This past week, former third overall pick and New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder. This blockbuster trade included Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, and the 2018 Bulls second-round draft pick in exchange for 10-time all star Carmelo Anthony. This trade has major implications for not just the teams involved, but the NBA as a whole. Last year, the NBA season concluded with the Warriors easily handling the Cavs in the Finals. Since then, the NBA has seen many blockbuster trades that have completely changed the landscape of the league.
The Thunder, now with Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Steven Adams, join the Warriors and Cavs as the three modern day “super teams” in the NBA. Recently, it seems practically normal for super teams to be assembled, but when did all this start? Was it in 2010 when Lebron “took his talents to South Beach” and won two championships with the trio of himself, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh? What about in 1982 when Moses Malone teamed up with Julius Erving and the 76ers? I would argue that you have to travel all the way back to 1968 when Wilt Chamberlain joined the Los Angeles Lakers to answer this question. A team is typically dubbed “super” when they have 3 or more superstars. Some would think that these teams would be so dominant that no one could compete, and in the Warriors’ case, they have been so far. But over the years there have been countless super teams that have turned out as complete busts. We can look at the ‘09 Lakers with all-stars Steve Nash, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard, Ron Artest, and Kobe Bryant. Going into the season the Lakers were a shoo-in to compete for the title, if not win it all. The team had three future hall of famers in Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, and the legendary Kobe Bryant, but struggled throughout the year and eventually fell short of the elusive title. The problem they experienced and what other super teams have experienced in the past is that superstars often have conflicting personalities and team chemistry doesn’t always come together. This can result in a few skilled players not meshing well together, and actually detracting from the overall team play.
Why do super teams only seem to form in the NBA and not the NFL? Apart from the obvious difference in roster size and people playing at a time, there are a few key reasons why you will never see a an NBA-like team in the National Football League. First, when building their teams, NFL general managers side with the belief that roster depth is more important than having a few superstars. Think of the “Big Three” in Miami. With Bosh, Wade, and Lebron in the starting line-up surrounded by nine role players, the Heat were dominant until Lebron left to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
In the NFL every single position is one-dimensional. Receivers catch passes, lineman block other linemen, running backs run the ball, etc. All 11 players are doing 11 different things that all contribute to a successful play. For example, since 2012, Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt has been the NFL’s best defender. That being said, in the last 5 years, with Watt on the roster, the Texans’ defense has finished in the top half of the league only once. This shows how little of an impact a star player has in the NFL compared to the NBA. In the NBA, one-on-ones happen all the time, but there is no one-on-one equivalent in football, which makes every position extremely important.
With the recent signings of Carmelo Anthony to the Thunder and Dwyane Wade to the Cavs this NBA offseason was definitely one for books. The new salary cap in the NBA has changed the landscape immeasurably, as it is much easier for general managers to attract multiple superstars to one team. With 3 super teams now in the league, it will no doubt be a season to remember.