conference by any means if they made it, but there isn't a team in the West that would like to play this talented of a team in the playoffs.
4. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers have one of the best duos in the NBA.
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Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford
Points Per Game: 51.7
Rebounds Per Game: 13.9
Assists Per Game: 15.7
Combined PER: 66.9
Blake Griffin's development and the acquisition of Jamal Crawford have given the Clippers the fourth-best trio in the NBA.
Chris Paul is unquestionably the top point guard in the league and controls the pace of a game better than anyone. His ability to involve his teammates all game long, yet take over when necessary is special to watch.
Griffin has grown into one of the best big men in the league at 23 years old, as he has the eighth-highest PER in the NBA. This season he has learned to take his defender off the dribble and has extended his shooting range to 20 feet, making him a much more versatile offensive player.
Crawford is one of the league's best sixth man, giving the Clippers 17 points per game off the bench, and he is having his best season since 2009-10. His ability to create his own shot is incredibly valuable off the bench, giving the team a play-maker while Paul rests.
The Clippers are currently the third-best team in the West, and they have serious title hopes this season. The conference is incredibly talented at the top, but with Paul and the deepest team in the league, "Lob City" should be taken very seriously come playoff time.
3. San Antonio Spurs
The best three players on the Spurs are all 30 or older.
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Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili
Points Per Game: 50
Rebounds Per Game: 16.5
Assists Per Game: 14.8
Combined PER: 69.5
The Spurs have the oldest trio on the list, but they are still one of the best in the NBA.
Tony Parker has made his case for MVP, leading the league's top team in scoring and assists. Tim Duncan seems to stopped the aging process, as he is having his best season since 2009-10 and remains one of the league's best big men at age 36.
Manu Ginobili has missed games and has played reduced minutes because of injury, but his PER is still above 21 at 35 years old.
Coach Gregg Popovich has kept the minutes down for all three in order to keep them rested for the grueling playoff run.
They looked like the team to beat last season before losing to the Thunder in the conference finals. With more rest this season, the Spurs look ready to make a deep playoff run again this spring.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
Westbrook, Ibaka and Durant are all under 25 years old.
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Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka
Points Per Game: 65.4
Rebounds Per Game: 20.9
Assists Per Game: 13.0
Combined PER: 71.3
The 2012 Western Conference champions are again favorites to make the NBA Finals, and their under-25 trio is the reason why.
Kevin Durant is the second-best player in the league, and is just one-tenth of a point behind Carmelo Anthony for the scoring title, which would be the fourth of his career.
Russell Westbrook is one of the most devastating athletes in the league, and has raised his assists average by 2.3 over last season.
Serge Ibaka is second in the league in blocks and is finding his offensive game, averaging 4.5 more points than last season.
The Thunder chose to extend Ibaka instead of James Harden, and Serge will be the most important player for them going forward. He needs to continue to work on his passing and driving skills on offense, and learn to be a better one-on-one defender.
He has enormous potential and is just 23, but his continued development is crucial for the Thunder as they try to win their first title.
1. Miami Heat
Miami has the best threesome in the league.
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LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh
Points Per Game: 65.5
Rebounds Per Game: 20.2
Assists Per Game: 13.6
Combined PER: 76.5
The reigning NBA champions have undoubtedly the best trio in the NBA. LeBron James is the best player in the league and is coming off possibly the best month of his career.
Dwyane Wade is a Top 10 player in the league and is one of the best two shooting guards in the league. Chris Bosh isn't exactly a slouch either, with a PER above 20 and an All-Star in his own right.
The Heat are a thin team, and an injury to any of the three could derail their title defense, but if they remain healthy, there is not a team in the league that can match the firepower that the 'Big Three' bring to the court.