The Super-Team Uprising
Since 2007, when the Boston Celtics acquired perennial all-stars Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, the super-team era has reigned supreme in the NBA. Sure, the Celtics only pulled off the single title, but they were a steady force in the league until the next dynamic trio formed in South Beach in 2010. Miami won a couple of titles and it appeared as though anything was indeed possible (a la Kevin Garnett), including assembling a team made up of the top players in the world to win a championship. Fancy that.
Then it was back to Cleveland where another threesome formed resulting in yet another title. Not lost in all this was the fact that Golden State shaped a championship-winning team largely via good-old-fashioned drafting. Rather than set the tone for what could have been one of the greatest Western Conference rivalries in history, they coerced the best player away from their not-to-be rival, while leaving OKC in permanent purgatory. Though an altered path from the aforementioned super squads exists, the Warriors as you see them today are undoubtedly a super team who garner little praise from outsiders when it comes to fitting accomplishments. It’s not so impressive when the captain of the football team with the chiseled jawline lands the best looking gal in the entire school, after all.
All Great Things…
There’s no automatic formula with these things, but everyone seems surprisingly impressed when the stars can put their egos aside for the sake of winning. The egos usually boil over in some capacity, though. We’ve seen it more recently in Golden State, which could be a sign that we are nearing the end of this unpleasant era. Not many were distraught to see Durant and Green at each other’s throats.
There’s absolutely no way Raptors fans are opposed to that juvenile behavior, either. See any smirking Raptors fan when broached on the subject matter. It’s like when the jock and the cheerleader have a screaming match in the middle of the cafeteria over the fact that he didn’t offer her a bite of his chicken sandwich, which inevitably leads to a string of fights that uproots the entire relationship. The shift is happening before our eyes; the rising of legitimate teams built on years of drafting, management of internal assets and tactical trades. Teams like the Raptors and the Bucks have formed cores in organic ways. The Raptors added a superstar to an already amazing team, but that acquisition couldn’t be further from what occurred in Boston back in ‘07.
The Kawhi-DeMar trade was an adept maneuver from a general manager that is very good at his job, which is a point that corroborates with various measured risk-to-reward based decisions that have largely worked out – like drafting a raw talent toward the end of the 2016 draft that ultimately turned into a budding star. Sometimes that doesn’t work out. What’s Bruno Caboclo up to these days? The point is that this has been percolating – for so long. It’s been a drawn-out process, one that true fans appreciate. The Raptors win in different ways. They aren’t copying another franchise’s DNA. They don’t have a bonafide big three. Maybe a big two, with six to seven other legitimate starters who accept whatever role falls to them on a given night. That’s what fun about this team. They’re their own thing. It’s evolved into that. You can’t just create that overnight, like the Heat did in 2010. Step 1: grab three top players in the league. Step 2: Well that’s about it, I think.
Super Teams Leave a Bad Taste
Super teams and star collaborations probably won’t die altogether. One or two players have such a significant impact in basketball, but there’s something to be said for enduring the process, and there are unspoken acceptable variances to the equation. For example, while Jimmy Butler remains a polarizing figure, that was a risky move by Elton Brand – and one that is garnering early praise. He could be a piece of the puzzle in Philly. They didn’t go and buy the whole puzzle, though. When it comes to enduring, Sixers fans know a thing or two about biding their time, or, whatever it was they were doing from 2012 through 2017.
The Butler move also doesn’t have a ‘stick it to the rest of the league’ after-taste to it. Sure, eastern opponents weren’t happy, but there wasn’t the league-wide fan-based eye-rolling contest that we witnessed when Boogie signed with the Warriors. Sometimes, there’s just something gratifying about making a loaf of homemade bread. If you can add the right ingredients along the way, you’re going to have yourself one delectable sandwich that’s immeasurably more satisfying than a cold cut trio from Subway. However, there is a reason why there’s a Subway on every street corner.