Today marks the first day of the fall, and I can’t contain my excitement as this serves as a reminder that the NBA season is right around the corner. This season promises to be one for the books (knock on wood), as the story lines have been incredible without a minute even being played yet. Hoop fans are excited for the return of D-Rose (again), the emergence of team USA standouts like Anthony Davis, Klay Thompson, and Kenneth Faried, and finally the return of LeBron to Cleveland. Of all the occurrences of the off-season, none compares to the magnitude of LeBron’s return to Cleveland. From the graceful manner in which he announced the decision (contrary to the prior decision of 2010), to the subsequent acquisitions that followed, the Cleveland Cavaliers are by far the team to watch this upcoming season. This of course gets hoop fans to start the argument of whether the assembly of this Big 3 has the potential to be as successful as the Miami trio (if not better), and produce a run of the same magnitude (again, if not better). I, for one, believe that this big three is more compatible with one another (at least on paper), and has the potential to do some pretty historic stuff.
Miami’s big three was undoubtedly successful during their time together, even though they did not achieve the greatly sought after three-peat. Making it to four straight NBA finals and winning two championships along the way is definitely something that any NBA team can be proud of. Granted a player of the magnitude of a LeBron James might not be entirely satisfied with that accomplishment, it doesn’t make it any less impressive than it is. Miami built a team on athletic wing-play from James and Wade, which was complimented by a gang of shooters which even included Chris Bosh. Although the guys were the best of friends off the court, this big 3 was not a good fit based on the skill-sets of the players, as Wade and James have a very similar style of play (dominating the ball and creating opportunities for themselves and others using their athleticism) and Bosh was forced to relegate himself to becoming a spot up shooter. With some changes: Wade becoming more of a cutter off-the-ball, and Bosh embracing his new role, the big three of Miami was able to make it work, as they made it to the NBA finals each year together, winning two. Despite their success however, they were never the perfect fit, and it showed time and time again. Wade’s inability to consistently be a spot-up shooter when James had the ball sometimes made him a liability on the floor. Despite all the talent, they never attained the status of perhaps the great Chicago Bulls teams of the 90’s that imposed fear into opponents on a nightly basis, as they had way too many surprise loses that left fans scratching their heads from time to time.
The Cleveland Big 3, although they haven’t even payed one game together, seems to be a much better fit on paper. It all starts with the all around play of the best player in the NBA LeBron James, who is comfortable doing pretty much anything on the court. LeBron can facilitate the offense, post up, or even serve as a defensive stopper on the team. Then you have the exciting play of Kyrie Irving who can take on the scoring load, serve as a spot up shooter (don’t forget he has won a 3 point contest in his young career) and also facilitate the offense. Lastly you have Kevin Love who will mostly serve as stretch-4 (naturally, unlike Chris Bosh…and yes, he too has won a 3 point contest in his young career), but can also post up, and bring in at least 10 rebounds on a nightly basis. Basketball junkies know that a playmaker like LeBron surrounded by shooters is a match made in heaven, as he is naturally a pass-first type of player. Granted Wade and Bosh might have been bigger name players, Love and Irving are certainly better suited to fit the style of play that LeBron’s game is tailored for. Lets not forget that Irving is also a great open court player (much like Wade was), and Love is arguably the best outlet passer in the game. This gives the Cleveland big 3 the ability to get up and down the court in the open floor, much like the big 3 in Miami was able to do, WHILE being able to space the floor beautifully in half court sets. I predict that James will do a lot of posting up, with Love and Irving being the beneficiaries of the double teams that he attracts.
In sum, it doesn’t take a chemist to conclude that on paper, the Cleveland big 3 has better suited ingredients to stir up quite an explosion. Even Stevie Wonder could see that the fit in Cleveland is more compatible with LeBron’s style of play, and is likely to yield greater results than his tenure in Miami. Again, these three have not even played one game together yet; therefore one can only speculate as to how well they will mesh. I think it is safe however to conclude that based on the premises used here, LeBron made the best choice for his career, as the Big 3 2.0 is undoubtedly better suited for each other in comparison to that of the prior big three in Miami.