“Big 3’s” to Watch in 2015-16
The term “Big 3” has been prevalent in the NBA for decades now and many believe that you can’t win it all in today’s NBA without three stars. What teams have a stellar Big 3 going into 2015-16 that are worth keeping an eye on? I’ve come up with my top 7 trios to watch this season(in no particular order):
Perhaps no Big 3 will get as much attention this year as this one. Can the Cavs stay healthy and give Lebron enough support to bring a long-awaited title to Cleveland? David Blatt’s ability to better utilize Kevin Love offensively without disrupting Kyrie’s development will be a huge key. Lebron knows that the over 43,500 minutes (counting playoffs), is catching up to him and based on his recent comments, knows he cannot carry the load himself. As the best player on the planet, Lebron will have to maintain his high level, Kyrie will need to become a bona fide superstar, and Love will need to return to All-NBA form for the Cavs to go all the way. That may be interesting with both Love and Kyrie coming off injuries.
The Thunder have the league’s most powerful scoring duo, but throw in Ibaka’s defense and shooting and the Thunder trio is flat-out scary. With Durant and is other-worldly scoring ability back, the Thunder should be expected to thrust themselves back into the discussion of “best in the West.” Westbrook’s season last year in Durant’s absence proved to the world just how good he can be. With Durant and Ibaka back healthy Westbrook should be more efficient this year which will spell trouble for the rest of the NBA. Durant and Westbrook could become the first teammates since Bob Pettit and Cliff Hagen in 1958-59 to both finish in the Top 5 in scoring average in a year when one wins the scoring title.
This Big 3 is important to watch for a couple of reasons. First, this is likely Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili’s (and maybe Tony Parker’s) last shot at a title. How well Aldridge buys in to the team defensive scheme and the share-the-ball offensive scheme will largely determine whether the Spurs will have enough young horsepower to rise above an extremely stacked West to get to the promised land. Second, watching to see how well Leonard and Aldridge gel will determine how relevant the Spurs will be in the post-Duncan-Ginobili-Parker era. If Leonard and Aldridge figure it out, the Spurs will stay good for a long time.
James Harden, almost single-handedly pulled the Rockets into the Finals last year. With some playmaking help from off-season addition Lawson and a healthy Howard, will the Rockets have enough to beat the West’s elite or will conflict arise when Harden has to share the ball? Can Howard be dominant again on both sides of the ball or have we seen the best of Howard who now enters his 12th NBA season? The Rockets have been in the upper echelon of the West for the past couple of seasons without really being considered by most experts as a serious title contender. Will that all change with Lawson or will Lawson’s off-court antics continue and become a distraction? This Big 3 has a lot to prove this year.
With averages of 19.3, 4.9, and 4.1, Hayward took another step in his progression to be a special player. He was one of only 8 NBA players to average at least 19-4-4 and all the others were on the All-Star Team (side note: 7 of these 8 players are in the West). If he can push those averages just slightly to 20-5-5 and show that he can increase his shooting percentage as the #1 option of offense, he would have few peers. The Jazz finished 17-8 after the All-Star break last year by dominating defensively, and Gobert finished 5th in the voting for Defensive Player of the Year despite starting only 37 games. Surprisingly, this Jazz trio and the Clippers are the only trios in the group where all three are returning after having a PER over 20 (the Spurs trio also each had a PER over 20, but Aldridge did it with a different team). Time will tell if the Jazz Big 3 can make some noise this year.
After almost breaking up the band after another disappointing playoff defeat, DeAndre Jordan came back for another run. The West is brutal and the Clippers added depth with Paul Pierce, Josh Smith, and Lance Stephenson that will help Jamal Crawford and the now potent Clipper bench. The key will still be the Big 3. Now that they have help, can they get over the hump and get to the Conference Finals or beyond. The all-in moves in the off-season makes it look like the Clippers are going-for-broke this season. Chris Paul is entering his 11th season, will this be the year he gets past the 2nd round or will the new additions and Jordan wanting to be a bigger part of the offense spell trouble in Clipperland?
For the Warriors to repeat, their Big 3 will need to improve upon the career years each of them had last year. If it is possible, the West got even tougher this year and I doubt the Warriors will have the luxury of not having to meet the Spurs, Clippers, or Thunder like they somehow managed in last year’s title run. With Bogut recently coming out and saying he is willing to take on a lesser role, I can’t help but wonder if the Warriors small-ball line-up won’t see more action this year. If Green can guard and rebound big and Curry and Thompson continue to light up scoreboards with hot shooting and aggressive attacks to the basket, the Warriors will be tough to beat.
Have a Big 3 would thought should have been on here instead of my picks, let me know in a comment below.