Teams search months — and even years — to find a guy they can build around, their franchise star, the one whose face they can sell. And while finding your “franchise guy” is no easy task, surrounding him with the right pieces poses an even bigger challenge.
Sometimes, a star commits to a team and a city in hopes of delivering them a Championship. But sometimes, no matter how well he may be playing, the team cannot provide enough support around the star to make it happen. That is the case for these five NBA franchises, who have acquired a superstar they can build around, only for them to fail to build a stable and winning culture around him.
New Orleans Pelicans: Anthony Davis
For years, Anthony Davis held on to what was a fractured organization. Coaches were being swapped in and out faster than most could keep track, and the front office was never on the same page. Worst of all, the Pelicans were never able to surround Davis with a talented roster. The biggest move they made was trading for DeMarcus Cousins, who left a year later to Golden State while the guys they traded him for are playing out of their minds in Sacramento.
It all came to a head in February, when Davis decided he had finally had enough. It was announced to the world that their star (understandably) wanted out, and instead of playing it right and looking for the best possible deal, they played games with Magic Johnson and the Lakers out of pure spite. Now, they are facing a very questionable summer as they look to recover the pieces.
Portland Trail Blazers: Damian Lillard
The Trailblazers are just one of those teams that never goes away. They have just enough to keep their team relevant, and are staying out of the dramatic sideshow that most teams seem to be starring in these days.
The fact remains, however, that Portland has seen very little playoff success since Damian Lillard arrived in 2012. Most of that is due to their inability to recruit free agents to the city. Both Dame and CJ were drafted by the team, and Jusuf Nurkic (their best paint protector) was acquired via trade from the Nuggets. Besides a few first-round series victories, Portland does not have enough talent surrounding their All-Star backcourt to progress any further as a team.
Despite this, the front office has not done all that much to improve their standings. No big trades, no personnel changes, nothing. If Damian Lillard is to get his first ring with the Blazers, they will have to step up their game and maybe make some changes to mix things up.
Los Angeles Lakers: LeBron James
When LeBron signed the dotted line with Rob and Magic, he had to have something different in mind then what ended up being a nightmarish 2018/19 season.
He turns 35 in December and the Lakers have done almost nothing to help him succeed before the end of his career. In fact, the situation has been toxic.
Finger-pointing and eye-rolling between teammates, the head-scratching signings of JaVale, Lance, and Beasley, the leaked trade offer that went viral online — it is clear from everything that transpired that the Lakers never really had a plan for this season, and wasted some mileage on LeBron’s aging body as a result.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns
After making the playoffs last spring, the Timberwolves have taken what appears to be several giant steps back. They went out of their way to trade for Jimmy Butler but ended up not being able to handle his fiery personality. To replace him, they brought in Luol Deng and are expected to give the injury-laden Derrick Rose a significant contract this summer.
Just a few years after giving control of their franchise to Tom Thibodeau, fired him after a couple of seasons with the team.
Since then, they have yet to make any significant signing, leaving Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins to fend for themselves in a league that has been absolutely unforgiving to them and their team.
Charlotte Hornets: Kemba Walker
Kemba’s loyalty and love for Charlotte are well documented in NBA circles. But there is only so long one is willing to stay on a team that literally cannot find anyone else willing to join them.
True, they have made strides since their old “Bobcat” days. But even then, Walker had a solid partner in Al Jefferson. Since Jefferson’s departure, it has practically been a one-man show for the Hornets. They are stuck paying tens of millions for Nic Batum, who averaged 9 points this past season, and are resting their hope in the development of Malik Monk, who most folk forgot was even still in the league.
Kemba is set to be a free agent this summer, and he will have to decide whether staying with his heart in Charlotte is worth more than finally joining a winning organization. Nobody will blame him if he chooses the latter.