Connect with us


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.


Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


NBA Daily: Jonathan Isaac Proving to be Key Part of Orlando’s Future

Basketball Insiders spoke with Jonathan Isaac about his rookie season, injuries, areas to improve on, his faith and more.

James Blancarte



On January 13, the Orlando Magic were eliminated from playoff contention. This date served as a formality as the team has known for quite some time that any postseason hopes had long since sailed. The Magic started the year off on a winning note and held an 8-4 record in early November. However, the team lost their next nine games and never really recovered.

Many factors play a role in a young but talented team like the Magic having another season end like this. Injuries to franchise cornerstone Aaron Gordon as well as forward Evan Fournier and forward Jonathan Isaac magnified the team’s issues.

Isaac, a rookie selected sixth overall in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft, started the season off reasonably well. On November 10, in 21 minutes of action, he registered an 11-point, six-rebound, one-assist, one-steal, two-block all-around effort against the Phoenix Suns to help the Magic get to that 8-4 record. Isaac then suffered an ankle injury midway through his next game and wouldn’t play again until December 17, by which time the team was already 11-20 with athe season quickly going sideways. From November until March, Isaac would only play in three games until finally returning to consistent action in the month of March with the season all but decided.

Basketball Insiders spoke to Isaac recently to discuss how he has pushed through this season, staying healthy, his impressive skill set and more.

“I’ve had a lot of time off from being injured so, I think my body is holding up fine along with how much I’ve played. I haven’t played a full season,” Isaac told Basketball Insiders “I feel good. I feel good.”

Isaac talked about what part of his game he feels strongly about and has improved on.

“I think defensively,” Isaac said. “I didn’t expect myself to make strides defensively like I have. I’ve been able to just be able to just do different things and help this team defensively and I didn’t expect that coming in so, that would be the one thing.”

Magic Head Coach Frank Vogel was effusive in his praise of Isaac’s defense and also focused on the rookie’s great defensive potential.

“His defense is out of this world. I mean it’s really something else,” Vogel said. “Just watch him play and everybody’s getting a taste of it right now. They haven’t seen him a whole lot but he’s an elite defender right now at 20-years old and the sky’s the limit for what he can be on that end of the floor.

While Isaac hasn’t logged a huge number of minutes on the floor this season, he has impressed in his limited action. As Coach Vogel stated, anyone who has taken the time to watch Isaac play this season has noticed his ability to guard other big men and his overall defensive impact.

“I think I’ve been able to do a good job on most of the people that I’ve had to guard,” Isaac said.

Missing Isaac’s defense impact and overall contributions partially explains why the Magic cooled off after their hot start. However, with the playoffs no longer an option, younger players like Isaac now have the opportunity to play with less attention and pressure. While it can be argued that the Magic aren’t really playing for anything, the truth is these late-season games can be an opportunity to develop these younger players and determine what to work on during the offseason.

There is more to Isaac than just basketball, however. Isaac discussed other parts of his life that are important to him, including religion and his faith.

“[M]y faith in Jesus is something that I put a lot of emphasis on,” Isaac told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a part of me.”

Isaac did not hesitate to credit his faith when asked if it helped him push through his injuries.

“I would say definitely,” Isaac said. “Especially with getting injured so early in the season and being out for 40 games. That’s a lot on somebody’s mental capacity and then just staying positive, staying joyful in times where joy doesn’t seem like it’s the right emotion to have. And I definitely [attribute] that to my faith.”

Looking forward, both Vogel and Isaac discussed the future and what the young big man can improve on.

“Offensively, he’s grown in confidence, he’s gained so he’s going to give us a big lift and our future’s bright with him,” Vogel stated.

Isaac gave a hint of his offseason training plans when asked what he looks forward to working on.

“I would say consistency with my jump shot. Really working on my three-ball and I would say ball-handling,” Isaac stated.

When asked if there was anything more he wanted to add, Isaac simply smiled and said, “Oh no, I think I got to get to church right now,” as the team prepared to play later that evening.

Continue Reading


Tyronn Lue’s Health Concerns Latest Bump In The Road For Cavaliers

Spencer Davies outlines Tyronn Lue’s decision to take a leave of absence to deal with health issues and covers the reaction around the NBA.

Spencer Davies



The win-loss record is not where they want it to be.

The performances have not been up to par with what they expect.

With that said, one thing is for certain: There is no other team that will have been more battle tested going into the playoffs than the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Day after day and week after week, there’s always something going on with the team. Between in-house arguments, on-court miscommunication, roster turnover, and more, it has been one giant roller coaster of a season.

Monday morning, another twist was added to the ride. In a statement released by the Cavaliers organization, Tyronn Lue and general manager Koby Altman announced that the head coach would be taking a leave of absence to address his health:

“After many conversations with our doctors and Koby and much thought given to what is best for the team and my health, I need to step back from coaching for the time being and focus on trying to establish a stronger and healthier foundation from which to coach for the rest of the season.

“I have had chest pains and other troubling symptoms, compounded by a loss of sleep, throughout the year. Despite a battery of tests, there have been no conclusions as to what the exact issue is. While I have tried to work through it, the last thing I want is for it to affect the team.

“I am going to use this time to focus on a prescribed routine and medication, which has previously been difficult to start in the midst of a season. My goal is to come out of it a stronger and healthier version of myself so I can continue to lead this team to the Championship we are all working towards. I greatly appreciate Dan Gilbert, Koby Altman, our medical team and the organization’s support throughout.”

There were multiple instances where Lue either missed part of a half or an entire game this season. The symptoms are definitely not to be taken lightly. According to a report by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Dave McMenamin, Lue attempted to return to the bench Saturday night in Chicago but the team didn’t allow him to. Evidently, Lue was “coughing up blood” some nights.

Seeing it first hand after postgame press conferences, Lue was visibly exhausted and stress could likely be playing a part. He’s been fighting through the tough times the team has been going through and avoided stepping away twice this season.

Charlotte Hornets head coach Steve Clifford had his own battle with health problems earlier this season and temporarily left the team for those reasons. He has attempted to reach out to Lue, a friend and former player of his.

Other head coaches around the league—Joe Prunty, Steve Kerr, and Luke Walton—have all gone to bat for Lue when discussing the rigors of an NBA schedule and the toll it takes.

Altman supports the decision for Lue to get to the bottom of what’s going on.

“We know how difficult these circumstances are for Coach Lue and we support him totally in this focused approach to addressing his health issues,” he said.

LeBron James is glad that Lue is going to take some time to get better.

“Obviously, health is the most important with everything in life,” James said Monday after shootaround. “Not surprised by it at all. I knew he was struggling, but he was never not himself. He was just dealing with it the best way he could, but he was never not himself when he was around.

“It doesn’t matter what’s going on here. We play a great sport, our coaches get to coach a great sport, and you guys get to cover a great sports. But health is most important right now and that’s what our coach is doing right now and we’re all in favor for it.”

The latest piece of news is a blow to the already injury-ridden Cleveland group. Assistant coach Larry Drew will take over duties until Lue returns.

The good news for the Cavaliers is that Kevin Love can potentially return to the mix as soon as Monday night against Milwaukee.

Continue Reading


NBA Daily: Calderón’s Late NBA Start

Jose Calderón might be the only player in the league who didn’t grow up dreaming of playing in the NBA.

Joel Brigham



There are a lot of different ways to get to the NBA, but most of them involve lifelong scouting and an unceasing dream to play in the world’s premier basketball league.

Cleveland Cavaliers guard José Calderón didn’t really have either of those things.

“I never even thought of the NBA when I was a kid,” Calderón told Basketball Insiders. “I grew up in a small town in Spain, and I played basketball because my dad played and I loved it. I was having fun, always playing with the older guys because I was good at that age, but I never really even thought about playing any sort of professional basketball.”

Having grown up in Villanueva de la Serena, Spain, Calderón watched his father play for Doncel La Serena, which was his hometown team as a child. He was something of a prodigy, having attended practices and games with his father from a young age, and as burgeoning teenager he left home to play professionally for the lower-level Vitoria-Gasteiz team.

“They wanted to sign me at 13 years old, and we didn’t even know that they could sign people that young,” Calderón remembers. “So I did that, and I tried to get better. I tried to advance into the older clubs, but I never really did think about the NBA at all, honestly.”

That changed as he got older, though, especially after Spain finished 5th in the 2002 FIBA World Championship and Calderón started to get some stateside recognition.

“After that summer, [my agent and I] got a call from Milwaukee asking about my situation, and asked would I think about coming to play over here. It was sort of a let’s-see-what-happens sort of situation, but I couldn’t at that time because I was under contract. That was the first time I was really approached.”

As his teammates from the Spanish National Team made their way to the NBA, Calderón grew increasingly intrigued.

“Pau Gasol obviously opened a lot of doors for us,” he said. “Raul Lopez came, too. I was just playing basketball, though. I didn’t know anything about scouts. Later, when we started to get the calls from Toronto, I started to realize how possible it really was. That’s when I thought, ‘Hey, why not?’”

Despite being eligible for a few drafts in a row, Calderón never did get drafted, which was fine by him. Growing up the way he did, Calderón never had any dreams of his hearing his name called by Commissioner Stern, so playing his way through most of his deal with TAU Vitoria was no big deal for him. He could take or leave the NBA.

“Not getting drafted was the perfect situation for me,” he said. “In my satiation, coming from Europe, I was already playing professionally for a good team and making some good money. That was perfect for me at the time, and I was happy to be a free agent at 23, choosing where I was going to sign instead of going in the second round and having to play for one team.”

He signed with the Raptors in 2005 since they were the most aggressive in recruiting him to the NBA. As a 23-year-old rookie, he wasn’t overwhelmed physically the way a lot of rookies are, but he did find his new league challenging in other ways.

“The hardest part was just having to start over,” he said. “You start over from zero. It doesn’t matter if the other players know you or don’t, you have to prove yourself all over again. You could be the MVP of Europe, but to get respect in the NBA you have to gain it on the court.”

The talent differential was immediately noticeable, as well.

“There are so many guys out there that are better than you. It’s not just like a guy or two; there are six, seven guys on the floor any given time that are better than you.”

That meant making some changes in the way that Calderón played. He was asked to do a lot more offensively for his EuroLeague team. Playing with so many talented scorers completely changed his approach.

“I went from taking 20 shots a game to doing something else, and as a point guard in the NBA I had to approach that point guard role even more, to make those guys respect my game, to make them want to play with me. I had to be able to pass the ball, to do something different from all the other players, so I became a fast-first point guard to make sure we always played as a team. That’s how I get to where I am as a professional.”

Now 36 years old, Calderón is one of the league’s oldest players, making it easy for him to look back at where he came from to transform into the player he is today.

“I’ve grown so much, but I was lucky to be given the opportunity,” he said. “When you arrive from Europe, whether you’re good or bad, it doesn’t always matter if you don’t have the opportunity. Toronto gave me the opportunity to play 20 minutes a night, and that’s a lot. I made a lot of mistakes, but they let me play through those mistakes. All those little things added up for me, and I learned a lot.”

He owns two silver medals and a bronze in the three Olympics he’s participated in over the course of his career, as well as gold medals in FIBA World Cup and EuroBasket, but he’s never won an NBA championship. Joining up with LeBron James improves those odds, but that’s the thing that would really put an exclamation point on an excellent career.

Calderón could have stayed in Spain and been fine. He jokes that while the NBA has been very good to him, he and his family could have stayed in Europe and he could have made good money playing basketball there. He’s been happy with his career, though, however unorthodox his journey here, and he hopes his most prestigious accolades are yet to come.

Continue Reading

The Strictly Speaking Podcast


Trending Now