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updated: 6/17/2017 6:48 PM

Is the 'superteam' era bad for the NBA?

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  • Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson, from left, guard Stephen Curry and forward Kevin Durant celebrate after Game 5 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Oakland, Calif., Monday, June 12, 2017. The Warriors won 129-120 to win the NBA championship.

    Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson, from left, guard Stephen Curry and forward Kevin Durant celebrate after Game 5 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Oakland, Calif., Monday, June 12, 2017. The Warriors won 129-120 to win the NBA championship.

 
 

The task of settling the 2017 NBA championship featured roughly 90 seconds of actual drama.

When Kevin Durant buried a clutch, go-ahead 3-pointer late in Game 3 of the Finals, the series was over. Cleveland wasn't coming back from a 3-0 deficit.

Games 1 and 2 weren't close, and there was no uncertainty earlier in the playoffs when the Warriors and Cavaliers combined to go 24-1 during the first three rounds.

So Durant confirmed his superstar status by winning a championship and Finals MVP. Jumping from Oklahoma City to Oakland paid off, even if he took an easier path to a title.

There should be more rings on the way. Golden State's nucleus of Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green range in age from 27-29, which are peak years for an NBA player. If they stay together, there shouldn't be a drop off anytime soon and the Warriors should have no trouble finding veteran role players willing to take a cut in pay to hop on the bandwagon.

So, is the "superteam" era bad for the NBA? Current evidence says no. ABC announced this was the most-watched NBA Finals since 1998, and we all know what happened that year.

ABC analyst and former NBA head coach Jeff Van Gundy addressed the issue before the Finals began.

"Greatness is always good for a league," he said. "Whether it's great players or great teams, that's always good for the NBA or any sports league."

Van Gundy has a point. Were the Michael Jordan Bulls bad for the NBA? Heck no. There's a reason 1998 was the benchmark for Finals television ratings. What about Miami's Power Trio? That group was good for the NBA too, because it became a perfect villain (sorry Dwyane Wade). People loved to root against that team, which went 2 for 4 in the Finals from 2011-14.

Fan taste is a little more complicated this time. The idea of Durant and Russell Westbrook serving a challenge to the Warriors ignited interest in the 2016 Western Conference finals. But then Durant jumped ship to form the ultimate superteam.

Cleveland drew some sympathy based on the city's longtime lack of success in professional sports. Once the Cavs ended their drought, that storyline dried up. And LeBron James, a remnant of the Miami superteam, lost his underdog status long ago.

Golden State's golden roster came together due to a mix of good fortune, smart decisions and perfect timing. The Warriors drafted Curry, Thompson and Green, but only after some mistakes (Hasheem Thabeet and Jonny Flynn were chosen ahead of Curry in 2009; then Jimmer Fredette and Jan Vesely went ahead of Thompson two years later). Green was the No. 35 overall pick in 2012, so every team missed on him.

And Curry's modest four-year, $44-million extension left the Warriors enough cap space to sign Andre Iguodala as a free agent. Then the NBA's huge boost in TV revenue sent the salary cap soaring and created the space to sign Durant.

It will be expensive to keep the group together, but not impossible. Warriors ownership must be willing to pay a hefty luxury tax bill, but expect the players to buy in. Everyone wants to be part of a legendary team and win multiple championships, so it's difficult to imagine Durant, Curry, Thompson, Green or Iguodala looking for a new home soon.

"What I would have liked is them to have been pushed more in this playoff run," Van Gundy said. "I think it's great to have greatness. It would have been even better if that greatness had been pushed a little bit harder so they had to dig down deep and find their way out of a hole."

Yeah, that would have been nice. In retrospect, the NBA should have done away with the maximum salary. Teams would have to pay their superstars carefully, but generously, so there would be little room to horde the great players.

Having one overwhelming favorite kills the suspense, but the NBA has been through this plenty of times. The Celtics in the 1960s and Bulls in the '90s were dominant. The Lakers made the Finals nine times in 12 years from 1980-91. So this is fairly normal by basketball standards.

• Twitter @McGrawDHBulls.

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