The recent success of the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat has given rise to the “Big Three” phenomenon in the NBA. Boston won a title with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. Miami won a title with LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. Their success has given way to the philosophy that a championship team can be built by uniting three NBA superstars and filling out the roster with role players. The Nets bucked that trend by assembling their own “Core Four” this offseason.
The new “Core Four” consists of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez and Gerald Wallace. You may already be familiar with the names as the players are plastered on billboards and phone booths around the borough. You may also remember some of them from last season as Williams, Lopez and Wallace finished last season on the team's roster. Johnson is the group's lone new arrival, landing in Brooklyn from Atlanta as part of an offseason trade.
The resumes of the “Core Four” are strong though lacking the “wow” factor of what you'll find in Boston, Miami or even across the East River – the Knicks have Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Amare Stoudemire. For the Nets, three out of 4 have been All Stars: Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and Gerald Wallace. Williams and Johnson have made multiple All Star Game appearances. Those two, along with Lopez, have career scoring averages in the 17+ point range. Meanwhile, Wallace is the only member of the group who's made the All-NBA Defensive team, an important distinction as the team's defense is what many feel is their biggest weakness.
While there is no doubt that Johnson and Williams would make any team's “Big Three,” neither Wallace nor Lopez are considered superstars. That they're included in the “Core Four” (in addition to their sizable contracts) reveals the high expectations team management has for them entering this season. While both players have tremendous potential, particularly Lopez who could sneak into an All Star spot if he stays healthy, neither has reached the level of being that third big star and it seems unlikely that we will see them make such a leap this season.
If the Nets hope to maintain the excitement around their squad and make some noise in the playoffs, they'll need contributions from all of their stars—both the superstars and the not-so-super stars. After missing out on Dwight Howard, the Nets dreams of a “Big Three” became the more uncertain reality of counting on a “Core Four.”