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NBA free agency 'not the best way' to build a team

LeBron James of the Miami Heat drives around Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs in Game Five of the 2014 NBA Finals in San Antonio, Texas.
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LeBron James of the Miami Heat drives around Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs in Game Five of the 2014 NBA Finals in San Antonio, Texas.

Thursday is the official day that free agent players in the National Basketball Association can sign contracts.

And while many have already agreed to deals with teams, big-time players such as LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Pau Gasol and Chris Bosh remain unsigned. At least for the moment.

But is this anyway to build a championship team?

"I would say it's not the best way," said David Hollander, a professor of hospitality, tourism and sports management at New York University. "I think every team should look at the San Antonio Spurs (this year's NBA champs)."

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Hollander said there are always exceptions like the Miami Heat, who won two championships in four years after signing the big three of James, Bosh and Dwyane Wade.

However, if owners really want a good team, the best way is to get players who are committed to a work ethic and to playing in a system, he said.

"But if you want stars and attention and not necessarily a championship team, that's usually what you get with free agency," said Hollander. "That's more or less the business of sports today."

Billions in revenue

Pro basketball is definitely big business. Revenue for the NBA reached a record $4.6 billion during the 2012-2013 season.

For many of the players, the money can be worth it. The average salary for an NBA player is $5.15 million.

But bigger names can draw bigger paychecks.

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Anthony's current team, the New York Knicks, can give him the most lucrative contract of any team—some $129 million over five years. That's around $25.8 million a year. That has many expecting him to return to the Knicks, despite efforts by the Los Angeles Lakers and the Chicago Bulls to lure him.

In the case of James, he can make around $20.7 million a year tops, wherever he goes. That's due to James taking a lower salary when he joined the Heat in 2010 and the amount players can get over time due to salary restrictions on increases.

James made around $19 million this past year as a player with the Heat. James has said he wants the maximum salary with any team that signs him.

Spectacle is 'overblown'

Meanwhile, fans are waiting with baited breath to see where their "have to have" players go—and some are ready to make amends with those who once spurned them. (As in, come back to Cleveland and be a Cavalier again, LeBron!)

But for some, the whole spectacle seems a bit overblown, said NYU's Hollander.

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"Fans are naturally into it," he explained. "But players are mostly just trying to maximize their value. For them and the NBA, it's a business."

By CNBC's Mark Koba

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