Team Building Activities
Will teams built from the ground-up best the L’s ‘super teams’?
by Quinn Peterson
Miami may be the first “Super team,” but they certainly won’t be the last. While many are anxious to argue that the Heat still lack a complete team from refusing to pencil them in as Eastern Conference favorites, those naysayers will be quelled quickly, as Pat Riley has already made great pickups in Udonis Haslem and (probably) Mike Miller. You may need 12 to fill a roster, but let’s be honest, at the end of the day, you really only need eight or nine guys to actually break a sweat for you during the course of a game.
The idea of a “super team” certainly rubs many the wrong way, but, following in the footsteps of the ’08 Celtics, the forming of the ‘10-11 Heat may have marked the beginning of a new era. Already, less than a week removed from the Heat’s acquisitions of Bron, Bosh and Wade, we’re seeing the New York Knicks’ version of Super Friends begin to come to fruition, as Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony have both hinted at playing in front of Spike Lee for 41 games a year.
With all the movement currently going on, and especially with Stan Van Gundy’s hate for what just went down a few hours south of Disneyland, there’s good reason to believe Orlando will make some kind of move, too, possibly emerging as the third “super team” in the League.
Amidst all of the teams looking to make power moves, however, is some beautiful irony. There are squads quietly going about their business, using refined skills and exquisite judgment to guide them in putting their rosters together. For those who envy the Yankee-style methods of simply hoarding all the big-name players (R.I.P., George Steinbrenner), Oklahoma City, Portland and Houston provide hope. Teams built from the ground up, concoctions of great scouting and genius GMing.
In establishing their Big Three, Miami’s efforts were like waiting in line overnight in the rain for hours to cop some “limited edition” kicks. On the flip side, OKC GM Sam Presti (who convinced Gregg Popovich to take a chance on Tony Parker) decided to wait it out, and managed to find the same shoes months later at a Nike outlet — for half the price.
Taking over the Thunder job in 2007, Presti’s first moves were trading Ray Allen, drafting Kevin Durant, acquiring Jeff Green and moving Rashard Lewis for Kurt Thomas and two first round picks. All accomplished in his first month pulling the strings.
Since then, he’s picked up stud PG Russell Westbrook, in addition to drafting perfect complementary pieces such as James Harden and Cole Aldrich, acquiring Thabo Sefolosha, Eric Maynor and Daquean Cook. None are superstars by any means, but all are formidable players in the OKC system, sliding in perfectly alongside Durant, Westbrook and Green. They also made arguably the biggest “Decision” of the summer and locked up Kevin Durant for the next five years.
Kevin Pritchard, before his abrupt termination earlier this summer, worked his magic for the Blazers in similar fashion. Coming in 2006, Pritchard was behind the removals of bust Sebastian Telfair and the massive contract of Theo Ratliff. In that same year, he was able to swap Tyrus Thomas, who the Blazers took with No. 4 pick, and Viktor Khryapa for LaMarcus Aldridge, who the Bulls selected at No. 2 in the Draft. Robbery.
If that’s not good enough, how about this: Still not done, in that same year, Pritchard and the Blazers pulled off another stellar deal, trading their No. 7 pick, Randy Foye, for Minnesota’s No. 6 pick, Brandon Roy. Roy became ROY and has since played in three All-Star games. Foye just signed with the Clippers.
The following year, after taking Greg Oden with the No. 1 overall pick, the Blazers found ways to dump Zach Randolph, buy out Steve Francis, and acquire a trade exception that allowed them to steal Rudy Fernandez from the Suns. In the past few years, we’ve also seen the Blazers pick up Steve Blake, Andre Miller and Marcus Camby.
And although Pritchard was strangely “relieved of his duties” just hours before this year’s Draft, the Blazers may have pulled off another great offseason move, signing Wes Matthews to an offer sheet, that the Jazz have until Saturday to match.
Matthews is the kind of hard-nosed, blue collar player who you have to love. The kind of guys that, especially since pushing the Lakers to seven games in the Western Conference Semis, have defined the Houston Rockets’ roster. Rockets’ GM Daryl Morey has been in charge since 2007, but Houston was at work even before that, starting with signing Chuck Hayes, who had previously gone undrafted.
They’ve since unloaded Steve Francis and Tracy McGrady, selected Aaron Brooks, Carl Landry and Patrick Patterson and picked up Luis Scola, Kyle Lowry, Trevor Ariza and Kevin Martin. Nothing too fancy, just guys who leave it all on the floor every time out. Guys who perfectly compliment Yao Ming.
Granted, the Thunder, Blazers and Rockets are a year or two away from being major Finals contenders, all are well on their way, not because of their checkbook, but because they check the books. Good ol’ fashioned scouting and evaluating.
Watching the “super teams” will be fun, but seeing how these quietly, but solidly, built franchises will play for — and demand — their respect will be equally as entertaining.