Super teams are now a fairly common concept in the NBA. Superstars spurning super teams to create new super teams, though, isn't. And it's going to stay that way.
We watched from a distance as the Miami Heat assembled the biggest Big Three in recent memory, shook our heads when the New York Knicks implemented their own version of the same and applauded when the Oklahoma City Thunder kept their self-built roster of stars intact.
We acknowledged the Clippers as a Los Angeles entity when their star-studded docket began to take shape, quietly approved when the Brooklyn Nets spent nearly $250 million doing one in the same and bowed down to the genius that is Mitch Kupchak when the Los Angeles Lakers went from a franchise in turmoil to a contending lock.
But what haven't we seen? Super teams forming as the result of other ones ending.
Which brings us to the summer of 2013, next July, when, for the first time, there's the potential for two powerhouses to be dismantled in favor of assembling another one.
Or at least that's what ESPN the Magazine's Chris Broussard would like us to believe:
Suppose Howard doesn't click with the Lakers, and the Clippers don't play up to expectations. Would Howard and Paul consider joining forces on the Atlanta Hawks?
The Hawks will have tons of cap space after their big summer trade, and Paul has a soft spot for Atlanta. Howard, of course, is from Atlanta, though he's not dying to go back there and play. The Hawks would certainly be a hard sell, but if both somehow become disgruntled with their current circumstances, they could perhaps look to start anew together in the East.
And just like that, a blueprint for a foolish decision has been made.
Now, while Broussard himself goes on to admit that such a scenario is "unrealistic," it's important to note that it is possible.
The Hawks have just over $13 million in guaranteed salary on the books for 2013-14, meaning if they let Jeff Teague walk and decline the team option on DeShawn Stevenson, they would have upwards of $45 million annually to play around with. And that's most certainly enough cash to reel in both Dwight Howard and Chris Paul.
If both Howard and Paul are keen on making poor decisions, that is.
Financially, this scenario works. Logically, though, it simply doesn't.
There's no denying that pairing the league's best center with the league's best point guard is an intriguing notion, one that's bound to yield favorable results in some capacity. But why would Howard and Paul want to leave the comfort of Los Angeles for the smaller stage and dimmer lights of Atlanta?
In Howard's case, he just got there. He hasn't played his first game as a member of the Lakers, so even imagining him being slightly disgruntled at this point is inconceivable.
And while he would be leaving Los Angeles to play alongside the league's top-point guard, he'd be tasked with—assuming Atlanta doesn't move him—playing alongside Al Horford.
Horford, as we know, is a natural power forward, but Howard isn't one to share the paint, rendering such a pairing less than prolific. Sure, Howard can survive, and maybe even thrive, alongside an inside-out big like Pau Gasol, but Horford doesn't have the type of shooting range Gasol has.
Throw in the fact Howard is already playing alongside a top-seven, borderline top-five point guard in Steve Nash, and there's little, if any, grounds at all for the center to want to bolt from Los Angeles—let alone for Atlanta.
No, if anyone has a case to want to leave out of these two, it's Paul. Though he is surrounded by plenty of star-caliber talent, much of it is one-dimensional. Blake Griffin cannot do much else than play above the rim, I personally won't believe DeAndre Jordan is developing an offensive conscience until I see it and Jamal Crawford, is well, Jamal Crawford.
Outside of that, Paul is surrounded by above-average talent, yes, but injury-prone talent nonetheless.
Is this to say the Clippers aren't capable of contending? No, of course not. Their roster is built to win, it's just not constructed to survive series-long crusades against the Lakers, Spurs or Thunder.
So yes, Paul has plenty of reasons to plan his escape from Los Angeles, but he also has 108 million of them to stay.
Far too much has been made of Paul's decision to decline the Clippers' three-year, $60 million extension. He stands to gain two more years of job security and nearly $50 million more by waiting until the summer to re-sign.
And the same goes for Howard.
Max extensions for superstars are dying; the latest CBA has made it more beneficial to the athlete to wait until his contract is up and ink a new one when he becomes an official free agent.
That's it. End of story.
Now, no amount of money can guarantee a player remains with his current team—see LeBron James—but from both a financial and tactical standpoint, for Howard at least, it makes absolutely no sense to leave his current digs.
Paul, on the other hand, is a different story. His current team is more likely to fall short of expectations, so there is a realistic—and justifiable—chance that he'll accept less money to play somewhere else.
But where? Atlanta? A team that hasn't made it past the second round of the playoffs since the inception of a new playoff format in 1971? A team that has never been afraid to spend the almighty dollar on stars, but has been hesitant to spend ample cash on a formidable supporting cast?
Let's get real.
Howard is sitting pretty in purple and gold. He has the support of Kobe Bryant, the assurance that the team's torch will one day be passed onto him and the ability to sign a nine-figure pact upon season's end.
As for Paul, he holds the keys to a powerhouse and can sign a nine-figure accord upon season's end as well. Plus, his dream of playing alongside Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire in New York is as dead as the max extension itself.
What's left for him to consider? Or Howard, for that matter?
And while it's been said that there is a better situation out there, that the grass is much greener on the other side, that a championship ring is more within reach on another team, this simply isn't the case here.
And both Howard and Paul would be fools to believe it is.
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