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The Problem with a Superteam
The Problem With a Superteam
The term "Superteam" can date back pretty far. I haven't been around that long but I'm sure people were coining the name Superteam far before Lebron James was even born. Perhaps the first Superteam in basketball can be attributed to Bob Cousy, Bill Russell, and Tom Heinsohn. More followed them, such as The Showtime Lakers of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and James Worthy. The Celtics had Larry Bird, John Havlicek, and Robert Parish. Later, there was Michael Jordan, Denis Rodman, and Scottie Pippin. I won't even get into the 2000s where many Superteams have tried to be created. But these fantastic teams don't always get their intended results. It seems crazy. I mean, put three of the best players in the NBA together and they don't mesh? Who would have thought that. Aren't superstars so great because they make others around them better? Well here's how things go wrong...
Throwing a Team Together via Free Agency
More prevalent now than ever, teams are forming in free agency. I guess we can blame the Miami Heat for this one. In the summer before 2010 three of the best players were on the market. Dwayne Wade naturally resigned with the team that had won him a ring in 2006. But what about the others? Chris Bosh left the lowly Raptors to join the Heat as well. Now the team had both a top 5 power forward and shooting guard in their arsenal. It seemed like the Heat were destined for a run at the title. Then, came The Decision. Lebron James. The very name of basketball greatness, and a three time MVP at the time, decided he wanted to join his friends in Miami. They all agreed to take a pay cut and form the most dominant team in the NBA. But it didn't exactly pan out well. I mean sure, they went to the NBA finals, but mostly because Lebron was playing all-world ball. They had just been thrown together in free agency, they weren't exactly a fit. Don't like that one? How about the Los Angeles Lakers in 2012-2013. Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Ron Artest. Sounds more like the All-Star roster than the Lakers huh? That team went on to win 45 games and lose 37. Not very Lakerish is it? They barely made playoffs, qualifying in the last day of the NBA season. While both these teams weren't horrible (yes I'll admit the Heat were actually very good) they weren't exactly "Super".
I'm not talking about making atoms form into molecules here. I'm talking about the ability of NBA stars to play as a cohesive unit. You know, flowing well on the court. Chemistry is perhaps the biggest reason that teams don't work out, especially Superteams. The players need to be able to play together, and well. It sounds like a simple concept, passing the ball to a certain spot, running this certain play, knowing when to provide help-side defense and when to let your teammate take their man one-on-one. Yet, a lot of these Superteams fail because they lack chemistry. That has to do with being thrown in together via free agency. The Cleveland Cavaliers, whom have AWFUL chemistry, weren't exactly thrown together in free agency but they definitely aren't on the same page. Passes go out of bounds because players were expecting their teammate to look for the ball, plays aren't run right, others play out of position because they aren't sure how much space their teammate needs. It is these simple things that come with playing together for a while that can make or break a team. The only way to fix this is to play together for a while until you learn the different styles of your teammates, sadly. Look at the Spurs, whom have been together since the Ice Age. They play flawlessly because of their great team chemistry.
Many of these superstars have been receiving the world's attention since they were in high school. This has developed a bit of an ego in some of them. They think they know it all. They think they are the best player to grace the hardwood. Not only is it quite annoying sometimes, but it can translate to some pretty pathetic basketball, even toxic. Take for instance player A and fellow superstars B and C. All players are making close to the same amount of money, however, Player A thinks he is better than the other players. He also wants to be the greatest player ever and thinks he needs to score all the points to do this. Also, on his previous team he was the highest scorer so he believes he should be on this one too. Player A shoots WAYYYY too much. He tries to score a lot and his belief that he is the best leads him to take on a whole team by himself. He ends up with a low shooting percentage, while teammates B and C begin to become disgruntled in the locker room. See how things can go wrong with big egos?
A star player in the NBA today makes anywhere from $18-$20 million dollars. If the salary cap is $66 million, do the math. $20 million x 3 players= $60 million. That's quite a bit of change. It leaves the team with only $6 million to sign other players. Of course they can add the Mid-Level Exception (or MLE) which is another $10 million to spend. So $16 million to sign at least nine players. That gives a team only $1.78 per player. The average salary in the NBA as of today is $5.15 million. This means the team will have to get below-average players to fill out their roster. Of course, relying on their superstars, they don't need great bench players. But that is a big mistake. The bench can go so far for a team. I'll bring up the timeless classics again, the Spurs. How did they win the NBA finals? Well, mostly their bench. Game 1 saw Ginobli pour in 16 points off the bench, Game 3 also featured more Ginobli, Game 4 Patty Mills scored 14 off the bench, Game 5 had Ginobli and Mills scored 19 and 17 off the bench respectively. See the importance of a strong bench? If one of the stars is doing bad the bench players can pick up the slack. It is hard to do this with a super team that has few options to go to because of financial constraints.