Blogtable: Title Without A Superstar?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


Week 16: All-time favorite Dunk Contest dunk? | On LeBron’s hot streak … | Winning it all without a star


Can a team win it all nowadays without an MVP-type superstar?

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Steve AschburnerDon’t want to say “can’t” about a superstar-deficient roster surviving to win the NBA title but I do think it’s a long shot. The ability to ride one (or better yet, two) hot hands and the role that free-throw opportunities can play in pivotal games — built off of star power, in many cases — are the things of which champions are made. It would be fascinating to a lot of hardcore pro hoops fans to see, say, a Nuggets-Pacers Finals, but it wouldn’t thrill the marketing types or maybe even the folks in Olympic Tower. But I don’t see them having to fret beyond the conference finals round.

Fran Blinebury: This is like the old kids’ riddle about how many balls of string would it take to reach the moon?  Just one, but it better be big. Of course, a team without a superstar can win it all. But it had better be talented, tough, unselfish and have enough players who could make all the big and little plays in the clutch. The stars have to be perfectly aligned to produce the 2004 Pistons again.

Jeff Caplan: OK, so the star-less Detroit Pistons won it all against the bickering, last-of-the-line Kobe-Shaq Lakers nearly a decade ago. The Chauncey Billups-Rip Hamilton-Tayshaun Prince-Rasheed-and-Ben Wallace Pistons remain the lone example, an exception to the rule. So, no, I don’t believe a team without a bona fide superstar in today’s NBA can win it all. We’ve seen that it’s nearly impossible for a lone superstar to take his team to the top. Dirk Nowitzki finally managed that task with one of the great postseason runs of all-time in 2011. And let’s be real, those Mavs caught a collapsing Lakers team with Phil Jackson having one foot out the door, a very young Thunder team just getting their feet under them and the Miami Super Friends in their first season together. I truly enjoy watching George Karl‘s squad run up and down the floor, but a team has got to have a go-to-guy who can create his own shot when the game turns into a halfcourt grindfest and when crunch-time demands an isolation takeover.

Scott Howard-CooperPossible, but it makes the odds much longer. The team does not have to have an MVP-type superstar, but it needs to have a player able to beat coverage to hit a pressure shot coming out of of a timeout in the final seconds. It also needs to have the player strike a fear in defenses, enough to create an opening for a teammate if Player X himself does not take the shot. That usually describes a superstar.

John Schuhmann: I think so. It would take great defense (like what we’ve seen from the star-less Pacers and Bulls) and an offense with shooting and ball movement (like the Spurs in Chicago on Monday). Of course, I don’t think the Nuggets have what it takes. They’re not good enough defensively, not good enough on the road, and not good enough from behind the 3-point line to thrive in at a slower, playoff-like pace.

Sekou Smith: It’s only been done once in my time eyeballing the league, by the 2004 Detroit Pistons. And they did it with one of the most meticulously crafted rosters I can remember seeing that was didn’t have a true MVP-type anchor (Chauncey Billups or Ben Wallace came close). I love the Nuggets and the way they are playing this season. The committee approach only goes so far in the NBA playoffs these days. Sooner or later you run into a team built around a superstar player (or players, in most instances).

48 Comments

  1. john says:

    its possible to win without a superstar but you will need a lot of good player and role player

  2. big cat says:

    I would much rather watch a nuggets pacers finals than a heat thunder finals . Just like last yr I was hoping the spurs and Celtics would meet up in the finals , just much more intriguing matchups rather than a foul fest with the thunder and heat , the finals last year was one of the lamest ever didn’t even watch it all.

  3. mike says:

    gallinari really needs some love here… i think if you’re going to pick a clutch player in denver, it’s him. i think (someone correct me if i’m wrong) he made a game-winning three earlier in the year, and he has the most offensive weapons on the roster.

  4. turopitosauros says:

    I think of iguodala as a superstar. Andre is one of my favorites. But i still want the heat to win the next 10 championships :P

  5. Bersem says:

    It’s all about team spirit and chemistry… Denver second unit is as available as the starting five

  6. Petshop says:

    I’d rather have the team without a superstar whose making a run at playoffs rather than a team with four superstar (Lakers) whose outside of the playoffs this season. Also I don’t think Detroit 2k4 is without a superstar. 5 of them got into Allstars on the same year. They may not be as popular as Lebron/Kobe types but Ben Wallace is a DPOY/ Chauncey is MVP.

    • dattebayo says:

      People, learn facts before you throw them out here. The Pistons were NBA Champions in 2004, but only Ben Wallace had been an allstar that year (for the 2nd time), Rasheed Wallace was a former 2 time allstar. A couple seasons later, the Pistons had the best regular season record at ASW and therefore 4 players were named allstars (Billups, Sheed, Big Ben, Rip).

      Yes Chauncey Billups, Rip and both Wallaces are great players, but no one gave them a chance against the star-studded Lakers. Doesn’t mean they were not great, but they were not regarded that way.

  7. Tushar says:

    My thinking is that if the pistions won it in 2004 with no all star, then anyone can.

  8. Webberino says:

    Detroit Pistons of 2004 was the example used.. Sacramento Kings of 2002… How about the Spurs since…… Who knows?! Ginoboli, and Duncan are waaay past their prime. Those two plus Tony Parker were never really considered “Superstars”.. In fact, this season shows that without one or two or all three of those guys the Spurs are still capable of winning. They’ve been the top 2 or 3 seed for a loooong time now

  9. Novak says:

    Nuggets should trade iguodala, gallinari, ty lawson and McGee for Carmelo and Novak.

    Novak FTW!!!!

  10. ReggieMiller says:

    Pacers can win it all this year or next i think. They play hard and don’t have ball hogs. Also they have great defense, something that Pistons team had to!

  11. FirstTake says:

    Hahaha, people just can’t respect teams for winning it. Who’s this Jeff Caplan guy, sounds like he’s trying to make excuses. Mavs running into a collapsing Lakers team?? A Thunder team getting their feet under them. If it was so easy for us Jeff Caplan. Why the hell were we underdogs in EVERY series we played in, including the Portland 1st rounder. You said it was one of the greatest postseason runs of all time which is correct. But then you go on to say some complete ridiculous statements. Nobody said we’d beat any of the teams we played, but we did. So give us the credit please, instead of thinking up excuses to make it seem like it was less of an accomplishment.

  12. Gonza says:

    A team needs this 5 things to win a championship without a superstar:

    1- Be Top 3 Defensive team
    2- Balanced scoring. At least 3 guys must be averaging between 15 and 18 points.
    3- Positive leadership like Billups did with the pistons
    4- Winning mentality
    5- Good players and depth on the bench

  13. LALA says:

    The difference is the Pistons had 4 all stars on their team. Every player on their team was more than solid in 04. The Nuggets have Iggy and Lawson and maybe Gallo, but only 1 of them is an all star. The pacers have George hill and Danny granger. Roy hibbert may have been an all star, but he is nowhere near that solid and David west is older now, past his all star days. That’s why these 2 teams can’t win. The Pistons were stacked, but the Nuggets and the Pacers are simply solid.

  14. NBALogics says:

    Super stars are defined by how they lead there team and who has the ball in the clutch moments. The nuggets tho got all the weapons, super fast PG in Lawson, Versatile Forwards/SG’s in Igoudala and Gallo and potential double double machines in McGee and Faried. All they need to do is become better at shooting, feeding the hot hand and defense because defense wins championships and offense wins games.

  15. D O says:

    I actually think that Denver has some really semi to near super All Star status players. It all begins with Iguodala. I believe that he is one of the few guys in the league who really has a legit chance of defending Lebron James because of his size and quickness. Also we have seen Iggy hit some clutch shot. The second would be Ty Lawson. In Lawson’s case you have speed shooting but I think when it comes to crunch time you cannot dismiss him by saying he did not take ” The shot” . His greatest value would be slicing in lane collapsing defense and making plays. Most often that but could well mean a game winning basket. And lets not forget Gallo. Gallo is clutch. He might not be the typical super star who can take you off the dribble everytime but he can make those outside shots.

    In my opinion you cannot say that a team like Denver doesnt have a chance because their yet to be stars aren’t a Kobe , Jordan or even a Lebron like talent. Those guys come once in awhile. I think what matters most of the team like the 2004 Pistons and the current Nuggets is that their stars complement each other to a certain degree and maybe thats why they are winning now.

    Plus if everything fails, you still go Javale McGee

  16. Melomvp says:

    Maybe not this year but maybe a year or 2 … Gallo still need to improve him self to be go to guy of the team

  17. NBAnoooob says:

    How is everyone forgetting about the 2007-2008 Boston Celtics. They did the exact same thing as the ’04 Pistons, won a championship by committee without having any true superstar on the roster. Rondo hadn’t developed yet, PP and Ray Allen are great, but not superstars, and KG was already past his prime and could no longer be considered in the way we think of Lebron or KD today. They did it with defense and by coming together. Still, I don’t think that we will see that type of championship team again for a long time, not with the current batch of superstars leading contending teams.

    • bullsfan0218 says:

      I hope your kidding, Paul Pierce was still in his prime during that run, Garnett was defensive player of the year and only a few seasons removed from his MVP, and Ray Allen was still Ray Allen. You cant compare that to the 2004 Pistons

  18. Nash fan says:

    on the way to the title… a player from the team without superstars will rise to be THE SUPERSTAR!

  19. The Underdog Team is what i like most compared to other Team who is Teaming together. to become dominant. ala HEAT..

  20. leruma says:

    this question has been asked TOO many times

  21. Mr L says:

    I don’t think the Nuggets need a superstar to win a title, but right now they’re not a title contender. To be a title contender they need two things; hitting their free throws and a go to guy(s). The go to guy don’t need to be a superstar, just a guy who can deliver offensively when it matters. Lawson and Gallo has had some clutch plays this year and I would like to see them to continue to improve on that part. I hope those two become players who can average 20 ppg each, while Faried and Iggy leads the way defensively.

  22. Silvio says:

    You can win a title without a superstar when a normal player in your roster step up and become a star. In 2004 Billups and Sheed played the finals like superstars.
    Nowadays probably Indiana could have something like that happening. But in this period none can step up and beat Lebron James in a playoff final, and this will last for a very long time….

  23. Karlo Garcia says:

    Yes, a team can win a title without a superstar. I can c Kenneth Faried being a superstar in the future.

  24. BJ says:

    of course any team cna win without a super star. The franshise and the league always define who they will be on a team. you can go down the list of every single team, they all have great players and some are better than others. the ones that show they are better than other players evolve to be the superstar.

  25. Ronny j. Escamilla says:

    “Can you win a title without a already famous All-Star scorer”? I have only one answer to that question Kenneth Faried. If not now, it is only a matter of when he will be a true superstar.

    • AM says:

      I don’t think Faried can be considered even in the future a superstar like lebron, carmelo, kobe, durant, westbrook, etc. Yes, he has a lot of heart and a great motor, but he doesn’t have the skills to reach that level

      • Ronny j. Escamilla says:

        Only time will tell the truth to that question…

      • Game Time says:

        Faried has lots of star potential if you ask me. He already plays great and it’s not like the offense is run through him, yet he still shines at what he does. Give him time to develope some post moves and maybe a mid range game.

  26. Ben says:

    I think Andre Miller needs to stop running his mouth. Denver might not feel like they have a superstar because they are an incredibly balanced, strong team. If Harden was in the Denver system, not the Houston system, he would probably look like a cog not a superstar too. But in a different system I think they have three guys who might just be superstars.

    Kenneth Faried is still young, but I could see him becoming an absolute beast – even by this playoffs but certainly in the next year or two. Ty Lawson is a bit hard to peg, but I could see him being a superstar if he wasn’t time-sharing with another of the leagues best point guards. And Danilo Gallinari is a guy who I think has the potential to average 30 plus points in a playoff series, reasonably efficiently, if he needs to.

    Denver are a long shot to win the league – but a shot for sure. The main reason why they are a long shot, in my view, is because they are right now living in an era with two of the most transcendent superstars since Magic and Bird. It’s going to be very hard to get past Durant and James in the playoffs, for many years yet. But if this exact same Denver team had been playing in the league anytime from 2005-2011, I think they would have had a reasonably good shot at winning.

    • Twizz says:

      I said the same thing regarding Lawson. Karl needs to stop with that 2 PG lineup. When Miller is in, Lawson doesn’t seem to play as good as he could.

  27. JaValle says:

    We have JaValle! hahahahaha. jaValle is main attraction for Denver! :D

  28. UFO says:

    Nope, I do NOT think so. Just look at the history of NBA, only a handful of teams winning without a superstar. you name it 80s, dominated by Magic and Bird, with exception of Detroit (they even got Isiah, too). 90s, Jordan and the Dream, even 99 Spurs had Duncan and Robinson at his prime. 00s, Kobe,Shaq and Duncan, excepted Detroit in 04. There is a reason OKC met with super friends last year, they both got 3 or 2.5 super stars, whatever you want to call it. If you want to call Mavs an exception, they even had Dirk (at least he is one of the best international players) playing at his prime. So to sum it up, the probability of win it all is so low, I do NOT think teams like Denver, Chicago without Rose, Pacers can get it down

  29. King_James says:

    Are we all going to forget about the Sacramento Kings back in the 2002-2004 years. They didn’t have a superstar (maybe Chris Webber) and they came close but couldn’t get over the hump. I think they deserve some mention and recognition amongst these experts debate.

  30. Game Time says:

    How was Detroit star-less? Wallace was an All-Star defensive big man. Billups and Rip where All-Star caliber guys, but being in Detroit they never got the kind of press like other stars until they won. I think you guys need to rephrase the question to “Can you win a title without a already famous All-Star scorer”?

  31. op says:

    I think that the Nuggets can be a real deal if they start to use bigger lineups(last night we saw that Anthony Randolph can really give some boost of the bench), not the smaller line ups when sometimes Manimal ends playing center and Gallo rotates to a streching PF…This smaller line ups cannot stand against all the inside presence in the West, so if Javale gets consistent minutes along Randolph the the Nuggets have a chance to make a deep run,,,,

  32. QuestionMark says:

    Pretty tough to win without a superstar. I don’ think Nuggets need a superstar, they need a clutch player who can get it done in big late game situations, especially in the Playoffs. Pistons didn’t have a superstar, but they had Mr. Big Shot.

  33. Roy says:

    Isn’t Iggy a superstar? He may not be a prolific scorer but he has been the best player on nearly every team he has been on and was an all star last year. Isn’t that why he was brought in to Denver and has a $14 million contract? I would feel comfortable with him taking that last shot in the game if I was George Karl. He ain’t no scrub.

  34. Jack SP. says:

    Rasheed Wallace was a superstar in his prime.

  35. steppx says:

    of course you can. But the problem is in defining super star. Is paul george a super star? Well, if he steps up big, then he BECOMES one. Thats the key. Everything is always evolving. Denver might not, but if Iguadola were to take it to another level, then yeah, Denver could win. Indiana the same with george.

  36. steppx says:

    Of course you can. But the problem is defining super star. Is paul george a super star? Well last year nobody would have called him that, but this year, he is very very close. What scott says is correct. You need one or two impactful guys, even if not super stars, who can be relied on for a big play now and then. But again, if Iguadola were to step up big, he suddenly BECOMES a super star.

    • Twizz says:

      You only need a superstar to win because the refs give superstars a lot of calls. If stars were treated on the same level as regular players, then maybe a team without a superstar could win. That’s just the way the NBA is.

      • GO NUGS says:

        I completely agree, and iAschberner above said something more intriguing: “It would be fascinating to a lot of hardcore pro hoops fans to see, say, a Nuggets-Pacers Finals, but it wouldn’t thrill the marketing types or maybe even the folks in Olympic Tower. But I don’t see them having to fret beyond the conference finals round.”

        So no marketing types means no money, and no money is no good to the NBA. That is why when you watch the playoffs close, they teams with super stars get all the calls from the refs. I know I sound biased because I’m a Nugs fan by Ty Lawson gets hammered everytime he goes to the basket and rarely gets a call, especially if the shot drops. Super star players he plays against however, get a call if the wind in the arena blows the wrong way…

        GO NUGS