The point of asking you to think about successful roster construction in the NBA was to get you thinking about the Charlotte Bobcats' current process. If there's one truth to success in the league's modern era, it's that only one team has ever won a title without a superstar: the 2004 Pistons. I don't think it's coincidence that Larry Brown coached that team and is building this team the way that he is.
The second truth is that free agency and trades cannot be the only avenue of player acquisition. Look at the championship-caliber teams of the past couple decades. On each of those Finals teams -- except the 2004 and 2005 Pistons, and maybe the 1993 Suns -- the best or second best player had played his entire career for that team up to that point. To win a championship, drafting well is essential. In baseball, the Marlins could buy a team of free agents and win a title in 1997. That simply hasn't been a viable strategy in the NBA.The Bobcats brass are not idiots. They have to know the history. So why are they building the roster this way? Perhaps Larry Brown is pushing everyone around to do things his way, even though he doesn't necessarily have a sound theory to back it up.
Or, more likely, as Matt from HP keeps saying, they're not really aiming for a championship right now, but believe they have to aim for an easier goal first. Listen to the podcast to get his words exactly (again, I'll link when it goes up), but if I were to make the argument, it might go something like this:
-- The Bobcats are not a respected organization in the league. In fact, there's a stink of illegitimacy about them that comes from the uniquely poisonous breakup between Charlotte and the Hornets.
-- Because they're teetering on illegitimacy, the realistic thing to do is aim for respectability first, then once that respectability is established, build into a title contender.
-- It's quicker and easier to make the playoffs and be the seven seed if all you want to do is be the seven seed. Find quick fixes with little regard for the long haul. Be willing to grit your teeth through medium-term salary cap issues in exchange for present day talent.
-- Make the playoffs and give some top team hell for a game or two. Be the lead story on SportsCenter for a couple of news cycles.
-- All of that will make the team more attractive for advertisers, coaches, and players when they do decide to build toward a championship. The team may crater again for another few years, but they'll have built up enough goodwill to last them through a rough patch.
My contention is that we can have all that and build toward a championship team. Sure, there's a magic trick involved: find a superstar. I'm not going to pretend I know exactly how the Bobcats are going to do that. (Gerald Henderson? Pretty please?)
But I do believe that if the Cats are going to lure an already established superstar, a young team on the upswing, with a bunch of guys entering their primes, is more attractive than a group of veterans, simply because the championship window isn't liable to close at any time. Again, there are examples of veteran teams that just needed the final piece, but the team we build quickly with guys who are already veterans will almost certainly be less productive for the money than a team made up of guys who become veterans while with the Cats.