The Celtics "Big Three Era" and How It's Influenced Today’s NBA

No, this is not another Miami Heat bandwagon fan article – not even close.  Actually, I am a New Orleans fan for the record. The “big three era” I want to look at isn’t when Bosh and LeBron joined Dwayne Wade in South Beach.  For me the wheels that put many things we see in the NBA today started when The Big Ticket, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen joined Paul Pierce on the Boston Celtics.

In the press conference in which the three were introduced, Danny Ainge started by recognizing the Celtic ownership group in convincing these three players to join forces. Why did he single them out and individually thank every person involved? Because they built a ” winning team” – an obvious motive for all athletes in sports. All around the NBA, superstars looked at each other and collectively said ” Well, Damn. ” Suddenly, the TD Garden got a little bit tougher to play in.  Well, a LOT tougher. Ainge went on to say without Doc Rivers and Paul Pierce, they wouldn’t be able to get Ray Allen. Without Ray Allen they wouldn’t be able to get Kevin Garnett.  The pieces fit together.

With all this being said, the underlying conclusion you can take from this is that good players want to play with good players when they have the right situation

  1. A desirable destination – Because let’s be honest, Boston is a much better basketball city and organization than Seattle and Minnesota.
  2. A media market – You’re not going to see this happen in Charlotte or in the aforementioned Minnesota. Why? Zero media in those towns.
  3. Owners with deep pockets. The Celtics had no problem with forking over the money to the big stars.

Before the big three came together, the Celtics were under the luxury tax. For those who don’t know what the luxury tax is, it is simply a penalty for those teams who are over a certain point in team salary. The organization is required to pay one dollar for every dollar over the point that I talked about. In the 2007- 20008 season the Celtics were 8.2 million over the tax. These two wonderfully executed moves by the Celtics management team have influenced not only superstars to join each other, but it has also caused a massive spike in players salaries in the NBA.

When the big three came together, the highest paid player in the NBA was Kevin Garnett at $22 million – a massive amount of money. If you look at the top ten paid players in the NBA at the time, the tenth highest paid was Baron Davis at $16.4 Million. Out of the top ten highest paid nobody played on the same team as one another.

Things have changed. A lot.

For the upcoming 2013-2014 season, Kobe Bryant is the highest paid player at a resounding $30.4 million. The lowest paid of the top ten is Dwayne Wade at $18.6 million. Out of that top ten, only three players DO NOT play together.

In 2007- 2008, the top ten combined salaries were $180 million –  I got a little bit sick hearing that to be honest. In 2013-2014 the top ten paid players combined salaries are $214 million.

It is my belief that this is all related back to the Boston Celtics landing Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to play alongside the face of the franchise in Paul Pierce. How? Well the Celtic Management said we are going to pay our way to a Larry O’Brien trophy. All the owners around the league either opened their wallets or closed them. In my mind the smart ones closed them.

The second way in which those three have influenced the NBA is the league is becoming gapped. By gapped I mean the difference between good teams and bad teams is becoming huge. For example, the Eastern Conference this year is two-tiered. You have tier one, Heat, Bulls, Pacers, Nets and Knicks. Then you have everybody else or tier two. Tier one is guaranteed playoff spots, barring injury. Tier two, is very interesting. You have a lot of teams gradually getting better but are missing that one thing that gets them over the top. What do the top teams have in common? Not only are they over the salary cap they have multiple stars and scoring options. When Carmelo Anthony wanted to get traded out of Denver his reasoning was because he wanted to be paired with another star in Amare Stoudemire.

Since the “big three” in Boston came together, an increasing number of star players have left to join other stars to compete. I miss the day where Garnett carried the Timberwolves to the playoffs, which seemed like almost every year. I miss Ray Allen dropping threes like the silky smooth specialist he is in Seattle. Most of all I miss Lebron James in Cleveland. Because every night you had a great match up at a certain position. It was great basketball to watch. Yes I realize this was happening before 2007, but for me that year created a trend in a big way.


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