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As the Raptors celebrate, is this the end of the super team era? 

18 Jun 2019, 10:12 IST

Toronto Raptors Victory Parade & Rally
Toronto Raptors Victory Parade & Rally

The Toronto Raptors are NBA champions and Canada should celebrate. Their victory potentially represents an end of an era for the league as a whole and Golden State Warriors, no matter what the latter will tell you. For five years, they terrorised the league, won three championships, had a 73-win season and assembled arguably the most broken super team ever by signing Kevin Durant in 2016.

However, with KD's Achilles injury and reports that Klay Thompson tore his ACL in their Game 6 defeat, it's reasonable to expect a new Western Conference champion next year. No-one knows whether Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard will leave and take any hope of a Raptors repeat with him, either.

New teams will rise, looking at a league which may be the most open it has been in a long time. But there is one thing that may change. The super team era, which has seen the league's truly dominant players all joining up together, may be coming to an end.

The problems with building a new team

Stars will continue teaming up to some degree. The Raptors themselves had two All-Stars, Anthony Davis has already joined the Lakers with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving's long-term future is in doubt, with suggestions that he's set to head to Brooklyn along with another elite player, or a bit of solo travel elsewhere.

The league's best have always had multiple stars teaming up, but ever since LeBron decided to take his talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat, we have seen three elite players, followed by four in Golden State, join together to create a dominant team. Ever since that happened, rival fans have contrived fantastical cap room scenarios which would let them create their own super teams in free agency.

However, the problem is that assembling the cap space to create such a team is harder than ever now. We cannot forget the Warriors were only able to sign Kevin Durant due to a confluence of factors, some completely outside their control such as the cap spike.

The Nets have received plenty of buzz recently after completing a trade to allow them two max slots this summer, while the Heat were able to get three in 2010. With salaries rising for players who remain at their respective teams, it's difficult to imagine a scenario where teams have the cap space to sign three or even four stars on the same team.

The problem with depth

Even if Brooklyn, the Lakers or Clippers manage to bring three or more All-Stars together, Toronto's victory puts the whole super team model into doubt. Analysts and fans alike have wondered going back to 2010 whether these sides would have the depth required to keep up with the length of a strenuous 82-game season, coupled with the postseason playoffs too.

Golden State were ultimately defeated because they crucially lacked the depth to compensate for their star players sustaining injuries. Some might suggest there is no way for them to adjust in the case of such major injuries, but take a look at the Raptors - they relied heavily on "load management" and Kawhi himself revealed he wouldn't have featured in the Finals without taking games off throughout the regular season.

Kawhi celebrates with his Finals MVP trophy during the Raptors victory parade on Monday
Kawhi celebrates with his Finals MVP trophy during the Raptors victory parade on Monday

So, why couldn't the Warriors do the same? They had no wing depth and would have been forced to put an ageing Andre Iguodala or perhaps Alfonzo McKinnie at the three spot whenever Durant sat out. Depth matters not just as a backup to injuries, but also preventing them by giving stars more time to rest.

What's next for the league?

In hindsight though, perhaps nothing would have helped Golden State - they were clearly exhausted by making five successive deep playoff runs. Teams have shown in recent years that they can always clear off cap space by giving away picks or young assets, earning the space needed to potentially start a new super team.

As we look at this new era, the simple fact is the fundamentals have changed. We are talking about teams bringing two stars together, as opposed to three or four. Kyrie or AD, not the duo alongside LeBron. Perhaps the final product will be a better one for the league, as the super team narrative fades away and the NBA can begin to approach something which looks like parity once more.

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