The Oklahoma City Thunder have the best young core in the NBA led by Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. The Thunder made it all the way to the NBA Finals while their best three players are only a combined 68 years old.
The trend in the NBA these days is forming Big 3’s and surrounding three stars with a bunch of role players. It worked for the Boston Celtics in 2008 and the Miami Heat this past season.
Big 3’s have been around in the NBA dating back to the 1960’s. With five players on a basketball court at a time, loading up on three stars simply makes the most sense.
We know the Thunder have their own Big 3 in Durant, Westbrook and Harden but how good are they really?
ESPN has been doing a series on studying Big 3’s in the NBA and the respect they have given OKC is quite a lot (not that the Thunder haven’t earned it).
Among current Big 3’s, OKC’s trio was ranked second behind only the Heat’s. That isn’t expected to last for long though as the future best Big 3’s top spot belonged to OKC.
The amazing thing is that Durant-Westbrook-Harden from this past season were ranked the fifth best trio ever beating out the likes of Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Larry Bird.
One of two current Big 3s in this top-10 list, the Thunder’s trio joined the ranks of the NBA’s best ever largely on the basis of Harden’s ascendancy. Despite coming off the bench, Harden put up the 82-game equivalent of 11.6 Win Shares and 12.8 Estimated Wins Added in 2011-12, combining with the already-outstanding production of Durant and Westbrook to form a three-headed monster no team outside of South Beach had an answer for. And the scariest part? They’re probably going to be even better in 2012-13.
The all-time list was based on production and things like win shares and PER and that’s where the Thunder’s trio’s numbers really impress.
This is why the Thunder weren’t going to trade Harden this offseason even though it kind of made sense. The Thunder front office knew it made sense too. They could swap Harden for Bradley Beal, keep Serge Ibaka no problem and still be set to compete in the West for the next decade.
That’s how special Harden is though. It’s also how important and valuable it is to have a Big 3 like the Thunder’s. They don’t come around every year and the Thunder’s high ranking on the all-time list is testament to that.
Thunder fans should not worry about the future of this team (not that they really do). Harden will get his extension this summer because nothing is close to as important as that for OKC. Keeping Ibaka may be trickier and always having a strong supporting cast won’t be as easy going forward either.
In five years we will be talking about Durant-Westbrook-Harden as maybe the best Big 3 ever. And they’ll all be under the age of 28 then too. So scary.