The case of the NBA superteam is a complex one. By superteam, I mean a team like the reigning champion Miami Heat or the 2012-2013 Los Angeles Lakers. Two teams that went in completely opposite directions. But first we must ask; what makes a superteam?
What makes a superteam?
What I mean by superteam is a team that you look at on paper and think “how could they ever lose a game?”.
This was the case for teams like the 2012-2013 LA Lakers, the 2010-2011 – present Miami Heat, the 2013-2014 Brooklyn Nets, the 2010-2011 NY Knicks post Carmelo trade, and others, before their seasons started A superteam usually consists of 3 or more (in some cases 2) consistent stand out All-Stars. The Miami Heat have been the perfect storm that you want from a team with so many great players. Their two titles out of 3 finals appearances the last 3 years have been telling of that. They have the best player in the league in LeBron, the perhaps best team-playing guard in the league besides CP3 in Wade, and a consistent low post and range threat in Chris Bosh. This team is built to win. Throw in HOFer Ray Allen and the savvy play of players like Chris Andersen, Mario Chalmers, and Shane Battier, and you have a team strong enough to compete for every title in history.
Besides the Heat though, lets look at another team. Enter the LA lakers of last season. A team stacked with talent at every position including the top center in the league (Dwight Howard), the most clutch player since MJ (Kobe Bryant), a 2 time MVP Canadian point guard by the name of Steve Nash, perhaps the most polished all-around PF at the time in the league in Pau Gasol, and a strong 3 and D veteran in Metta World Peace. Metta event went so far as to tell us the Lakers expectations, in this quote when he joined the Max and Marcellus Show on ESPN 710 in Los Angeles (these transcribed words courtesy of Chris Fedor of SportsRadioInterviews.com):
‘We definitely want to beat the Bulls record and go 73-9, that’s definitely something that I want to do. Whoever is out there at the beginning of the season then we gotta get it. It’s as simple as that. We just have to go get it. (Host: So that Bulls record is something you’re thinking about?) No question. You try to snatch records before you leave this earth. You gotta try to do a lot of great things so it’s definitely a goal. With Dwight Howard, (Steve) Nash, Kobe (Bryant), myself,Pau (Gasol) and then (Antawn) Jamison and a lot of great additions it’s something that’s possible.”
Were these expectations ridiculous? maybe. But when you have a team that looks like that on paper, why not be confident? Well the LA Lakers of 2012-2013 did not fulfill these expectations, barely snatching the 8th seed in the West. Now they find themselves as the worst team in the Western Conference and without Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant. While Dwight experiences success in a mini superteam out in Houston with James Harden, Kobe is stuck watching the Lakers lose to teams by record margins.
So what about the Nets? The Nets were even more loaded on paper before the season than the Heat this year. The Nets lineup going into this season featured two NBA champions and lead veteran pieces in Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, a top 10 PG in Deron Williams, one of the most up and coming centers in the Eastern Conference in Brook Lopez, and one of the most clutch pure scorers in the game in Joe Johnson.
With a bench featuring names like Jason Terry, Andray Blatche, and Andrei Kirilenko, the Nets were actually a favorite over the Heat in the preseason. So far, their season has been very up and down. Or perhaps, down and up. Starting the 2013-2014 season absolutely terribly, the Nets belief in newly signed head coach and former Net Jason Kidd faltered, and the loss of Brook Lopez was devastating. But as the calendar year turned, so did the Net’s season. Red hot in 2014, the Nets have the 4 seed in the East in sight. But does that make their huge investments in this superteam a success? It may only depend on their playoff success.
Finally we come across the 2011 New York Knicks. The Knicks already had the second highest scorer in the league on their team in A’mare Stoudemire.
Why did they bring in Carmelo? For star power. Melo brought a new sense of relevance around NBA circles, and having two superstars (at the time, superstars should be taken lightly) on the same team could compete with Miami in terms of paper on paper matchups. The Knicks went onto the playoffs that season, only to suffer a first round loss to the Boston Celtics. So were their superteam attempt a success? We ask ourselves that to all of the 4 mentioned teams here.
To call the Miami Heat’s bringing together of LeBron, D-Wade, and Chris Bosh a failure would be preposterous. To say that the 2 titles they have won so far was not worth signing these 3 guys would warrant an exit from conversation. The Heat’s continued success may be the most over-covered story in sports, as news agencies cannot not cover the Heat. Still, the Heat should still be considered the title favorites until proven otherwise in the playoffs. They have had a top defense every year since their free agency splash as well as a potent offense, ranking 8th,7th,5th, and 11 in PPG over the last 4 seasons (stats courtesy of http://www.basketball-reference.com). In addition, It is looking good for the Heat to be able to resign the big three this season. So overall, yes. This superteam has actually proven its efficiency through playoff success and coasting through the regular season. Unfortunately, the other teams are not as simple.
2012-2013 Los Angeles Lakers
The wildly disappointing Lakers of 2012-2013 were a showtime mess. The personnel was there. The hype was there. The fans were definitely there. So why the trouble? It is because some players just do not work together. Cue Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard. Amongst all the rumored feud and drama between the two, the two players had a healthy relationship. The part where that relationship goes wrong is when Dwight Howard does not have the ball in is hands. Kobe has always been the primary ball carrier for the Lakers. His unwillingness to spread the wealth with Dwight was obvious. This was Kobe’s team. So sitting here, thinking did the Lakers superteam work, the answer is pretty obvious. It all depends on the players.
Brooklyn Nets (present)
The Nets may not get it done in style, but they have been getting it done. Their 40 -34 record has been a hard fought struggle all season, but a trophy to their perseverance. Their 21st in PPG ranking shows that this team has an opposite problem of the aforementioned Lakers, and that is too much offense. With the loss of Brook Lopez for the remainder of the year early in the season, the Nets had to adjust to not having a young, go to post threat. They did that well. Despite the career low averages of Kevin Garnett and the shipping off of Reggie Evans, the Nets have battled down low this season. This has been a tough season for the Nets, but the success may shine through in the playoffs. But here we must question, is a possible second round exit worth the over $102 million the Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov and the Brooklyn organization is shelling out? (salary number courtesy of Hoopshype.com)
2010- 2011 New York Knicks
The New York Knicks have been a mess this season, but could end up challenging the Pacers in the NBA Playoffs this April as the 8th seed. This would be considered a huge success for the NY Knicks this season. That alone may answer our question. Did the NYK superteam of 2010-2011 work? Well do successful teams lose in the first round very often? After 2 in a row after the acquisition of Carmelo, the Knicks finally reached the second round last April, challenging the Pacers to a series the Pacers ended in 6 games. Now they appear to have taken a step back, with a near certain loss to the number one seed in the East, whether it be the Heat or the Pacers, along with no first round pick to compensate for their failure.
Overall, the topic of if Superteams really work is a complex one. In the end, only one team can win the NBA finals. But in the last 3 completed seasons, only one of these superteams have made any noise in that regard. So saying that superteams do not work is naive, but you could argue that it depends on the players on these superteams. That is exactly the answer to this question. There is no definite yes or no to this question, rather a circumstantial solution. It all depends on the players. The Heat have won 2 titles in a row. Is it because they have three of the top players in the league on the same team, or is it because they have this guy named LeBron, a 4 time MVP? Or is it because they have Dwyane Wade, a 3 time NBA champion and a future Hall of Famer? Or is it the hugely undervalued contribution of Chris Bosh? It is none in particular. It is the combination of these players that clicks. That is not the case for some of these teams, such as the Lakers, who just could not discover any chemistry between their two superstars. So the answer to the question of do NBA superteams really work is simple. It all depends on the combination of players. We have to wait and see how the situation in Brooklyn plays out, but to say that the superteam idea in LA and NY did not work would be justified. For right now, the Miami Heat remain the only true superteam to win the NBA Finals since Kobe and Shaq teamed up in LA so many years.
disagree with the teams listed/opinions expressed? respond in the comments.