Ranking every NBA team’s Big 3

Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey, James Harden, Sixers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey, James Harden, Sixers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports /

27. . . . New York Knicks. 21. team

21. Knicks — R.J. Barrett, Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle

The Knicks couldn’t get over the finish line in Donovan Mitchell trade talks, so we will once again have to endure another middling season from the league’s premier below-average franchise. R.J. Barrett is actually an exciting building block, and his growth as a 3-point shooter and playmaker last season should not go unrecognized. Jalen Brunson is an impactful addition too — the Knicks have needed a real point guard for ages and Brunson will only make life easier on Barrett. Julius Randle is probably due for a bounce back too. And yet, the Knicks will still in all likelihood miss the playoffs.

84. . . . Sacramento Kings. 20. team

20. Kings — Domantas Sabonis, De’Aaron Fox, Harrison Barnes

Sacramento’s bold move to acquire Domantas Sabonis hasn’t really moved the needle much. They’re still on the outside looking in at the Western Conference playoff picture. While that could change in theory — Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox formed fast synergy last season, and Keegan Murray has the makings of a Rookie of the Year contender — there’s just so much talent in the NBA right now. And even if Sacramento does squeak into the playoffs, the natural next question is then what? Can the team, as currently constructed, really make the eventual leap to contender? Or is a tear-down and rebuild inevitable? Harrison Barnes is the nominal third member of the “Big Three” until Murray proves his mettle in the NBA. And Barnes is a rock-solid No. 3, but the Kings simply don’t have the top-end talent needed to seriously compete.

34. . . . Portland Trail Blazers. 19. team

19. Blazers — Damian Lillard, Jerami Grant, Anfernee Simons

When healthy and 100 percent, Damian Lillard is a top-10 player in the NBA. If he returns to that form, Portland could very quickly reemerge on the postseason radar. That said, he’s getting older and the nature of his abdomen injury was concerning. Anfernee Simons has the potential to one day outperform CJ McCollum, but that day is not today. He no-shows on defense and he will have to prove he can play off of a ball-dominant guard of Lillard’s caliber full-time. Jerami Grant was a nice offseason addition and the Blazers will need every ounce of his defense on the perimeter, but the Blazers’ hopes rest almost entirely on Lillard’s shoulders. He will determine the quality of their season.