Is it officially the big three era?

Breaking down how a trio of stars does or does not work in the NBA

Updated: July 9, 2012, 9:10 PM ET
By Bradford Doolittle | Basketball Prospectus
NBA Big 3 New York MiamiESPN.com IllustrationWhile Miami's Big Three earned its first title, New York's trio was nothing but chaos.

Editor's note: This is the first installment of a weeklong series examining how the big three model is used in the NBA and its short-term and long-term impact on the league.

When the Miami Heat knocked off Oklahoma City Thunder last month in the NBA Finals, we were hammered to death by comparisons of each team's core trio. Miami was a contrived creation, with LeBron James and Chris Bosh electing to join Dwyane Wade in the summer of 2010 to form a South Beach version of what they had seen work so well for Boston in the previous few seasons.

Oklahoma City's Big Three was every bit as potent, especially on offense, and it was an organic group of players plucked from the upper rungs of the NBA's lottery ladder. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden have grown together quickly, making the Thunder the hot pick to dominate the West for the foreseeable future. With the Heat and Thunder poised to contend for the crown the next few years, it's no wonder that teams are scrambling to assemble big threes of their own.

Have we entered the age of the big three? For many who dread such an era, the Heat have made those fears palpable. Dwight Howard has been threatening to make the Brooklyn Nets a big three team somehow, and now comes word that Kevin Love is unhappy in Minnesota. Could he make yet another team a big three? Could we soon see too much of the NBA's elite talent mustered into a few teams?

Indeed, it's easy to understand why people might think that would be the case, but that appears to be true only at the top of the NBA. Of course, that's the only place where it matters. And that's also the problem.


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