The NBA's Power Balance Shift: Why the "Super-Team" Doesn't Really Exist
Lately, there has been a trend by NBA teams to acquire multiple All-Star-caliber players in order to compete for championships. This trend first came about with the acquisitions of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to compliment Paul Pierce in Boston. They subsequently won the NBA Finals that year.
This past offseason, the Miami Heat added the likes of LeBron James—the NBA's self-proclaimed king, and arguably the best player in the game—and Chris Bosh. Just a week ago, the Knicks added the stellar Carmelo Anthony and his Denver teammate and former NBA Finals MVP Chauncey Billups. Another possible "super-team" is being born with the Nets' acquisition of one Deron Williams.
These moves have shifted the balance of power firmly in the Eastern Conference's favor. But I personally don't think that these "super-teams" exist; I believe that every great team in history has multiple all-star caliber players.
If you look back at every championship-winning team, they always had at least two stars in their lineup. The Spurs and Lakers, more recently, had three. The Spurs have Duncan, Ginobli, and Parker, while the Lakers have Bryant, Gasol, and Fisher. Of course, not all of those guys go out and drop 30 points every game. But they have the capability to do so, and they contribute to their teams' success on a consistent basis. They are central to their team, and if they don't play well, the team loses.
People try to attribute the success of the all-time greats to their amazing ability to win and their competitiveness, but these players never rode into battle alone.
Jordan played with at least one, and possibly two (depending on this year's Hall of Fame vote), Hall of Famers when he was winning championships—Pippen and, possibly, Rodman. He also played with guys who averaged double figures in scoring (Armstrong and Grant). In order for Jordan to be great, he needed teammates he could rely on. You can't just build a team centered around one player, you need a nucleus of two or more.
Great players today are usually ranked by how many points they score. Yet, if that's the case, why are guys like John Stockton, Dennis Johnson, and Joe Dumars in the Basketball Hall of Fame? The answer is that points aren't the only meaningful statistic in basketball.
Steve Nash averaged 15.5 and 18.8 PPG during his two MVP seasons. The most important statistic, though, was his 11.5 and 10.5 APG during those two years. Although his team didn't win anything either year, he was still honored as the best player because he didn't just score points—he piloted his team to the best record in the NBA with his leadership skills.
Derek Fisher also falls into this category. He's never been an elite scorer. His best season PPG average was 13.3 in his 2005-06 campaign with the Warriors. He's also never averaged more than 4.4 assists per game.
The reason why he's considered a star is because he's a leader on the court. He knows how to command the troops to defeat top opponents. He's a great defender as well, and can hit the clutch shot whenever needed to. Of course, he hardly needs to because he has the most clutch player in the NBA playing the two on his side.
When you look at teams like the Heat and Knicks, you see the formation of those stars and assume that they'll dominate for years to come. But these teams hardly dominate now.
The biggest reason for this is that, when you get a lot of top guys who are used to being the best player on their team to play together, they expect to be the best on any team they join. It's tough on their ego to accept that they aren't. So, they try to best their teammate in performance in order to win the title as the "Batman" of the organization. This kind of competition between teammates doesn't translate to wins on the court.
Of course, when you've got longtime veterans like Garnett and Allen one a team, they understand that their egos aren't going to win them championships. They can set that aside and play as a TEAM, rather than a group of top stars. They also realize that they aren't going to be able to do everything that needs done in order to win, so they assume their roles, and don't try to be something they're not.
The Celtics haven't won a championship since the 2007-08 season because other teams have played better than them. This shows just how mortal they are. The Heat can't seem to beat teams with records above .500. The Knicks can't defend a high school basketball team from scoring 100 pts.
They're all just as mortal as any other team in the NBA. When these teams were formed, people expected domination for years to come. But all the star power does is increase their chances of winning, not guarantee it.
Every good team needs at least two stars to win championships. This is something that has been proven time and time again by the dynasties that be. Building a team around one player is just a quick way to win games, but not an effective way to bring trophies to your display case.
So, before people talk about how these three star teams are going to ruin the game, look at the champions throughout history. They all contained a multitude of top players who contributed to their team's success. That's why they call it a team sport.
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