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Building superteams in NBA is not a new fad

It’s the converse of the Thunder Way, which calls for growing your own superstars. The Thunder is trying to replicate the Spurs, who now have won five of the last 16 NBA championships with homegrown stars.
by Berry Tramel Published: August 10, 2014

Kevin Love soon will be a Cavalier, and Cleveland’s path to NBA greatness is clear. Superstar collection.

It’s not a new fad.

Love will join Kyrie Irving and LeBron James in Cleveland as the Cavs try to replicate what Miami did when it recruited LeBron to play with Dwyane Wade, then added Chris Bosh. Paid off for the Heat, with two NBA titles and four Eastern Conference flags in four years.

It’s the converse of the Thunder Way, which calls for growing your own superstars. The Thunder is trying to replicate the Spurs, who now have won five of the last 16 NBA championships with homegrown stars.

Not everyone has the luck and brains to journey such a road. The Spurs had great lottery fortune (hello, David Robinson and Tim Duncan) and the smarts to see Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili as overlooked draft gems. The Thunder, too, had lottery luck (the Blazers passed on Kevin Durant) and the brains to see that Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka were undersold as prospects.

Both ways work. And plenty of franchises never get the opportunity to try either way. Don’t have the finances or cachet to form a superteam. Don’t have the lottery standing to build initially around a superstar.

The Suns, for example. In the last 27 years, Phoenix has had exactly five picks in the overall top 10. Alex Len, taken fifth overall in 2013, is the highest.

But despite the furor over LeBron’s move to Miami four years ago, the formation of superteams is nothing new. The Lakers have been collecting all-stars for decades, ever since trading for Wilt Chamberlain in 1968 to pair with Jerry West and Elgin Baylor. LA tried it as recently as 2012, trading mostly future draft picks for Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. Worked in ’68; was a disaster in 2012.

The 76ers built a superteam in the ‘70s; they already had blossoming star Doug Collins, then grabbed ABA stars George McGinnis and Julius Erving from franchises who couldn’t afford to keep such talents.

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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