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ESPN’s Pelton: Lack of ‘Big Three’ minutes unique for championship team

Miami Heat v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

ESPN’s Kevin Pelton tries his hand at trying to determine if the “Big Three’s” lack of playing time together is going to hurt the Nets come post-season when all three can be expected back. It’s that 186 minutes “thing.”

In the end, like a lot of Nets fans and pundits, he’s simply not sure because basically, there is no good example of three players this good (and this experienced) missing so much time together. In his weekly mailbag for ESPN+, Pelton writes.

Ultimately, I think the Nets’ situation is unique, making it difficult to draw from past history when predicting how they will fare in the playoffs.

That said, how Pelton gets to that conclusion provides some interesting reading. First of all, he lays out the most detailed breakdown of the minutes and success of each of the iterations of the “Big Three.” He attempts to answer the question: How did Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden do alone, in pairs and all three together this season, based on their net rating?

Pelton’s math would suggest — and it’s no surprise — that KD is key. He and Harden on the court produced a net rating of 15.6, but unfortunately, the sample is small. Durant and Harden have played only 82 minutes together this season! That number is less than half the total all three have been on the court together.

How about when they play alone? Again, it’s KD who has the highest rating ... by far ... but again, the sample is small: 228 minutes. The two-man rating with the worst rating — 2.9 — is Harden and Irving but no Durant. It’s also the combo that has played the most minutes, 548.

And the three together? Their net rating is 8.2, about half what KD and Harden get. Still, all of them have a positive net rating, which is encouraging. However, when none are on the floor — a whopping 648 minutes — the rating is negative. No surprise there of course either.

Pelton also looks at comparisons among championship contenders, noting that if, as is likely, the three don’t play together again this season,

Elias Sports Bureau research found that the seven total games all three Brooklyn stars have played in together would be the fewest during a regular season for a championship team’s top three scorers.

He notes the 2000-01 Lakers top three of Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher played 10 games together, BUT they had been together for the four previous seasons.

As of mid-season additions making a big difference, as Harden has done post trade deadline, Pelton notes there are precedents, but none recently, the 1994-95 Houston Rockets who added Clyde Drexler and the 2003-04 Detroit Pistons who added Rasheed Wallace. Both won it all.

Pelton, however, isn’t buying the comparison to last year’s Los Angeles Clippers ... a comparison Laker fans are fond of.

I don’t find the arguments that the Nets are following in the path of last year’s LA Clippers persuasive. Actually, the Clippers probably had a lot more time together than Brooklyn. Stars Paul George and Kawhi Leonard played 37 games and 890 minutes and the five-man starting lineup the Clippers used after acquiring Marcus Morris Sr. at the trade deadline still played nearly as many minutes (147) as the Nets’ big three has. And that’s to say nothing of the bubble-related circumstances.

This afternoon, the Nets will have KD and Kyrie available (as well as everyone other than Harden, Spencer Dinwiddie and Chris Chiozza) to face the healthy Milwaukee Bucks. That will add to the only 385 minutes the two friends of “Clean Sweep” fame have racked up so far this season. It’s been that kind of a season.