As we embark on the Oklahoma City Thunder making what is likely to be a long run at possibly multiple championships, I can't help but think about how they ended up in this current situation. It is true that they were very fortunate to get good draft picks like Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, but there is something that no one is talking about with their current situation. If you look at Oklahoma City's current situation, you will notice that they have a somewhat similar make up as the Miami Heat, in which they have 3 dynamic, superstar caliber players and role players around them to compliment them. But what makes them different is possibly a formula that teams like the Washington Wizards could possibly follow going forward to possibly replicate their success.
Consider the Miami Heat's current situation as a way of seeing the difference in their situation compared to the Thunder. They currently have 3 max players in Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Lebron James. Due to the salary cap, they are of course very limited to the players they can add thereafter, which has caused them to fill their roster out with over-the-hill/injury-ridden veterans like Mike Miller, Juwan Howard, Eddy Curry and Shane Battier (well he's got more in the tank than the other 3). For the Thunder they have a solid supporting cast of Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, Derek Fisher, Eric Maynor (when he's healthy of course), and Nick Collison. It's pretty easy to argue that the Thunder's supporting cast is a better group especially considering that besides Derek Fisher no one I named is above the age of 31. So how is this possible? It's because one of their 'big 3', James Harden, is still on his rookie salary, which allows them to sign role players who are closer to their prime and to pay them more competitve salaries.
Let me at least say before I go any further that James Harden is a special talent and a guy that has a bright NBA future, but his career with the Thunder is up in the air. After next season he will become a restricted free agent and given his play, especially in the playoffs this year, he's going to demand big money. So the Thunder are left with a difficult decision to either re-sign him to a big long term deal and possibly sacrifice losing out on key role players like Ibaka or Maynor, who both will be free agents during the same year. But even with that said, let's look at the current construct of the team now. They have made it to the NBA Finals with basically two max players. Perhaps their long term success could ultimately come by trading James Harden next year for more role players and/or possibly another high draft pick, which in turn could be used to take the load that is left from Harden's absence. I know it sounds far-fetched, but let's consider that by doing this they would ensure themselves the possibility of keeping good, solid role players and with good drafting they would be able to supplement the lost of such a great player, all while keeping two superstar players as their core.
If you translate this theory to the Wizards, the Wizards know that Wall is a piece going forward but that is about it. No offense to Nene Hilario, love his game and his presence, but he's not that second building block so in the future in order to carry out this theory he would have to be traded in order to make room for re-signing Wall long term, signing superstar ______ long-term and being able to afford good solid role players to stay like Trevor Booker, Kevin Seraphin (if his ceiling doesn't go any higher), and whoever else.
So with that said, is this the solution? Have teams gotten so enamored with the success of the Celtics Big 3, that they are trying to accomplish something that may never be replicated? Or is there a better model that this team should follow given it's current trajectory?