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.
The Celtics soared to the 2008 NBA title by superteaming it. Their trades with Seattle and Minnesota allowed Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to team with Paul Pierce in Boston.
The Nets, no deep thinkers of their own, tried to do the same, bringing Pierce and Garnett in last season to team with Deron Williams. Alas, Pierce and Garnett were aging in Boston. They were aged in Brooklyn, and the Nets went thud.
The Rockets tried it, too, clearing all kinds of salary space so that Bosh could be signed and added to a squad of Harden and Howard. But Bosh decided to stay in Miami, and Houston was left with a top-heavy roster. Star power, but no depth.
So will it work in Cleveland? Quite possibly. Any plan that involves LeBron is a good plan. LeBron/Irving/Love isn’t quite the LeBron/Wade/Bosh trio of 2010 but is better than the 2014 version. LeBron/Irving/Love is better short-term than LeBron/Irving/Andrew Wiggins, though I’d have kept Wiggins and gone for the long-term benefits.
But when your city hasn’t won a championship since 1964, you take any shortcut you find. Which includes the building of a superteam.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.