Duncan, Parker, Ginobili.
Garnett, Pierce, Allen.
LeBron, Wade, Bosh.
For the last several years, the NBA has been a Big Three-dominated league. "Get three stars and compete for a championship" has become the modus operandi for many teams, and the arms race had consisted of grouping stars better than the opponent. In the summer of 2010, the Miami Heat signed about as talented a Big Three as imaginable.
With their trade for Dwight Howard, the Lakers have seemingly raised the stakes even further by assembling a Big Four. Without a doubt, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Howard represent one of the most star-powered foursomes the NBA has seen in quite some time.
But how good will the Lakers' top four players actually be next season? SCHOENE projections say good, but not special.
Nash is 38. Kobe will turn 34 this month. Gasol is 32. Consequently, their WARPs are projected to fall from last season.
- Nash: 7.8 to 5.7
- Bryant: 9.2 to 8.5
- Gasol: 10.7 to 8.8
Though Howard's WARP is projected to rise from 14.6 to 15.6, that doesn't negate the drop of the other three.
So, total, the combined WARP of the Lakers' top four players projects to be 150th since 1980 (each season normalized to 82 games):
The Lakers' Big Four isn't even projected to be the best top four next season, trailing the Thunder and Heat:
But perhaps this is not a fair method to measure a Big Four. After all, the all-time leader, the 1991-92 Chicago Bulls had Michael Jordan (WARP: 21.4), Scottie Pippen (17.2), Horace Grant (15.6) and Scott Williams (1.8). That wasn't really a Big Four, but an incredible Big Three with a fourth player stuck on the end.
Maybe we should judge Big Fours by their fourth player. This method is a bit kinder to the Lakers historically, as Steve Nash's projection ranks 108th since 1980:
But Nash still ranks behind Danilo Gallinari, Jeff Teague, Serge Ibaka and Daniel Green for 2013 projections:
Remember, though, these are just numerical projections. As Bradford Doolittle noted yesterday:
The caveat to all this is that the acquisition of Howard will probably improve the Lakers more than it appears in the spreadsheets. Howard is a better pick-and-roll partner for Nash than Bynum, who is more of a pure low-block player. Gasol should be a nice complement to Howard. Indeed, the Lakers' projection would be much worse this morning if they had sent Gasol out of town in the effort to land Howard. Also, Bryant's projection may be understated because the inefficiency he showed last season could have been a function of being asked to do too much on the offensive end, something that should no longer be the case.
Dan Feldman is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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