Which of LeBron’s Big 3s is better, Miami or Cleveland?

Jun 12, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) talks with center Chris Bosh (1), guard Dwyane Wade (3) during the second quarter of game four of the 2014 NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 12, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) talks with center Chris Bosh (1), guard Dwyane Wade (3) during the second quarter of game four of the 2014 NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports /
facebooktwitterreddit

Here’s a real response to the question that, for some reason, no one wants to answer.

When the NBA Finals start this week, the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers will have an opportunity to win as many championships as the Big Three-era Miami Heat did. There are already natural comparisons to be made between this Cavs team and those Heat teams from 2010-to-2014. It’s just another subplot to a finals chock full of story lines.

Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy, who will be doing color commentary during the finals, were asked about which team was better. Here’s what Jackson had to say during an ESPN media call:

"I think in fairness to the big three in Cleveland, we’re talking about three future Hall of Famers right away in Miami. Chris Bosh, I don’t even know, 10-, 11-time All-Star, somewhere around there. We know Dwyane Wade, in my opinion, the third best shooting guard that’s ever played the game, and then LeBron James in his prime. So in fairness, this group in Cleveland has much more to accomplish, and that’s not to sell them short because all three guys, in my opinion, will be in the Hall of Fame. But they have much more to prove. Those guys were in their prime and accomplished from day one."

This is Jackson’s roundabout way of saying that Cleveland’s Big Three could be as good as Miami’s, but they have yet to accomplish as much as the Heat’s Big Three. While that’s true, it’s also ridiculously obvious. Like, duh.

Jackson then goes on to say that Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are already future Hall of Famers, but that Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love will be future Hall of Famers. Note the slight difference there. None of these players are in the Hall of Fame, but Wade and Bosh already have their tickets punched while Irving and Love are still waiting in line. Which I guess is Jackson’s way of saying all four of them are future Hall of Famers. So what’s the difference? Come on, Mark.

This is the same non-answer we always get to this question. It’s easy to see Irving’s flashy handles and scoring numbers and Love’s 3-point shooting and passing and compare them to Wade and Bosh. I could compare their stats, dive into some analytics and whatnot, but I can stretch and bend those to fit any narrative I want.

But what always seems to get lost is how much better Wade and Bosh were on defense. Wade in his prime was one of the best defensive guards in NBA history, and is the all-time leader in blocks for a player his size. Bosh, meanwhile, joined the Heat as an average defensive player but eventually became nothing short of elite, developing the ability to play center and guard all five positions.

Irving and Love are vulnerabilities in Cleveland’s defense, something that the rest of the roster has to make up for. Something LeBron has to make up for. LeBron took some crap in his last two years in Miami for not playing as much defense, but at least he could afford to take off. With this team, he can’t. The Cavaliers already have two negative defenders in their starting lineup, and can’t afford any more. It’s forced LeBron to play even more, and even harder, more often. No wonder he prioritizes rest so much.

Next: Who the mocks say the Heat will take in the NBA Draft

I get Jackson not wanting to step on the toes of the players currently in the finals, and maybe he lives by some unwritten code that former-players-turned-analysts-not-named-Charles-Barkley live by, but he’s paid for his analysis. It’d be nice to hear some actual, y’know, analysis. But I guess that’s what blogs like this one are for.