With the NBA draft less than twenty-four hours away, I wanted to open up a dialogue on something closely related to the draft. The issue regarding what some NBA pundits feel will be the new model for winning the NBA championship. Will the Miami Heat model entice other teams to seek instant success by clearing cap-space with the hopes of luring two or three big name players? Of course there will be some attempt by a few teams; the NBA is sometimes called the ‘copy-cat’ league but ultimately, this model will not yield the same reward as the Miami Heat.
Drafting well in the NBA will often result in post-season success!
Take for example the Oklahoma City Thunder and their recent run to before falling short of winning it all. They are the modern day epitome of how an NBA team should build for a bright future – draft really well and then surround the young talents with a few veteran players to round out this important but elusive formula for building a team. Another team that is following this model is the Chicago Bulls (hoping Derrick Rose makes a full recovery). The last eight NBA championship teams have all had star players that were drafted by their respective teams; from the 2004-2005 season, the list includes Tim Duncan, Dwyane Wade, Paul Pierce, Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki. Although the Miami Heat just won their championship through the ‘Superstar Acquisition Model’ (SAM), they had to go through a formidable OKC team that is on the cusp of becoming a consistent opponent of any Eastern Conference team (ahem…..Miami?) in the Finals, for the next few years.
A lot has been made about this Heat model of winning the championship that they are ushering in a controversial new era of team building in basketball. I for one think this is all nonsense! This formula is like lightening in a bottle that worked for the Heat but history and other factors will likely not favor other teams and players that might try this model (ahem…New York Knicks a la Melo and Stoudemire). The formula for relative success in the NBA still falls on drafting well and trading well for pieces that balances out the roster. The Heat Model might have worked this season but the fact still remains that teams like the the Oklahoma City Thunder are doing it the smart way; one might even say the right way (depending on the context and who you ask). Trades are part of the game and one cannot separate it from how teams build and develop but that is not what SAM is all about. It is about the failed attempt of the 03/04 Lakers signing Karl Malone and Gary Payton to join Shaq and Kobe. It is also about the 96/97 Houston Rockets bringing in Charles Barkley to join Olajuwon and Drexler – this experiment lasted for two season with no trip to the finals. Drexler retired but the Rockets tried the SAM once more by bringing Scottie Pippen on board. The result was another season without a championship. In other words, this model has more failures than it has successes.
SAM worked for the Heat because it was the right timing with the right players. Chances of the timing being right and the availability of the right players aligning like this has a very slim probability of reoccurring. OKC has the right model and it might pay off next year when they face the Heat again.
(Ahem, that’s a bold prediction!)
On a related note:
I would like to congratulate the Miami Heat………actually, I would like to congratulate LeBron James on winning his first championship and in the process, temporarily silencing the critics and what seemingly looks like half the population of North America. In my honest opinion, it was well deserved. I was never a LeBron hater but more of an unbiased observer of all things LBJ. I scolded and applauded him when either was genuinely warranted. He is definitely undeserving of the level of hate that gets thrown at him – s0me of it is warranted but not that much!
…and what about the Raptors draft?
As for the draft itself, I am refraining from making any predictions about the Raptors but I will let my opinion be known. I have read all about
the Dion Waiters and the Damian Lillard possibilities but the player that intrigues me the most is Royce White. White is projected to be drafted in the mid to late first round – he is a 6’8 forward that can do it all. He led is Iowa State Cyclones in points, rebounds, assist, steals and blocks and has the tenacious mentality that the Raptors really need. Although there have been rumblings that Waiters has the makings of the second coming of Dwyane Wade, the fact is that Waiters potential is erratic at best. He could end up being a poor mans D.Wade - which is still very good – or end up being an exact replica of Smush Parker. Nuff said!
It would be ideal if the Raptors could work a trade in order to secure another pick before the twenty-first pick – where he is being predicted to be picked by the Celtics. I would trade Ed Davis because I thing White is already a better basketball package and has a higher developmental ceiling than Davis.
Selecting Waiters with the 8th pick would be nice but the icing on the cake would be orchestrating a trade that would somehow allow the Raptors to pick Royce White.