Lot's of big names have been signing and moving in the NBA offseason. If you were clueless to this and wish to become inform yourself you can read Dick's review of "the decision" by LeBron James.
That decision, to join Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in playing for the club team known as "the Miami Heat" will likely dominate the airwaves until the next season's playoffs have concluded so I apologize in advance for adding my own thoughts to the noise and don't blame you if you wish to avoid the inevitable over-saturation.
Here's the thing though, you're going to hear a lot of stupid opinions regarding this (anyone been listening to Geoff Ketchum's thoughts on the NBA lately?) and I want to do what I can to get some truth out there. From my platform at a football-dominated Texas Longhorns sports blog.
We're going to start with the Heat and James because it's clearly the most important free agent move in the NBA since...ever. The first questions that spring to mind being: will this guarantee a title? Is this the greatest trio the NBA has seen on one team at one time?
The most notable time in the modern NBA that we've seen 3 stars anywhere near this big join forces they (yes, the Celtics) immediately won a title and just missed a 2nd in 3 years in a game 7 loss in which they blew a double-digit lead. How does this group compare?
If you've read anything I've written in the last month you're probably aware I've latched on to DBerri's Wins Produced model like a 5 year old that's just been introduced to Nickelodeon. He has some very interesting thoughts on the greatest trio's in NBA history and where this one ranks.
You should immediately notice that the top 3 trios, and 8 of the 20, involve Michael Jordan and in 7 of those he is paired with Scottie Pippen. Pippen is regarded as a classic 2nd banana because he always played with Jordan and it shrouds the fact that Scottie was one of the greatest players in the history of the NBA.
The last great trio's, very unexpectedly, were Nash-Marion-Amare and Kidd-Jefferson-Carter. You have to go back to the 97 Jazz to find another 3 players that produced as many wins. Salary cap and league dilution from expansion made star-heavy teams in the 90's unstoppable monsters.
Adding the combined Wins Produced from those guys 2009-10 seasons you get a total of 53.49 wins which would rank 6th on that list. So there's your answer to that question. Better combos have been assembled but nothing like this has occurred in the NBA in any recent season.
Now the Heat, assuming their remaining/new pieces produce the same amount of wins they produced last year (very unlikely) look like this in their top 5: (you can find these numbers here)
James: 24.78 wins
Bosh: 11.84 wins
Wade: 16.93 wins
Chalmers: 1.73 wins
Beasley 1.7 wins
Well, no one else on the Heat is even worth mentioning because they are either unrestricted free agents or produce negative wins. That's 57 wins already with no bench. People that claim that the Heat will have no money left over to pursue other good players are missing the point: The Miami Heat don't need other players.
They can fill out the roster with mid-level exceptions, scrubs and even D-leaguers and have a championship caliber team. There is a lot of value on the market. People will propose they shoot for veteran stars that are title-starved but I actually think they are already risking too many players on the court that require shots to be happy. I would go find guys that can do things like knock down open jump shots, box out and rebound, set screens and all the other little things that are required to win basketball games and will allow this Hydra to methodically devour the rest of the league.
If you surround these guys with a Chuck Hayes, a Kyle Korver or even a Dexter Pittman (if he can avoid fouls he can have big value in this league, did you seem him lock down Cole Aldrich/Blake Griffin/Brook Lopez?) then you have a winning formula.
The 2 biggest misconceptions I worry about plaguing this team are 1). Championship Bias and 2). Who takes the last shot?
The question of who takes the last shot in a game is one of the very stupidest measures frequently used by sports media figures in determining greatness. How often did Bill Russell take the last shot for the Boston Celtics in one of their multiple championships in the 50's or 60's? Yet there is no question he was the best player on those teams.
The idea that a team should focus all their final shots into one player is one of the dumber strategies regularly advanced in sports. Call it the Chitwood delusion. With the exception of Chitwood and the Kareem sky-hook virtually no player or shot in the NBA has ever been worth investing all hope in every "clutch" moment. What's harder to stop in the final second? An off-balance, self-created mid-range shot by Kobe Bryant/Dirk Nowitzki/Kevin Durant/Carmelo Anthony etc?
Or a possession where multiple players touch the ball, the defense is forced to defend multiple looks and the player with the best shot takes it? Of course if someone like LeBron pass the ball for the final shot he'll be criticized soundly if that shot fails to go in. This moronic principle combined with concern by James/Wade/Bosh over who is assigned credit for Heat victories are the most likely downfalls of this squad.
And of course the rest of the league has not been idle either.
The Bulls currently look like this in their top 7:
Total: 51.12 wins
Despite adding a star in Boozer the Bulls have fewer wins on the roster than the Heat with 2 more players being added. Boozer is and has long been a superior player to Bosh at Power Forward but is also much older. Add Lebron to those numbers and remove Deng and you get a total of 68.22 wins. Before you add up the wins from whatever players the Heat acquire to fill out their squad you get the result that the Bulls with LeBron would be the best in the league.
Now the Knicks assuming they keep Lee:
Terrible squad that doesn't even actually make positional sense yet. It should be noted here that the 2 most prominent power forward free agents: Bosh and Amar'e, are by far the inferior of their fellow free agents David Lee and Carlos Boozer at the same position.
Perhaps the most important comparison would be the reigning champions who made a very underrated move in acquiring Kirk Hinrich and even more importantly have the possible ace up the sleeve of a healthy Andrew Bynum. Take a look at the Lakers assuming 2010 totals and assuming 2008 healthy Bynum is back who was on pace for at least 15 wins. On the other hand Bynum hasn't had a healthy season that I can recall so let's just put him at 10 wins (he produced 7 the last 2 seasons).
Pau Gasol: 15.52 wins
Lamar Odom: 15.03 wins
Kobe Bryant: 9.69 wins
Andrew Bynum: 10 wins
Ron Artest: 3.47 wins
Shannon Brown: 1.98 wins
Hinrich: 4.14 wins (fisher had .46 last season).
Total: 59.83 wins
Though the Lakers have some fantastic talent at the top of their roster you don't really see teams loaded up with stars like the 86 Celtics or the 90's Bulls anymore. The numbers suggest exactly what your mind would initially tell you,
that the 2010-11 Miami Heat are going to run over the rest of the league provided that they find anyone with something close to NBA skills that they can fill out their roster with. They could beat most of the league with me, Scipio and Kevin Berger sitting on their bench with fellow alum Dexter Pittman...
Speaking of Texas alums, there is one possible team that could rival this new dynasty so long his agent doesn't force Jeff Green's decaying appendage to scratch an x on a new contract.