Superteams: contenders or pretenders?

MITHILA SOMASUNDARAM

At the beginning of every season, teams and die-hard fans alike anticipate a more successful year; whether that be making the playoffs, or winning it all.  However, it has almost become common in all of sports to celebrate and value colossal free-agent signings over winning a championship. After all, championships are not won in the off-season. This is exactly why we have seen the demise of countless one-championship calibre teams struggle to even make the playoffs (it’s not too late Blue Jays)!

Firstly, the NBA has had its fair share of historic signings and trades. Take, for instance, the Carmelo Anthony trade, which happened just over two years ago.  This was the trade that was believed to have changed the NBA forever, for the blockbuster trade involved the likes of Wilson Chandler, Danilo Galinari, Chauncey Billups, Raymond Felton, and not to mention Anthony himself.  At first, it may have seemed as if the Knicks were clear winners in the deal, though, when looking back, we see that the trade was more even than expected, and perhaps benefited the 3rd-place Nuggets.  Sure, Anthony has become the face of the franchise for the Knicks, and has definitely made the team a contender, as they only sit beneath the Heat in the Eastern Conference, and have gone on a 13-game winning streak this season.  Nonetheless, Denver has proven to also be competitors, outshining the majority of the teams in the oh-so rigorous West, and comfortably entering the playoffs with 54 wins (2 more than the Knicks).

Aside from the Knicks, the injury-ridden Lakers (currently without franchise player Kobe Bryant), were perceived to be serious contenders at the beginning of the season, but their most potent worry this season was making the playoffs.  Meanwhile, Rob Hennigan, GM of the Magic, seemed to have gotten the better end of the deal for Dwight Howard, as the Magic ended up with Nikola Vucevic, an excellent rebounder with promising potential, along with Mo Harkless, Arron Afflalo, and three first-rounders.  Though not in the playoffs now, it appears that the Magic will be there within the next few years, unlike the faltering Lakers. Even recently, Orlando traded JJ Redick for seemingly very little, but Tobias Harris, who was acquired in return, is turning many heads with performances of 30 points and 19 rebounds.

The NHL seemed to have been inspired by the flashy trades that encompassed the NBA, for within the past few years, we have seen several big-ticket players don new jerseys. The Knicks’ hockey counterparts seem to have been motivated to pull the trigger, and form a “Big 3” of sorts by signing Brad Richards, and the following year, trading for Rick Nash.  Immediately, after the Nash deal, we all felt sympathy for Columbus (or, rather laughed at their inevitable misery).  Yet, it appears that Scott Howson had us all fooled (in Brian Burke manner), as he wrangled Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon, and a first-rounder from the Blueshirts, while improving the Jackets to 11th in the West.  Meanwhile, the Rangers are fighting for 8th in the East, and are only one point ahead of Columbus.

As you can see, regardless of the sport, superstars do not equal championships, or even the playoffs for that matter, as it is more about team chemistry, cohesiveness, and overall skill (like the division-leading Canadiens) than the individual players.  Then again, we cannot say that all-star players do not improve teams (refer to Heat, Miami).  All in all, the lesson learned is that it’s all about morals, for it’s the name on the front of the jersey that counts, and until all super teams play that way, they lost the trade!