The NBA’s New Direction – Super Teams

    Parity? There’s no parity in the NBA, despite the salary caps and luxury taxes. Steve Nash choosing to leave Phoenix and play for the Los Angeles Lakers was just another example of how: a) The Lakers know how to get players by giving up nothing and b) Players like going to the same teams.

    Don’t get me wrong – Money is always a great incentive, but so is the fact that you’re going to play in a big city, and get a shot at the title. Steve Nash said that getting paid (3 years, $25 million) was just as important to him as chances of success and the prospect of an NBA ring. The Lakers now have a fearsome four instead of the trendy big three, but not a lot behind it. When you’re an aging team, with three of your top 4 players passed their prime, that’s a problem.

    And besides, the NBA and American sports in general are much more interesting to follow when you’ve got clearly elite teams with superior individual talent. LeBron James leaving Cleveland to create the big three in Miami along with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade was one of the best things that ever happened to the NBA. At once, it created a team to rally around and hate, with a superstar to hate and scorn and criticize. The ratings showed it’s good for you.

    You have a team like the Oklahoma City Thunder that built itself the “right way” (like it really matters) and are just as much of a super team than anyone else. Having a top 5 crew of Durant, Westbrook, Harden, Perkins and Ibaka isn’t exactly screaming parity, but more like centralist rule. I don’t know how long they can keep this group together as the financial rules of the league pretty much make it impossible for the long run, but they’ve got a pretty good window of opportunity for at least two more goes at the NBA title and most importantly, they have Durant and Westbrook tied up for a long time.

    Teams are going for the three All-Star set up these days, hopefully. I mean, the unwritten rules of trades and signings say you need to go for the big star, no matter the cost. It usually pays off. There are and have been some great teams who were deep and well rounded, but I can’t think of an NBA Champion in the last 30-35 years without a superstar except for the Detroit Pistons.

    The Boston Celtics began the latest trend, although they never got the criticism and the hate like the Miami Heat did. That’s the national effect of the Boston media for you. Bringing in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to help Paul Pierce, while Glen Davis, Kendrick Perkins and most importantly Rajon Rondo emerged as key pieces and more than that. It was good enough for one title, one more finals appearance and another conference finals. It’s always worth the shot, and it makes the league a much more interesting place.

    Waiting for a third guy

    The Nets and the Knicks are going for the same thing, although less successfully.. Having Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire doesn’t make you title material, but adding Tyson Chandler to the mix certainly helps. Jeremy Lin (if he stays) is not a superstar, but he just might be the most popular player in the NBA according to the jersey sales. It’ll be interesting to see how a full season (hopefully, barring any injuries) treats the young point guard.

    The Brooklyn Nets have been about acquiring Dwight Howard for a long time, and they even added an All-Star kind of player (on the decline, though) to Deron Williams who they managed to tie up for a long time, Joe Johnson. Thanks to some contract tweaks, there’s still a chance to bring over Dwight Howard and create another top heavy team without too much behind the famous faces. Is it good for the team and the franchise in the long run? Not necessarily, but it makes teams relevant, even for a short while.

    Is it worth it? Look at the Miami Heat. They really did get the cream of the crop in LeBron, immediately making the Heat into the most interesting team in the NBA, for good and bad reasons. It’s so far given them two NBA Finals and one NBA title, which any other team in the NBA will take in open arms. If this is a long lasting trend? You can never know. CBAs and lockouts change things very quickly in this league. A good draft and some smart GMs on some teams make it without signing big names, at the start of the route. It’s not cheating, and it’s not the wrong way to go. These are just teams making the most of the situation.