Four seasons ago, the Boston Celtics pulled off what will go down in history as one of the best off seasons in NBA history. They signed Ray Allen and traded Al Jefferson for Kevin Garnett to team with Paul Pierce, amassing the NBA’s first ever Big Three. They went on to win it all.
Boston was done winning an NBA championship with the Big Three, the Heat quickly followed suit. However, instead of a Big Three comprised of guys past - or nearly past their prime, they
got three superstars right in the middle of their prime. They lost in the
Finals in year one, but they rebounded and won the title in year two.
With this new paradigm in place, teams have been trying to follow suit and create their own
powerful force around three great players. However, after the new CBA was put
in place, the NBA has made it harder for owners to create a “Big Three.” So, in
this article, I’ll weigh the dilemma teams are now facing, either with their
current big three, or their potential super star composition. Is it cost
effective to go “all in” with three
superstars, or should you try to get one or two and fill out the rest of your
argument that the big three is working is fully understood. Boston and Miami
have proven its worth, and teams like Brooklyn, New York, Los Angeles, and
Oklahoma City are all trying to create their own version. All of these teams
have done it differently. Miami did all their work in free agency even though they already had Dwyane Wade (whom they drafted). Brooklyn definitely did it
all in free agency, where the Thunder did all their work in the draft, (the
only option for small market teams).
Lakers are trying to grab Dwight Howard to go along with their two veteran
superstars while the Knicks seem lost in their search for superstar talent with which to surround Carmelo Anthony.
problem for all of these teams (with the exception of OKC) is that the salary
cap and luxury tax is going to make it very hard to pay for all this talent.
Take the newly founded Brooklyn Nets, for example. They are going to have $75.5
million invested in their starting five next season. That means they are
already a luxury tax team paying just five players. They will have absolutely
no money except for mid level and minimum contracts for their bench.
have no doubt that Mikhail Prokhorov, Jay-Z and company will be able to pay the tax. However, when you are paying an aging Joe Johnson $25
million per season, this strategy looks pretty stupid. If they don’t justify
spending all this money right now, things could get ugly in Brooklyn before
they even get off the ground.
My thoughts on the Big Three strategy is as follows: it’s damned hard to pull
off. The Heat and Celtics did it, but they have Danny Ainge and Pat Riley. The
Thunder have done it, but they lost in the Finals, and their guys are still
very young. I think the Nets will be good, but are they championship good? I
don’t think so. The Lakers with Nash, Bryant, Pau Gasol
to have done it, but we won’t know until the season. Either way, I still don’t
think the Lakers are better than the Spurs or Thunder even with Nash. The moral
of the story is this, you better do it right, or your franchise will be
handicapped for a long time if you get it wrong.