Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson, Jason Kidd.
These are three really big names in the NBA.
One is a legend in the Slam Dunk contest already; one has shown ability to dunk over people in games throughout his career; one generates triple-doubles on a nightly basis.
One would imagine these three as unstoppable forces in a game, and even more so during the transition.
Yet their team—New Jersey Nets, stands at a mere 7th place in the Eastern Conference, with a humble record of 18-18. Ahead of them, are powerhouses Boston, Detroit, and Orlando, as well as improved teams like Washington, Toronto, and Cleveland.
Despite the fact that the Nets is the last team in the Conference to have a winning percentage of .500, they are closely chased by Atlanta, Indiana, Chicago, and Milwaukee—all within one game of each other.
If the Nets are not careful, they might lose their position for the playoffs. Even if they do qualify for the playoffs, they will start the postseason playing Detroit at the current pace. This pretty much means an automatic exit ticket, as they are 2-0 against Detroit, losing by a total of 41 points.
How come such a combination of the Big Three is so ineffective that it translates to as much losses as wins?
Is there something wrong with their chemistry? Or is it because they are still trying to understand each other's games?
It is neither.
Perhaps it is the lack of big men in the post.
When the New Jersey Nets went to the Finals in 2002 and 2003, they had the explosive Kenyon Martin in the middle. Back then, the Big Three of Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson, and Martin were able to swept the Detroit en route to the Finals.
Now, Martin is replaced by the athletic and egoistic Vince Carter.
Coming from the Toronto Raptors, he was criticized for taking too many outside shots than what he used to do best, which is driving towards the rims. Nevertheless, Carter still manages to average 20+ points per game in the 3 seasons with the Nets so far.
But there is one statistic that should be noted above all else—assists per game. He has averaged well over four assists per game with the Nets, while back in Toronto, he only dished about three assists a game. This reflects his unselfishness with his Big Three team mates.
Richard Jefferson, upon the arrival of Vince Carter, was probably affected the most, as his scoring average went down by 3 points in his first full season with Carter. However, he did not complain, and played each game with the same attitude.
One advantage Jefferson gained from the presence of teammate Carter, was that he was able to get more open shots, as evident from his increasing amount of three-pointers made per season.
Jason Kidd, on the other hand, took his game to new heights with the formation of the Big Three. With an additional player to dish to at transition, Kidd recorded more triple-doubles in one season in 2006-07 than any other seasons he played in.
With two scorers on his two sides, Kidd's role was reduced to playmaking primarily. As his scoring average went down, his assists and rebounds per game increased. Kidd is the heart of the Big Three. Without him, Jefferson nor Carter will not be able to score with the easiness they are doing currently.
Yet, two explosives scorers and one future Hall-of-Famer playmaker are still unable to dominate their own division.
Again, it is most probably because of the lack of a low-post force.
Without Kenyon Martin, the Nets could only work with Nenad Krstic and Mikki Moore. Unfortunately, Krstic was still young, and when he did become a prominent figure down low, he suffered a season-ending injury. Mikki Moore was one of the best pickup by the Nets after Vince Carter, but the Nets was not able to sign him in the offseason, and off he went to Sacramento.
But now, the Nets really have hope—Sean Williams.
Even though he is still a rookie, he is already a monster down low: blocking shots, grabbing rebounds, and finishing dunks. He may be the final piece to the puzzle for the Nets' team.
Without Williams, the Big Three of the Nets will not be able to go deep into the playoffs. As other Big Three's around the league have shown, a Big Three isn't a Big Three without a post force. Think of Duncan-Parker-Ginobili; Nash-Marion-Stoudemire; Allen-Pierce-Garnett; Arenas-Butler-Jamison; Billups-Hamilton-Wallace.
Winning a championship without a strong low-post player is almost unheard of, and Sean Williams may be their answer.