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Tag Archives: LeBron James

Superteams: Good or Bad for the NBA?

Written by Logan Karels (@Karels23)

Superteams. A superteam is a term thrown around in the sports world quite often in this era of basketball.

So, what exactly defines a superteam? A superteam is when a professional sports team has multiple all-star (or all-star caliber) players on the same team. Historically, superteams have always existed in the NBA. Parity in sports is common terminology brought up regularly by fans around the water cooler. The dynastic Golden State Warriors are no exception in the NBA.

The truth is — the league has consistently remained the same. Every year, come postseason time, only a handful of teams have a shot at winning the NBA championship. The remaining teams in the league simply are not on that same level as the top teams.

Let’s take a look at what are considered some of the best teams (superteams) in the history of the NBA.

Obviously, the Chicago Bulls superteam is automatically in the discussion. Led by Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, one of the most fearsome duos the league has ever seen, this team was considered to be the best of all time. In the 90’s, The duo led the Bulls to six titles in eight years, including two three-peats (losing in the Eastern Conference Finals twice in between when Jordan went to go play baseball).

The current Golden State Warriors superteam has had a dominant stretch in the last several years including a record-breaking 73-9 regular season. What is most impressive is the three championships in four years (and if Draymond doesn’t get suspended during the 2016 Finals probably would be going for their fifth straight title this upcoming season). If they keep up their level of greatness they have a chance to dethrone the Jordan-Bulls dynasty off the all-time rankings.

The 2013-era HEAT led by LeBron and Wade were also very dominant during their time as teammates, winning an extraordinary 27 games consecutively during the regular season, along with Chris Bosh and their supporting cast. They won consecutive titles and lost in the finals on the years bookending their repeat championships.

It’s worth mentioning history’s past great superteams that newer NBA fans may not entirely know of. The “Showtime Lakers” with Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and James Worthy. The original Celtics super team led by Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish. An even older Celtics superteam yet were led by the legendary Bill Russell, with Bob Cousy and Sam Jones.

Parity in Professional Sports

Parity refers to the equality of the league, meaning that in a perfect world, the best 30+ players would be evenly distributed to teams in the league- making the league much more competitive and interesting. Historically, parity within the NBA has remained a constant. Each era had the respective teams who dominated the rest of the league. Each season, very similar to today’s league, only a select few teams have a real chance to win the NBA championship.

The NFL differs highly from the NBA in terms of parity. The Superbowl favorites often change every season. Staying consistent in the postseason, making the conference finals, and advancing to the title game proves extremely challenging. In basketball- you have 5 players who are the main impact on the game — whereas in football you have 11 different players on both sides of the ball, offense and defense. Counting special teams and substitutions throughout the game, there are many players that teams must rely on in high pressure game situations. For instance, in the NBA teams “shorten” their in-game rotations and substitution patterns. In the NFL, there are too many positions and it just isn’t realistic.

In the NBA, a player like LeBron or Michael Jordan, one individual player can have a massive impact on a game. On the football field, it is difficult for a specific player to have such an impact on the game outside of a quarterback with a few exceptions. One such exception is a player like Khalil Mack, the Bears’ defensive star that just came over from the Raiders. He alone has changed the Bears defense entirely to one of the top defenses in the league. Even so, they are far from considered one of the best teams in the league, and even in the NFC North. When you get a player with that kind of skill level who is leading an NBA team —  that team is almost guaranteed to be one of the best, if not the best teams in the league.

What makes a Superteam?

What exactly qualifies a team as a Superteam? For most people, it is multiple all-star caliber or superstar-caliber players on the same team. Looking at the current Golden State Warriors roster — Steph Curry and Kevin Durant — with three MVP awards between them can dominate the game anywhere at any given night, regardless of the team they are playing. Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Demarcus Cousins are all-stars as well. Golden State also has arguably two of the best shooters of all time in Curry and Thompson. The league has never before seen a team that can bolster a lineup (eventually) of five all-stars.

Many try to make the argument that the blame solely lies on LeBron for the superteam phenomenon we have seen in recent years. This is probably a misconception, as there were superteams before “The Heatles” came along in 2010. The whole reason LeBron left his hometown team for Miami is so he could get more reliable help to beat the Boston Celtics’ big three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen, which could be considered a big 4 when adding Rajon Rondo’s impact on the game. It’s extremely difficult to find a championship roster without two or more future Hall of Famers on the leagues’ superteams of the past. The glaring reason for this is: it’s near impossible to win a title by yourself. Every great team has its star player, of course, but one thing they all have in common is other stars and great supporting casts.

Effects on the NBA

The topic has been the root of debate for NBA fans around the country and globally. Many say that superteams are ruining the league and that is not true in my opinion. If it was, the league would have been ruined ages ago due to all the superteams in the NBA since Dr. James Naismith invented this wonderous game.

In truth, superteams actually benefit the NBA. The Warriors have gained an insane amount of popularity and attention when they play. The NBA is thriving financially in part due to this, another reason why superteams- even like the Warriors — only spell good things for the NBA. The first rounds of the playoffs weren’t great overall, but the Finals itself has been breaking previous viewership records. Every player and team in the league wants nothing more than to beat Golden State, the best current team. This bolsters the competition and makes for highly entertaining games.

Superteams force the rest of the league to work harder to get better and improve their skills. When a team like the Warriors gets remarkably far ahead of the rest of the league in terms of skill, the pressure is on all those other teams to advance, whether that would be signing players through free agency, trading, or just working hard every day to improve. Other teams need to increase their risk profile and “swing for the fences” as it were to compete with Golden State. It will be very exciting to see which franchise can put together a roster good enough to compete with the Warriors- like the Rockets almost did last season.

The Point Forward in the Modern NBA

Ryan Stivers (@ryanMstives)

What is a point-forward? The term has cropped up in recent years among NBA discussions. Traditionally, the term describes a big-man (at least someone taller that “transcended” the label of “guard”) who ran the offense for the team getting his teammates involved as the primary ball-handler. Now, the concept of a big-man playing the point guard position is nothing new, Magic Johnson stood a full 6’9” and ran the offense for the famous showtime Lakers. Oscar Robertson was 6’5” and averaged a triple-double for a season; even Penny Hardaway stood a shocking 6’7”. But despite all of these guards being as big as they were, they were just that, true guards. None of them fell into the category of a “point forward.” So, height and size aside, what is it that makes a true Point Forward and not only that, what makes a great one? For the purposes of this article, it needs to be tossed out that anyone considered a true Oscar have all already been discussed.

As for a point of reference in this argument, each of the four selected typically plays the forward position but at one point or the other in their career run the offense through their use of ball-handling or offensive output. Each of the four was ranked using metrics such as Player Efficiency Rating (PER), assists per game (APG), turnovers per game (TOV), and points per game (PPG) throughout their career. Each category was then ranked one through four for each player and an average score was taken for the ranking of the category. Not the most mathematically nuanced, but combined with the eye-test, it can help us rank these players.
Let’s go:

#4

Ben Simmons
PER – 17.1
APG – 7.2
TOV – 4.0
PPG – 16.3

To start with and not to be unfair to him, Simmons has the smallest sample size of the four players. After having spent his “rookie” season on the bench for the Sixers, the 21-year-old is making a splash, running the offense in Philly. It doesn’t hurt a bit that he has Joel Embiid to help hold down the paint or guys like Robert Covington and JJ Redick to stretch the floor, but what is most intriguing and exciting to watch with Ben is his passing. Through a career total of 42 games, his average of 7.2 assists a game ranks him first among all current rookies with only Lonzo Ball even close at 7.1 (and he’s only played 36 games for the Los Angeles Lakers).

So what is Ben Simmons’ ceiling? Where is his weakness? If his time at LSU (and so far in the league) is any indication, then the only handicap in his game would be his jumpshot. While his field goal percentage at the rim is fine (43.6 percent), he seems to have no confidence in his jumper — for good reason. Between three and ten feet from the basket Simmons is shooting 32.3 percent, and it gets worse. From ten to 16 feet out (known as mid-range) he is shooting 19.8 percent — not good. His three-point shot is practically non-existent. Ben’s game is still young and working its way through The Process but that certainly hasn’t stopped him from showing flashes of greatness.

#3

Giannis Antetokounmpo
PER – 19.8
AST – 3.7
TOV – 2.4
PTS – 16.4/28.2 (2017-2018)

Let’s get one thing out of the way right now, Giannis is a freak, in every sense of the phrase, word or what have you. Every game Giannis is like a baby deer learning how to walk and going from that walk to an outright sprint in four seconds. His eye-test is through the roof to where most people agree he could win an MVP before he turns 25. His points per game are included above only because of how high it is this season compared to his first four years; two of which he was listed as the starting SG/PG —
Giannis has done it all. This is a 6’11” terror who is listed on BasketballReference.com as playable at every head coach to design a perfect player and then develop him into a Hall-of-Famer (except for his shooting, which was bad, but is steadily improving). For his first three years, jumpshot. Through last season and this year he has increased his volume as well as his accuracy to an insane 54.6 field goal percentage (obviously a lot of those are layups/dunks using his incredible 7’ wingspan and massive hands). He is even attempting 1.6 threes a game (with not great accuracy, but it’s improving). Much like with Simmons, Giannis’ upward potential relies entirely on his ability to build up his jumpshot — and he has already made TWO All-Star games!

#2

Kevin Durant
PER – 25.2
AST – 3.9
TOV – 3.2
PTS – 27.1

This may be an unconventional pick for this discussion but it needs to be argued. Durant began his career with the (now long-gone, RIP) Seattle Sonics where he played the shooting guard. To refresh, Earl Watson, Luke Ridnour, and Delonte West were the three point guards for the Sonics that season and for some reason head coach P.J. Carlesimo believed playing the true seven-footer (he is, don’t even deny it) in an off-ball role would benefit this team. In hindsight, it didn’t really help the team, but it did help Durant.

Durant started out hot in his rookie season averaging 20.3 points per game on 43.0 percent from the field and a below-average 28.8 percent from deep. Once moving to OKC and playing with high-usage players like Westbrook and Harden, he wasn’t able to really show what he could do with the ball in his hands. Coincidentally, it wasn’t until he came to play in Golden State that his usage rate as the primary handler really became a thing. Playing alongside one of the greatest shooting point guards (do you need to ask?) in the history of basketball as well as an accurate shooting guard (Thompson) with probably the quickest release of all-time, occasionally, Durant was able to flourish in a more primary role while the others either rested or played off-ball. Durant would probably be mad he comes in second again, but still, coming in at number two on this list isn’t so bad.

#1

LeBron James
PER – 27.6
AST – 7.1
TOV – 3.4
PTS – 27.1

If positionless basketball is just now taking on, then somewhere around 2007-08 is when this OG of all positions invented it. There’s a reason he’s known as The King, The Chosen One and The Akron Hammer. His ‘07 season was the mountaintop of “drag every single one of you to defend the Eastern Conference no matter what I have to do” (seriously, look at the rest of that roster). During that season, LeBron averaged 30 points a game on an excellent 48.8 field goal percentage, while shooting 31.5 percent from behind the arc. His points were a career-high that season while his assists were 7.4 a game, tied for fourth-highest of his career. This was a season in which his roster consisted of Shannon Brown, Larry Hughes and Delonte West (dude has taken a beating this article – clearly he was not a great point guard).

LeBron began his fifteen-year career as a shooting guard and eventually evolved into the primary ball handler/offensive threat on every team he has played on. Currently, he is averaging 8.6 assists a game which is a near career-high through the better part of the last two decades. He is a freight train in transition, unstoppable in the post, with the incredible vision to break down your defense if you dare bring a double-team. The King has transcended what it means to be a big man running the offense and for that, he has to be the true winner in this contest.

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