NBA Playoffs Results Show One Right Model To Contention Doesn't Exist

There was a discussion that popped up in the comments section of a recent post about what lessons the Wizards can learn from the team-building of the Memphis Grizzlies, who shocked the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the NBA Playoffs and then beat our favorite golden-boy team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the other day.  Memphis didn't take the same path to this point as most teams.  They built around Zach Randolph, prematurely handed out money to a lot of key players in the hopes that they would improve and mixed youth with veterans. 

As we think about how the Wizards continue in this rebuilding process, it's natural to look at teams like Memphis, Oklahoma City and others and say "Here's how we should build our team!"  But here's the thing: does that "right way" even exist?  Consider how the remaining eight clubs got to this point.

  • The Bulls got lucky to draft Derrick Rose, had Joakim Noah fall into their lap the year before, then built most of the rest of the roster through free agency.  They sacrificed two years to be mediocre to create that cap room, and then signed guys that wouldn't imped Rose's development too much.
  • The Hawks sucked for years, screwed up a huge draft pick in 2005, then combined the natural accumulation of draft picks with a huge free-agent signing while they still sucked (Joe Johnson).  They also traded for one veteran point guard, and then another.  They also kept said free agent with another huge contract.
  • The Celtics used a stable of young, but inconsistent talent to acquire two superstars.  The plan worked because Danny Ainge was smart enough to keep the right two youngsters in Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins.
  • The Heat ... yeah
  • The Grizzlies were discussed already.  It's not like they got lucky to get here, but it's hard to discern any pattern to their moves. 
  • The Thunder's path to here is well documented.
  • The Mavericks have thrown veterans around their superstar that they uncovered over a decade ago, eschewing the draft and using their owners' deep pockets to acquire role players for more money.  
  • The Lakers had two superstars, treaded water for a few years, then got a big break to get Pau Gasol.  They also continued to maintain faith in a developing young center, even though he always got hurt and his team's superstar initially didn't like him.
Can you discern some lessons in there?  Sure.  Can you discern a right way to do business, other than acquiring great talent?  No way.  For all this talk about models, it's the execution that really matters. This isn't to say there's no point in having a "plan," but it is to say that the actions that turn a "plan" into success aren't universal.

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