Ranking the Utah Jazz Big 3 among the NBA’s best trios

Utah Jazz (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
Utah Jazz (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Utah Jazz
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Phoenix Suns Big 3: Deandre Ayton, Devin Booker, Chris Paul

Combined average 2020-21 PER:  20.3

Fresh off of an NBA finals appearance, Phoenix Suns fans could be forgiven if they felt their placement on this list was unjustly low. They probably don’t love when writers who cover other teams bring the circumstances around their Finals run into question, either.

How unfortunate.

Undeniably, the Suns deserve credit for their Finals appearance, as any team who has ever appeared in the Finals does. Nonetheless, they equally undeniably benefitted from injuries to key players in every series along the way.

In the first round, they defeated a Los Angeles Lakers team featuring a somewhat compromised LeBron James alongside a heavily compromised Anthony Davis. In the following round, they swept a Denver Nuggets team without Jamal Murray, followed by a defeat of the Los Angeles Clippers sans Kawhi Leonard in the Conference finals.

Having outlined their playoffs fortunes, it bears mentioning that this Suns trio is very, very good. The question, however, remains: how do they compare to the Utah Jazz?

The Jazz earn a placement ahead of the Suns primarily due to their significant advantage in the big man matchup. Rudy Gobert’s PER of 23.5 from the 2020-21 season dwarfs Ayton’s 20.3 mark. Furthermore, Ayton’s Box Plus/Minus (BPM) of 0.9 pails in comparison to Gobert’s 4.5.

Ayton, just 23, has ample time to catch up to Gobert, but he has ample ground to cover as well.

Meanwhile, the guard comparisons are a little closer. Paul grades out as better than Conley Jr., although the separation is less than casual observes may expect (21.4 PER vs 19.2). Meanwhile, the Utah Jazz’s star young off-guard graded out as superior to Phoenix’s, with Mitchell holding a PER advantage over Booker of 21.3 to 19.2

Using last year’s team success as a metric to compare these Big 3s would be oblivious to the role that luck plays in team success. The fit between each group is about equally snug, so Utah gets the nod with a higher combined average PER and a significantly better center.