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Player Trios:
- Which players play well together?

We've been compiling stats for years now looking at how teams have performed with specific players on the court: individual player plus/minus and on court versus off court, five man units, and yes, even player pairs.

Inevitably we knew it would come time to look at the remaining combinations -- player Trios (also known as Triads or the more problematic "threesomes") and eventually the Quads/Quartets.

Given the notion in some quarters that an NBA offense can be a three man game in some circumstances, the player trios seem to be an interesting area of study. The one difficulty is that the permutations become so large that it's easy to find 500+ different trios on a team which makes for a tough display issue (we already get enough flak about the player pair tables being hard to read...)

So for this initial look we'll just size up the leading trio and worst trio per team in net +/- and our NBA friends can request the full data if they want to see it. Please note that these numbers are in raw form and have not been adjusted for the other players in the five-man unit, nor for the opposing 5-man unit on the floor at the same time.

Player Trio team leaders in 2005-06
(as of 01/31, top trio per team in net plus/minus)
Team
Player1
Player2
Player3
+/-
Off/g
Def/g
Net48
Comments
ATL
 Stoudamire  Williams  Pachulia +33  109.4  99.9  +9.5   Go with the youth movement!
BOS
 West  Davis  Pierce +54  103.3  101.0  +2.3   No longer an option
CHA
 Carroll  Jones  Voskuhl +37  110.6  71.3  +39.4   Tiny minutes, garbage time?
CHI
 Hinrich  Gordon  Deng +100  101.1  92.0  +9.1   Listen up Skiles!
CLE
 James  Marshall  Ilgauskas +140  110.6  94.2  +16.4   The real 3-man core of the Cavs
DAL
 Terry  Nowitzki  Diop +127  105.1  88.1  +17.0   Diop an excellent pickup clearly
DEN
 Watson  Miller  Najera +101  112.6  93.9  +18.7   Put three "team players" together...
DET
 Billups  Hamilton  B.Wallace +360  101.2  86.6  +14.6   Any trio with the starters works
GSW
 Davis  Fisher  Richardson +156  107.5  92.6  +14.9   A winning combo
HOU
 Head  McGrady  Ming +66  103.7  78.9  +24.8   Injuries cloud this read
IND
 Jasikevicius  Jones  Artest +101  111.9  75.2  +36.7   Pacers will miss Ron in the end
LAC
 Cassell  Mobley  Brand +96  100.4  96.2  +4.2   Yah, Clips have some solid players
LAL
 Vujacic  Bryant  Odom +117  111.9  95.0  +16.9   Trust Phil to figure it out
MEM
 Jackson  E.Jones  Battier +123  95.0  82.2  +12.8   Three savvy, under-rated players
MIA
 Wade  Posey  Haslem +189  106.5  95.5  +11.0   Payton-Wade-Shaq best in net/min
MIL
 Williams  Redd  Kukoc +76  113.0  98.0  +15.0   Kukoc always an on court positive
MIN
 Jaric  Szczerbiak  Garnett +127  96.0  90.3  +5.7   Broke up a winning trio w/trade
NJN
 Kidd  Carter  Jefferson +170  102.0  94.0  +8.0   Your three Nets stars...
NOK
 Claxton  Butler  Brown +69  94.5  84.6  +9.9   Speedy off the bench a plus
NYK
 Robinson  Ariza  Frye +52  107.6  90.3  +17.4   If only Larry would have faith
ORL
 Nelson  Francis  Howard +56  99.4  91.2  +8.3   Why ORL fans should be optimistic
PHI
 Iguodala  Korver  Webber +114  105.1  99.3  +5.7   No Iverson? He's in trios #2-4
PHO
 Nash  Diaw  Marion +217  106.1  95.4  +10.7   Ah man, and Amare to come...
POR
 Telfair  Dixon  Randolph +32  98.5  89.2  +9.3   Blazers should give it a chance
SAC
 Bibby  Wells  Miller +78  106.5  101.1  +5.4   Artest in the top trio before long
SAS
 Parker  Ginobili  Duncan +154  102.8  88.3  +14.6   Very good when they want to be
SEA
 Murray  Allen  Fortson +46  108.1  88.5  +19.6   Fortson's had a raw deal this year
TOR
 James  Calderon  Villanueva +34  108.4  101.6  +6.8   Babcock's legacy
UTA
 Palacio  Brown  Collins +67  96.7  79.1  +17.6   Odd, no AK, garbage time?
WAS
 Arenas  Daniels  Jamison +85  106.5  99.9  +6.6   Daniels will be pivotal in 2nd half

Just to put how dominant the Pistons have been in context, let's show the top trios sorted by highest raw +/- on the season to this point:

League wide top trios (net plus/minus)
Team
Player1
Player2
Player3
+/-
Off/g
Def/g
Net48
DET
 Billups  Hamilton  B.Wallace +360  101.2  86.6  +14.6 
DET
 Billups  Hamilton  R.Wallace +356  101.2  85.5  +15.7 
DET
 Billups  Prince  R.Wallace +355  101.1  85.9  +15.2 
DET
 Hamilton  Prince  R.Wallace +348  101.1  85.2  +15.9 
DET
 Hamilton  R.Wallace  B.Wallace +343  101.1  85.3  +15.7 
DET
 Billups  Hamilton  Prince +339  100.5  86.0  +14.5 
DET
 Billups  R.Wallace  B.Wallace +336  100.7  85.5  +15.2 
DET
 Hamilton  Prince  B.Wallace +328  99.8  86.3  +13.6 
DET
 Billups  Prince  B.Wallace +312  99.3  86.5  +12.8 
DET
 Prince  R.Wallace  B.Wallace +305  99.7  85.8  +13.9 
PHO
 Nash  Diaw  Marion +217  106.1  95.4  +10.7 
MIA
 Wade  Posey  Haslem +189  106.5  95.5  +11.0 
PHO
 Nash  Bell  Diaw +180  102.8  93.1  +9.7 
NJN
 Kidd  Carter  Jefferson +170  102.0  94.0  +8.0 
PHO
 Bell  Diaw  Marion +166  102.2  93.7  +8.5 
PHO
 Nash  Marion  Thomas +162  106.3  98.4  +7.9 
PHO
 Nash  Bell  Marion +162  103.9  97.9  +5.9 
GSW
 Davis  Fisher  Richardson +156  107.5  92.6  +14.9 
SAS
 Parker  Ginobili  Duncan +154  102.8  88.3  +14.6 
PHO
 Nash  Bell  Thomas +151  104.7  96.8  +7.9 
SAS
 Parker  Bowen  Duncan +144  94.6  88.2  +6.4 
SAS
 Parker  Duncan  Nesterovic +143  93.1  83.4  +9.6 
MIA
 Wade  Posey  O'Neal +142  111.6  97.9  +13.6 
CLE
 James  Marshall  Ilgauskas +140  110.6  94.2  +16.4 
NJN
 Kidd  Jefferson  Krstic +137  101.1  94.4  +6.7 
MIA
 Payton  Wade  O'Neal +135  111.1  92.3  +18.8 
NJN
 Carter  Jefferson  Krstic +135  101.1  93.7  +7.5 
SAS
 Bowen  Duncan  Nesterovic +131  92.7  83.6  +9.1 
PHO
 Diaw  Marion  Thomas +129  104.2  92.9  +11.3 
PHO
 Bell  Marion  Thomas +129  104.2  97.3  +6.9 

So of the top thirty trios, Detroit has the top ten with that amazing starting five in various combos, the Suns have eight of the top thirty, followed by last year's champs the Spurs with four, the Heat and the Nets with three, and then the Cavs and Warriors (!) with one.

Since we've seen the best from each team, we might as well delve into the unsavory business of looking at the least successful in overall plus/minus:

Worst Player Trio by team (net plus/minus)
Team
Player1
Player2
Player3
+/-
Off/g
Def/g
Net48
Comments
ATL
 Johnson  Harrington  Pachulia -112  94.3  99.8  -5.5   Al can play, but elsewhere?
BOS
 Greene  Pierce  Jefferson -60  77.9  101.2  -23.3   Greene may not be the answer
CHA
 Knight  Jones  Brezec -120  82.7  107.2  -24.5   Ouch! Minus 24 pts per 48min
CHI
 Duhon  Hinrich  Sweetney -79  89.3  99.9  -10.6   NOT the trio to use
CLE
 Wilks  Jackson  Henderson -33  82.0  106.9  -24.8   Few minutes for a reason
DAL
 Harris  Terry  Dampier -33  88.2  97.5  -9.4   Dirk the key to all Mavs combos
DEN
 Buckner  Anthony  Camby -61  94.8  109.4  -14.5   Three of initial starting lineup
DET
 Arroyo  Delfino  Evans -60  89.3  110.9  -21.6   Pure bench/garbage time
GSW
 Davis  Dunleavy  Murphy -53  101.9  104.9  -3.0   Ouch! Another 3-starter trio
HOU
 Head  Wesley  Howard -112  83.7  93.6  -9.9   Howard not the best PF option
IND
 Jones  Jackson  Granger -61  84.8  97.3  -12.6   In the midst of the storm...
LAC
 Livingston  Cassell  Brand -59  88.8  102.2  -13.4   Ouch! Livingston's the future?
LAL
 Parker  Bryant  Brown -71  94.2  101.2  -7.0   3-starters: Kwame not there yet
MEM
 D.Jones  Battier  Gasol -44  81.1  94.9  -13.7   Battier/Gasol fine, so...
MIA
 Payton  Kapono  Haslem -46  92.4  107.2  -14.9   Mop up time probably
MIL
 Ford  Welsch  Magloire -64  85.0  107.5  -22.5   Welsch has a -12.4 on/off rtg
MIN
 Hudson  Hassell  Olowokandi -57  70.8  95.5  -24.7   Move on Kandi-man
NJN
 Kidd  Vaughn  Krstic -69  87.3  105.4  -18.1   Trouble when a starter sits
NOK
 Paul  West  Brown -124  89.6  95.9  -6.3   Lots of PT, better options?
NYK
 Marbury  Richardson  Davis -135  83.6  104.9  -21.2   Yikes! -21 pts per 48 min
ORL
 Stevenson  Turkoglu  Battie -59  87.4  92.4  -5.0   Howard/Francis the Magic core
PHI
 Salmons  Korver  Hunter -71  81.5  110.7  -29.2   Backups sure, but egads
PHO
 Nash  Marion  Burke -26  97.8  118.0  -20.2   You think Burke is the problem?
POR
 Monia  Randolph  Przybilla -99  84.3  105.3  -21.1   Scrap this trio idea
SAC
 Stojakovic  Thomas  Miller -84  87.1  101.1  -13.9   It will be different with Artest
SAS
 Parker  Van Exel  Bowen -27  87.3  100.1  -12.9   We're not Van Exel fans...
SEA
 Ridnour  Lewis  Radmanovic -101  105.7  114.8  -9.1   3-Starters = a problem
TOR
 James  Rose  Bosh -108  99.3  106.6  -7.3   Jalen's PT should be limited
UTA
 Giricek  Okur  Collins -74  84.7  93.9  -9.1   Sometimes a 3-starter trio
WAS
 Arenas  Atkins  Butler -53  97.5  108.1  -10.6   A.D. a big upgrade over Chucky

So there's some food for thought. Teams with three starter trios in this "hall of shame" might want to consider mixing things up, no?


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