Sport is supposed to be all about competitiveness, teams and fan bases thinking they have a chance to win the title. If not this year, then next season. It keeps fans engaged and interested, gets people watching and keeps players motivated to strive for greatness. Over the last few season, the NBA has lost that competitive balance. The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers have contested the last three NBA finals series, this first time in NBA history that the same teams have met in the championship series on three consecutive occasions.
Sure, you can put some of it down to arguably the greatest player ever to play the game, arguably the greatest three point shooter and one of the most lethal offensive weapons (well, last season anyway when he decided that trying to win with his own team was oh too hard). You can put it down to a clutch guard who hit the biggest NBA Finals shot in the last 20 years. Or even a double-double machine, much maligned for his defence but still an elite talent.
This phenomenon has been tagged a ‘“super team”’ but the concept isn’t new; the Boston Celtics had it in the 1980’s, and the Lakers did too. The Chicago Bulls had it in the late-1990’s, even if one of their studs wore a dress, and the Miami Heat did earlier this decade. Hell, potentially the greatest offensive “super team” we have ever seen never got off the ground – remember when Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden were on the same team JUST FIVE FUCKING YEARS AGO?!?! Now they are three of the best five players in the league, yet we never got to see them REALLY form a “super team”.
Now I have to admit, I detested the idea of a “super team” for so long, instead wanting competitive balance and the notion of everyone having ‘a chance’. I mean, what kind of league are we supporting when most teams have zero chance of ever winning a thing? When Miami’s Big 3 formed and promised us ‘not five, not six, not seven’ titles we found it both arrogant and infuriating and we wanted them to lose. When Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks defeated LeBron and co in the 2011 NBA Finals, the entire world (outside South Beach) rejoiced that a team full of off casts and misfits rallied behind the greatest European in history and slayed the three-headed monster. No-one found this win more satisfying that yours truly, as it was a win for the little guys. This was the lowest point of LeBron’s career, and us basketball fans basked in the glory of his failure.
Six years later, the number of elite teams in the NBA is shrinking by the day and the number of teams actively tanking has never been higher. I would argue that there has never been more top-end talent in the NBA than there is now, but the talent pool is very shallow. So what are the stars doing? Teaming up, or flocking to teams where they don’t need to fight alone. Just a few years ago, the idea would have been sickening – I mean, you run and join the best instead of fighting? C’mon man, what a cop-out!
But you know what, it’s the reality of today’s NBA and it should be embraced. Paul George was going nowhere in Indiana, and is heading to LA but is making a brief stop in Oklahoma City to partner Russell Westbrook in a side that has gone from first round patsy to possible Conference finalist. Chris Paul has grown tired of Blake and DJ, and has joined James Harden to form an insanely skilled one-two back court punch. Kyrie Irving had enough of playing with LeBron (which in itself is strange. Dude, LeBron MADE YOU as a player and Ty Lue let you play permanent iso-ball, and now you need to fit in a system and, you know, pass and move… be careful what you wish for man) and Gordon Hayward confirmed the worst kept secret in the NBA, so they will pair up in Boston and be joined by Anthony Davis in the very near future in what could be outstanding offensive synergy. Of course, there is only one ball and Hayward and Irving have both made noise about wanting their own team, but I digress.
Those three teams (Boston, Oklahoma City and Houston) may well be the third, fourth and fifth best sides in the NBA this coming season but despite them having bulk talent and multiple superstars they won’t compete with the best two sides, who are set to dance in June for the fourth straight season. Now, that dance was intriguing but not really competitive last season, and as well as the Cavs did in getting bulk assets for Kyrie they still seem a little short (insert Isaiah Thomas joke) of being able to do anything other than be a minor annoyance for the Warriors. That is the current state of play, but everything changes if (as rumoured) they can get DeMarcus Cousins.
Word is that the Cavs need to give up the first-round pick they acquired from Boston and Iman Shumpert (I mean, seriously? Swab the fucking Pelicans if this trade happens) to get the man they know as Boogie, who from all reports is a head-case but is the most naturally talented big man alive today. That’s not a typo, the talent is outweighed only by the likelihood to tear a locker room apart. Guess what though, LeBron won’t take any shit from Boogie and will pull him into line, and the Cavs have to take the punt given James will likely walk at the end of the season. The best chance they have to keep him is to win the title, and Cousins gives them that – actually, I would argue they become title favourites if they make this trade. Being able to throw Isaiah Thomas, James, Jae Crowder, Kevin Love and Cousins on the floor is every bit as good, if not better than the best five the Warriors can throw out there.
In some ways, it is a little tedious to think that the Cavaliers and Warriors are headed for another (hopefully epic) encounter in the NBA Finals. Then again, the collection of talent would be THE BEST that this league has ever seen. James, Durant, Steph Curry, Cousins, Love, Thompson, Green and Thomas are that far ahead of the best eight player that any other series has ever had, it’s a joke. Memo to Cleveland – do what you have to do to make the trade, and trump Golden State’s “super team” and let’s get this shit started! Wait, what? The NBA Finals don’t start for another 8 months? Man, well while we wait for these two “super teams to shape up and slug it out again I will stick to watching a full regular season of Giannis, KAT, Jokic, Embiid, Simmons, Turner, Lillard, Blake, Kahwi, Russ, Davis, PG13, Dirk, Harden, CP3, even fucking LaVar Ball's son. This is the most exciting NBA season I can remember, even if we know who the last two teams standing will be!
Load up NBA League Pass and just leave me be. Tell me who you think will win the chip, tell me why you think LeBron won’t hold a candle to Jordan, justify why Allen Crabbe got paid fucking $75million, but don’t tell me “super teams” aren’t the best thing for us fans…