NBA Roundtable

Interesting Read: Broussard Article – Best Trios

In Great Article on November 8, 2008 at 8:47 pm

Unfinished Article

Great idea for an article, so who’s the best trio?

Here’s the link and the opener:

First, it was about great teams — the ’60s Celtics, the ’80s Lakers, Celtics, Sixers and Pistons.

Then, it was about great duos — Jordan and Pippen, Olajuwon and Drexler, Kemp and Payton, Stockton and Malone, Duncan and Robinson, Shaq and Kobe.

Now, it’s about trios, and Houston just created one. That’s why the Rockets, assuming they’re healthy and distraction free, suddenly are legitimate title contenders.

That being the case, here’s my list of the league’s top 10 threesomes. Remember, this is not a ranking of teams but of Big Threes:

Check out the link and find out Broussard’s choices, makes for some interesting reading.

Okay I’m going to switch gears and make my own rankings. First the rules, it must be a trio. It’s not the team with the best third option but a trio. While being a trio the third player must be a high level player (or about to become a high level player) and not just a Shaq/Kobe and whoever because the top two are so good.  If teams do not meet this requirements they’ll be punished with a poor ranking. This is not just three individuals, balance matters, how they complement one another matters. It matters that they have some interior game, scoring, passing, defense … it all matters, balance matters.

This is a countdown, we’re starting at #30 and working our way to the top of the pile, here we go:

The Runt Of The Litter – Teams That Lack Top Tier Talent

#30 – Oklahoma City – Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Russell Westbrook

Kevin Durant has by far the weakest supporting cast in the league. He’s a very good player but he has no help. At this stage of their careers his two teammates in this trio are questionable as starters, nevermind stars.

#29 – New York Knicks – Jamal Crawford, Zach Randolph, David Lee

Even if we forget about defense this is problematic. Gotta love the rebounding between Lee and Randolph though. Crawford and Z-Bo as a duo is headwrecking, the shot selection, the inefficiency, the horrid decision making, the self-interested performances … and that’s just the offense!

#28 – Chicago Bulls – Luol Deng, Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich

Scoring, scoring scoring. Oh and the interior play. Some rebounding please? I don’t think Derrick Rose is ready either. I’m expecting a performance similar to Deron’s rookie season, especially if Vinny Del Negro doesn’t let the kid fly.

The lack of a top player is a problem. Deng is likely best suited to being your third best player. But let’s ignore that and just look at the second option and how large a hole that is. Even the third option is an issue.

You could switch Hinrich with Gordon or Noah or Nocioni or Gooden but it’s much of the same. Despite some promising play Noah hasn’t proven himself capable of locking up the interior. On the positive side Chicago sure do have a lot of options for that third chair showing off quality depth that allows them to hit harder than their trio suggests they should.

#27 – Memphis Grizzlies – Rudy Gay, OJ Mayo, Mike Conley

Too perimeter orientated. I expect OJ Mayo to have a similar impact as a rookie as Mike Miller did last season. A 16-17ppg threat but not a top level scorer, he’s too reliant on his jumper right now. Mike Conley suffers from passive play and having two ball needy wings is only going to make his life more difficult. The OJ Mayo draft pick likely will limit his progress as will the players behind him (Crittenton, Lowry). Rudy Gay also has several areas to work on to become a better teammate, any defense at all would do and more team orientated offensive work please.

#26 – New Jersey Nets – Vince Carter, Yi, Devin Harris

Devin Harris is an average starter. Yi has great potential but I’m unsure what he’ll offer next season, it could be anything. He could make a good leap like Dirk did or stay along similar performance levels like Bargnani did. I like Yi’s potential because he’s shown more toughness and willingness to attack of the dribble … but he needs time. Vince is Vince, we all know what’s there.

#25 – Minnesota Timberwolves – Al Jefferson, Kevin Love, Mike Miller

Perimeter play is huge problem. Defense is a large problem. Scoring is also an issue. Passing is an issue, heck the best passer on the team is Kevin Love.

Al Jefferson took some large steps last season and he should continue his progress. He’s one of the best low post scorers and rebounders in the league already. With Love aboard he’ll slide over to center where he’ll be a bit undersized. It’ll be interesting to see what effect it has on his game. In the past I think he’s performed better at center but his team’s defense has been a lot worse off.

Kevin Love is an interesting rookie. I’m unsure what to expect from his first year. Given time I expect a similar player to Okur, likely a better version. But as a rookie? I really don’t know. The rebounding should translate, the shooting should too. How much scoring will he give? 15ppg or 18ppg? That difference could be a huge difference maker on a team crying out for a second scoring option.

This brings us to number three and Mike Miller. Good scorer at 16ppg. Very good shooter. Nice offensive game.

Balance is big here. All three players are in the frontcourt. All are weak defensive players (although Love in time should be solid) putting huge pressure on their backcourt. None are capable of stepping up and creating their shot off the dribble at high level. None can run the offense. They lack that Joe Johnson type of guard who can give them that offensive diversity which limits their best value to their club.

#24 – Indiana Pacers – Danny Granger, TJ Ford, Mike Dunleavy

Two knocks on this trio (1) Perimeter orientated (2) All good players but none have played at an All-Star caliber level.

Granger has consistently failed to be a go-to option for the Pacers for two years, although he showed some promise late last season. Maybe Granger can take that leap but even if he does this trio isn’t advancing too far up this list.

#23 – Sacramento Kings – Kevin Martin, John Salmons, Brad Miller

Nice trio but they lack some top level players.

In this ranking I’m giving John Salmons the benefit of the doubt and believing in his ability to produce at the level, or near the level, of his starting splits last season. For those keeping track he put up 17.5ppg, 48% shooting, 40% from three, 3.5apg, 5.1rpg. He played very strong defense and was devilish off the dribble offensively.

Kevin Martin is a scoring machine. He’s prolific, dropping 23.7ppg good for 6th in the NBA. That’s 23.7 points on only 15 shot attempts a night, making him a freakishly efficient scorer dropping 1.58 points per shot and having a TS% of 62%. Not only is he prolific and efficient, he’s also versatile. He’s only the second player in NBA history (MJ) to average more than one made three per game and 9 FTs. That’s a rare combination, the ability to get to the line at that clip and smoke it from downtown. Martin led the league in FTs made last season and shot 40% on 266 three pointers. He has the perimeter game, the midrange game, the driving, the finishing at the rim, he’s good on the break, he gets to the line, his movement off the ball is excellent, he’s a slasher and he shoots a great percentage everywhere on the floor. Wow … an incredible scorer.

Not only is Martin one heck of scorer but he’s a team first player that displays excellent decision making. He never takes bad shots and he rarely makes bad plays. He’s easy to play with and helps everyone around him. He always makes the extra pass and is good for ball movement. He chips in with some rebounds and some decent defense, although he should improve his D.

Brad Miller is the interior presence that balances out this trio a bit. His game has been slipping for some time and I thought he may be done in after 06-07, but last season he had a great comeback year lifting his scoring by 50% and his rebounding by 33%. Miller chips in with 13 and 9 plus his beautiful passing.

#22 – Charlotte Bobcats – Jason Richardson, Emeka Okafor, Gerald Wallace

When you look of those three names you can’t help but think why they aren’t higher on the list? I mean we have a very good scorer in Richardson, an interior presence in Okafor and a do-it-all combo forward in Wallace? Why so low?

I’ll start off with Gerald Wallace. Most folks love him but I don’t. He scored 19 points a game last year but he isn’t much of a scorer. He only scores in two ways – (1) isolation plays (2) garbage man type baskets. I’m amazed yet understanding at how difficult it is to fit him in offensively. He’s a difficult guy to play with. Wallace still has trouble with his jump shot, he isn’t a good enough passer or ballhanlder, all of which makes him difficult to play as a small forward. This means he has to spend more time at power forward in order to avoid hurting his teammates. Again extra pressure on his teammates to help him. Top players should be making role players life easier, Wallace makes it difficult.

Defensively this trio should spearhead one of the tougher defenses in the league. Richardson is well above average defensively. Gerald Wallace was considered a potential DpoY a year or two ago, although he shouldn’t have been rated that highly, still he’s good defensively. Okafor is one of the best interior defenders in the game. Yet the defense never materializes, why?

They should also be a very good rebounding. Okafor is one of the best rebounders in the league. Wallace is a very good rebounder for a small forward. Richardson is an excellent rebounder for a two guard. Now this can be explained by the Bobcats horrific cast of supporting big men, but still I expect more from this trio.

Okafor is a very good player but I don’t rate him as an All-Star worthy talent or as a player good enough to be the best interior player on a contender. That makes him difficult to build around. His offensive game is still robotic and limited. Okafor would be best as a power forward playing alongside another big body, unfortunately Wallace plays best at power forward giving Okafor the exact opposite of what he needs. Again this limits the trio because they don’t complement one another well.

One of the problems with Jason Richardson in this picture stems from the other two. Okafor has a limited offensive game, Wallace has a good game but limited periemter skills and isn’t much of a teammate. This means someone else has to stand up and create with the ball in his hands …. Richardson isn’t that type of player. They need a Brandon Roy or someone of that ilk. Again this limits the trio.

Richardson is a fantastic scorer at 22ppg on 45% shooting and 40% shooting from three. He has an excellent jump shot all over the court, is a solid penetrator (would be excellent if he used his skills wisely), is an excellent finisher and has an excellent post game for a guard. He’s a high quality offensive player. Unfortunately he’s limited by his teammates flaws, especially his post game which can be difficult to use with Wallace at small forward and with Okafor stepping away from the basket making spacing difficult.

Overvalued but still nice talent, unfortunately horrible complements to one another. If this trio reaches their potential they might make a playoff team out of the Bobcats which isn’t a good ceiling.

#21 – Golden State Warriors – Monta Ellis, Stephen Jackson, Corey Maggette

Three 20ppg scorers. Three efficient scorers. A dangerous guard, a versatile wing, and an offensively bullish wing. An All-Defense level defender in Jackson. Decent rebounding from the trio.

They get ranked lowly because they lack balance – an interior game of any sort – and because despite having three perimeter players they don’t have a creator. A Baron Davis or a Tracy McGrady, someone who gets their teammates easy shots. They’re all one-on-one players. Overall talent is an issue too, none of the three are all-stars and only one is likely to threaten for an All-Star spot in the future.


Teams that Lack Balance and Some Depth

#20 – Cleveland Cavaliers – LeBron James, Big Z, Ben Wallace

This is a team that gets punished for having a weak second option and no real third option. You could make a case for replacing Ben Wallace with Gibson, Delonte, Varajeo or even Joe Smith. That’s a sign of both quality depth and players being forced into positions they won’t succeed in.

LeBron is quite possibly the best one-man-show in the NBA and good enough to drag this trio up near the top tier of this list but I said off the top that teams without high enough quality in the supporting options (in this case 2/3rds of the trio) will be punished. Cavs get punished.

#19 – Denver Nuggets – Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson, JR Smith

The Nuggets get smacked around for lacking balance. Check the three players, all perimeter players. All weak defenders. The three of them cover two positions without the versatility to make it work together on the court. Iverson limits the value of Carmelo and JR substantially.

There’s good talent here but lousy balance and they don’t complement each other. Not a solid enough enough foundation to make a contender.

#18 – Milwaukee Bucks – Michael Redd, Richard Jefferson, Andrew Bogut

The Bucks have an odd team. This trio is actually pretty nice, they also have some depth off the bench (at least on the perimeter) but the other two starters hold them back.

Bogut gives the team a good offensive big man. Unfortunately he was also the anchor to the worst defense (by defensive efficiency) in the league and interior D is most definitely a big flaw for this Bucks team. Bogut does provide good rebounding. On the other end the two wings provide good scoring but neither is a good enough playmaker, passer, or ballhandler. RJ is also limited as a scorer, he lacks scoring versatility and can be limited too easily for him to be a top player. Michael Redd is a weak defender. RJ is a mediocre defender, he used to be a very good defender but he’s slipped. There’s no real reason for the slippage so he can regain some of his lost luster defensively. Still that makes only one of the three as good as average defensively. Their offense isn’t good enough to make that up.

#17 – Atlanta Hawks – Joe Johnson, Al Horford, Josh Smith

I’ve found Atlanta an extremely difficult team to rank and it’s because of the incompetence of Mike Woodson. Imagine how good this trio could be if they were allowed run more often? Imagine how much better they’d be if Al Horford was actually given a few touches on offense? He is after all their big man in the low post. It’s not like this are crackpot ideas or impossible to implement, it’s common sense that any coach with half a clue could execute. So should I punish them for Woodson’s failures? Should I overlook their actual impact in favour of realizable impact? I’m unsure. I’ve given them a decent bit of leeway but I’m not comfortable giving them more than I’ve given them presently.

As for the trio they suffer one huge flaw – Al Horford and Josh Smith both play their best basketball at the same position and are both considerably weaker when played out of position. Al Horford would be one of the biggest, strongest toughest power forwards in the league. He’ have a physical mismatch down in the post every night and that would help his offensive game no end. Instead he’s matched up against bigger centers who can limit him. Josh Smith on the other hand is a matchup nightmare at power forward because of his athleticism and versatility, but if he switched to small forward all his perimeter skills (shooting, handle, passing, movement off the ball) would all be well below average. Smith is far more effective as a power forward than a small forward

#16 – Los Angeles Clippers – Baron Davis, Chris Kaman, Al Thornton

Baron Davis is a phenomenal point guard who’s the closest in the league to matching up with Deron Williams and Chris Paul. He’s a great floor general and an excellent playmaker. He’s also a top scorer and a good defensive player. His quality enhances his surroundings.

After Baron comes Chris Kaman. He’s more suited to being a third option but he’s a good player. Top rebounder, top shot blocker, good defender, athletic, low post game, jump shot out to about 15 feet. He’s a really smooth center who allows for a lot of possibilities. I downplayed him at the start of this paragraph but the truth is quite a few teams ranked ahead of the Clippers trio do not have an inside presence as good as Kaman.

Thornton rounds out the group. I’m not sure how much faith I should put into his abilities but I’m hopeful. I think he can replace most of Maggette’s scoring loss, at around 16-17ppg. He’s the weak link in the group. You could replace Thornton with Camby or Eric Gordon. I’m not a big Camby fan and I’m not convinced Gordon’s potential contributions are any more dependable than Thornton’s so I went with the guy who’s already shown something at this level.

Good Quality But Flawed In Some Way

#15 – Washington Wizards – Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison

Defense, defense, defense. This is why these three guys can’t take out a one man show in LeBron James. They get dumped on because none of them are good defenders, both Jamison and Gilbert are weak defensive players and Caron is below average. On that subject how did Caron get an All-Defense vote? That was ridiculous.

The offensive end is the big strength of the group but they’re far too dependent on Gilbert. Caron and Jamison are good scorers but both are isolation type scorers who don’t do nearly enough (although Caron has made good strides) to create for their teammates. Gilbert is the cog that makes everything work, they need his ingenuity and creativity offensively to make the offense work at a high level.

It’s been three years now with this trio. They’ve yet to get out of the first round. Injuries have played a big part in eliminating their chances but it’s hard to keep the faith with a team that’s been together this long and not shown much.

#14 – Dallas Mavericks – Dirk Nowtizki, Josh Howard, Jason Kidd

The main questions here are (1) scoring (2) how well they complement one another, and, (3) Kidd’s decline

Kidd’s decline is the major piece of the puzzle. He’s no longer an MVP candidate, no longer and All-Pro and for my money he’s not an All-Star level player. He’s about a notch below that where he’s still a very good starter. Kidd’s declining defensive ability has killed his level of contributions. A few years ago Kidd could lock down just about any point guard in the league and even switch onto tall wings and bother them. His lack of lateral quickness has ruined his defense. Just because he can’t slide as well as he used to don’t get that confused with other areas of athleticism, you put Kidd in a straight sprint going from end to end with just about any guard in the league and I’m still putting my money on Kidd.

Josh Howard is a problem here. He has good scoring numbers but he’s consistently failed to be the second scorer Dirk needs. Whenever Dirk struggles Howard has proven incapable of answering the bell, and Howard himself has a queue of playoff disappointments. Josh isn’t good enough to be the second scorer to Dirk which puts a lot of pressure on your third option who in this case is Jason Kidd, clearly Kidd isn’t the scorer that the team needs. This puts a huge amount of pressure on the supporting cast and it’s one of the primary reasons why their offense keeps failing them when times get tough. More disappointing was Josh Howard’s inability to mesh with Jason Kidd after the trade. Josh should be getting 8-12 points a night just by running all over the court and letting Kidd find him for open shots but he’s so far he’s been inept at this. Howard’s scoring skills are all isolation based and from stagnant positions which hurts his ability to get the most out of a top flight point guard.

Dirk is incredible and he’s the reason why this Mavericks team has a shot at making the playoffs. It’s a pity he doesn’t have more help.

#13 – Phoenix Suns – Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, Shaquille O Neal

Another trio getting spanked for their lack of defense. Shaq is a good interior defender but he’s too one dimensional and is a complete liability away from the paint defensively. Amare is an atrocious one-on-one defender and post defender, but a average help defender. Nash is another weak defender.

They get pumped up the list above teams like Washington because of their superior offensive talent and rebounding. Shaq and Amare are probably the best combination of rebounders in the league and give Phoenix a huge advantage night after night. On the other end they’re run by a master point guard, Steve Nash, who creates easy opporunity after easy opportunity for all of his teammates. Amare is one of the best and most efficient scorers in the league. Shaq is still Shaq, he demands a lot of attention around the rim and can’t be left alone because he’s unstoppable if he has a path to the basket.

Phoenix’s trio is slipping but the Suns get additional strength from guys like Grant Hill, Boris Diaw and Leandro Barbosa who pose a high quality rotation. Unfortunately the rest of their supporting cast is either weak or a question mark.

#12 – Miami Heat – Dwyane Wade, Michael Beasley, Shawn Marion

Miami’s trio easily has the worst supporting cast of any team in the top 20 trio’s. Hands down, no contest, the worst supporting cast. But make no mistake, their stars are seriously talented.

Dwyane Wade is an MVP level talent. He’s an incredible scorer and a top playmaker while playing solid defense (when he isn’t shouldering the team’s offense). Michael Beasley and Shawn Marion will provide a lot of rebounding between them. Beasley will be the second option offensively because of his rare scoring ability and versatility offensively. Marion is the do-it-all player that makes everything work. He’s the additional rebounding help for Beasley, the top defensive player on the squad, the supporting scorer, he’s very efficient, he’s incredible on the break and off the ball. Lot of talent here. They need more role players to help them.

#11 – Toronto Raptors – Chris Bosh, Jermaine O Neal, Jose Calderon

Raptors drop to #11 because of the doubts over their perimeter play. Calderon is a very strong point guard but he isn’t the scorer the squad needs to balance itself out and he isn’ t the defender their perimeter needs to balance themselves out on that end.

Bosh is the star of the show. He’s an All-Pro level talent who demonstrates a great understanding of the game. He’s a leader, a very good scorer, efficient, rebounds, plays defense. He’s good enough to be the best big man on a contender.

Jermaine O Neal is an injury worry but I’m happy giving him the benefit of the doubt. Great defense, solid rebounding and solid scoring. His inefficiency and poor shot selection drag down his value though. Calderon is the point guard of the moment; great floor general, very good playmaker, hardly ever turns the ball over, excellent shooter. He’s a great facilitator. Unfortunately his defense is a huge issue and it’s the reason why Jameer Nelson outplayed him in the playoffs.

#10 – Detroit Pistons – Rip Hamilton, Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace

Second best backcourt in the NBA and an inside presence. Nice stuff.

Unfortunately Billups and Rasheed are slipping, Rasheed in particular. Wallace is no longer good enough to hold down the interior by himself. His rebounding is below par, his defense is very good but no longer great, and his offensive production is far too small. His weaknesses leave Detroit exposed.

#9 – Utah Jazz – Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer, Memo Okur

Top Of The Ticket – The Best Of The Best

#8 – Portland TrailBlazers – Greg Oden, Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge

The power of Greg Oden. The beautiful perimeter skills and controlled play of Brandon Roy. The supporting act by LaMarcus Aldridge. This is one heck of a trio.

Very few teams in the league can boast a duo of big men as good as Oden and Aldridge. Even fewer can boast two talented big men who are seven feet. This duo will allow Portland to consistently control the paint on either end of the floor, control the backboards, pose a matchup nightmare for the opposition, and be the anchor to a very tough defense. Only two teams in the league have two bigs of their size and talent and that’s Phoenix and the Lakers, and I’m betting on Portland to be better than both of them.

Oden and Aldridge are the perfect complement to one another. Aldridge lacks muscle in the paint, is a below par rebounder and interior defender. In steps the perfect answer in Greg Oden. Oden’s offensive game needs improvement, in steps an 19ppg (second half of the season mark) scorer with a quality low post game. If Oden posts up inside, Aldridge can step out and drain jumpers out to 22 feet at a good clip. Each is so talented that the opposition will not be able to double team with a second big, leaving the more preferable smaller players as the only double teaming options.

Here’s an article from the Oregonian on this topic and how he, Sean Meagher, rates the Blazers’ trio against the cream of the crop.

#7 – New Orleans Hornets – Chris Paul, David West, Tyson Chandler

#6 – Orlando Magic – Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis

#5 – Philadelphia 76ers – Elton Brand, Andre Iguodala, Andre Miller

#4 – Houston Rockets – Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady, Ron Artest

#3 – Los Angeles Lakers – Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum

#2 – Boston Celtics – Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen

#1 – San Antonio Spurs – Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili

The best trio in the game. Timmy is the interior presence every team dreams of having. Parker is the point guard extraordinaire that controls the tempo and runs his team’s offense to perfection. Manu Ginobili is the killer wing who’s as clutch as they come. This trio balances each other beautifully and consistently allows the Spurs to control whatever game they wish.

Unfortunately their valiant efforts are likely to go up in smoke for the second straight year and it’s because of the same problem – an awfully weak supporting cast that badly needs to be upgraded.

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