Everybody wants to know what the Nets will do after gathering a Big Three in KD, Irving, and Harden. Every Big Three has its own dynamics, and this one is as unique as any. As Jay Williams said, we have burner accounts, honey buns, and flat earth on the same team. Let’s take a look at similar situations from the past few decades and see how it went.
The ’95/’96 Chicago Bulls
Michael Jordan: 82 games, 30.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 4.3 apg
Scottie Pippen: 72 games, 19.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 5.9 apg
Dennis Rodman: 64 games, 5.5 ppg, 14.9 rpg, 3.1 apg
Coming into the 1995/96 season, the Chicago Bulls knew they need some defensive fire-power in their respective roster – MJ and Pippen needed some help. So during the offseason, the Bulls acquired rebound-specialist Dennis Rodman from the San Antonio Spurs. And that’s when it all clicked together for them. In their first season together, they’ve recorded 72 wins and only ten losses in the regular season. They were even more dominant in the playoffs. The Bulls swept the Miami Heat 3-0 in the first round, then got their revenge on the Orlando Magic, who beat them in the previous season, 4-0 in the Conference Finals. Then they’ve defeated the Seattle SuperSonics 4–2 in the 1996 NBA Finals, winning their fourth NBA title in six seasons.
The ’02/’03 San Antonio Spurs
Tim Duncan: 81 games, 23.3 ppg, 12.9 rpg, 3.9 apg
Tony Parker: 82 games, ¸5.5 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 5.3 apg
Manu Ginobili: 69 games, 7.6 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.0 apg
For the second year in a row, the Spurs‘ title ambitions we’re stopped by the Lakers in the 2001/02 season. They’ve had the NBA MVP Tim Duncan, and their rookie Tony parker showed he could lead the team. However, it was only until the next season that the Spurs started to stack up titles. At the start of the 2002/03 season, Argentinian genius Manu Ginobili came to Greg Popovich’s team, which marked the Big Three era’s official beginning. It also was the final season of the Twin Towers era featuring Duncan and David Robinson. The Spurs would win 60 games in the regulars season. In the first round of the playoffs, they defeated the Phoenix Suns and beat the Lakers in a six games semifinal. In the Western Conference Finals, they defeated the Dallas Mavericks to advance to the NBA Finals. In the Finals, the Spurs won the title in six games against the New Jersey Nets.
The ’07/’08 Boston Celtics
Kevin Garnett: 71 games, 18.8 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 3.4 apg
Ray Allen: 73 games, 17.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.1 apg
Paul Pierce: 80 games 19.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 5.1 apg
Even Doc Rivers acknowledges that the biggest concern he had with the 2007/08 Celtics was that the super-stars wouldn’t sacrifice for the bigger goal. That season was powered by the acquisitions of All-Stars Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in the offseason, who teamed up with Paul Pierce. Despite the doubts, the Celtics racked up 66 wins in the regular season, the third-most in franchise history, behind the 1972–73 Celtics’ 68 wins and the famous 1985–86 Celtics’ 67 wins, including 40 at home. Kevin Garnett was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year, and finally, they’ve ended their two-year absence from the playoffs. In the first round, the Atlanta Hawks pushed the Celtics to seven games, and the same happened in the second round against the Cavaliers. In the Eastern Finals, they’ve beaten the Pistons in six games and eventually defeated the Lakers in six games in the NBA Finals.
The ’10/’11 Miami Heat
LeBron James: 79 games, 26.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 7.0 apg
Dwyane Wade: 76 games, 25.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 4.6 apg
Chris Bosh: 77 games, 18.7 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 1.9 apg
One of the most pompous moves in recent NBA history was when before the 2010/11 season, LeBron decided to move his talents to South Beach. James teamed up with Chris Bosh, who came from Toronto, and Dwyane Wade, who was till then the top-dog in Miami. The expectations were insanely high for the newly-formed Big Three. Even LeBron predicted an NBA championship in their first season.
The Heat finished second in the Eastern Conference (behind the Chicago Bulls) with a 58–24 record in the regular season. They’ve faced the 76ers in the first round of the playoffs and won in the five-game series. The Heat used the same recipe in the second round where they’ve eliminated the Celtics, and after that, they were better than the Bulls in five games in the Eastern Conference Finals. However, they fell short by losing to the Dallas Mavericks in six games in the NBA Finals.
The ’16/’17 Golden State Warriors
Kevin Durant: 62 games, 25.1 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 4.8 apg
Steph Curry: 79 games, 25.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 6.6 apg
Klay Thompson: 78 games, 22.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.1 apg
The Golden State Warriors broke over twenty-five NBA records, and they set the best-ever regular-season record of 73–9, breaking the Chicago Bulls 1995/96 record. Despite being dominant in the regulars season, the Warriors would lose the NBA Finals in an ironic twist, blowing up a 3-1 lead to the Cavaliers. In the 2016/17 season, they’ve decided to level-up, acquiring Kevin Durant. That Warriors team was hailed as a “Superteam,” and some called them “Fantastic Four” because they even had Draymond Green on the roster. So it doesn’t surprise that they’ve dominated the league and recorded only one loss in the playoffs – against Cleveland in the NBA Finals. That Warriors team is arguably one of the best-assembled in the history of the NBA league.
What to expect from the Nets?
The numbers don’t always show it, but every one of these teams had a guy take a step back. Rodman only cared about rebounds and defense, Manu is the greatest 6th man ever, Kevin Garnett did all the dirty work and didn’t care about getting shots, Bosh took a major step back, and Steph Curry is the most accommodating superstar of his era. Who’s going to be that guy in Brooklyn?
If we judge by talent, it should be Kyrie – Durant and Harden are better players. But Durant is the most versatile of the three and can be spectacular in many elements of the game. If the team want’s to have an identity, someone will have to change their game. Otherwise, it’s going to be “your turn-my turn-his turn,” and that we know is not a recipe for winning in the Finals.