The final piece. Everyone constantly searches for the elusive final piece and will sacrifice long-term success for the mere chance of a championship. Unfortunately, a big star is rarely the last element, and most additions that help teams win championships are key supporting cast players.
But people make mistakes. It's part of being human. As long as you learn from them, it's how you become better. You can also learn from others' mistakes. But many people don't because somehow the same rules don't apply to them. It's true if the other person didn't know what they were doing and you do, it could be different. But in most cases, it won't.
That leads me to, why on earth do sports teams still trade so many players and picks for one player? It rarely works. The most notorious of these is the Herschel Walker trade, which happened in 1989. But somehow, 34 years later, we're still doing them.
Herschel Walker was the best player on an awful Dallas Cowboys team. The Cowboys traded Walker for five players and three picks. The Cowboys could receive five more picks by trading or cutting all five of the acquired players, which is what they started doing with two. Before they finished, the Minnesota Vikings said they could keep the other three players and still receive the additional picks. The Cowboys used those picks to create their dynasty that won three super bowls, while the Vikings never won a playoff game with Walker, and he only played two more seasons with them. They gave away everything for nothing in return. Talk about fleecing.
What everyone should have learned from this is that football is a team sport like almost every other sport, and one player rarely makes a difference. Also, successful teams are built through the draft, which would be challenging to accomplish without picks. Additionally, if the player was that good, why is someone getting rid of them? They would only do that if they weren't or you overvalued them as the Vikings did.
We'll run through some recent bad trades to highlight nothing has changed, but they still keep happening.
This one just happened, but it's already a bust. The Seattle Seahawks traded disgruntled Russell Wilson and a pick to the Denver Broncos for five picks and three players. Despite claiming he envisioned playing his whole career in Seattle, Wilson wanted out and got his wish. It's more curious as to why the Broncos wanted him. The Broncos are just a good team. They certainly aren't one player away from the Super Bowl. Their AFC West division is one of the toughest. Because of Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert, even with this move, it's unlikely they would ever finish higher than third, making it difficult to make the playoffs.
The Seahawks' previous quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is a capable NFL starter. Better quarterbacks are out there, but it's hard to find them. And you wouldn't want to give up so many assets and money to get them. And that brings me to the other problem, money. Most Super Bowl winners tend to feature teams with quarterbacks whose deals aren't eating up most of their cap space, which Wilson's $245 million deal will. Wilson himself appeared in two Super Bowls on his rookie contract. Tom Brady has been in ten Super Bowls because he purposely takes less than he could easily make to pay other players and increase his chances of winning.
What makes this worse is that Wilson played terribly in his first season in Denver. Mainly because the offense he picked to run does not play to his strengths. Meanwhile, his replacement in Seattle, Geno Smith, had his best season ever. Bridgewater is doing just fine in Miami in relief of Tua Tagovailoa when he isn't injured, which sadly isn't often. If the Broncos were smart, they would have kept Bridgewater and tried to get younger and draft a quarterback who will be ready once Mahomes and Herbert are older. But they weren't, mostly because John Elway has no clue what he's doing. They did hire Sean Payton to be their head coach will fix some of the issues. But I don't foresee a Super Bowl from this partnership.
Basketball is the least team sport, so getting a superstar is beneficial. But in most cases, the team is made through the draft. Forming super teams rarely work out. The latest super team of Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving failed spectacularly. When they announced it, I knew it would because those three have the same personalities and egos and would never coexist. Their emotions would impede their talent. Although if Durant's toe had not crossed the three-point line, they would have beaten the Milwaukee Bucks and then assuredly beaten the Atlanta Hawks and made it to the finals. But that didn't happen, and besides that run, it was a disaster. The Lebron James Miami Heat are a rare exception that worked, but they already had Dwayne Wade, who the Heat drafted. James came as a free agent, and only Chris Bosh came through a trade where he was technically a free agent. However, they are considered a bust, having won only two titles.
The Anthony Davis trade deeply puzzled me. The Los Angeles Lakers traded for Davis during his final season before becoming a free agent. The New Orleans Pelicans wanted to trade him to get something in return. But Los Angeles was the only place he could go because they were one of the few teams Davis wanted to play for and who were willing to give up a lot to get him. The Lakers should have just waited and signed him as a free agent. Now I know they won the title the season they acquired him, but how has it looked since? They've been abysmal.
They could have kept Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and three first-round draft picks they desperately need now and still signed the often-injured Davis in free agency. I argue they still could have won the next season and had plenty of pieces for the future. Now they're an old and declining team with one more first-round pick still yet to be sent to the Pelicans. Meanwhile, the Pelicans are now one of the top teams out West, thanks to those players and picks. Worse, the Lakers kept Kyle Kuzma out of the Davis trade package, which was smart. But they traded Kuzma and other players for Russell Westbrook, someone who never fit with the team, is on the decline, and who they don't even want anymore. While Kuzma is having his best season ever, blossoming into the player most thought he would. Westbrook has now been dealt, and the Lakers, surprise, surprise, lost another first-round pick in that deal. I would have just kept Ingram, Kuzma, and the picks.
The Los Angeles Clippers gave up Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, five first-round draft picks, and the right to swap two other first-round picks for Paul George. Five picks alone are insane for someone most don't consider a top-tier player. It's even worse because Gilgeous-Alexander is on his way to becoming one of the best players in the NBA. The Oklahoma City Thunder only gave up two players to get George initially. Essentially they flipped him for a plus-five return. So far, they've only used two of those five first-round picks, so it's too early to tell the results. But I'm going to predict they'll do well, really well. They've probably won the trade already simply because of Gilgeous-Alexander. The Clippers have yet to win anything with George, only appearing in one conference final, and I doubt they'll ever win anything with him.
Hockey rarely has blockbuster trades, but there was a recent one. The San Jose Sharks traded Chris Tierney, Dylan DeMelo, Josh Norris, Rudolfs Balcers, and three picks for defenseman Erik Karlsson. That's quite a lot. The Sharks did make the conference finals with Karlsson their first season, but it's been all downhill since. They haven't made the playoffs, and I argue they'll never win a playoff series for the rest of his Sharks' career. What's worse is the Sharks were so bad the following season one of those picks became third overall that the Senators used to select Tim Stuetzle, a budding superstar. Norris has also scored 35 goals already. The Senators haven't done that great either, but they have a great young core, mostly from this trade, and I know they'll be extraordinary in a few seasons.
Blockbuster trades don't work because one player does not make a team. Additionally, multiple players have a better chance of contributing in the long run than one player, no matter how great that player is. Championship teams are built through the draft too. I'd take it if someone offered me seven prospects and picks for one player. The best trades are generally the ones you never make.