Mavs Weekend Donuts: SuperTeam Model Flaws?
DONUT 1: Is the SuperTeam Concept already in trouble? ...
The Dallas Mavericks did it one way. Conventional wisdom says there is another, better way.
Not yet two years after LeBron James introduced a new catchphrase and teamed up with former rivals Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, it seems this newly-created concept, the SuperTeam, is struggling to produce its promised results by doing it another way.
It seemed to so compelling, two to three superstars on one team, who could stop that? When James promised "Not one, not two…." But multiple titles, others were quick to emulate the concept in New York and Los Angeles before the original Miami Thrice even won one championship.
DONUT 2: How are those SuperTeams doing right now? ...
Well the imitators in New York are already on summer vacation, the Clippers enter the weekend facing an 0-2 series deficit with seemingly few answers to be had and the originators in Miami come into this weekend in a Bosh-less 1-2 hole with only LeBron and a very off-kilter Wade to rescue them.
They are all chasing more complete, top-to-bottom, squads and the SuperTeams are limited in their ability to fix their own problems.
Is the game teaching us (and the Mavericks) that the SuperTeam model may not be as advertised?
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DONUT 4: The SuperTeam comes in two flavors ...
Lets look a little deeper. The SuperTeam comes in two flavors:
a) SuperTeam by Acquisition – as seen in Miami, New York, and Los Angeles
b) SuperTeam by Internal Development – As seen in OKC and San Antonio
When divided thusly, it seems those SuperTeams built by smart drafting and player development, are out-performing their ‘mix and stir' acquisition counterparts, often in head-to-head matchups. Miami, because of injury and ineffectiveness, is faltering once again to a deeper and more complete, though perhaps inferior, team in Indy.
Perhaps Mark Cuban wasn't just playing possum when he told Bill Simmons earlier this season that building a team around two or three superstars may not be the best way to go in the new CBA.
However, this is the model the Mavericks are pursuing, so what are the early lessons to be learned about the SuperTeam Era?
DONUT 5: The model is limiting. ...
With overall team talent so heavily leveraged towards two or three players, if those players are injured or ineffective, the team easily falters. With a deeper roster, a team can better survive the loss of one individual. However, when so many of a teams resources (read: salary) are devoted to a few players, a franchise simply cannot afford to surround them with higher-quality pieces. Unless those pieces come in on below-market contracts. With all their eggs in one basket, these teams are hamstrung in their ability to solve these problems with little money to spend.
DONUT 6: The risks ...
To be fair, Dallas has relied on a similarly-risky model of building around Dirk Nowitzki, the one transcendent superstar. The same risks of injury and ineffectiveness apply with the Mavericks, who are an extremely average team without the UberMan.
More fairness: It's all risky. Every model is risky. Besides, Dallas didn't build a "Nowitzki and the Dirkettes'' model on purpose. It just so happened that he was that good ... and over the course of the last 12 years and then especially last year, it just so happened that the supporting cast was just that good, too.
DONUT 7: Superstar compatibility is paramount....
As with any team, cohesion and the ability to play together determine ultimate potential just as much as talent does. Look at Miami: on pure talent alone, they should win every game as they possess three of the best five players on the floor every night. However, the games of Wade, James and Bosh often get in each other's way. All three (Bosh to a lesser degree) need the ball in order to be effective, and are still not yet adapted to moving without it. Similarly, the Knicks' offense relies on two ball-stoppers in Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, and Chandler, who needs the ball delivered in the proper places to be effective.
When your superstars cannibalize each others' production, your team's ability is limited. On the other hand, the potential of complementary superstars is tantalizing. That is a big reason why we around DallasBasketball.com got so excited about the potential of the 3D Blueprint. It's almost impossible to imagine a more complimentary front line than Dirk Nowitzki and Dwight Howard. How does one defend against a Dwight/Deron pick-and-roll or a Dirk/Deron pick-and-pop?
DONUT 8: Catch the Mavs and the DB.com Staff on Twitter! ...
DONUT 9: From the Celts to the Spurs ...
Boston, the original SuperTeam of this era, was built by acquisition but the Garnett/Pierce/Allen pieces worked so well together that they've been atop the Eastern Conference since coming together. Further, their championship window has been extended by the emergence of Rondo, which brings me to my next point. ...
DONUT 10: The Old Way of Building From Within is Still Valuable, Maybe Preferable. ...
San Antonio and Oklahoma City built their SuperTeams from within and augmented their core with properly-timed acquisitions. Indeed, Durant, Westbrook, and Harden were already in place in Oklahoma City when Kendrick Perkins arrived to help shore up a weak Thunder front line. San Antonio seems to find players no matter where they draft.
Scouting and talent development still matter. (It helps to have been bad enough to have owned the premier-level picks that earn you a Duncan or a Durant, too, of course.)
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DONUT 12: The Final Word ...
The Mavericks are fortunate enough to have found Dirk Nowitzki and grown him from within. With properly fitted pieces, like Deron Williams or others, they are poised to join the SuperTeam Era as a power broker.
However, as we've seen, the model is not without its own perils. It's limiting and dangerous and therefore imperative that the front office gets the mix right. The model isn't broken, but the game is teaching us lessons about the limitations of the SuperTeam.
You can bet that Cuban and Donnie are taking notes.
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