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Finding the NBA’s Next Superteam after the Cavs and Warriors

Bob Donnan/USA TODAY Sports

From the Celtics, to the Heat, to the Cavaliers, to the Warriors- super teams have dominated the NBA in recent history. Those four teams alone have combined to win seven of the last ten championships. With increasing television ratings and little complaint from commissioner Adam Silver, it appears as if super teams are here to stay.

The Cavs and Warriors won’t last forever though. So, who will be next?

To figure that out, we need to look at some of the main factors that have led to super teams coming to fruition in the past. Here is a short list of NBA super teams formed throughout history:

The Wilt/West/Baylor Lakers

The Robertson/Kareem Bucks

The Dr. J/Moses Malone Sixers

The Hakeem/Drexler/Barkley Rockets

The Shaq/Kobe/Malone/Payton Lakers

The KG/Pierce/Allen Celtics

The Lebron/Wade/Bosh Heat

The Lebron/Kyrie/Love Cavaliers

The KD/Curry/Klay/Draymond Warriors

Whether or not you want to include the Wilt and Oscar trades that led to the Lakers and Bucks superteams is up to you. Either way, there are three major themes that can be seen across these teams:

  1. Superstar Talent

Before more superstars can join your team, you have to have established superstar talent already on your roster. Talent that a player, or multiple players can look at and think “I can win a championship by playing here”.

  1. Desirable Market/Location

Look at all the teams on that list. The only two franchises on that were not desirable markets or locations were the Bucks, who’s claims to being a superteam are controversial at best, and the Cavs, who are a clear exception because of the special circumstances surrounding Lebron. Every other team on that list is either a very big market or a very nice place to live.

  1. Expert recruiters

J Pat Carter/AP Photo

We have all heard about Draymond Green calling Durant after the game 7 loss to the Cavs by now. Having players, coaches, or executives on your team that network around the NBA, have established relationships with players, and have great persuasive skills can help to convince other superstars to join your team.

Creating a Rating System

Each factor is not quite of equal importance however. Having established superstar talent is an absolute must and therefore most important. The market/location desirability is the second most important, with expert recruiting being a factor but not being as crucial.

Knowing what we know, we can now create a 20-point rating system, with different weights for each factor.

Superstar Rating(SS): This will get a score out of ten as it is pretty much half the battle. Established superstars are better, but given that the Warriors and Cavs superteams can last a while, the potential for superstardom among young players will have a big influence on the scores.

Market/Location Desirability Rating (MLD): This will get graded on a one-through-six scale based on the overall combination of the strength of the market to a national audience and the perceived desirability of the city.

Expert Recruitment Rating (ER): This will get a score out of four based on the NBA connections, persuasive skills, and clout around the league of a team’s players, coaches, and executives.

The Cavs and Warriors will not be ranked since they are currently superteams. Every other franchise will be ranked based on their score out of 20.

The Rankings

T-25. Atlanta Hawks: 5/20 (1/10 SS, 2/6 MLD, 2/4 ER)

Mike Budenholzer is still considered one of the better coaches in the league. His connection to Gregg Popovich, as well as what he’s done in his few years in Atlanta gives him a high level of respect around the league. That could come into play a few years down the line after Atlanta rebuilds.

T-25. Detroit Pistons: 5/20 (2/10 SS, 1/6MLD, 2/4 ER).

Despite a somewhat turbulent season for Drummond, he has shown the ability to be a really good Center in the past. Stan Van Gundy is still well liked in NBA circles as well.

T-25. Orlando Magic: 5/20 (1/10 SS, 3/6MLD, 1/4 ER)

Orlando has drafted some high-level superstar talent in their history as a franchise. They will have to do it again before they can build a superteam

T-25. Sacramento Kings: 5/20 (2/10 SS, 2/6MLD, 1/4 ER)

The Kings did a really good job at the draft this year, getting De’Aaron Fox, Harry Giles, and Justin Jackson. Should they continue this trend, the Kings might have a bright future. It will still be a long time until they can think “superteam” however.

T-22. Brooklyn Nets: 6/20 (1/10 SS, 4/6MLD, 1/4 ER)

Brooklyn is an excellent market that will attract players. If you want some proof, check out J.J. Redick’s short documentary called “THE PROCESS WITH JJ REDICK”. You can see how hard his wife pushes him to sign with Brooklyn throughout, and I’m sure plenty of superstars’ wives have similar thoughts.

T-22. Charlotte Hornets: 6/20 (3/10 SS, 2/6MLD, 1/4 ER)

Kemba is a great point guard, but he likely won’t be enough to bring a superteam to Charlotte on his own.

T-22. Indiana Pacers: 6/20 (3/10 SS, 2/6MLD, 1/4 ER)

Myles Turner makes up all of the three points Indiana got for superstar potential. He’s a really good young big man. Whether he develops into a superstar or not is yet to be seen.

21. Chicago Bulls: 7/20 (1/10 SS, 5/6MLD, 1/4 ER)

Chicago is a big market with a storied history, but the Bulls are just about to begin a rebuild and it might take a while for them to attract a superteam.

T-18. Dallas Mavericks: 8/20 (2/10 SS, 3/6MLD, 3/4 ER)

Mark Cuban is a public figure with a lot of pull. He will always pose some semblance of a threat on the marketplace, but the Mavericks just don’t have the assets right now.

T-18. Phoenix Suns: 8/20 (5/10 SS, 2/6MLD, 1/4 ER)

There is some very good young talent in Phoenix, including Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, Dragan Bender, and Marquese Chriss. If those players can pan out the way Phoenix hopes they do, the Suns will climb this list pretty quickly. There’s just too many question marks surrounding those players to warrant a higher ranking at the moment

T-18. Utah Jazz: 8/20 (4/10 SS, 2/6MLD, 2/4 ER)

Losing Gordon Hayward was a big blow to the franchise. Had they kept him, they would have probably been quite a few spots higher on this list.

17. Memphis Grizzlies: 10/20 (5/10 SS, 3/6MLD, 2/4 ER)

While they have some good talent, the Grizzlies are aging, and it seems as if their window for building a superteam is coming to a close.

T-15. Denver Nuggets: 11/20 (7/10 SS, 3/6MLD, 1/4 ER)

Most of this score comes from Nikola Jokic, who has shown big signs that he will become a superstar in this league. The Nuggets have a plethora of young talent and assets to help build around Jokic. Until we start seeing them win more games however, this is as high as they can be ranked.

T-15. New York Knicks: 11/20 (4/10 SS, 6/6MLD, 1/4 ER)

Being one of the biggest markets in the league and having Kristaps Porzingis on your roster should be enough to rank the Knicks higher than where they appear on this list. Unfortunately, without much cap flexibility and a lot of questions surrounding management, New York just isn’t as attractive to superstar players as it normally is.

T-11. Miami Heat: 12/20 (3/10 SS, 5/6MLD, 4/4 ER)

Miami is a beautiful city. Pat Riley is a terrific and persuasive executive. If the Heat can ever land a superstar, they will be a serious contender to attract more. While Dragic, Whiteside, and Waiters are solid players, they probably won’t be able to attract many big names the same way other talent across the league can.

T-11. Milwaukee Bucks: 12/20 (8/10 SS, 2/6MLD, 2/4 ER)

Giannis carries the majority of this score for the Bucks. He became just the 4th player in NBA history to average 20+ points, 5+ assists, and 5+ rebounds per game as a 22 year old, joining Lebron James, Oscar Robertson, and Tracy McGrady. He might be the best young talent in the NBA, but that isn’t enough on its own to get the Bucks into the top 10 on this list.

T-11. Toronto Raptors: 12/20 (6/10 SS, 4/6MLD, 2/4 ER)

Kyle Lowry and Demar DeRozan are really good players. Toronto is also a terrific city and quite a big market when you consider they have all of Canada watching them and cheering them on. Unfortunately, that reach across Canada doesn’t make a difference in regards to national coverage in the United States.

T-11. Washington Wizards: 12/20 (7/10 SS, 3/6MLD, 2/4 ER)

John Wall is not only a superstar talent himself, but one that would be attractive for other superstars to play with. He has a strong willingness to pass that is combined with an elite skill set that is rare in today’s game.

10. Los Angeles Clippers: 13/20 (5/10 SS, 5/6MLD, 3/4 ER)

People seem to have forgotten, but Blake Griffin is still one of the top 20 basketball players in the world. He seems to be well liked throughout the league and is constantly popping up with other NBA players in various commercials, skits, and other gatherings. This could go a long way in getting other superstars to join the Clippers after CP3’s departure.

T-6. New Orleans Pelicans: 14/20 (8/10 SS, 4/6MLD, 2/4 ER)

Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

With two of the very best bigs in the NBA, New Orleans could be an excellent opportunity for a superstar guard looking to form a superteam. Before the Pelicans start thinking about that however, they need to re-sign DeMarcus Cousins to a long-term deal.

T-6. Oklahoma City Thunder: 14/20 (9/10 SS, 2/6MLD, 3/4 ER)

As long as Wesbrook is there, OKC will be a potential destination for a superteam. Even if Paul George leaves next year, the Thunder have one of the more well-liked superstars in the league in Westbrook. He has a clear hunger to win and any superstar who feels similarly has a deep respect for him.

T-6. Philadelphia Sixers: 14/20 (7/10 SS, 4/6MLD, 3/4 ER)

With one of the more talented group of youngsters in the league, the Sixers would love to be the next superteam. If all works out for them, their timeline actually fits very well. If Embiid, Fultz, and Simmons develop into superstars, then the Sixers can bring in outside superstar help just as their big three are hitting their stride. That could make them the next superteam right around the time the Cavs and Warriors begin to fall apart.

T-6. Portland Trail Blazers: 14/20 (7/10 SS, 3/6MLD, 4/4 ER)

Lillard and McCollum have been incredibly active in publicly trying to recruit superstars to their team.  They’ve apparently made quite a bit of progress with Carmelo as well. The fact that both of them also happen to be excellent basketball players doesn’t hurt either.

The Top Five

T-3. Boston Celtics: 15/20 (7/10 SS, 5/6MLD, 3/4 ER)

In terms of superstar talent, Boston ranks pretty well. Between Isaiah Thomas and newly acquired Gordon Hayward, they already have established all-star talent. They’ve also selected third overall in back-to-back drafts, picking Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, both of whom the Celtics hope have superstar potential. Boston also have assets to acquire superstar talent through trade. With the way the salary cap works these days, having assets to trade for superstars actually might be a more effective strategy to building a superteam in the modern era, and the Celtics have lots of assets.

Boston is a really big market as well. With a storied history and a huge fanbase, the Celtics will always receive a lot of attention nationally. For this reason, it makes it an attractive location for superstars. It is also a nice city to live in and has a wide variety of activities and hijinks for NBA superstars to enjoy.

In regards to recruiting, the Celtics did a hell of a job on Gordon Hayward this offseason. Between Brad Stevens, Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart, and Danny Ainge, they have a very solid recruitment foundation that appear strong and relentless. They even brought Tom Brady to help pitch Kevin Durant on joining the Celtics last offseason. Also, keep an eye on Jaylen Brown, this kid is making connections very early in his NBA career. He even hosted a party for all players under 21 years of age in Las Vegas during Summer League.

T-3 Minnesota Timberwolves: 15/20 (9/10 SS, 2/6MLD, 4/4 ER)

Andy Clayton-King/AP Photo

With their moves in the offseason, the Timberwolves now have the trifecta in regards to superstar talent. They have established superstar talent in Jimmy Butler. They have sure-thing, can’t-miss, young superstar talent in Karl-Anthony Towns. To top it all off, they also have high-upside superstar potential in Andrew Wiggins. If you’re a superstar looking to hitch your wagon onto the next superteam, you are giving the Timberwolves a very long look.

While the waether tends to be a little cold, the people in Minnesota are very friendly. There are far worse cities a player could live in than Minnesota

Jimmy Butler has a lot of connections around the league. He was already hard at work recruiting free agents just over a week after being traded. Tom Thibodeau also has a lot of respect around the league. With how much he’s accomplished in the NBA, and how much his players tend to love him, I’m sure Tom could make quite the pitch to a potential superstar free agent

T-3. San Antonio Spurs: 15/20 (8/10 SS, 3/6MLD, 4/4 ER)

Kawhi Leonard is one of the very best players in the NBA. He’s also still only 26 years old. He’s also very unselfish and completely buys into the Spurs’ system, which is all about winning. This is the type of talent other superstars want to join. He won’t demand touches on offense, he’ll work twice as hard on the defensive end so you don’t have to, and he’ll never be a media distraction. What more could you want?

The storied history the Spurs have built over the past 20 years has helped get them some national media attention.

Gregg Popvich is a brilliant coach and quite a persuasive speaker. He’s gotten some of the greatest players in NBA history to buy into his system, and he has a proven ability in convincing all-star talent to join the Spurs.

2. Los Angeles Lakers: 16/20 (6/10 SS, 6/6MLD, 4/4 ER)

While the Lakers don’t have much established superstar talent, they do have quite a bit of potential. Between Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram, you have two young players with lots of promise. With the newly drafted Lonzo Ball, you have all of that combined with insane attention and hype. If Lonzo Ball turns into a great NBA player, he’s going to dominate headlines every day, and that is part of being a superstar. That can subconsciously have an effect on the value and perception of Lonzo Ball to other NBA superstars, making them more likely to want to join the show.

The Lakers have the best market in the league by far. They haven’t been particularly good in years, yet they’re still constantly a top story in the NBA. Los Angeles is also one of the most desirable cities in the United States. There are celebrities everywhere for NBA players to befriend, there are endless clubs and bars to check out at night, with plenty of fun activities to do during the day.

Magic Johnson is the ultimate people person. Everybody who knows Magic loves him, and just about everybody in the NBA knows him. He is going to help tremendously in recruiting talent, especially superstar talent to help create the same thing he did for the Lakers over 25 years ago: championships.

1. Houston Rockets: 17/20 (9/10 SS, 4/6MLD, 4/4 ER)

Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

You can’t get much more superstar talent than this without being a superteam. In fact, in most eras, the Rockets would probably already be considered a superteam, but with the Warriors and Cavs, our standards have been raised. Harden and CP3 are two of the very best players this league has to offer. The only reason Houston didn’t get 10/10 on their Superstar Rating is CP3’s age and health. By the time the Warriors and Cavaliers superteams are destroyed or fractured, CP3 may very well be in the beginning stages of his decline. That being said, as of now, the Rockets are clearly in the best position to be the next superteam in the NBA.

Houston is one of the biggest cities in the United States and one of the better markets in the NBA. With a very large and loyal fan base, the Rockets will always get attention in the national media.

CP3 and Harden both have high level connections around the league. CP3 is a key member of the banana boat squad, while Harden is beloved by everyone in the NBA and seems incredibly easy to get along with. Daryl Morey and Mike D’Antoni both seem to share a clear vision about the team as well, which can really help in recruitment talks. Also, Morey already proved himself highly capable of recruiting superstars years ago by convincing Dwight Howard to join the Rockets.

There you have it. Bandwagoners should order their Rockets merchandise now so that when Chris Paul, James Harden, Anthony Davis, and Giannis Antetokounmpo are lighting up the league in three years time, they can claim “I’ve always been a fan”.