Featured Gallery, Latest News, NBA / Mar 28, 2011 / 5:00 pm

Locked-In: The NBA’s Five Best Foundations For The Future

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade & Chris Bosh

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade & Chris Bosh (photo. David Alvarez)

There is nothing more fun than playing fantasy GM. Everyone does it. The fact is that it’s a lot harder than it seems (off my 2K “Association” success, in my mind, I’m the next Jerry West). The term “core” is thrown around so much now that it has lost it’s value. What’s the point of creating a young group of talented players if two or three of them are going to leave? Only about a third of the league has a legit core, which in this case equals three or more guys locked up under contract for the next three years (through 2013-14). Some foundations will just take time. For example, while there are some chemistry issues, there aren’t too many teams with the potential star power that Sacramento has. Will they be winners or stat-munchers? Some others are still up in the air.

For Portland, a core of Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Wesley Matthews could be brutal…except no one knows where Roy’s career is headed. Then, you have other foundations, like the Clippers’ Blake Griffin, Al-Farouq Aminu and Eric Bledsoe, that could be included just from the presence of one superstar. Overall, here are the five best cores that are contractually locked up for the next three years (that is under contract/current team owns their rights through 2013-14:

5. L.A. Lakers (Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Steve Blake)
Before you see Steve Blake’s name and start laughing, think for a second. Every year they’ve been together, the “Black Swamba” has led the Lakers to the NBA Finals and they have a great chance this summer at winning another title. In fact, I could’ve just written Kobe and Pau and it would’ve worked as a two-man core. Blake is irrelevant for the most part. Throw in the seventh man on Bucknell and this core still deserves a spot in the top five.

Even if they are getting older, the wheels haven’t fallen off yet. Bryant’s one special gift is his relentlessness, a refusal to allow his body to fail him. Gasol lacks that survival instinct, but his game is perfectly suited to keep him playing at an All-Star level.

4. New York (Amar’e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, Toney Douglas)
This trio is another that is dangerously close to a two-man foundation. Douglas, if you happened to miss it in all of the Knicks’ issues, has quietly improved to the point where he is nearly outplaying Chauncey Billups. Douglas’ contract has a team option in 2012-13 and then a qualifying offer the following year. If New York wants him, they can keep him for the next three years. And while the hate for ‘Melo/Amar’e is strong right now, it’s a good start.

Despite being great at many of the same things, Anthony and Stoudemire could become a terrorizing offensive force if the Knicks can just spend wisely and surround them with a few defensive players. Right now it’s ugly. But I don’t think it’ll stay that way.

3. Chicago (Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng)
You know you’re in good shape when your locked-up core doesn’t even include arguably the MVP of the league. Derrick Rose obviously isn’t thinking of anything other than signing an extension with Chicago, but he’s not on this list because his contract runs up in 2012-13. Once he does sign that inevitable extension, this group immediately becomes the best four-man crew in the game (along with OKC once Russell Westbrook does the same).

Boozer is a great second or third wheel, and realizes he needs the help. He has it on both ends now with players who can mask his defensive shortcomings while getting him open shots on offense. Deng is the perfect off-the-ball scorer. And Noah does things that are extremely rare, and does them with an intensity that never wavers. Basically, the Bulls have created a core of players that perfectly complement each other and their all-world star.

2. Oklahoma City (Kevin Durant, Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka)
As mentioned above, Westbrook’s contract runs to 2012-13 with a qualifying offer that year so while he is obviously, at worst, the second most important player on the Thunder, he isn’t a part of this list’s core. It must be fun knowing that your beast of a point guard will be given a long deal and turn this core into a four-person monster. For right now, Durant is the best scorer in the league. But the inside tandem of Perkins and Ibaka is underrated. Defensively, they’re as good as any frontcourt: Perkins, the solid, low-post defender who relies on positioning, strength and a hatred of every player not on his team, and Ibaka, the athletic, off-ball force who can impact plays in his area and out of it.

In fact, Ibaka is one of my favorite young players in the whole league. I’ve had more than a few people gawk at me for this, but as Oklahoma City grows into the best team in the West, I could see him making a few All-Star games.

1. Miami (LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh)
Sorry, but according to this list’s criteria, this group is by far the best core of any team in the League. No one else even comes close. Whether they win a title this year or not doesn’t really matter. As long as the collective bargaining agreement doesn’t completely screw their cap space, the Heat will be able to add decent veteran role players almost every summer to surround these pillars. Even if it does take away their remaining money, I don’t doubt Pat Riley.

From this list, you can see how few teams, even at the top, have a legit three-player core locked up for the next three years. But Miami has one. Can they win a championship with these guys? If you don’t think they can, then I don’t know what to tell you. The next time you hear someone really go in on how disappointing Miami is, just think to yourself: this isn’t a one-year thing. These guys will be playing together for a long time. People too often forget that.

What do you think?

Follow Sean on Twitter at @SEANesweeney.

Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.

Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.

Related Posts with Thumbnails
  • nizzio

    What about Dallas? A core with Dirk, Kidd and Terry is deadly. And I give you props for not naming Boston.

  • http://www.dimemag.com Aron Phillips

    @ nizzio

    Kidd and Terry are free agents after next season.

  • beiber newz

    i hope nizzio is joking

    do u see the list put 2gether? who’d u knock off to make room for, lol, dallas?

  • hahns

    i like the list cool concept

  • yoda

    about lakers… both odom and bynum are signed trough 2013-2014. why not one of them instead of blake?


    A few years ago, the New York Knicks made the list with Eddy Curry, Stephon Marbury, Jerome James and/or Quentin Richarson.

  • http://Dimemag.com Chrisballz


    Team options on those years. I think he thinks that the team will opt put of those massive contracts

  • http://dimemag.com Sean Sweeney

    @yoda Both Odom and Bynum’s contracts end in 2012-13 instead of 13-14. Bynum has a team option that season and Odom’s final year of his contract that year is only partially guaranteed. So I couldn’t include them in this list, even though you have to believe at some point at least Bynum will get a big extension/new contract with LA.

  • http://stacheketball.neswblogs.com/ Ryan

    Definitely agree with the statement that Air Congo will make a couple All-Star games.

    At least.

    How about Matthews, Aldridge, Batum?

  • quest???

    the oklahoma city core is not even including james harden, who I think will be a potent scorer on the NBA. The Thunder are a Beast but they will be the Cloverfield Monster in a few years.

  • yoda

    @ chrizball
    ok. thanks
    @ sean

    didn’t odom signed same type of extension, maybe one year more than pau? and both signed same year, if i recall correctly.

  • s.bucketz

    mia is trading the boshtrich before his contract is up

  • http://250aspirin.blogspot.com DJ Leon Smith

    Should do a “Five Worst” as well. The Bucks would have to be close to #1 there.

  • s.bucketz

    that pic is funny as hell…bosh looks funny as hell even when hes tryin to put on a mean mug…and dwayne wayne and jebron lames both look like the “i want some of that purple stuff” kid from the old school sunny d commercial

  • danksy

    soon it will be the lakers core of Kobe, Pau and Dwight Howard ! Miami who???

  • james

    I saw Blake’s name, and just like that the whole article lost it’s creditability… can’t even read the rest…

  • JAY

    @ DJ Leon

    “Derozan, Bargnani, Ed Davis” has to be the 2nd worst to Cleveland. Derozan puts up the stats but he’s all over the place defensively (in a bad way).
    The Bucks trio doesn’t look that bad… they have an all-star in Bogut, and a young PG in Jennings.
    Cleveland has Jamison, B-Diddy, Varejao. Yikes.
    Washington, if not for Wall, might be worse than Milwuakee. Wall’s potential keeps them off the bottom of the barrel.

  • http://dimemag.com Sean Sweeney

    @yoda Odom signed an extension in the summer of ’09 for something like 4 years, $33 mill…but the final year (2012-13) isn’t fully guaranteed. Gasol is signed all the way through 2013-14: I believe the explanation is that Gasol had a deal signed w/ Memphis through this season and then agreed to a 3-year extension on top of that w/ LA.

  • bigdoggchad

    Blake, Gordan, and Jordan?

  • Shot In Ya Face

    The fuck? Steve Blake? That guy is HORRIBLE, utter piece of garbage.

    Blake: Slow, unatheltic, ugly ass flat shot and shots a disgusting low percentage. Slow, white, the list goes on.

  • http://www.DarkWingPro.com DarkWing Productions

    @bucketz, I whole heartedly agree. Christina bosh is way overpaid for what he’s bringing to the table.

    Who’s more overpaid, him or Joe Johnso?

  • http://dimemag.com Sean Sweeney

    @bigdoggchad Both Gordon and Jordan’s contract don’t run for another three years. That’s why they aren’t on this list.

    @Shot In Ya Face Besides KB/Pau, Blake is the only other Laker signed through 2013-14 (Artest does have an early termination option that year though)

  • lockon

    wow. you lost all cred here. first, you should not have put the contract situation to exclude russell westbrook or derrick rose. and you wont see them bolting out of their teams after their contract expires right? that made the list a little silly.

    then for the clips, it should blake/e.gordon/bledsoe. you forgot abt eric gordon? even though he was injured he is still averaging 20+.

    and how abt steve blake. it is his 1st yr with the lakers. how long has been blake played with kobe or gasol? he hasnt even reached the finals yet! then you say blake is irrelevant so you should have put bynum or odom. maybe you mixed him with derek fisher. omg. step your nba game up, dude!