Triple Threat: Ranking the NBA's 30 Threesomes

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Triple Threat: Ranking the NBA's 30 Threesomes


R.C. Buford has made his stamp on the NBA in a unique way to say the least - he abolished the popular championship formula of pairing two Hall of Fame talents together in favor of the trio - three great (sometimes superstar) players who may not have the same historical value and star power as some duos, but get the job done none the less. After decades upon decades of professional basketball (80s Celtics aside), a general manager finally figured out that three players might work better than two. Pessimists of the trio theory on the other hand will be quick to point out the success of Jordan and Pippen in the 90s. And to that I say... well, nothing. Here we go:


30. New York Knicks (Jamal Crawford, Zach Randolph, Eddy Curry)
To take a page out of instant messaging's book: L-O-L. This trio wins the award for the most dysfunctional group of talent on the face of planet earth. Supreme ball handler Jamal Crawford has all the tools to be a premier slasher with a nice mid-range game, but instead he opts to throw up over 6 threes per game and convert on just 2 of them. Remember draft night in 2007? Here's a flashback: Knicks fans going crazy with hopes of the post-season after they swung a deal for Zach Randolph. One full season removed from that hyped deal and we're left with a Knicks team that's almost as much a laughing stock as the team under Larry Brown. As for Eddy Curry, he's working hard this off-season to cut his Big Mac intake from a daily 6 all the way down to 3. I'm not buying it.

29. Seattle SuperSonics (Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Chris Wilcox)
If Russell Westbrook makes a successful adjustment from the college game to the pros, I'll have no problem kicking Chris Wilcox to the curb. Unfortunately for Sonics fans, a talent like Westbrook is extremely hit or miss - he's not a pure point guard, he's under sized and he's too skinny to play the 2-guard spot consistently. Kevin Durant is going to set the league on fire sooner than you think.

28. Memphis Grizzlies (Mike Conley, O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay)
In a draft day bonanza, the Grizzlies shipped the guy many thought they'd keep (Love) in exchange for super scorer O.J. Mayo. Shipping away Mike Miller only further guarantees that Mayo will come in and start the season at the shooting guard position alongside Gay, whose occupying the other wing. 'Run GMC' will be fun to watch, you can bet on that, but don't you dare bet on them to win games.

27. Indiana Pacers (T.J. Ford, Mike Dunleavy, Danny Granger)
This is more of a duo with whom I added Mike Dunleavy due to a lack of better options. Ford could blossom into the all-star point guard he was supposed to be on Toronto, or he can cost the team his salary in medical expenses. Danny Granger's a nice fantasy talent who I wouldn't trust to carry a team and Mike Dunleavy is, well, Mike Dunleavy. Yikes.

26. Sacramento Kings (Beno Udrih, Kevin Martin, Brad Miller)

John Salmons and Francisco Garcia looked enticing but until the Kings decide who's getting the minutes at SF, I'll stick Udrih in their group of 3. Kevin Martin is one of the best offensive players in the league - that we know - but he's yet to prove he can carry a team (and his team has yet to prove that they can help him). Aside from being on the wrong side of 30, Brad Miller's yet to establish whether he's trying to fill the K-Fed or redneck persona. Good luck to you, Brad.

25. Minnesota Timberwolves (Randy Foye, Mike Miller, Al Jefferson)

I may be in the minority, but I'm not sold on Al Jefferson. He put up 20/10, sure, but he was on the Timberwolves - who lacked scoring in any which way. Al Jefferson was the only threat on that team to score near the basket, and (as the expression goes) - someone's gotta score. He's lazy (to put it nicely) on defense and he still hasn't found a nice variety of moves in the post. Randy Foye's a question mark and Mike Miller will be there, but that's hardly saying much.

24. New Jersey Nets (Devin Harris, Vince Carter, Brook Lopez)
Brook Lopez? Surprised? Didn't think so. Someone's gotta occupy that 3rd spot for the Nets. Jianlian, due to his seniority in the league and polished inside/out game, would seem like a logical candidate, but Lawrence Frank is a traditionalist, and Jianlian is far from a traditional big man. Lopez is perfect for Frank, therefore I decided to throw him in with Harris and VC. Carter's best days are so far behind him Manute Bol couldn't reach them. Harris, on the other hand, could be due for a huge breakout year.

23. Chicago Bulls (Derrick Rose, Ben Gordon, Luol Deng)
Remember when Bulls fans referred to Ben Gordon as Ben Jordan? How disgraceful is that looking back on it? It ain't Gordon's fault - he wasn't asking them to call him that - but they did, and now they're embarrassed. The Bulls are ahead of the Nets because I think Deng can return to form after a year plagued with injuries and turmoil in Chicago. Rose. Hinrich. Rose. Hinrich. What a tough decision, thank god for heads and tails.

22. Portland Trail Blazers (Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Greg Oden)
Knee surgery is the ultimate double-edged sword: A death wish for some (Kenyon Martin) and a blessing in disguise for others (Amare Stoudemire). Greg Oden prays every night that his surgery was blessed with Amare Stoudemire's consent. Roy and Aldridge are ready to roll, but until Greg Oden emerges as the guy we thought he was going to be, the Blazers won't be playing any other sport than golf in the latter half of April.

21. Golden State Warriors (Monta Ellis, Stephen Jackson, Corey Maggette)
Baron Davis left the Bay for the bright lights of LA. Consequently (at least for the Warriors), he took the playoffs with him. If the Warriors think Corey Maggette can fill Baron Davis' shoes, they're probably right as I hear Maggette wears a size 14. Figuratively fill Baron's shoes? He's going to be hard-pressed. Ellis is no point guard, at least not yet, and Stephen Jackson continues to age and discharge firearms - not a good combination.

20. Charlotte Bobcats (Jason Richardson, Gerald Wallace, Emeka Okafor)
Perhaps the most athletically gifted combo of wings, "G-Force" and "J-Rich" provide us with no lack of unoriginal nicknames and high flying windmills. Wallace has cemented his place in NBA history as perhaps one of the most overrated players of all-time. He's a good help defender with superb athleticism yet people are quick to commend his polished offensive skills, something I've yet to spot. Jason Richardson is a stud, I'll give this trio that, but Gerald Wallace is oft-injured and over hyped. Emeka found his way into this trio because Charlotte has recently found themselves with a point guard controversy.

19. Atlanta Hawks (Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Al Horford)
Josh Smith nearly became a Grizzly earlier this week after that whole free agency scare. What's scarier? The fact that Marvin Williams almost took his spot in this group of three. That would've been ugly. Al Horford looks due for a spike in the point column this upcoming year, and the Hawks as a team look due for a spike in attendance: I hear they've already sold out 3 games for the upcoming year (hey, it's 3 more than they sold out last year, am I right?).

18. Milwaukee Bucks (Michael Redd, Richard Jefferson, Andrew Bogut)
The Bucks trio looks exactly like the one directly above them - only better. Andrew Bogut showed major signs of being an elite big man at times, scoring at will and getting at it on the backboards. Michael Redd was his usual shot-chucking self, shooting the ball nowhere else on the floor except for beyond that arched line. Jefferson bumps Williams from the Bucks trio, which can only be a good thing. He's got major ups and a breakout scoring year in 2008. Things are looking up for the Bucks.

17. Los Angeles Clippers (Baron Davis, Al Thornton, Chris Kaman)
Not a typo. I do not think Marcus Camby is spelt Al Thornton. But I do think Al Thornton is going to emerge as a prime time scorer in the league this upcoming season. His outside shot remains a little salty but he's got a devastating first step and a knack for finishing at the rim. Baron Davis brings a tough swagger to a team which had lacked it before he arrived. Last piece - Kaman or Camby? Youth wins out.

16. Cleveland Cavaliers (LeBron James, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Mystery Man)
Delonte West, Daniel Gibson, Sasha Pavlovic, Wally Szczerbiak, Joe Smith, Anderson Varejao and Ben Wallace are all likely candidates to interchange each game in attempts to fill the role of "Mystery Man". When you're third best player has to be chosen from the aforementioned group, you're team sucks. That is unless you have LeBron James on your team. The Cavaliers meet that obligation. Therefore their duo is better than 14 trios.

15. Denver Nuggets (Allen Iverson, Carmelo Anthony, The Ghost of Marcus Camby)
Here's to hoping that Marcus Camby stays with the Nuggets in spirit. One of the worst defenses this league has ever seen lost it's best defensive player this off-season. It doesn't take a NASA engineer to know that doesn't bode well for them. George Karl, as far as I know, has no plans to stray from his sporadic, useless offense just yet - so what does that mean? My best guess would be an early off-season.

14. Miami Heat (Dwyane Wade, Shawn Marion, Michael Beasley)

The flame went out early on the Heat last year with Shaq and Wade being hampered by injuries all year long. O'Neal's now out the door and busy telling Kobe to eat his ass while Marion and Beasley are in - two forward hybrids who are going to drop more jaws than teenage males strolling through South Beach. Beasley and Marion are both interchangeable between the 3 and 4 spots, which makes this group even more intriguing. Expect 25 nightly for Wade and nearly 20 for both Mike & Shawn.

13. Detroit Pistons (Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince)

They're this far down because this list is organized into groups of 3, not 4. They aren't complete without Rasheed Wallace, but he is the weak link for this upcoming season, so he's ousted from the inner circle. Sheed's in his mid-30s and not getting any younger, however he is getting more controversial it seems. Prince will benefit from a full summer with Team USA, and the Chauncey/Rip experience has been the heart of this Detroit "mini-dynasty" since it came into being.

12. Philadelphia 76ers (Andre Miller, Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand)
Elton Brand still has to prove to the world that he can be that same franchise big man he once was - the kind of big man that gets paid to play basketball for a living, not sit on the bench wearing suits that are more expensive than anything you own. Andre Miller is aging (but hey, try telling that to Steve Nash and Jason Kidd) and Andre Iguodala is ready to emerge as a bona fide all-star, hopefully something doesn't have to give and this team can work in perfect harmony. As a Raptors fan, it's only fair I tell you that I wrote this brief paragraph while winking profusely.

11. Toronto Raptors (Jose Calderon, Chris Bosh, Jermaine O'Neal)
Nothing will give me more pleasure than to see Jose Calderon blossom into an all-star calibre talent right in front of my eyes while at the same time seeing T.J. Ford's career waste away in Indiana (whose team looks god awful as things currently stand... I'm kidding if you're reading this as a Pacers fan). Take away last year for Jermaine O'Neal, which was marred by a knee injury and a lack of passion for the game (self-admittedly), and you get 20 points and 10 rebounds (don't believe me? Pull out the 2006/07 stat sheet). If Toronto finds a way to get 40 points and 20 rebounds out of O'Neal and Bosh every night, they will be laughing.

10. Orlando Magic (Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis, Dwight Howard)
Before I blurb on this Magic trio, let me get this out of the way: The only reason I put them ahead of the Raptors was because they finished with a better record this past season. Got it? Let's move on. Two three point specialists who can take it to the hole when needed paired with a dominant big man who jams everything within 5 feet of the rim. Need I explain further?

9. Washington Wizards (Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison)
Based on talent alone this is one of the best trios in the league. Based on chemistry alone this is one of the trios that fluctuates the most. Sometimes Arenas feels content jacking the rock up 30 times a night, whereas on other nights all 3 can be extremely efficient and each throw in 20 on 50% shooting. Caron starts the festivities, Gilbert ends them, and Jamison is there to watch the whole time.

8. Utah Jazz (Deron Williams, Andrei Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer)
The league's 2nd best point-big man duo needs a 3rd wheel. Their options? Mehmet Okur and Andrei Kirilenko. Thought so. AK47 is in the prime of his career and his 50% FG clip showed that this past year. His minutes are down from years past and that may reflect his dip in stats, but this defensive maniac can fill a stat sheet faster than you can say "The Raptors will be NBA champs in 2009".

7. Dallas Mavericks (Jason Kidd, Josh Howard, Dirk Nowitzki)
Howard hasn't ceased to find ways to make Cuban think twice about keeping him on this Mavericks team. First he openly expresses his love of the ganja, and next he speeds his way through Texas like he's a state trooper. If the Mavericks fumble their way through the season like they did last year, Howard could be on his way out (along with Kidd). J-Kidd needs to find himself and get his youthful legs back while Dirk just needs to be Dirk. Super talented is this group, but controversy, age and injuries could break them apart.

6. New Orleans Hornets (Chris Paul, Peja Stojakovic, David West)
Tyson Chandler may be the best alley-oop finisher Chris Paul has on this Hornets team - and perhaps the best "oop" finisher in the league - but that still doesn't change the fact that he's not even close to Stojakovic and West in terms of pure talent. Chandler remains raw, aggressive and occupying that "defensive presence" role for New Orleans. Chris Paul emerged as the best point guard in the NBA by a good country mile this past year, Peja proved his worth in crunch time, and West asserted himself among the league's best power forwards with his first all-star birth.

5. Phoenix Suns (Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, Shaquille O'Neal)
Don't be so hasty to call out Kerr's mistake on this blockbuster deal; a full training camp session with Shaquille O'Neal could prove wonders for this Suns team. On the flip side, injuries, age and a lack of passion could lead the Big Cactus to play downwards of 45 games this year. Steve Nash still has a couple blistering years left in his tank and Amare is just starting to show the NBA what he's capable of. I'd guess the sun will indeed rise in Phoenix this upcoming year.

4. Houston Rockets (Tracy McGrady, Ron Artest, Yao Ming)

Best defensive team in the league? They were right there with Boston last season, and now with Ron Artest added to an already potent defensive juggernaut, percentages can only decrease for the opposition. The big "if" around this team is injuries, like it has been since Yao & McGrady arrived. T-Mac always finds away to injure his back while his teammate Yao Ming finds ways to sit out half a season due to a sore foot. If they're going to be healthy, expect nothing short of brilliant from this group.

3. Los Angeles Lakers (Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol)
Almost Andrew, almost. Bynum's coming off big downtime, he's still young and immature, and the three players with more star power than him on this team are all going to be taking more shots. The bright side for Bynum is that Kobe made him one of his favorite targets this past year, seemingly finding him in every possible scenario - and going the extra distance to find the guy who he bad-mouthed in an LA parking lot just this past off-season.

2. San Antonio Spurs (Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan)
Parker's in his prime, that's the good news - but he only accounts for 33.3% of this trio and the other 66.6% are on the verge of succumbing to father time. Timmy D has noticeably decreased his production in recent years, going from a guaranteed 20/10/2 to an injury-prone big man whose found a way to miss more close range shots than Kwame Brown (or so it seems at times). Never the less, the Spurs have won 4 rings with Tim Duncan as "the guy", and there is no reason to think they can't make it 5 'ships before this day next year.

1. Boston Celtics (Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett)
I hate the Celtics and I hate Paul Pierce, but they are undoubtedly the most talented trio in the league. Garnett lit a fire under every Celtic (at least defensively) this past season, and it showed as they finished as one of the best defensive teams in history during the regular season. 66 wins and the greatest single-game comeback in NBA championship history earns them the number one spot on this list. Next year's list (which probably won't exist) will likely have a little Canadian content at #1, but until then, enjoy your short lived stay Beantown.

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