NBA Super Teams: Luck or Strategy?

Ryan C Heffernan Super Teams NBA

The term “super team” is a relatively new phrase in the NBA that describes the concept of adding superstar players to one roster in an attempt to dominate the league. Though this may be every team’s overall goal year after year, it is rarely achieved.

The phrase itself can be considered somewhat belittling due to the fact that many fans today consider it a cheap strategy in order to claim an NBA title as quickly as possible. However, there are countless behind-the-scenes factors that occur in order to build that team over time. General Managers and teams’ front offices work tirelessly to obtain the best players possible, and give their respective organizations the best chance of success.

One of the first instances of a super team breaking out into the league was the 2010 Miami Heat. With an enormous cap space of $48 million, the Heat were able to create the “Big Three.” It all began when Miami drafted Dwyane Wade in 2003. The team saw immediate success with the young player, eventually winning the franchise’s first ever championship in 2006. Following that success however, the Heat were plagued with consecutive losing seasons. Enter LeBron James and Chris Bosh.

In 2010, the first year with James and Bosh playing alongside Wade, the Heat finished with an impressive record of 58-24, clinching the number 2 seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Though they would go on to lose to the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals that year, the trio eventually won the championship title the next year in 2012, and again in 2013. Their reign came to an end after losing to the Spurs in the Finals in 2014, though their legacy remained well intact.

The Big Three sparked a movement across the NBA. Front offices around the league have always understood the value of having such immense talent, but few were gifted it. The idea of developing a “super team” then became even more alluring. Combining star players on a single roster seems like the perfect way to immediately become a championship contender, but GM’s understand that this is much easier said than done.

The Golden State Warriors, for example, have been what many consider to be the greatest super team of all time for a few years now. The combined talents of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, to name a few, were enough to claim two NBA titles in 2015 and 2017. The addition of Durant however, sparked controversy around the league. Critics and fans accused him of joining the Warriors due to the almost guaranteed chance of winning a championship, leaving behind the Oklahoma City Thunder. But, General Manager Bob Myers would disagree, saying that this dynasty was created over time, which is true.

As if NBA teams understood the threat that Golden State posed, it seemed as though a few scrambled to compete. The new-era Cleveland Cavaliers (LeBron James’ homecoming) were able to defeat them in the 2016 Finals, but were stopped abruptly in 2017 after the addition of Durant.

Today, the concept of super teams is prominent throughout the league. Here are a few of those teams (excluding the Warriors) with star players and notable additions to their rosters in recent years:

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • Russell Westbrook
  • Paul George
  • Carmelo Anthony

Boston Celtics

  • Kyrie Irving
  • Gordon Hayward
  • Al Horford

Cleveland Cavaliers

  • LeBron James
  • Isaiah Thomas
  • Derrick Rose
  • Dwyane Wade
  • Kevin Love

Houston Rockets

  • James Harden
  • Chris Paul
  • Nenê

All of these teams have added another star player quite recently in the wake of the Warriors’ dominance, though to say they’ve done so because of that specifically would be unfair. Dynasties often come from years of building. While flashes of success do occur in super teams, the most successful seem to be from devotion on the front offices’ parts (see San Antonio Spurs).

It is exciting to imagine that a super team is currently in the works that has yet to manifest. Should one come about in the coming years, it would further prove the notion that these super teams are built through dedication, intelligence, and most importantly, patience.