Of course Hawks need a superstar but they aren't easy to acquire

It’s easy to say the Hawks won’t be a real championship contender until they get a superstar. Duh. It’s much harder for them to actually acquire one because those players are, by definition, a rare commodity. Dang.

There are 30 NBA teams but no more than 10 superstars, by which I mean players voted first- or second-team All-NBA. Right now at least two teams, the Warriors and Thunder, have a pair of superstars. So that leaves six superstars for the other 28 teams. There are never be enough to go around.

When it comes to winning NBA championships, history strongly favors those with a Top 10 player:

  • There have been 66 NBA champions since the first was crowned in 1950, and 63 of those teams (95.5 percent) placed at least one player on one of the top two All-NBA teams during the season they won the title.
  • Only 13 of 66 finals runner-up teams (19.7 percent) failed to place a player on one of the top two All-NBA teams.
  • The 1990 Pistons are the last NBA champion without a top 10 player in the year they won it. They did have Joe Dumars, who was third-team NBA that year, second-team NBA in 1993 and now is a member of the Hall of Fame.
  • The 2010 Celtics are the last NBA finals runner-up without a top 10 player in the year they won it. They did have Paul Pierce (second-team All-NBA the year before and Finals MVP in 2008) and Kevin Garnett (first-team All-NBA in 2008 and league MVP in 2004).

You get the picture. An NBA superstar has been a prerequisite for more than 9 in 10 NBA champions. It’s been a requirement for eight out of 10 conference champions. The exceptions include a lot of teams with ex-superstars or future superstars. The All-NBA teams haven’t been announced for this season but the trend isn’t going to change with the Warriors, Thunder, and Cavaliers certain to have at least one Top 10 selection and Toronto's Kyle Lowry likely to make the cut.

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The most common way of acquiring a top 10 player is to draft one. Selecting high in the draft increases the odds. The best way for a team to do that is to be so bad that it can enter the draft lottery, have the ping-pong balls bounce right and then pick the right player (assuming there is one) who then develops into a superstar (because hardly any rookies are that good).

That takes a lot of luck. The Hawks know because they tried it. They got the losing and the ping-pong ball parts right. Not so much the picks: Josh Childress, Marvin Williams and Shelden Williams. The Hawks got it right when they selected Al Horford No. 3--he was the second-best player in his draft but hasn't become a superstar. The best player in that draft, Kevin Durant, went No. 2, and the Sonics/Thunder would have taken Greg Oden if they'd had the No. 1 pick. Lucky.

The second-most common way to acquire a top 10 player is via trade but that’s not easy, either, unless a franchise happens to be near LeBron James’ hometown. It takes assets to get a superstar in a trade, and if a team trades away a lot of assets to get a superstar and then has no easy way to get better fast, will the superstar wants to sign long-term with his new team? Even superstars need help.

The third-most common way to acquire a top 10 player is to sign one via free agency but . . . well, you know. First the superstar must want to leave his current team and, under the current CBA’s Bird rules, he must leave a lot of money on the table to do so. That’s happened only a handful of times. Multiple franchises clear cap space for the chance to sign a superstar and then they have to sell the player on why he should choose them over the others.

The Hawks now are a credible organization. They’ve been a good team the past two years. They just lack the superstar to be great, but there aren’t a lot of those that is hard to get without being bad (and even then it’s a crap shoot). The Hawks are kind of stuck in the middle.