COMMENTARY | Get out your best stationery: There's a new Big Three to introduce.
The Brooklyn Nets have added former MVP Kevin Garnett and former Finals MVP Paul Pierce to incumbent point guard and three-time NBA All-Star Deron Williams to create a new power trio in the Eastern Conference.
If this were five years ago, it might be the NBA's best trio, but because Kevin Garnett is 37 and Paul Pierce is 35, this group will have to move down the proverbial pecking order just a bit ... but only a bit. Outside of the Miami Heat's group of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, there just aren't a lot of trios in the NBA that have this kind of star power.
The Big Ticket isn't the player who was the NBA's Most Valuable Player 10 seasons ago, when he led the Minnesota Timberwolves to the Western Conference finals. He's not the player he was six seasons ago, when he was the Defensive Player of the Year while leading the Boston Celtics to a championship.
That's not to say he's still not darn good. Garnett is a 15-time All-Star who turned in a defensive rating of 98.9 (points per 100 possessions) last year, good for ninth-best in the NBA, and that came just a year removed from leading the NBA in that statistic with a ridiculously good 94.2 mark.
Throw in the fact that he spent most of the last two seasons playing out of position at center and, well, you have a player who can still flat out produce.
Even with his playing time limited to 29.7 minutes a game for the Celtics last season, the lowest power-game mark since his rookie year when he wasn't a full-time starter yet, Garnett averaged 14.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.1 steals per game on 49.6 percent shooting. Per 36 minutes, that equates to 17.9 points, 9.4 boards, 2.8 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.1 blocked shots a night.
Garnett hasn't been a 20-point a game scorer since he left Minnesota after the 2006-07 season because he hasn't been asked to be.
He topped 20 points eight times last season for Boston, topped by a 27-point performance on Feb. 6 in a win against the Toronto Raptors. But Garnett's role is to be the veteran leader and defensive backbone for the Nets, roles he can still more than fill.
The truth is that The Truth is still evolving, even at age 35. With the Celtics last season, particularly after All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo went down with a season-ending knee injury, Pierce became more of a facilitator than ever before.
Over the final 34 games of the season, Pierce averaged 6.1 assists per game, compared to a season average of 4.8 and a career mark of 3.9. When Avery Bradley struggled with the play-making responsibilities as point guard, Pierce was able to become something of a Scottie Pippen-like point forward, scoring at an 18.6 points per game clip while also getting 6.3 rebounds and creating offense for teammates.
Last year was the first time since 2001 that Pierce wasn't an All-Star, but that had as much to do with the mediocrity of the Celtics than it did any real drop-off in Pierce's play. His overall shooting dipped to 43.6 percent, his lowest mark since 2003-04, but that was in part because he got more defensive attention with Rondo gone.
He still shot 38 percent from deep and averaged 20 points per 36 minutes of play. He struggled in the Celtics' first-round loss to the New York Knicks, shooting just 36.8 percent, but that had as much to do with defensive attention as it did slippage in talent. Combined with Williams and still paired with Garnett, Pierce should be much more efficient in 2013-14.
Williams is the lone holdover of Brooklyn's new Big Three, and he's coming off a strong finish that saw him average 22.9 points and eight rebounds a game on 48.8-percent shooting, including 40 percent from 3-point range, over the season's final 23 games. That late surge boosted his overall numbers in 2012-13 to 18.9 points and 7.7 assists per game on 44-percent shooting, including 37.8 percent from deep.
So, yes, from November through February, Williams struggled, but he turned it on down the stretch and will now have more talent to work with than he ever has in his career with the Nets or the Utah Jazz.
He averaged 20.6 points in the Nets' first-round playoff loss to the Chicago Bulls and his 8.4 assists per game were the highest mark of any player in the postseason last spring.
He also posted a 118 offensive rating in 2012-13 (points per 100 possessions), tying his career best originally set with Utah in 2007-08.
Williams, at 29, is primed for a big year as a headliner in part of the NBA's newest Big Three.
Phil Watson is a freelance commentator and journalist who covers the Brooklyn Nets, New York Yankees and New York Giants for the Yahoo Contributor Network. He is also editor of brewers101.com and holds an editorial position at HoopsHabit.com.
- Sports & Recreation
- Kevin Garnett
- Deron Williams
- Paul Pierce
- Brooklyn Nets