The Most Difficult Way To Acquire A Superstar

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The Most Difficult Way To Acquire A Superstar 

Post#1 » by RealGM Articles » Fri Feb 8, 2019 9:31 pm

For the first time in three years, the NBA is set for a deep and frenzied round of free agency this July. The cap will jump by approximately $7 million, and a number of the big-money deals that were signed in 2016 will mercifully expire.


As Keith Smith expertly outlined here, half the league projects to have some level of cap space come July 1, and after this week’s hyperactive trade deadline there will be multiple teams with enough room for at least one max contract. 


The four most universally thrilling dates on the NBA calendar for all 30 teams – trade deadline, lottery, draft and the opening of free agency – have nothing to do with the actual playing of basketball. Those days are captivating because they carry promise and opportunity. Fortunes can swing immediately, much more so than they can during a late-February game between the Suns and Hawks.


One of those days, however, has become more of a trap than anything else.


Believe it or not, true free agency has only been around since 1988 – a period that represents less than half of the NBA’s existence (HQ Trivia nugget: Tom Chambers was the first free agent). While the concept of free agency remains the same, wrinkles to the Collective Bargaining Agreement and team’s willingness to study those details down to key punctuation have changed the mechanism greatly.


Free agency, and specifically the ability to land a superstar, began to take a turn when players became increasingly powerful. There’s no denying that the NBA is a player’s league. It’s acceptable, and almost expected, for a player to take meetings when free agency hits. That wasn’t the case 20 years ago. Reggie Miller routinely waited until August to re-sign with the Indiana Pacers. Could you imagine Klay Thompson waiting six or seven weeks to re-up with the Golden State Warriors?


Player movement and a shift in the way basketball is covered have fostered an increased focus on free agency itself. It’s easier to sell yourself on free agency because of its relative simplicity. A draft pick? You’ve still got to hit on the right prospect and develop him. A trade? You have to find a partner and ultimately give something to get something.


This is where the danger lurks.


Let’s assume every potential max-level free agent becomes unrestricted this July 1. That gives teams with enough cap space the chance at least court a superstar and they’ll be plenty of them – Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler and Klay Thompson will all get max money somewhere.


But after those five, there are hazards abound. Do you really want to fill a max slot with Kemba Walker? Tobias Harris? Nikola Vucevic? DeMarcus Cousins?


The players just below the superstar level routinely get overpaid when the market is flush with cash. There will be more space available than true franchise cornerstones in July and the same mistakes that were made three years ago (and back in 2010) will repeat themselves. Those contracts will cripple franchises for years to come, either prohibiting complementary additions or forcing the relinquishment of assets to get rid of what will amount to dead money. 


Twenty-six players have earned All-NBA honors over the last five years. Of those players, just five signed with a team as a free agent during that span – LeBron James, Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, DeAndre Jordan and Isaiah Thomas. You could argue (correctly) that Aldridge and Thomas, while All-NBA players, were not exactly game-changers. The two free agent periods for Thomas in particular came before and after his peak Boston stretch.


A team is more likely to acquire a superstar through the draft or trade than they are using outright cap space. In the cases of James Harden, Paul George, Chris Paul and Kyle Lowry, they were signed to long-term extensions after they were obtained. Butler, Kawhi and Victor Oladipo could all eventually follow the same path.


So while positioning yourself to be a player in free agency (i.e. the Knicks and Clippers) sounds great and can be seen as enviable, it’s only the first step towards acquiring a superstar in the most challenging way.

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Re: The Most Difficult Way To Acquire A Superstar 

Post#2 » by njknicks » Sat Feb 9, 2019 12:52 am

Great article and insight - completely agree, outright signing a superstar free agent is one of the most impossible tasks especially now with all the free agent money involved.

Trading for a Superstar is the "easiest" way to acquire top talent - with the draft, you are rolling the dice unless you have a coveted scouting team (i.e. GSW, Spurs and previously OKC).

However just because you have a superstar, it does not equal wins. To have sustainable long term growth you need 3 things :

1) Roster continuity ( minimum roster turnover by keeping the building blocks of your team )
2) Coaching continuity ( keep the same coaching system / philosophy that is successful )
3) Financial acumen for salary cap ( avoid harsh financial transactions that will handicap the team in the long run )

The only team that exhibits all 3 are the Spurs. The GSW are in the process of tossing their Financial Acumen out the window in order to keep their talent ( no one blames them ) but it will handicap their ability to have a quality bench & long-term success ( tying up MAX money to 4 players will ensure constant roster turnover in the bench ).
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Re: The Most Difficult Way To Acquire A Superstar 

Post#3 » by Vegeta10176 » Tue Feb 12, 2019 12:26 am

njknicks wrote:Great article and insight - completely agree, outright signing a superstar free agent is one of the most impossible tasks especially now with all the free agent money involved.

Trading for a Superstar is the "easiest" way to acquire top talent - with the draft, you are rolling the dice unless you have a coveted scouting team (i.e. GSW, Spurs and previously OKC).

However just because you have a superstar, it does not equal wins. To have sustainable long term growth you need 3 things :

1) Roster continuity ( minimum roster turnover by keeping the building blocks of your team )
2) Coaching continuity ( keep the same coaching system / philosophy that is successful )
3) Financial acumen for salary cap ( avoid harsh financial transactions that will handicap the team in the long run )

The only team that exhibits all 3 are the Spurs. The GSW are in the process of tossing their Financial Acumen out the window in order to keep their talent ( no one blames them ) but it will handicap their ability to have a quality bench & long-term success ( tying up MAX money to 4 players will ensure constant roster turnover in the bench ).



1. Spurs are about to lose pops

2. Durant is about to leave

3. The two main bench pieces of GSW are Andre and Livingston and they are still on contracts and they have the bird rights to them

4. To win a championship you pretty much have to be willing to go over the cap these days as players are smart enough not to give billionaire owners discounts like Duncan did

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