As the league’s three-year punching bag, the Miami Heat have grown accustomed to courting cynics even when soaring above the competition. When Game 6 of the NBA Finals looked to be slipping away from them, talk about breaking up their Big 3 dominated the airwaves more than lame commercials. The San Antonio Spurs’ Big 3, though less under the microscope, also saw their trinity get an expiration date for most of their near-championship run.
Even when reeling, the Spurs always seem to have a hidden ace of composure up their sleeve, which means that they’ll continue their model of success next season—with or without Duncan, Parker, or Ginobili. The Heat, well, they’re repeat champs―why bother breaking up the formula? Yet, questions about who stays and who goes have not creeped away into the night for either team. With a summer of many questions awaiting both, people still want to know which Big 3 gets to see another year together.
We look into our resident crystal ball below.
The San Antonio Spurs: Ghosts Of Champions Past
The Big Fundamental has proven to be The Ole Reliable. At 37-years-63-days-old (and counting), Tim Duncan posted per-36 minutes averages that were almost carbon copies of those from the 2002-2003 season, when he was a ripe 26 years old. As Basketball-Reference shows, his 2012-13 stats could be interchanged with those from 2002-2003 with few noticing:
21.3 PPG (50.2 FG%), 11.9 RPG, 3.2 APG, 3.2 BLKPG, 0.9 STLPG
21.3 PPG (51.3 FG%), 11.8 RPG, 3.6 APG, 2.7 BLKPG, 0.6 STLPG
Even if he wasn’t signed into the 2014-2015 season, and didn’t own the key to the city of San Antonio, Duncan isn’t going anywhere. Neither is Parker, who has steadily become their franchise player, and would have almost certainly won them the trophy this year if not so hobbled by a hamstring injury.
The only member of the Big 3 that remains a Big Question is Manu “The Basketball Wizard” Ginobili. When young, his daredevil playmaking expanded San Antonio’s offense into a thing of artistry—but as he’s aged his body can no longer work the basketball canvas like before. Too often, that cost them against the Heat in the Finals.
As was sadly evident, the former San Antonio ringleader is a shell of his former self, and letting him go as an unrestricted free agent might be the best option. But Spurs general manager R.C. Buford, some say the architect of this modern NBA, wants Ginobili back as a Black & Silver. Perhaps at a lower salary than what he’s making now, but there aren’t many tall wing players that can provide what Manu does even if at a flawed output.
Verdict: The San Antonio Big 3 become more like a Big 2.5, Big 2.4, but they stay together.
The Miami Heat: Victims Of The Social Media Age
Not 2, not 3, not 4, not 5, but 2 out of 3 ain’t bad. As many have pointed out, the Heat were a free-throw away from being 1 out of 3 in the NBA Finals, but what the criticism overlooks is that they were still able to get there three years in a row. With some added legacy-padding they’ve diverted anymore criticism at least until the beginning of the 2013-2014 season.
But despite consecutive championships, not all is well with a team that could have been in the process of trading Dwyane Wade if they hadn’t pulled off a miracle in Game 6. These playoffs exposed kinks in their armor, especially in the interior. A Roy Hibbert with a few more post moves or a Tim Duncan with a few less years might have gotten them trounced in 5 or 6 games.
LeBron will stand pat. Wade with three rings will too, though I see the 2013-2014 being an injury-riddled one for him. But Bosh is less of a shoe-in.
As NBA.com’s Free Agency Tracker shows, the Heat are already moving chess pieces in the offseason. They’ve picked up Mario Chalmer’s option, James Jones has decided to remain a Heat player, and Rashard Lewis will do more bench hugging for them in this new season too. But will Bosh be moved for a better bruiser down low?
The Gordon Gekko inspiration and Heat president wants to improve the team from within, which alludes to him keeping its core intact. Ray Allen will be looking for a pay bump (but should remain a Heat star), Chris Andersen might get offered a lucrative deal as an unrestricted free agent, Mike Miller should get amnestied, and Juwan Howard will either get the pink slip or retire. But other than that it looks like the Heat will look much like they did this year.
That can be a good thing for a tested unit or fuel for the NBA teams that almost dethroned them.
Verdict: Fairly obvious with Riley’s remarks―James remains king fiddle to Wade and Bosh’s accompaniment.