There's no question that Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce constitute a trio of certified Grade-A players. At first glance, this situation should be an unmitigated delight for Doc Rivers. The problem, though, is determining exactly how to utilize his three stars, i.e., which of them should be the gold-standard, which is the silver, and which one takes home the bronze.
Before investigating Rivers' bittersweet dilemma, let's take a look at how several previous championship teams dealt with similar situations. For the sake of brevity, the list is reduced to title-winning squads that fielded at least three future Hall-of-Famers.
Minneapolis Lakers (1949-50, 1952-54)
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George Mikan, Jim Pollard, Slater Martin, Vern Mikkelsen.
Of these, Pollard was the prototype small forward, who was expected to run and jump his way into scoring situations. Aside from launching an occasional set shot, Martin's primary duties were to carry the ball across the timeline and deliver it safely to Mikan. Mikkelsen was the original power forward, who knocked people down, and cleaned up his teammates' leftovers. Mikan was pro basketball's first dreadnaught pivot-bound scorer, and every play revolved around him.
As such, Mikan was always the Lakers first option, and everybody else was tied for second.
Boston Celtics (1957, 1959-66, 1968-69)
Bill Russell and (variously) Bob Cousy, Bill Sharman, Tom Heinsohn, John Havlicek, Sam Jones, K.C. Jones.
Despite the powerhouse talents of his running mates through the years, Russell's extraordinary defense and rebounding was always the motor for the Celtic dynasty's awesome fast break. Whenever a half-court hoop was required, plays would be run for Sharman, Heinsohn, or Sam Jones, with Russell's not inconsiderable offense (15.1 career ppg) strictly a bonus.
Yet no matter who the go-to scorer of the moment might have been, Russ was always the kingpin.
St. Louis Hawks (1958)
Bob Pettit, Cliff Hagan, Slater Martin.
As with the Lakers, Martin was mainly a distributor. Hagan posted defenders up even though he stood only 6-4. And Pettit rebounded, shot his one-hander, drove hard to the cup, and brutalized his opponents on both ends of the court.
It was Pettit who was the end-all and be-all of the team, with Hagan acting as second banana, and Martin taking care of the rock.
Philadelphia 76ers (1968)
Wilt Chamberlain, Hal Greer, Billy Cunningham.
Greer was a dead-eye shooter, a superb second option, and incredibly strong for a guard. Cunningham came off the bench to run amok, jump all over the boards, and shoot at will.
But Chamberlain was still at the top of his game and was the man in the middle of everything.
New York Knicks (1970, 1973)
Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Bill Bradley, Dave DeBusschere, Earl Monroe, Jerry Lucas.
Under the direction of Red Holzman, the Knicks famously looked for the open man, which could have been all of the above. Still, Frazier was basically a screen/roll scorer, Monroe was a one-on-one genius, Bradley scored off team movement, DeBusschere rarely looked to shoot, and Lucas rebounded like a big man and passed and shot like a guard.
But it was Captain Willis who was the fail-safe scorer, as well as the heart and soul of the Knicks' first championship. With Reed limited by nagging injuries throughout the 1972-73 season, DeBusschere continued to be the defensive rock, Monroe was the ace up the Knicks' sleeve on offense, and Clyde became The Man.
L.A. Lakers (1972)
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