Super teams are great if you’re cheering for one, but they’re destroying the NBA—and that’s a problem.
The NBA today cannot be totally compared to any era in recent history. The “super team era” era is not only hurting the league, but it is destroying the NBA.
Usually built through signing free agents, super teams—stockpiling a roster full of All-Stars has become more common in recent years.
An argument can be made that the 2007 Boston Celtics, which had the talents of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen—who were arguably all in their prime—started the super team trend. The Celtics won it all 2008 and were a force for years until trading Garnett and Pierce to Brooklyn in 2013.
But the most notable example was when LeBron James and Chris Bosh both signed with the Miami Heat during their free agency in 2010 to team up with Dwayne Wade and form “The Big Three,” which won consecutive titles in 2012 and 2013. They dominated the Eastern Conference until LeBron jumped ship to return to Cleveland in 2014.
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Today, the NBA is completely dominated by super teams. The Eastern Conference is controlled by two super teams—Boston and Cleveland.
The Celtics were one of the top teams in the conference last year but, with the offseason additions of Kyrie Irving via trade and Gordon Hayward through free agency, Boston is right back to being a super team and a favorite to win it all.
The Cavaliers are the other, built around stars LeBron James, Kevin Love, Dwayne Wade, and Isiah Thomas. Not only that, but they have an elite bench which includes notable names like Derrick Rose, J.R Smith, Iman Shumpert, and sharpshooter Kyle Korver.
The projected three-and-four seeds in the East—teams like Milwaukee, Toronto and Washington—don’t stand much of a chance of taking down the Celtics or the Cavs in a best-of-seven playoff series. Those two super teams have taken most of the competitive excitement away from the Eastern Conference.
The Western Conference has had and continues to have better overall teams than the East for the past couple of seasons. But the competitiveness of the West is also controlled by super teams.
The Golden State Warriors are the top Super Team in the NBA, built with elite all-around talent. A starting lineup that features Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, supported by an elite bench roster including Nick Young, David West and Andre Iguodala; the Warriors are the team to beat in the NBA.
There is a new super team in the West to give the Warriors some competition: the Oklahoma City Thunder, which recently added Carmelo Anthony and Paul George via trade to help their franchise player, reigning NBA MVP Russell Westbrook, contend for a championship. The Thunder have not only formed the newest “Big Three” and the newest super team but, with players such as big man Steven Adams still around, the Thunder are not only the team to watch in the Western Conference but are in contention to win it all.
The Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs are also considered top teams in the West but will have trouble beating out these two powerhouse super teams in the playoffs. For the rest of the West, they can only hope to make the playoffs, not contend for a title.
Super teams have never controlled the NBA as much as they currently do. Not only does it ruin the competitive nature of the league, but it discourages teams from trying to contend—because they know they can’t.
While NBA commissioner Adam Silver has taken steps towards getting rid of tanking by teams like Philadelphia—which knew it had no chance of competing—nothing will really change until super teams are history.