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NBA AM: Most Disappointing Superteams

Last year’s Warriors were one of the most disappointing superteams of all-time, but some have been even worse.

Joel Brigham



Before the start of this NBA season, the whole world was ready to put a stamp on the 2016-17 Golden State Warriors as the sure-thing champions. There isn’t even a reason to watch the games, frankly. It’s all over. Fit Kevin Durant for his ring.

However, as we saw in San Antonio’s 29-point shellacking of Golden State on opening night, any team is beatable, even the ones that look as though they should be invincible.

In fact, there have been only 51 teams in the history of basketball that have posted winning percentages over .750 in the regular season, and only 23 of those teams have gone on to win the title. Great teams—even superteams—fail to win the title more often than they succeed in winning it, which is why we should go ahead and let the basketball play itself out before naming a preemptive champ.

The following teams, for example, show just how fallible apparent giants can be:

#10 – 2009 Cleveland Cavaliers
The Stars: LeBron James, Mo Williams
What Happened: Cleveland was an absolute force in 2008-09, steamrolling their way to 66 wins behind an MVP campaign from James. They swept through the first two rounds of the postseason, but faced a much more formidable (and larger) opponent in the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals, who wiped the Cavs’ offense off the face of the planet. James himself averaged 38.5 PPG in that series, but it wasn’t enough to deal with Dwight Howard’s smothering defense, and thus James’ best individual season ended fruitlessly.

#9 – 2002 Sacramento Kings
The Stars: Chris Webber, Mike Bibby, Peja Stojakovic, Vlade Divac
What Happened: While the Kings currently boast the longest title drought (65 years) in league history, there was a period of time right around the turn of the century where it looked like that streak may have ended. The 2001-02 Kings were the best version of that team since moving to Sacramento, as they won 61 games and breezed through the first two rounds of the NBA playoffs that spring. They were stymied, however, as they often were, by a great Lakers team. It actually was the third straight year that Sacramento had gotten booted by L.A., but this was their best shot at a championship and they came up just a little short after a hard-fought, seven-game Western Conference Finals.

#8 – 2005 Phoenix Suns
The Stars: Steve Nash, Joe Johnson, Shawn Marion, Amar’e Stoudemire
What Happened: Before fast-paced offenses were as commonplace as they are today, Mike D’Antoni’s mid-aughts Suns teams were killing opponents with their breakneck speed. Nash won two league MVP awards helming that offense, and in 2005 it looked like it was all coming together with the top-seeded, 62-win Suns team ripping through the first two rounds of the postseason with only a couple of losses. In the Western Conference Finals, however, the Suns lost Joe Johnson to a facial fracture and the San Antonio Spurs absolutely shut down the rest of that well-oiled offense. Had they advanced, there’s a good chance they also could have handled the Detroit Pistons and won the team’s first-ever championship.

#7 – 2006 Detroit Pistons
The Stars: Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace
What Happened: It was more or less this same Detroit Pistons team that toppled the 2003-04 L.A. Lakers, and they were legitimately good. The Pistons were so good, in fact, that they made the Finals again in 2005 and came incredibly close to winning a second-straight championship. The team returned with the same core in 2005-06, but this time with a new head coach in Flip Saunders. The change did nothing to deter those claiming Detroit were once again favorites to make and possible win the Finals yet again. They won 64 games and Billups actually finished fifth in MVP voting that year, but it wasn’t enough to get them through the playoffs. A loaded Miami team that featured both Shaquille O’Neal and Dwyane Wade booted them off their pedestal that season, making them one of the more disappointing preseason favorites in recent league history.

#6 – 2013 L.A. Lakers
The Stars: Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, Antawn Jamison, Ron Artest
What Happened: This thing was a disaster from the word “go.” Mike Brown switched the team over to a Princeton offense that “helped” these vaulted Lakers go 0-8 in the preseason and 1-4 to start the regular season. As a result, Brown was fired and eventually replaced by Mike D’Antoni, for whom things did not get much better. Their 15-21 start was the worst for the team since 1993, and they eventually limped into the playoffs as a seven-seed, losing to the San Antonio Spurs in the first round in four unimpressive games.

#5 – 2007 Dallas Mavericks
The Stars: Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Peja Stojakovic, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, Tyson Chandler
What Happened: Coming off a season in which the Mavericks lost the NBA Finals in an absolutely gut-wrenching fashion, the expectation was that Dallas would make its way back to the Finals and win this time – particularly with a roster loaded up with as many stars as this one featured. Their first-round matchup against the upstart Golden State Warriors, however, proved surprisingly challenging, even though the Mavs won all three games against the Warriors during the regular season. In the postseason, however, Dallas was dropped 4-2 by an eight-seed, ghosting any expectations fans and media may have had for them that season.

#4 – 1997 Houston Rockets
The Stars: Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, Charles Barkley
What Happened: In 1994, Hakeem Olajuwon won his first championship, so former college teammate Clyde Drexler thought to himself, “I’d love to get a piece of that action.” He did precisely that the following year, when Olajuwon and Drexler shared credit for winning the 1995 NBA title. So Charles Barkley thought to himself, “I’d love to get a piece of that action,” but he saw very different results thanks to the full-bore return of His Airness, Michael Jordan. That Rockets team was stacked, though, and had Jordan stayed with the Birmingham Barons just one more year, Barkley may have earned that elusive ring he always desired.

#3 – 2016 Golden State Warriors
The Stars: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green.
What Happened: LeBron James happened. With Curry ailing in the Finals and the entire Golden State team running out of gas after a season that saw them win a record-breaking 73 games, Cleveland found an extra gear and wiped out the best regular-season team of all-time.

#2 – 2011 Miami HEAT
The Stars: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh
What Happened: Much like when Kevin Durant signed in Golden State, the general consensus around the league following James’ and Bosh’s odyssey to South Beach was that the deck was unfairly stacked in Miami’s favor. They crushed the regular season that year, winning 58 games, and they headed into the Finals with a ridiculous amount of momentum, winning exciting series against both Boston and Chicago. They even won Game 1 of the Finals against the Dallas Mavericks and were leading by 15 points with just over six minutes to go in the fourth quarter when Dallas charged back to steal a win and turn the tides of the series. That unbelievable superteam dropped their first Finals together in six games.

#1 – 2004 L.A. Lakers
The Stars: Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Gary Payton, Karl Malone
What Happened: In terms of molding the idea of a modern “superteam,” this was the one that introduced fans to the feeling of unfairness that they’d feel again later in regard to Miami and Golden State. By adding future Hall-of-Famers Gary Payton and Karl Malone to an already-loaded squad, L.A. looked absolutely unstoppable heading into the season, but there were problems from the get-go. Payton didn’t have the easiest time running the Triangle for Phil Jackson, and Malone hurt his knee. Meanwhile, Bryant’s off-court legal issues served as an ongoing distraction for the team, creating an atmosphere around the team that was far from where it should have been. By the time the Finals rolled around, Malone was hobbling and the tension between Bryant and O’Neal was palpable. They shockingly lost to the more team-oriented Detroit Pistons in just five games, and the team fell apart from there. O’Neal was traded to Miami, Malone retired and both Payton and Rick Fox were traded to the Boston Celtics. That particular Lakers title window was rather ceremoniously slammed shut.


None of this is to say that this year’s Golden State Warriors can’t win the championship because nobody is going to Las Vegas right now with the intention of betting against that much talent. What this does show is that superteams with just as much (if not more) talent certainly have lost before. It’s not always about talent. Sometimes it’s about momentum and matchups, and while we feel like we understand how talented the Warriors are, we don’t know how the rest will play out. That, in fact, is exactly why we watch the games.


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NBA Daily: Shamet Comfortable With Steady Self Going Into Draft

With a natural feel for the game, Wichita State guard Landry Shamet has more than enough of a chance to carve his own path of success in the NBA.

Spencer Davies



No matter what professional field a person wants to work in, there are multiple ways to show why they belong.

A positive attitude is everything, confidence goes a long way and honesty truly is the best policy.

Speaking with Wichita State product Landry Shamet this past week at the NBA Combine in Chicago, it’s clear that he has all three boxes checked off.

“It’s been great,” Shamet said of the event. “Just trying to absorb everything, soak everything up. It’s a big learning experience for sure. A lot of knowledge to be attained (at the Combine). With interviews and playing on the court, being coached by NBA guys, it’s been cool so far.”

During his three years with the Shockers, the 6-foot-4, 188-pound guard accomplished quite a few feats, but his junior season was arguably the most spectacular. Not only did Shamet lead his team in multiple ways, but he also topped out in four statistical categories in the American Athletic Conference—the school’s first year there after moving on from the Missouri Valley.

Shamet’s 166 assists (5.2 per game average) were the most in the AAC by far. In addition, his true shooting percentage (65.5) and three-point percentage (44.2) ranked number one among his peers.

From entering the program in 2015 to now, he feels that he’s grown dramatically as a player—but in what areas, specifically?

“I would say being a point guard honestly,” Shamet said. “I was recruited in as a two. But just kinda that leadership role, that accountability. Knowing that you’re gonna get a lot of scrutiny (after) a loss and you’re gonna be responsible for a win. Regardless of how the game goes, it’s your responsibility.”

Much of his development at Wichita State was courtesy of a hands-on approach with Gregg Marshall, one of the most revered head coaches in college basketball. Thanks to his guidance, Shamet feels ready, even aspects outside of his offensive ability.

“On the defensive end, I feel comfortable with my positioning,” Shamet said. “Obviously, need to get better. You can always get better on the defensive end. That’s one thing I’ve been focusing on. Trying to get more athletic. Just be better defensively. He gave me the groundwork for sure. 100 percent.”

Shamet has kept in touch with Marshall throughout the entire pre-draft process. He was told to be “smile and relax” in interviews and to be confident, which he’s certainly followed through with.

A similar message has come from Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet, two former Shockers who have each made their mark at the professional level.

“Just be yourself, you know,” Shamet said of VanVleet’s pointers. “That’s really what it boils down to I think. He’s been great to have him in my corner—a guy like that who’s been through a lot of adversity on his way to the NBA, so I’m gonna listen to him 10 times out of 10.”

VanVleet’s career is already taking off with the Toronto Raptors as a part of their young and hungry bench. But with four more inches of height and a similar feel for the game, Shamet has more than enough of a chance to carve his own path of success in the NBA.

And it won’t require flash or making a daily highlight-reel to do so.

“I’d like to just say versatile,” Shamet said of his game. “Just try to stay solid. I don’t ever try to make spectacular plays all the time. Try to just do what I feel I can do—play multiple positions, both positions, on or off the ball. I’m comfortable at either spot, honestly. Whether it’s facilitating, scoring, whatever the case may be.

“I feel like I have a high IQ as well. Just a cerebral player. Not gonna ‘wow’ you with crossing people up and doing things that a lot of the guys in the limelight do all the time. But I feel like I’m a solid player. Pretty steady across the board.”

However, just because he rarely shows off on the court doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the ability to do it.

“I feel like I’m a little more athletic than I might get credit for,” Shamet said. “I think I’m a better athlete than I get credit for.”

Shamet is projected to go anywhere from the middle-to-late first round of the draft in June. Whoever lands the Kansas City native will be getting a tireless worker who does things the right way and is all about the team.

But for now, he’s soaking in everything he possibly can before that night comes.

“I don’t have all the answers,” Shamet candidly said. “I’m a 21-year-old kid, man I guess. So just trying to learn as much as I can, gain some knowledge, get good feedback—because at the end of the day, I’m not a perfect player. I know that.”

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The Lakers Have Finally Stabilized

After a tough five-year period filled with loss and disappointment, the Lakers have finally put themselves back in a position to succeed.

Matt John



On paper, missing the playoffs for the fifth year in a row would rarely be considered impressive, but for the Los Angeles Lakers, a team that’s suffered pretty much nothing but misery over the last half-decade, this season was a sign of progress.

Leading up to this past season, the previous four years overall were anything but easy on the Lakers. Besides consistently being one of the worst teams in the league, some of the team’s high lottery picks, such as D’Angelo Russell, did not pan out as well as they had hoped, and management baffled the fanbase when they signed both Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov to approximately $140 million combined over four years.

This season, things finally took a turn for the better. The team’s youngest players, particularly Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Julius Randle and Lonzo Ball, started to yield positive results. The team’s new acquisitions, specifically Brook Lopez, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and briefly Isaiah Thomas, made a notable impact on the season. Second-year head coach Luke Walton proved himself to be up for the job with improved personnel at his arsenal. That may have led to only 35 wins, but compared to the previous four seasons’ final results, 35 wins is about as good as the Lakers could have hoped for.

And it should only get better from here. The biggest positive is that the team’s long-term outlook is now the brightest its been since Dwight Howard skipped town in 2013. Their impending return to the glory days is still up in the air, but the Lakers can finally look forward to a promising future for two reasons.

Cap Flexibility

When the Lakers replaced Mitch Kupchak with Rob Pelinka and Magic Johnson to run the team, the two of them went to work right away. Pelinka and Johnson knew that if the Lakers were going to attain relevance again, they had to undo the franchise’s previous mistakes, even if it meant getting rid of some of their young talent.

It’s as the old saying goes, “You can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs.”

Making said omelet started with getting rid of their albatross contracts. The Lakers found a taker for Mozgov when they traded him to Brooklyn for Brook Lopez’s expiring deal, but that deal also required trading Russell. Mid-season, the Lakers found a taker for Jordan Clarkson when they traded him to Cleveland, but that deal also required trading Larry Nance Jr.

Losing Russell and Nance Jr, and to some degree Clarkson, may have been tough cheese to swallow, but with Mozgov and Clarkson off the payroll, the Lakers have a ton of cap space at their disposal. In fact, this summer, the Lakers have only $34.5 million in guaranteed contracts, which will be the lowest payroll in entire NBA. This is a much bigger deal now that it’s been in the past for one simple reason: Hardly any teams will have cap room this summer.

The NBA salary cap’s drastic rise in 2016 caused many teams to overshoot their mark over the past two off-seasons. Because of that, quite a few teams will be paying the luxury tax while others will do everything in their power to avoid the luxury tax. This means that only a select few teams will have cap room to add a free agent on a max deal. The Lakers, on the other hand, have the cap room to add two.

Their situation only gets better given the competition in free agency. Most of the other teams that have cap room are in rebuilding mode, so the Lakers shouldn’t expect many competitors in their chase for marquee free agents ie LeBron James and Paul George this summer. The only other team that will be competing for their services with available cap space is Philadelphia, who only has $44 million on payroll this summer. Houston will also be in the race, but they will have to get creative if they hope to add a max free agent this summer plus keep Chris Paul AND Clint Capela.

Even if the Lakers whiff on LeBron and George, it isn’t the end of the world. They can afford to re-sign Thomas and/or Caldwell-Pope to one-year deals worth over $10 million because hardly anyone else can do the same. Even if absolutely nothing goes their way this summer, they’ll have flexibility again next season. While having cap space does not automatically mean free agents will come to the Lakers’ door next season, it’s better to have money available to offer than having to spend it on Clarkson and Mozgov.

Promising Youth Movement

Many knew the Lakers’ young core was nothing to sneeze at, but for the first time since they’ve started their rebuild in 2013, their youth movement’s talent finally translated into wins. They didn’t do it all on their own, but nothing makes a team’s future brighter than their young players starting to reach their potential.

That starts with Brandon Ingram. Ingram was the textbook example of raw his rookie season, but his sophomore year, he started living up to his billing as the second overall pick in his draft. Across the board, he improved his numbers, but his shining moment came when the Lakers turned to him to run the point with Lonzo Ball out in late-January. During that stretch, the Duke alum averaged 18.4 points on 52 percent shooting including 46 percent from three, 5.4 assists, and 5.5 rebounds. Ingram struggled mightily with injuries after that, but his vast improvement should be very beneficial in the long run.

Then there was the biggest surprise of the season: Kyle Kuzma. When the deal was first agreed to, Kuzma was originally a throw-in when the Lakers traded Mozgov and Russell for Lopez, but knowing Brooklyn’s luck, Kuzma may wind up being the best player in this deal. Kuzma wowed the fans at the Staples Center, as he averaged 16.1 points and 6.3 rebounds while shooting 45 percent from the field. Since Kuzma is only 22 years old, there’s no telling what his ceiling might be.

Then there’s the first lottery pick the Lakers drafted in their rebuild: Julius Randle. Randle got himself in the best shape of his life in preparation for this season, and it paid off on the court. Randle averaged career-highs in both point average (16.1) and field goal percentage (58 percent), but his best stretch came in February through March. In that time, Randle averaged 21.2 points on 57.6 percent shooting, 9.5 rebounds, and 3.3 assists. Randle is a restricted free agent this year, but with the lack of available money this summer, his best option may be to stay in LA.

Finally, the biggest wild card of the Lakers’ young talent: Lonzo Ball. Ball was both injury-riddled and inconsistent his rookie year, but he showed flashes every now and again of the player his humble father said he would be. While he had his issues putting the ball in the bucket, Ball’s much-hyped passing translated in the NBA, averaging 7.2 assists a game, and his rebounding was terrific given his size, as he averaged 6.9 rebounds a game. The jury is still out on Ball, but he should be given a full season before anyone comes to judgment.

In short, the Lakers’ cap flexibility and promising youth movement give them stability that not many believed they would have had at the end of last season. Inadequacy and incompetence have plagued the Lakeshow for the past several years, but now that they’ve brought the right people aboard, they are now pointed in the right direction.

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NBA Daily: Meet Chimezie Metu, A Versatile Big Man

Chimezie Metu could end up being one of the steals of this year’s draft.

David Yapkowitz



Each year when it comes to the NBA draft, there always seems to a few players flying under the radar a bit. Players who are underrated or overlooked for whatever reason. This year, one of those players is Chimezie Metu from the University of Southern California.

In early mock drafts, Metu was projected to go anywhere from mid to late first-round. In some of the more recent mocks, he’s fallen out of the first-round altogether and into the second-round. If those projections hold and he does end up being selected in the second-round, then some team is going to get a huge steal.

Metu is a versatile big man who impacts both ends of the floor. He is an agile shot blocker who can control the paint defensively, and on the other end, he can score in the post while being able to step out and knock down mid-range jump shots. He is confident in what he’ll be able to bring to an NBA team.

“I think being versatile and being able to make an impact on defense right away,” Metu told reporters at the NBA Draft Combine this past week. “Being able to switch on to smaller players or guard the post, and just being able to knock down shots or make plays when I’m called upon.”

In his three years at USC, Metu blossomed into one of the best players in the Pac-12 conference. This past season, he led a solid Trojans team in scoring with 15.7 points per game on 52.3 percent shooting. He also led the team in rebounding with 7.4 per game and had a team-high 59 blocked shots.

He’s taken note of some of the best big men in the NBA, some of whom he’s tried to model his game after. He told reporters at the combine that some of his biggest influences are Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns and Joel Embiid. He knows that there may be misconceptions about his game, or those that doubt him, but he isn’t worried about that at all.

“I don’t really worry about what other people are saying about myself. I just go out there and play hard, and try to help my team win games,” Metu said. “My strength is being versatile, being able to impact the game in multiple ways. Not being one dimensional and being able to have fingerprints on different parts of the game.”

It’s been busy past few days for Metu. He’s had 13 interviews with NBA teams to go along with workouts, medical testing and media availability. Although it’s been a hectic time, part of what has made it so worthwhile is all of the NBA personnel he’s been able to interact with. What really has stood out to him being at the combine is the difference between college and the NBA.

“I can just go up to the owners and the GMs and just talk to them,” Metu said. “Coming from college you basically have to act like they’re not there, cause of the rules and stuff. Just the fact that they can come up and talk to you, you can talk to them, that’s probably the most surprising part for me.”

Aside from all the front office personnel he’s interacted with, Metu has also had the opportunity to meet with some of the most respected names in NBA history. Among the former players who he’s had a chance to meet with, Magic Johnson and Bob McAdoo have definitely stood out to him.

While he’s grateful just to have been able to meet NBA royalty, he’s used it as an opportunity to pick their brains. He’s also been able to showcase his game in front of them. He is confident that he’s been able to impress them and hopefully make an impact on their decisions come draft night.

“Just coming out here and having fun, there’s a lot of basketball royalty,” Metu said. “Being able to get a chance to shake their hands, being able to take stuff from them and what helped them become great. I’m just trying to take their advice. It feels great because never in a million years did I think I’d be here. It’s fun just going out there and showing what I can do.”

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