Are NBA Fans Happy With Super Teams?
With the NBA playoffs in full swing, it is time to look at the inevitable matchup in the NBA Finals. The past two years, the NBA has only watched two teams play in the finals and barring some unforeseen circumstances those two teams will be back in the NBA Finals again this year. We all know who those two teams are, but for the sake of naming names we have the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Going into the season, NBA fans really had only one thought on their minds and that was which of those two teams will win the championship this year. Is that a problem? It depends on who you ask. There are two schools when it comes to super teams, the people that love the level of basketball the two teams play and the people that want to spread the wealth.
An easy way to think about it is political viewpoints. The current state of the NBA is in a way, capitalism. Meaning the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer, just ask the Brooklyn Nets. Now of course there are outliers in this scenario like the Boston Celtics. The Celtics made the right investments and have gone from one of the worst teams in the league to one of the best. Isn’t that capitalism though, teams have the chance to become top teams based on smart decisions. With capitalism there are many flaws. Such as the rich getting richer, meaning the top teams are going to keep accumulating top talent because those are the teams that win. Just look at what the Warriors did this past summer. They finished last season with the best record in NBA history and then added Kevin Durant. Basically, there is no end in sight unless top talent leaves to earn more money. So this is capitalism with investments in winning, not investments in money.
On the contrary, the other viewpoint is to spread the wealth among all of the teams. Essentially, there are a finite number of star players in the NBA. If we spread them out to each team, we would have a more even playing field. It is a socialist way of looking at the NBA. Now do not get all crazy because I used the word socialist. Spreading out the talent among each team would be of the socialist ideology though. In essence, that is what the salary cap system does. In the current configuration of the salary cap, each team has a finite amount of max contracts, mid-level contracts, and other contract options. The reason for this is to the level the playing field. That is the only reason to have a salary cap in sports. When NBA players are unselfish, that is when we get the current state of the NBA (Wow, I cannot believe I just typed that, unselfish and NBA players in the same sentence?).
At the end of the day the current situation in the NBA is a mix of both ideas. The league is trying to make the teams spread out the stars, but the star players are managing to build up on the same teams. It is amazing what the possibility of winning a championship can do. Both the Warriors and Cavaliers were built in different ways and can be compared to two other teams in history that dominated the NBA.
First let’s take the Cleveland Cavaliers. After LeBron James left Cleveland for Miami, the Cavs went through a dip in production. This helped them gain a high draft pick to select Kyrie Irving in 2011. That was when the process began. Kyrie was drafted first overall in 2011 and Tristan Thompson was also drafted fourth overall in the same year. Both players were the beginning of the rebuild that never really took off. In an effort to compare this team to another, this is similar to how the 2012 Miami Heat were built. Look at Kyrie Irving as the Cavaliers version of Dwyane Wade. The comparison of Tristan Thompson could either be Udonis Haslem or Joel Anthony. From there the comparisons continue though. LeBron James coming back to Cleveland is exactly like LeBron leaving Cleveland for Miami. He is the superstar and left in free agency. Then we have the last part of the big three, which for Cleveland is Kevin Love and for Miami it was Chris Bosh. The big difference here is that Love was acquired in a trade and Bosh was signed as a free agent.
The comparisons between the two teams doesn’t stop there though. LeBron James has a habit of attracting other top players to form great benches. Miami had a veteran bench of Mike Miller, Chris Andersen, Rashard Lewis, Shane Battier and Ray Allen. The 2016-2017 Cleveland Cavaliers have a star ridden bench as well. They have names like Deron Williams, Iman Shumpert, Kyle Korver, Richard Jefferson, Derrick Williams and Channing Frye. Most of those players would be starters on other teams. The important thing to realize is that they all were acquired to help win a championship and were not drafted by the Cavaliers. The same can be said for the Heat bench in 2012 too. These teams really are mirrors of each other and were built the same way. Are we alright with having all these top tier players on one team?
The Warriors also can be compared to a team in NBA history. That team is the 1996 Chicago Bulls. If you look at the stars on the Warriors, most of them are home grown. That was a similar case with the Bulls in 1996. It is fitting that the coach of the Warriors is Steve Kerr, who played shooting guard/point guard for the Bulls that season and much of their run of success. If you look at the Warrior roster, Draymond Green, Stephen Curry, and Klay Thompson were all drafted by Golden State. Each of those players is a star in their own right. Those three players can be compared to Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Yes the Seattle SuperSonics drafted Scottie Pippen, but he started his career with the Bulls. What the Bulls and the Warriors did next though is very similar. The Bulls already were a successful team in the NBA winning championships in 1991, 1992, 1993 behind Michael Jordan. The Warriors have proven to be a successful team by breaking the single season wins record in the 2015-2016 season and winning a championship in the 2014-2015 season.
What do teams do when they have success? Pick up another superstar player. The Bulls decided to trade for Dennis Rodman before the 1995-1996 season when Horace Grant left Chicago. This was in an effort to improve the team by getting one of the best rebounders to ever play the game of basketball. The Warriors had a similar idea when they decided to sign, arguably, the second best player in basketball, in Kevin Durant. Both teams took a homegrown core and brought in a star to reinforce their winning ways. From there the comparisons wane. The Bulls had a strong bench consisting of both homegrown players and acquisitions from other teams. The Warriors bench is a bit of the same, but there are also some potential starters on that bench. These are guys that either came before Golden State took off, like Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston or they came here for a shot to win a championship like Matt Barnes, Zaza Pachulia, or David West.
Both the Warriors and the Cavaliers are products of the current NBA system. The real question is as fans are we ok with this? Do we want to see a more even playing field or is it fine to just root for a good matchup in the championship? Personally, I hate it; I live for the upsets in sports. When teams are stacked with stars it makes it very difficult for an 8 seed to beat a 1 seed. Until players start being selfish and asking for more money though, this is the nature of the NBA. The Warriors will be dominant until Stephen Curry decides he wants to be the guy in Brooklyn, Draymond Green decides he wants to be the guy in Orlando, and Klay Thompson decides he wants to be the guy in Phoenix. Until then, all we can do is root for our team to make the playoffs and enjoy the finals between the top two teams in the league. It may get to a point though where fans of certain teams may start to drift away from the NBA. The casual fans want to see their team win. Hardcore fans probably are alright with watching greatness win every year. For now enjoy the NBA Finals between the Cavaliers and Warriors. If you are unhappy with a third year of this matchup, there may not be an end in sight so learn to accept it.