From Larry Bird's Boston Celtics to LeBron James' Miami Heat and, well, LeBron's Cleveland Cavaliers, the NBA has a long tradition of "Big Threes."
Yet you don't have to be a championship contender to have a core trio that defines your franchise. In fact, if you look hard enough, every team has a Big Three these days. It's just that some are much, much better than others.
As we enter the final weeks of the regular season, here's a look at each squad's Three Musketeers, if you will — ranked based on their current overall talent level and production. There's no extra credit for potential on this one.
Sacramento Kings: Buddy Hield, Skal Labissiere, Willie Cauley-Stein
I like Labissiere a lot, and I want to like Cauley-Stein, as well. There's a lot of reason for optimism in Sacramento. The Kings just have a long way to go before their potential turns into actual on-court production.
Philadelphia 76ers: Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, Ben Simmons
Two injured lottery picks and the likely Rookie of the Year. Truly, the Sixers remain Sam Hinkie's team -- if only in spirit.
Phoenix Suns: Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, T.J. Warren
Whether the Suns can climb this list next year will depend largely on just how good the 70-point-scoring, second-year-regressing Booker actually is.
Los Angeles Lakers: D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram
You're sleeping on Russell, who has played fairly well this season. Just ask Luke Walton: "He was great tonight," Walton said after the Lakers' 119-108 loss to the Wizards on Tuesday. "He was brilliant. Some of that passing he did, I told him early on we need to get the pace faster. ... He was active on defense, he was trying to tag cutters and do all the things we ask. ... He's been really good, and was really good again tonight."
Orlando Magic: Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic, Elfrid Payton
Vooch gets overlooked as one of the NBA's best offensive big men because no one wants to watch or talk about the Magic at any point in their lives.
Coincidentally, he's not pictured here.
Brooklyn Nets: Brook Lopez, Jeremy Lin, Trevor Booker
The Nets are awful, but at least they have veterans who know how to stay professional amid all the losses.
Detroit Pistons: Andre Drummond, Tobias Harris, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Here's a fun fact: Andre Drummond isn't nearly as good as most people think he is.
Here's another fun fact: That first fun fact is driving Stan Van Gundy to the brink of madness. He might spontaneously combust by November next season.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Ricky Rubio
You could put a healthy Zach LaVine over Rubio and I wouldn't argue too much. I just prefer the latter's defense and court vision.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Russell Westbrook, Steven Adams, Victor Oladipo
As we get into the top half of the list, we'll run into a number of teams led by superstars with decent but not stellar supporting casts.
I'm not saying that includes the Thunder, necessarily, because I don't want Steven Adams to hurt me. He's an outstanding young basketball player, and Victor Oladipo has a certain amount of upside, too.
... but that definitely includes the Thunder.
Miami Heat: Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragic, James Johnson
Memphis Grizzlies: Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, Vince Carter
Here's hoping the 40-year-old Carter is still dunking on people into the next decade — and that Conley and Gasol eventually get the credit they deserve as two of the NBA's best players at their positions.
As long as Nurkic keeps playing like he wants revenge against the Denver Nuggets for trading him, the Blazers are going to be ridiculously hard to beat, both for the remainder of this regular season and in the playoffs.
Thanks to various unfortunate injuries, there are no pictures in our database of Milwaukee's Big Three on the court together. Greg Monroe will have to suffice as a placeholder in the meantime, which seems fitting given the way the Bucks have used the big man this season.
New Orleans Pelicans: Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Jrue Holiday
The Pelicans are undeniably talented. They're also rather top-heavy, and they still have to figure out how to make the whole "Boogie and the Brow" experiment work.
I'm keeping the faith for now, though, because those two All-Stars are just so good.
Derick E. HingleDerick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Washington Wizards: John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr.
The Wizards probably aren't championship material, but they have a fine young trio to build around, complemented by the likes of Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris. No wonder Washington clinched its first division championship in nearly four decades on Tuesday night.
Houston Rockets: James Harden, Patrick Beverley, Trevor Ariza
You could swap Beverley and Ariza for Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon if you really love 3-pointers more than anything in basketball.
I'm taking the two guys who hold Houston's surprisingly solid defense together, though, because someone has to try to get stops for the Rockets.
Bill StreicherBill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Toronto Raptors: Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Serge Ibaka
Ibaka and P.J. Tucker were just the pieces the Raptors needed at the trade deadline, while DeRozan silenced any lingering doubters (guilty!) with his strong play all season long.
As for Lowry? His lingering health concerns are the only potential obstacle to Toronto giving the Cavs everything they can handle in the playoffs.
Brad PennerBrad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Utah Jazz: Rudy Gobert, Gordon Hayward, George Hill
No player in the NBA has a bigger disparity between his box-score numbers and his actual in-game impact than Gobert. The scary thing for the other 29 teams? He's only going to get better.
And to Jazz fans yelling at me about Derrick Favors, Joe Ingles, or anyone else on this roster: I love your team. They're my Western Conference sleeper pick. Please stop yelling.
Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY SportsChris Nicoll
San Antonio Spurs: Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol
After conferring with multiple Spurs fans and crunching the numbers, I chose Gasol over Danny Green and Patty Mills as the third member of San Antonio's Big Three. Honestly, though? I wanted to go with Pop.
I should have.
Soobum ImSoobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Boston Celtics: Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, Marcus Smart
Some of the more basic advanced stats (talk about an oxymoron) paint Jae Crowder as Boston's third-best player, and maybe that's true. A very smart person who makes a significant amount of money wagering on the NBA and in other analytics-based fields convinced me that Smart is one of the best young players in the Association, though, so I'm rolling with him.
Los Angeles Clippers: Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan
The Clips' Big Three is the reason I picked Los Angeles as the team with the best chances to win the title if both the Warriors and Cavaliers should falter. The question is whether they'll still be together after this season.
Cleveland Cavaliers: LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love
You may yell at me @AndrewLynch on Twitter, Cavs fans.
Seriously, as great as LeBron is, I can't rank Cleveland's Big Three over Golden State — not until a championship hangs in the balance, anyway.
Golden State Warriors: Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green
Sorry, Klay. You're great and everything, but without Draymond, the Warriors wouldn't stand a chance as title contenders. He's not the best Golden State player. He's just the most important.