This is the debut article of the newest Bob Long Sports Contributor, Kevin McClernand. Kevin will focus on the NBA primarily, but will also be covering other sports topics in the future as well.
For a long time NBA franchises have aimed to build their teams around one superstar player. In order to make that superstar as effective as possible, the team finds role players that can get the job done. The best example of a role player is Robert Horry. “Big Shot Rob” won seven NBA Championships by hitting clutch shot after clutch shot. But the new theme in the NBA is to sign as many superstars as possible, and then fill the depth chart with low-salary players so that your franchise can stay under the salary cap. So what is the best way in which to build a NBA team?
The Miami Heat franchise is not the first team to make the decision to build a team around multiple superstars, but it is the most obvious team to discuss first. There have been so many expectations for this Heat team, so anything less than an NBA Championship this season is going to be a disappointment. But the season is not over. Miami has received a lot of criticism throughout the season, and yet was able to earn the second seed in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks are very similar to the Heat. Halfway through the season, New York made a blockbuster trade to receive Chauncey Billups and Carmelo Anthony. The Knicks had to let go of a lot of young talent, but in the short run the trade will definitely pay off. Adding these two players to a team with Amar’e Stoudemire will make the Knicks a constant presence near the top of the Eastern Conference for the next few years. After this trade, the Knicks initially suffered, losing games and hovering around .500. The team recently shrugged off its struggles by winning seven straight games. This is due to an improvement of team chemistry, which was lacking directly after the trade was made. Every player needs to know his role on the team, and it takes time to adjust to that role. The Knicks have adjusted to win seven straight, but of those seven consecutive wins, only three have been against playoff teams, and only one was against a team currently higher than them in the standings (Orlando Magic). They will have to prove themselves against the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs.
The Los Angeles Lakers have proved the last two seasons that one superstar is enough to win a Championship. They have built the perfect team around Kobe Bryant. Other teams like the Dallas Mavericks and the Chicago Bulls also revolve around one player. Dirk Nowitzki is capable of taking over a basketball game at any time, and now that he has players like Jason Kidd, Jason Terry and Tyson Chandler, the Mavericks are a threat to win it all. And Derrick Rose has proven throughout the year that he is more than capable of carrying the Bulls. Rose will most likely be named the NBA Most Valuable Player for this season. But what happens when these players have a bad shooting game, or even get injured? Are their teams strong enough to win games without them? The answers to these questions depend on the specific teams. The Mavericks have proved that they need Nowitzki to win games, as they lost seven of nine games when Dirk did not play this season. On the other hand, Kobe Bryant had a horrendous shooting performance in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals. He shot only 25% from the field, and yet his team still won the game. Even though Bryant did not dominate like he has shown he can, he still made key contributions to lead his team to victory. And the Lakers would not have won that game if he was not on the court.
The last type of team make-up is very unique. These teams have no clear cut superstar, but they have very solid players at almost every position. The two teams that come to mind first are the Boston Celtics and the San Antonio Spurs. The Celtics built their team around Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett, the original “Big Three.” But these players are totally different from the Miami Heat’s “Big Three.” Before the Miami Big Three signed with the Heat, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh were players that were accustomed to having the ball in their hands at all times. This can lead to chemistry issues when all three share the court. On the other hand, Pierce, Allen, and Garnett are all reaching the end of their careers. Allen is primarily a shooter. Garnett is the defensive leader who brings energy to the team. Pierce is the clutch shooter who can win the close games for the team. And now the emergence of Rajon Rondo, who is a fabulous passer and defender who lets this offense run to the best of its ability, has added a new dynamic to this team. The problem is whether they will be able to contain the superstars on the Heat or the Knicks in a seven game series. The Spurs are very similar to Boston. They are made up of three great players (Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker), and a developing young guard in George Hill. They have proven themselves in the past with multiple NBA Championships, and only the playoffs will tell whether they are still a legitimate contender for the title.
All of the methods of constructing NBA teams have their advantages and disadvantages, but there has to be one way which is the best. In the long run, having multiple superstars on your team has to be the best way to build a team. Despite all the potential chemistry problems that have arisen in the recent past with these types of teams, multiple superstar players can provide bad matchups for other teams, and can cause trouble with their athleticism and chemistry the longer they play with each other. Also, if one player is struggling from the field, there is more than a sufficient second option. The perfect option is to put multiple superstars on the floor, while giving them enough time during the regular season to find their roles and develop chemistry. That is the best way to build an NBA Championship team.