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The Problem With Superteams in the Modern NBA

Addressed to the Brooklyn Nets

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE

In January, the Nets went all-out to bring in James Harden, giving up four players and seven draft picks to both Houston and Cleveland. It was a success, and midway through the month, the Nets had secured a powerful trio.

Sure enough, the Nets had tipped the championship in their favor. They now had a monstrous big three with ounces of offense and defense, and their only remaining obstacle was the defending champions, the Los Angeles Lakers.

Some people argue that the best teams don’t prepare for the regular season, but for the playoffs. If that is the case, then both teams above are preparing for the NBA Finals, with over a month of games left. If you must point a finger, point it at the rise in superteams.

Rewind to the preseason. The Nets had shocked the league, bringing in Kyrie Irving and a prime, albeit injured, Kevin Durant. Meanwhile, the Lakers were reeling from a chaotic season, coming away with a ring from the NBA bubble. At this point, it was a fan-wide consensus that the Lakers would to go back-to-back. Despite the Nets looking like a contender, they would have chemistry issues to deal with, on top of their heavy lack of depth.

Then January came, and this narrative was flipped on its head.

A blockbuster four-team trade involving the Rockets, Pacers, Cavaliers and Nets sent four of Brooklyn’s remaining bench depth holders to Cleveland and Houston, and in the midst of all the chaos, Harden emerged as Brooklyn’s new starting shooting guard.

All of a sudden, the Nets had now become favorites to win the title. A big three of Harden, Irving and Durant would allegedly come up strong against the Lakers lineup, especially with an aging LeBron James at the helm.

The Nets added even more firepower once they signed Detroit big man Blake Griffin in March. Fans were almost drooling at this point — a starting five of Kyrie, Harden, Joe Harris, Durant and Jordan is a dream come true, and the possibility of players like Griffin and Bruce Brown off the bench was the icing on the cake.

The Lakers hit back harder weeks later with the signing of big man Andre Drummond, whose game contributions, although questioned by fans, would be essential in facing off against powerful teams like the Nets.

Therein lies the problem with superteams. Glorious win stories from teams that started from the bottom are no longer possible. The teams that could do so will get crushed, and the teams that do win — well, they started from trade upon trade. With a team like the current Brooklyn Nets existing, the title has almost already been decided. No “dark horse” team will be able to fight against a team like that for seven games without slipping. This reality takes away from the unpredictability of the game, and if it keeps happening, fans will soon be bored out of their minds.

Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

A few years ago, the league had electric duos scattered across it. Whether it was a frontcourt or backcourt pairing of elite skill, every game guaranteed a picture-perfect matchup against duos. That’s what made the league so exciting — much like the huge center matchups of the ’90s and ’00s, these rivalries whipped up a storm.

Now, any duo in the league will get chewed up and spat out by today’s powerhouses.

These new superteams aren’t preparing for just the playoffs anymore. They’re preparing for the NBA Finals. This year’s Finals matchup is almost guaranteed to be between the Brooklyn Nets and the Los Angeles Lakers — no other seed has much of a chance to knock the other off their spot simply because of how good those team are.

It’s almost comically unfair — any 8th or 7th seed team would tremble when faced with the prospect of playing the Nets, or the Lakers. These two teams would breeze through many of their playoff games — especially the former — without facing too many hitches along the way.

There are no more grind-it-out stories for the upcoming playoffs — a pat on the back, “at least you tried” story will soon become the calling card for many of the seeded teams. These teams have one goal in mind: to crush the competition and bulldoze their way to a championship. Too much talent concentrated in two very specific areas of the league makes games too dry to watch, especially when nine times out of ten, you can already predict the score line before the game has even happened.

The NBA is rapidly evolving, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But these superteams snatch away one of the most fun and interesting aspects of the NBA: a team that slowly but surely cultivates its young talent, until it blooms and poses a major threat to the opposition. Without the authenticity of this process, the NBA becomes an increasingly unexciting league, and not many fans may stick around to see that.

Every team has the potential to become a superteam without having to give up huge assets. The difference in talent is found between the ones who don’t and the ones who do. As for now, the Brooklyn Nets wave that mystical flag of unrivalled dominance, with the Los Angeles Lakers not too far behind them.

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Sedem Anyiri

Sedem Anyiri

Avid Sixers fan and sports journalism fanatic.

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