The Big Three. It seems that particular roster concept is key to winning an NBA Championship nowadays. Miami had their three of LeBron, Wade, and Bosh. Boston had their three of Garnett, Pierce, and Allen. San Antonio before them had Duncan, Ginobili and Parker. Dallas and the Lakers had their three although the third seemed to be compensated by a solid and equal fourth. Dallas with Dirk, Kidd, and Jason Terry/Marion. The Lakers the year before had Kobe, Pau, and Bynum/Odom.
For a team to expect to compete with the Miami Heat, they need a strong big three. Even the team that lost in the finals, Oklahoma City, had their own big three of Durant, Westbrook, and Harden. Gone are the days where just a solid all-around team like the Detroit Pistons can scratch and claw their way to a championship. The Heat and Thunder are just too young and too good.
Fortunately for teams in the NBA Draft, this is a great year to build that Big 3, because a good portion of the players in the first round will turn in to the 2nd and 3rd pieces of that triumvirate. Unfortunately for others, that number 1 piece is just not there. Some will argue that Anthony Davis is a number 1 guy that you can build around, but he is more of a Tyson Chandler than Tim Duncan, LeBron James, or Dwight Howard, players that no matter who you put next to them, their team will succeed. While last year was the best 6th man draft in history, this is the best '2nd and 3rd player on a team' draft.
Here are some players that will fill those roles:
2nd Best Player on a team:
Anthony Davis: Either he's Kevin Garnett or Tyson Chandler. If he was coming out of high school, those would have been the logical comparisons, since they'd have had a similar build and game coming in. Each of those guys is great in their own right, but they've both proven that you can win a championship building a team around just them. However, if they are part of your big 3, you'll more likely be making the playoffs each year rather than the lottery.
Thomas Robinson: He may have the build of Lebron James, but not his vision. His productivity will be undeniable and could have an Amar'e Stoudamire type impact, but he'll be best if someone else is running the show and feeding him the ball. Based on his growth and success during his final junior year at Kansas, he has the demeanor and skill level to be a great 2nd best player on a team, possibly challanging for the number 1 spot.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: As it stands right now he'd be the perfect 3rd guy on a playoff team. His defense is his best weapon, and he wouldn't be forced to carry the load. However, once he is put in that role, he will turn himself in to the number 2 player on that team, whether they planned to or not. While his defense and attitude are ready for the NBA, his scoring is underrated since he barely had to last year. However, when he did, he shot almost .500 from the field, while also grabbing about 7.5 rebounds. He is just scratching the surface of his potential, and once he gets the opportunity, he'll be the perfect number 2 starter on a playoff team.
Brad Beal: As a 6'3" shooting guard, there is only so much you can do to dominate and bring a team to the next level. The days of just having a shooting guard like Allen Iverson or Kobe to take you to the finals are over. He's a Dwayne Wade type, and that comparison proved anything, it's he can win much more when someone more dominant is playing with him, as was the case with Shaq and LeBron. Switch him with a number two guy like Westbrook, and Oklahoma City wouldn't miss too much of a beat.
Harrison Barnes: He still hasn't shown all his worth, but he has the potential to be a number 2 guy if he can embody a tougher, NBA demeanor. At worst he's Luol Deng, making him just good enough for the number 3 spot on a team, but never doing enough to stop a team from looking for upgrades.
Jared Sullinger: He'll fall due to concerns about his health, but whichever teams takes him will get a guy who will be the 2nd or 3rd best player on that team. He could actually become a number 1 guy, but it's not a good idea for him, especially given his lack of defense, ideal size, and athleticism. He could be a Paul Millsap type, who is a marginal 3rd starter on a fringe team, or a Zach Randolph type with a better attitude as a number 2 guy on a playoff team.
Austin Rivers: The problem with Rivers is that he never really looks like he is trying that hard, and seems as if he'd be eaten alive in the NBA, but there is more than meets the eye. As the coach of a son, you could never truly and completely neglect defense. His offensive style though is perfect for the NBA game, and might just not have been a great fit for Duke's style. He could easily be the number 2 scorer on a team, it's just whether the other part of his game will cause him to be a liability and turn him into the third best player on that respective team.
Jeremy Lamb: Lamb could end up being the best scorer in this draft, similar to how he was this past year in college at UConn. He's a Rip Hamilton type who can get baskets in a number of creative ways and if his defense holds up at all, will develop into that reliable 2nd or 3rd member of a Big 3.
3rd best players:
Andre Drummond: Give him to Portland, put him next LaMarcus Aldridge and give them a killer guard, and that team can contend. He's still raw, but his size and athleticism make him a perfect candidate for a great career if put in the right situation. If he is on a team where he can develop, he will easily be their third best player and a valuable force. If he's forced to do to much, he might be put in the bust-hall-of-fame.
Terrence Jones: Will be an important defensive three who can guard the opposing team's best player and will underratedly develop into a great scorer when he doesn't have to wear down guarding power forwards anymore. With his unselfishness, if put in the right situation, he could end up being an important third piece to a championship team.
Kendall Marshall: Will likely turn out to be the best passing point guard in this draft, and might have the best vision of any rookie point guard in recent years. Another player lacking ideal strength and athleticism, he will be perfect for a team that has two dynamic scorers and doesn't need to rely on him to create his own shot.
Arnett Moultrie: He'd be great for a team like Boston or Chicago looking for a new force down-low. Similar to a David West type player who might fall because he is a senior and does not have an unlimited ceiling. However, he will instantly keep an established team afloat and in the playoffs.
The fortunate situation for a lot of these players though is that they will drop and go to teams that already have those top 1 or 2 guys established, and will be able to jump in right away and become valuable starters. The players going to these already established organizations with franchise players, will have a much longer and successful career. Those that are forced to carry the load from the start, might possibly fall on their face.
Here are some teams that should be able to establish their Big-3 by season's end with this draft:
Sacramento: They seem to be one piece away from building their own triumphirant, with DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans there. They have other strong pieces on their team, but for management to feel like they are ready to contend, one more stud will need to be added, and they should be able to get that with their 5th pick.
Cleveland: Kyrie Irving looks like a superstar, so if he's counted as the best player on the team, they need two more sure-fire starters or potential all-stars for the team to contend. If they get a player from the trio of Brad Beal, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, or Harrison Barnes, they might have their number two player. Then combining either Tristan Thompson or their 24th pick in a draft filled with potential 3rd best players, they might be able to have that Big 3 by season's end.
Portland: This was a lot easier when they had LaMarcus Aldrige and Brandon Roy. Now it seems they only have one all-star, but some of the other guys on their team are still developing, and could turn into perfect third pieces. Portland will hope that they pick up that 2nd all-star here at number 6, but the good news is they have another pick 5 spots later, and between the two of those and LaMarcus Aldridge they should be primed for having their trio.
New Orleans*: This is only if they resign Eric Gordon. If they do, they'll have Anthony Davis, and then with their 10th pick they might easily be able to get a guy who could be that third potential star. Perhaps Kendall Marshall, Jared Sullinger, Terrence Jones, etc.
Boston: Fortunately for this coming year, they really only need that number 3 player, to put behind Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce (presuming Garnett and Ray Allen are done in Boston). The good news is they have two picks back to back, giving them two chances to get that third stud, or possibly even have one take over for Pierce in a year or two when he finishes out his career. They have an opportunity to re-build their starting lineup again with impact starters like Arnett Moultrie and/or Quincy Miller (who are their two picks in the latest mock draft at time of publication).
Washington: John Wall is established as their point guard of the future and potentially their franchise player. Yet in looking for their number 2 or 3 star, there's more question marks. Nene can't at this stage be relied upon to be a future part of a Big-3. Andray Blatche at one point could have been that guy, but no more. They are hoping Kevin Seraphin, Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton, or Jordan Crawford could be good enough to be that third best player, but they won't be convinced for a while. Now if the player they chooses turns into 2 out of 3 stars, then they'll be in a decent position to develop a third from their roster.
Teams that really need a number 1 guy, but won't this year:
Charlotte: Kemba Walker is good, but better as a 6th man. Whoever they draft at 2 will feel the pressure to be their number 1 guy, and likely will ascend to that role, but it will not turn into a lot of success for the Bobcats. They'll need another number 1 pick the following year to truly make an impact.
Detroit: Greg Monroe is great, but he should be a number 2 guy, and Brandon Knight should really be a number 3. Unfortunately with the 9th pick, they'll be going into the season with false hope that Monroe could be their number 1 franchise player and the team will be better than the sum of it's parts. Yet with an early pick next year, they could be primed for a break-out.
Toronto: The whole foreign experience, building a team of international players who wouldn't mind playing in Canada, hasn't worked out thus far. No one, besides perhaps Colangelo, is convinced anymore that Andrea Bargnani is a franchise player, so they'll need a lot of help. If they could get a sure-fire 2nd or 3rd piece, hopefully with one of the top picks next year they could get that number 1 guy and start competing.