Apologies to Michael Jordan, but the NBA's super team phenomenon isn't going away

The “Crying Jordan” meme has new life in 2017 and we have Michael Jordan himself to thank for this. 

The Chicago Bulls legend and current owner of the Charlotte Hornets recently told Cigar Aficionado that so-called “super teams” have hurt the level of competition in the NBA. 

According to the six-time champion, fans this season can expect to see “one or two teams that are going to be great, and another 28 teams that are going to be garbage.”

This isn’t exactly breaking news, even to the casual observer, but when No. 23/45 chimes in, it tends to spark conversation. Especially as the NBA off-season featured a dizzying spell of trades that saw star players take up new addresses alongside fellow all-stars.

The Oklahoma City Thunder are the latest to try their hand at this, acquiring Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to join forces with franchise cornerstone Russell Westbrook. 

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The Oklahoma City Thunder assembled the NBA’s lastest super team this summer with Paul George, left, reigning MVP Russell Westbrook, middle, and Carmelo Anthony. (Layne Murdoch/NBAE/Getty Images)

Faced with the possibility of wasting another year in the Big Apple, Anthony and the New York Knicks agreed it was time to turn the page. But while few, if any, were sad to see Anthony accept a trade, the haul they got in return left a lot to be desired. 

There was a similar vibe to the Thunder acquiring George as the disgruntled forward was moved by the Indiana Pacers for two players with a level of talent that can be found on any roster.  

The immediate return may require Jordan to remove Oklahoma from the garbage heap, while the already-struggling Pacers and Knicks may slip even further. 

Former Raptors GM weighs in 

Glen Grunwald, a former general manager of the Toronto Raptors and Knicks, feels that Jordan misspoke with his “garbage” comments and in a way that commissioner Adam Silver would likely not appreciate. 

“I don’t think it’s necessarily fair,” the current Athletic Director at McMaster University told CBC Sports. 

“Golden State had struggled for many years before they drafted Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, and that made all the difference for them. Then… they took advantage of the increase in the salary cap to sign Kevin Durant.”

Grunwald acknowledges that having great players is necessary for success, especially in a league that has had dynasties dating all the way back to the late 1940s with the Minneapolis Lakers, through the 1980s with the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers, and the ’90s Bulls and so forth. 

The differences in this era aren’t so much in how teams are built, Grunwald says, but in how the game is being played.

Playing by the rules

“What is often overlooked are the rule changes which don’t allow as much contact and hand-checking on the perimeter,” he says. “It makes it difficult for a less-talented team to equalize the disparity in talent through tough defence and being physical with a team like Golden State.”

As for the unbalanced trades involving George and Anthony, Grunwald believes that’s just the nature of the business. 

“It’s always hard to do a trade and I think there have been more teams with very disparate interests,” he says. “Some teams are really trying to tank and that creates those unbalanced trades, where a team doesn’t particularly care… they want to be bad and get a good draft choice.”

Although the NBA has implemented new draft rules that aim at reducing the incentive to tank, the ability to prevent the forming of super teams is more difficult to tackle, assuming the desire even exists.

So for the time being, Jordan may have to deal with the reality of watching “garbage” teams for years to come.

“I think [Jordan’s] concern is the desire of great players to leave smaller markets or just leave any team, but that’s not a new thing,” Grunwald says. “But that’s what players are entitled to do and… [Jordan] being in a small market, that makes it less likely that [the Hornets] would be able to attract players.”

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