Argument Against OKC Model
P1: OKC is exceptional because of a special talent -- Kevin Durant.
P2: This was mostly a by-product of luck, not anything to do with repeatable skill.
P3/C1: Because it was luck and not skill, it is foolish to attempt to replicate the model.
C2: Therefore, we should not follow the OKC model.
I could bicker with the assessment re: OKC and being totally dependent upon Durant. They have an all-star in Westbrook, a very good player in Harden and Ibaka, and solid role players. They obviously are not contenders without Durant, but they would still be a playoff team.
But conditionally accepting that premise I take umbrage with P2 and the intermediate conclusion. Let me start my argument by asking a question: If not the OKC model, then what?
Buy free agents? Who would want to come to Washington? While it has some franchise history it cannot compete with the Lakers, Celtics, Knicks, and other iconic franchises. Now, more then ever, star players are concerned about location – be it for winning purposes or lifestyle choices. No player will choose the Wizards based on winning. While DC has it charms, it cannot compare to New York or Chicago in “big citieness,” nor can it compare to warm-weather destinations such as Miami, LA, Dallas, etc.
So, you will not attract super stars. That means you must overpay occasional all-stars to get them to come to the Wizards. But that only gets you a re-incarnation of the big three; a team good enough to win between 40-50 games and reach the 2nd round of the playoffs. Because of drafting location/cap space restraint, that team will face an extremely difficult time in ever getting better. That is hardly a path worth considering.
Conceding, for the moment, that OKC was lucky, the argument seems to suggest following a different route. But I ask what different route? You cannot buy free agents. Prada has offered the Sonics route. While this is not necessarily a bad idea, you do not have the talent base to exercise that plan currently. Instead, you have one corner stone. You need a Shawn Kemp before you go Supersonics.
Moreover, it does not seem the Supersonics course needs to be different than the OKC model. You could surround Wall+Lottery pick with hard working, decent players with high basketball IQ’s. Think of James Singleton types. They will never block future growth, but they provide solid basketball players and mentors for your franchise cornerstones. Nick Collision may be an example of a Singleton type for the OKC.
Secondly, I do not believe OKC’s success can be attributed to luck. No doubt, they experienced many breaks. But time after time their GM made masterful move after move. You do not obtain that talent level by luck. But this does tell us one thing about the OKC model; you must have a great GM to execute the model successfully.
I think the anti-OKC crowd deludes themselves thinking we can buy a championship. No superstar wants to play in Washington now. The only hope I can see is the OKC model. But we are not hopeless. First, we need a great GM to exercise the OKC model. I do not believe EG is that GM. Secondly, even if we never draft our Durant, the OKC model can be adapted. First, by building a mass of young, talented, and cheap players, the Wizards will be able to trade for the missing star player. Second, the Pistons managed to win a championship without a superstar player, but many really good players. We may not draft our Durant, but if we can draft two number 2’s (quality, not position) and two number 3’s, and 4 role players, then we have a fighting shot. Finally, by maintaining cap flexibility and adding good players we increase the attractiveness of the roster to free agents. So, I think the OKC model is a good way to acquire assets. I think obtaining those assets is the only way for the Wizards to ever compete for a title. I’d prefer a chip and a chair (luck) over no chance any day.