Dreaming Up the NBA's Next Superteams

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Dreaming Up the NBA's Next Superteams
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LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Brook Lopez, Joe Johnson and Deron Williams

Over the last few years, the "superteam" has become the trendy style of roster construction. It's worked out in some cases (Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs) and flopped for others (Los Angeles Lakers and—kind of—Oklahoma City Thunder). Some we just don't know about yet (Brooklyn Nets).

This isn't going to change overnight. While we're nearing the end of the road for many current superteams, there will undoubtedly be another wave of them sweeping through the Association.

So, what are some of the options for that next set of elite squads?  

 

Option No. 1: The Immediate Superteam in L.A.

Kobe Bryant - LeBron James - Carmelo Anthony

Arrival Date: 2014-15

Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

The merits and possibilities surrounding this one have been discussed ad nauseam, but that doesn't make it any less possible. 

Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony might have trouble sharing a single basketball. There's no doubt about that. However, just look at how much offensive talent that lineup has!

LeBron is—by far—the best player in basketball, and he may well be the top offensive guy, as well. Although he hasn't won a scoring title in a while and doesn't lead the league in assists, his multifaceted contributions are undeniably superb. Plus, it would be absolutely insane to see what he could do next to these elite options. 

The reigning MVP is the type of player who doesn't have to score to have a good game. If anything, LeBron would probably have more fun scoring zero points and dishing out 30 assists than he would dropping 70 in a game. 

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

That's why this trio still works. 

Kobe gets to fire away with reckless abandon, and the same applies to 'Melo. These are two guys who draw double teams almost every time they touch the ball, but how exactly are you going to throw extra defenders at either of them with the rest of this trio on the court? 

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This isn't a situation like the current Big Three in Miami.

LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh complement each other perfectly, even if they don't all draw double teams. The L.A.-based trio brings a lot of similar skills to the table, but they'd be so overwhelmingly good on offense that it wouldn't even matter. 

However, no one knows if this is truly possible. 

When it first surfaced that the Los Angeles Lakers were interested in creating this ridiculous triumvirate, ESPN's Brian Windhorst and Ramona Shelburne reported that "opinions are split on whether the Lakers can actually land James or Anthony, with one source calling it 'realistic' and another saying it was 'far-fetched at this point.'"

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The only reason it's far-fetched is the contract status of both LeBron and 'Melo. They'd each have to opt out of their current contracts, which—while possible—is by no means a guarantee. Now that Tyson Chandler is out for the New York Knicks and the record isn't going to be above .500 for a while, Anthony leaving Madison Square Garden behind—much as he loves that place—is easier to see than ever before. 

If both hit the open market, it would be tough to keep this trio apart.  

 

Option No. 2: Jalen Rose's Fantasy Comes True, Part 1

Kevin Durant - James Harden - Dwight Howard

Arrival Date: 2016-17

Layne Murdoch/Getty Images

While previewing the 2013-14 NBA season with Bill Simmons, Jalen Rose delivered a set of interesting predictions. 

Nope, I'm not referring to his—ahem—bold claim that Michael Jordan would return to the court and play for the Charlotte Bobcats this year. Silly as that might be, it's not the focus of attention. Instead, we're homing in on the clairvoyant moment when he predicted a few roster moves that would take place prior to the 2016-17 season. 

Rose makes two predictions in the video. 

First, he has Kevin Durant leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder to join forces with James Harden and Dwight Howard on the Houston Rockets. That's obviously a long way from now, but it's not too far outside the realm of realistic possibilities if OKC continues following the same course of action it is now. 

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Scott Brooks is an overrated head coach, one who isn't capable of adapting when a player goes down or a rotation isn't working. He sticks with the same thing even when it fails, blissfully ignorant of a certain definition of insanity.

Plus, he was scarily unable to adjust when Russell Westbrook was out. After an entire offseason, he surely should have created a few more sets that would allow Durant to shake free of the hounding defensive pressure. 

But Brooks isn't the biggest problem. It's the Thunder's managerial strategy. 

Oklahoma City has been content to let star players walk and attempt to replace them internally. We saw it happen with Harden, then Kevin Martin was allowed to sign with the Minnesota Timberwolves while the franchise hoped that Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb could fill the void. 

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Is that a championship-winning strategy? I have my doubts. 

Unless there's a changing paradigm in OKC, it'll be tough to win a title. And that means that while it's difficult to imagine Durant leaving the franchise now, it might not seem so strange after three more seasons coming up short. 

Once that happens, where better than Houston? He'd be close to the fans who supported him while he was a Texas Longhorn, and he'd be teaming up with complementary players, including a certain bearded shooting guard who he's supported and stuck with through thick and thin. 

Of course, that's only one of Rose's two predictions. 

 

Option No. 3: Jalen Rose's Fantasy Comes True, Part 2

Kobe Bryant - Russell Westbrook - Kevin Love

Arrival Date: 2016-17

Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

The other involves Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook teaming up for the Los Angeles Lakers, which actually makes a surprising amount of sense. They'd be teaming up with Kobe, then in the undeniable twilight of his career (he'd have just turned 38 years old), helping him fight for one last ring while ushering in the next era of L.A. basketball.

But first, the destination.

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Love and Westbrook are both California boys. They played together at UCLA, and each one was brought up on the West coast. While Love was born in Santa Monica before moving to Oregon, Westbrook was born and raised in Long Beach. 

The Lakers are a logical place to team up for so many reasons, whether you're considering their roots, the historic appeal of the franchise or the fact that they'll presumably have cap space while looking to move into a new era. 

As for the players themselves, Love and Westbrook have always been close, hearkening back to their days suiting up for the Bruins. They even roomed together at UCLA. 

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On top of that, they have playing styles that would work together rather nicely, as Westbrook's explosive, attacking nature fits perfectly alongside Love's dominance on the boards and ability to serve as the league's best stretch 4. 

Putting these two together squarely in the midst of their athletic primes? Well, that could result in the Los Angeles Clippers eventually having to cover up a few more banners in the rafters of the Staples Center. 

 

Option No. 4: The Philadelphia 76ers are Happy Campers

Andrew Wiggins - Michael Carter-Williams - Nerlens Noel - Free Agents & Draft Picks

Arrival Date: 2015-16

Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers are not for real right now. They aren't going to stay over .500 for very many games, and they'll almost certainly fall back to earth along with their shooting percentages. 

However, the pieces are in place to eventually form a superteam, something I didn't think was possible before seeing Michael Carter-Williams shatter the expectations during the beginning of his rookie campaign. 

In just a handful of outings, he's changed how he's viewed nearly 180 degrees. Going into the season, MCW was a raw point guard who was going to turn the ball over with alarming frequency and post a shooting percentage in the 30s.

So much for that. 

Now he's the prohibitive favorite for Rookie of the Year, and he's flashed some serious superstar potential.

Yes. Superstar. 

Remember, we're talking about the 2015-16 season in this section, so that's a status he could have reached by the time he's in his third go-around with the Sixers. Kevin Durant led the league in scoring during his third campaign, and during his, LeBron James averaged 31.4 points per game while narrowly losing to Steve Nash in the MVP voting. 

Superstardom is a distinct possibility for MCW, especially if he's surrounded by elite talent.

You know, like Nerlens Noel, who would either be in his second professional season or third (if he doesn't sit out this entire year).

Or how about Andrew Wiggins, who the Sixers could easily land by "earning" the No. 1 pick in this year's NBA draft? He'd be in his second season, as well, when the 2015-16 campaign rolled around, assuming he doesn't pull a Marcus Smart do the unthinkable and stay at Kansas for a second year of collegiate action. 

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

So already, we're working with a three-man core brimming over with potential.

Now add in someone like James Young, who can function as the sixth man during his second professional season. Philadelphia will be getting another first-round selection in the 2014 NBA draft courtesy of the New Orleans Pelicans, although the pick is top-five protected. 

At this point, the team is still missing a shooting guard and a power forward. But that can easily be remedied because Philadelphia will be boasting an insane amount of financial flexibility, with only rookie-scale contracts on the books (plus whatever small pieces the team adds during the 2014 offseason). 

Is this lineup possible?

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The Sixers can afford to target the best 2 and 4 in the 2015 free-agent class, and they'll have enough young talent to look like a nice destination. Say hello to LaMarcus Aldridge, who will be 30 years old and still in his prime, and Monta Ellis, also 30. 

Aldridge is set to be an unrestricted free agent, and Ellis has a player option for just under $9 million.

There's a chance that he agrees to continue playing for the Dallas Mavericks, but it's more likely that he wants a fresh start instead of suiting up for an organization that has consistently failed to lure in top-level talent. Also, Dirk Nowitzki will either be retired or on his last legs going into the 2015-16 season. 

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A starting five of Carter-Williams, Ellis, Wiggins, Aldridge and Noel is a terrifying one, especially with everyone entering the season with at least a year of professional experience. 

As happy as the Sixers are now after exceeding the expectations with a 3-0 start to a season that would supposedly feature something like 97 losses, just imagine how thrilled they'd be with this core at their disposal. 

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