The term “Big 3” gets tossed around like nothing nowadays. I mean, prior to the season, Nikola Jokić, Jamal Murray, and Michael Porter Jr. were being considered a “Big 3” by some outlets. To say any team in the NBA has a true “Big 3” is questionable, but in just six games with James Harden Philadelphia is making a strong case for the title with Harden, Joel Embiid, and Tyrese Maxey.
The group has played in just 117 minutes together thus far, but in that short time, they’ve been almost unstoppable. When all three are on the floor, the team’s net rating is +29.9. To put that in perspective, the best net rating in the league this season belongs to the Phoenix Suns (+7.7). The 76ers aren’t even in the top-10 for the season (+2.8). The team’s field goal percentage is 54.6 percent with all three on the floor — more than 6 percent greater than the top-shooting team in the NBA: Chicago (48.4 percent). Yes, it’s a small sample size, but seriously, there hasn’t been a trio this effective in their first few games together…I don’t know if it’s ever happened.
On March 2, the trio became the first-ever set of three teammates to each score 20-plus points in their first three games together. In their first two games together, they combined for 176 points, the second-most ever to only Wilt Chamberlain, Paul Arizin and York Larese, who recorded 193 points in 1961. Their only loss since the acquisition of Harden was the second night of back-to-backs on the road against the best team in the East. Oh, and Harden didn’t play that game. I know there’s recency bias in what I’m saying, and I’m sure that the heat will dissipate as the group spends more time together, but you can’t deny that what these three have been able to accomplish thus far has been astounding.
And to top it all off, Embiid and Harden’s relationship with Maxey is incredible as well. Maxey has blossomed into a Rondo-esque role (boosting his potential due to the presence of two Hall of Famers), yet he still constantly gives praise to his two star teammates, never stealing the limelight away from them and ensuring both Harden and Embiid that Philadelphia is still their team. He doesn’t do it in a “Oh, I’m just here to help them” type of way either. He’s used this time to come into his own, but he still seems genuinely thrilled just to play alongside these guys, like he’d be grateful for this time he’s had even if he never played another minute on the 76ers.
With parity in the NBA as high as it has been in a long time, there aren’t many true Big 3’s across the league. Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis, and LeBron James were supposed to be a Big 3 this year, but didn’t amount to much. Same goes for KD, Harden, and Kyrie Irving. Aside from them though…Steph, Klay, and Dray? That doesn’t have the same ring it did five years ago. Giannis, Jrue, and Middleton? Jrue feels like a huge step down from the other two. Devin Booker, Chris Paul, and Deandre Ayton? Maybe, but that doesn’t invoke the same fear that the Philly 3 are creating. It’s been a short stretch, but right now, they’re the best in the NBA. Let’s see if they can keep the train running through the playoffs.