New Big 3s We Could See by 2022 NBA Trade Deadline
We witnessed the creation of a few NBA Big Threes this offseason, with more possibly coming before the 2022 trade deadline passes.
Russell Westbrook was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers to pair with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the New York Knicks signed Kemba Walker to join Julius Randle and RJ Barrett, Kyle Lowry is now a teammate of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo with the Miami Heat and the Chicago Bulls agreed to sign-and-trades for DeMar DeRozan (and Lonzo Ball) to complement Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic.
Of course, some Big Threes can be created organically through internal growth, with a young player on the roster making the jump to star status (think Michael Porter Jr. with the Denver Nuggets last year).
For the following five teams, here's how all can turn a dominant duo into a terrific trio, either via internal growth or a trade, this season.
Trade: De'Aaron Fox, Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris
Hypothetical Trade: Sacramento Kings send De'Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield to the Philadelphia 76ers for Ben Simmons and Seth Curry
The 23-year-old averaged a career-high 25.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, 7.2 assists, 1.5 steals and shot 47.7 percent overall last season and would be a dynamic scorer and playmaker alongside MVP candidate Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris.
While he doesn't have the postseason experience or outside shooting abilities of a player like Lillard, Fox is a borderline All-Star already who is under contract for the next five seasons. Philly should also try to get Hield in the deal, giving them one of the best, and most willing, three-point shooters in the league to pair with Fox in a revamped backcourt.
The Kings probably aren't going to explore any Fox trades unless he asks out, although they have a pair of replacements waiting in Tyrese Haliburton and rookie Davion Mitchell. Simmons could play a Draymond Green-esque role, guarding multiple positions and using his passing ability to help generate offense for the young backcourt. Adding Curry (45.0 percent from three last year) to the roster helps make up for Simmons' lack of outside shooting.
Simmons is inevitably going to be traded, and if Lillard is staying in Portland, the Sixers should try to get Fox instead.
Internal Growth: Anthony Edwards, Karl Anthony-Towns and D'Angelo Russell
In their first season together, Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards and D'Angelo Russell were limited to just 24 games because of injury. If all can stay relatively healthy, this could be one of the most offensively dominant trios in the NBA.
Towns (twice) and Russell have already been All-Stars and Edwards was the runner up for Rookie of the Year after being selected first overall in 2020. Even though the Wolves finished a disappointing 23-49 last season, the team had a terrific net rating of plus-4.9 in the 327 minutes all three players shared the floor.
Although Towns and Russell are going into Year 7, both are still just 25 years old and have plenty of room to grow, especially defensively. Towns can be an offensive hub with his scoring from inside and out, terrific passing ability and glass cleaning (currently third in active rebounding average with 11.6 per game) and Russell is at his best when he's looking to create for others first (41.3 assist percentage in 2018-19, second in the NBA during his All-Star season).
With Towns, Edwards and Malik Beasley, Russell doesn't need to take 15-20 shots per game, and should focus on his playmaking while settling for more open looks himself instead.
While Towns hasn't shown the ability to take a team to the playoffs, it's Edwards who could now become the alpha in Minnesota.
"I think Ant will be better than (Dwyane) Wade," a Timberwolves coach previously told B/R. "He's got a three-point shot. Defensively he'll get better. He can do it. Offensively, there's not much he can't do and he's just scratching the surface. I feel like his ceiling is unlimited. I think LaMelo (Ball)'s ceiling is very high but a little more limited than Ant's."
Edwards is a bull when he gets into the lane at 225 pounds, causing smaller defenders to bounce off while he rises up and throws down some of the most thunderous dunks in the league.
Averaging 26.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists and shooting 52.8 percent overall and 41.4 percent from three over his final nine games, Edwards could be an All-Star as early as this year and should be viewed as the face of a new Timberwolves Big 3.
Trade: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson/Draymond Green and Kristaps Porzingis
Hypothetical Trade: Dallas Mavericks send Kristaps Porzingis and Maxi Kleber to Golden State Warriors for James Wiseman and Andrew Wiggins
A team led by Stephen Curry and Draymond Green alone just wasn't enough to make the playoffs last season, even with Wiseman as a high-upside center. While the Warriors should get Klay Thompson back at some point, the veteran shooting guard could still miss a few months to begin the season.
Golden State needs help, now.
A healthy Porzingis could do wonders for the Warriors frontcourt with his offensive ability, and adding his 20.1 points, 8.9 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 37.6 percent mark from three next to Green gives Golden State some added floor-spacing. Head coach Steve Kerr could mix and match Green's athleticism and Porzingis' 7'3" size defensively as needed.
Even Kleber is a better win-now option over Wiseman, as the veteran can play either power forward or center and hit 41.0 percent of his threes while improving Dallas by 4.3 points per 100 possessions he was on the floor.
Failing to get out of the first round with Porzingis as Luka Doncic's running mate in back-to-back years should have the Mavs open to trading the 26-year-old big man, with Wiseman serving as the new franchise center while Wiggins (18.6 points on 38.0 percent from three) helps fill the scoring void.
When Thompson eventually returns, he, Curry and Porzingis would make up the best shooting Big 3 in the NBA.
Internal Growth: Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Nickeil Alexander-Walker
Zion Williamson has already established himself as one of the most dominant post players in the game today after averaging 27.1 points on 61.1 percent shooting last season. Brandon Ingram, also with an All-Star appearance already on his resume, has averaged 23.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and shot 38.6 percent from three in two years with the Pelicans.
The pair pack plenty of scoring both from inside (Williamson) and out (Ingram), but David Griffin has thus far failed to find a third star to complement them.
With Lonzo Ball and Eric Bledsoe both shipped off this summer, there's a golden opportunity for Nickeil Alexander-Walker to become the final part of a Big Three.
The 23-year-old shooting guard was the 17th overall pick in 2019, yet has been primarily used as a reserve behind veterans like Jrue Holiday, J.J. Redick and Bledsoe. When he's had the opportunity to start, Alexander-Walker has delivered, averaging 19.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.1 steals on 47.1 percent shooting overall and 40.8 percent from three in 14 games.
At 6'6", he has the size and length to become a good multi-positional defender who's shown off an improved passing ability this offseason. He already made a nice leap from Year 1 to 2, and should begin to truly look like a star now in Year 3.
Getting a full-time starting role and getting to play off of Williamson and Ingram should only lead to more open shots and allow Alexander-Walker to only grow as a playmaker.
His ability to reach star status will widely depend on the role new head coach Willie Green gives him, but the potential is certainly there.
Trade: Bradley Beal, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard
Hypothetical Trade: Washington Wizards send Bradley Beal, Raul Neto and Anthony Gill to Los Angeles Clippers for Keon Johnson, Jason Preston, Luke Kennard, Eric Bledsoe, 2028 first-round pick, 2022, 2023 and 2024 second-round picks
The star duo of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard has been put on pause while Leonard recovers from a partially torn ACL, although a July surgery could have him back in time for the 2022 playoffs.
Until then, the Clippers could use a little more firepower around George, and landing the NBA's second-leading scorer last season would certainly qualify as such.
While the Wizards certainly won't want to move Beal to start the year, another season just simply fighting to make the playoffs (or worse) could eventually lead to a trade request before the 28-year-old can become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Washington would be faced with potentially losing the franchise centerpiece for nothing or taking offers from interested teams.
Beal is one of the best shooting guards in the NBA, but getting him with just half a season left on his contract could decrease his value enough to make the Clippers a contender.
Johnson and Preston would give the Wizards two talented rookie guards to build around in the backcourt, Kennard is one of the NBA's best three-point shooters (44.6 percent last year) and four draft picks help an inevitable rebuild. Bledsoe is included for money-matching purposes.
A starting lineup of Reggie Jackson, Beal, George, Marcus Morris Sr. and Serge Ibaka would keep the Clippers near the top of the West and set up a devastating Big Three once Leonard returns.