NBA Is a League Defined by Its Young Stars As Much As by Free Agency

Evan SmithContributor IIJune 30, 2010

BOSTON - MAY 13:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers stands by in the fourth quarter against the Boston Celtics during Game Six of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2010 NBA playoffs at TD Garden on May 13, 2010 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Celtics defeated the Cavaliers 94-85.  NOTE TO USER: User Expressly Acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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After the summer of 2010 the NBA will be forever changed. 

I’m not necessarily talking about where LeBron, Wade, Johnson, Bosh, or Amare will end up. 

I’m talking about a league that is becoming heavily influenced by the players rather than the organizations themselves. 

This summer a few lucky teams will become instant powerhouses for years to come because of the these high profile free agents but what about the rest of the league?

I’m talking to you Memphis, New Orleans, Minnesota, Atlanta, Sacramento, and Indiana. 

These teams might not have a great tradition of winning but will they ever even get a chance?

What happened to teams building through the draft? 

Several of these super star free agents are going to pair up in a select few cities to bring a championship and it is up to the players to decide which city deserves the chance.  

What about guys like Chris Paul?

He is a super star but I bet when he gets the chance he is going to jump right out of New Orleans unless he can convince some other All-Star caliber players to come to the Big Easy. 

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What about teams like Memphis that have done a great job building with youth through the draft, but then practically hand the Lakers Pau Gasol (possibly the best big man in the game right now) for practically nothing? 

How did they let him just leave and not get much in return?

I understand players wanting to change teams if they realize that they will never win a championship in their current situation. 

I am talking to the Kevin Garnetts of the league.  He tried to succeed in Minnesota and when he got older he made the right decision to move teams to pair up with a few other vets to try to achieve the ultimate goal. 

But LeBron (25), Bosh (26), Amare (27), Wade (28), and Johnson (28) are all young guys that still have time to grow and prove themselves as championship players without pairing up with each other. 

Did Jordan, Bird, Magic, Barkely, Olajuwan, Malone, Miller and Robinson try to pair up for a championship?  No.

They all wanted a championship in their own respective cities and felt they could do it without bringing in the other top players in the league. 

Ok, so Karl Malone went to the Lakers at the end of his career but who can blame him? 

The Chicagos, L.A.s, Bostons, Miamis, and New Yorks of the world are going to get players due to stature and tradition alone. 

The San Antonio Spurs dynasty was one of the best things to happen to the league in my opinion. 

It gave the rest of the league a formula for success and let the world know that you do not have to be a big market team with high profile players to be the best team in the league. 

I am a huge Spurs fan and the purpose of this article is not to go on a tirade about how awesome the Spurs are. 

I am just giving an example, that with a little luck the Spurs (also with great management and a minimal budget) built a dynasty through the draft and picked up savvy vets that knew what it took to win and possesed a high basketball IQ. 

Ok, so they were pretty lucky that David Robinson got hurt and they got the number one pick and got Tim Duncan. 

But those two did not win championships by themselves. 

Manu Ginobili was one of the last picks in the draft, and Tony Parker was one of the last picks in the first round. 

I consider them to be pretty vital pieces to to the Spurs' championship runs. 

The league has changed drastically over the last twenty years and this summer seems to be a tipping point. 

It actually makes me sick to think about how the traditional format of professional sports has changed to a player's league and the cities and organizations themselves are forever doomed because of this. 

Some teams give me hope like the Oklahoma City Thunder. 

They are young and built through the draft (Sam Presti heads up the Thunder who is an ex-Spurs executive). 

The Thunder could be scary in a couple of years and already are a couple of pieces away from making a serious run in the playoffs.

Everybody knows LeBron James is the best basketball player on the planet and everything this summer revolves around what he decides to do. 

I will truly feel sorry for Cleveland if LeBron chooses to leave. 

No offense to the city of Cleveland but they haven't had much hope in the sports world (Browns and Indians) for quite some time now and LeBron is their staple. 

Jordan built the Bulls into a championship team, Duncan built the Spurs, and LeBron needs to establish himself as a winner by building his own team into a championship dynasty. 

If LeBron goes to the Bulls or Knicks, he might as well go to Boston or L.A. 

He has only had seven years in the league and has already been to the Finals. 

A lot of good/great players don’t even get a chance at the Finals in their career much less in their first few years in the league. 

I am not saying that the the great players can do it by themselves because they can’t. 

Jordan had Pippen, Magic had Kareem, Olajuwan had Drexler, Robinson had Duncan, Duncan had Parker/Ginobili, Kobe had Shaq/Gasol, Wade had Shaq, Boston had their big three (older vets). 

The list goes on but you might notice that these teams were defined by one player with other good players around him or a compilation of a few good or older players; not by the best players in the league in their prime all joining together to make the best team possible. 

Just to be clear, I am not saying that Bosh, Amare, Wade, and Johnson are the best players in the league but they are young and certainly have potential to be Hall of Fame caliber players one day. 

Do you think they will be held in as high regard if takes all of them teamed together to win championships?

So what is the point of all of this?

Does it really matter what I or any other sports enthusiast/critic say?

The answer is no. 

It is all up to the players but I would much rather watch the young stars in the league define themselves as champions in the NBA without all teaming together for an All-Star squad.

Everyone needs help and I understand that, but these guys have the chance to define themselves as the center piece of a championship team. 

Boston needed three great players but they were older and only had so much time to get it done. But the Celtics also found a hidden gem in Rondo. 

The same could be said for the Pistons. 

These other guys have a chance to prove to the world and the rest of the league that they are the guy on a team with other good players around them. 

I hated watching the Lakers this year. They had a roster that made people think, well how can they not win a championship? 

I think the NBA would be fun to watch with more then four or five clear cut best teams in the league every year. 

With this year’s free agency I am afraid that number is going to be cut in half. 

It seems that with these pending free agents the Eastern Conference is going to become considerably stronger. 

If LeBron leaves Cleveland then count the Cavs out for any sort of competition. 

Miami and Chicago are going to land one or two big names each, which makes them instant contenders because they already have some pieces. 

If New York or New Jersey land one or two of the the big names, they don’t become instant contenders due to the lack of talent currently on their rosters. 

If LeBron leaves then Miami, Chicago, and Orlando look to come out of the east. 

If LeBron stays replace either Miami or Chicago with Cleveland or Boston, even though it seems as though their window has closed. 

Either Miami or Chicago is going to get the better end of the free agent deals i.e. landing LeBron plus others.  I see one of those two to be more of a contender than the other. 

So in reality it will be a two team race between one of those two and Orlando if LeBron leaves Cleveland.

The West does not seem like it is going to change too much this off season. 

The Lakers are obviously the favorite. 

After that there is a mix of mediocre teams that don’t look like they can seriously compete with the Lakers given the current rosters. 

The Spurs much like Boston are always there but as much as I hate to say it, their window might be closed. 

Dallas and Denver have yet to prove they have what it takes and Phoenix and Utah are going to suffer assuming Amare and Boozer leave. 

All in all there is really going to be three teams that have a serious shot next year and this top end power is due to the players control over the league. 

One can not blame teams for clearing cap space and preparing for this summer, but it will truly be sad if this becomes a trend in the NBA for some time to come. 

You will see the same teams loading up every four or five years and the small teams staying out of the hunt. 

You might as well say goodbye to the small market or Cinderella teams and say hello to an age where the big time cities consistently land the big time players.