The Top NBA Trio

Posted on November 19, 2007 by


Marc Stein of wrote a column this weekend asking where the combination of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen rank in the NBA. Specifically, is there a better trio in The Association?

In Stein’s view, here are the top trios in the league.

1. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili

2. Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion

3. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen

4. Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard and Jason Terry

5. Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson and Marcus Camby

In sum, the Celtics Trio ranks third.

Back in August I wrote a column applying the Pareto Principle – 80% of output is produced by 20% of the population – to the NBA.  This column revealed how many wins were produced by the top three players on each team. Table One reports this information again, this time with the trios ranked from best to worst.

Table One: The Top Trios in the NBA in 2006-07

Last season the top five trios were as follows:

1. Shawn Marion, Steve Nash, and Amare Stoudemire [53.3 Wins Produced]

2. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker [44.4 Wins Produced]

3. Ben Wallace, Luol Deng, and Kirk Hinrich  [40.5 Wins Produced]

4. Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard, and Jason Terry [39.8 Wins Produced]

5. Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, and Mikki Moore [39.7 Wins Produced]

Where would the Celtics Trio rank on this list?  We know what each player did on a per-minute basis last season.  We also have some idea now after nine games how many minutes each player is going to play (assuming no injuries) this season.  Putting this information together and we see that Garnett, Pierce, and Allen are expected to produce about 45 wins this season.   In other words, the Celtics Trio looks to be as good as what the Spurs employ, but not quite as good as what we see in Phoenix.

I would note that after seven games the Celtics Trio were all playing better than what they did last year.  I haven’t looked at the last two games, but I am beginning to think that if this trio stays healthy (and that’s a big if), Garnett, Pierce, and Allen might be the best threesome in the NBA before the season is over.

By the way, this is what Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe said last August (in the column that inspired the original Pareto Principle story) after this team acquired Garnett and Allen:

That’s it? Someone actually thinks this Celtics team will win the East and contend for the championship? Really?

He went on to explain why Boston didn’t have the depth to compete for a title.  He didn’t even seem convinced this team could make the playoffs. Is Ryan still whistling this tune?  Yes, the Celtics aren’t going 82-0.  But as I said before the season started, I fully expect Boston to contend for a title this season.  And with my next column I will review why I think this was clear before this team started 8-1.

– DJ

Our research on the NBA was summarized HERE.

The Technical Notes at provides substantially more information on the published research behind Wins Produced and Win Score

Wins Produced, Win Score, and PAWSmin are also discussed in the following posts:

Simple Models of Player Performance

Wins Produced vs. Win Score

What Wins Produced Says and What It Does Not Say

Introducing PAWSmin — and a Defense of Box Score Statistics