I have been embarrassingly remiss on the further discussion of the "OKC Thunder model" that has been offered up by SB Nation's very own senior editor, Mike Prada. Unbeknown to me, while I was thinking about SouthPark and dreaming up my gnome underpants theory of team building, he was doing actual reporting on the subject.
If my own posting wasn't clear enough, the one thing that stuck in my craw about the story published in the Washington Post was this idea that OKC represents a "model" that can be "copied." Perhaps I'm being unduly harsh about what some other blokes might chalk up to semantics, but as my original post stated, I take issue with the idea that an NBA franchise can be copied.
The easiest illustration of why I do not think one franchise's successful model can be copied onto another is to examine Knicks coach Mike D`Antoni. D`antoni was hired in 2003 as the Phoenix Suns' full time coach, and after acquiring Steve Nash, the two made sweet, sweet music together. They re-invigorated the idea of the classic 1980's offense that was fast, free flowing, and inspired a book whose name encapsulates it all - "Seven Seconds or Less." (well worth the read, IMHO) In 2008, D'Antoni received permission to talk to the Knicks, and soon took his wares to NYC. If ever there was an opportunity to see if a system could in fact be "copied," this would be it. You can see for yourself how the idea has panned out. As much as we would like to think that NBA coaches are like NFL coaches who can imprint a philosophy on an organization, the truth is that the NBA is and always will be a player's league. It is imperative that a franchise have a good coach; this is true. However, the franchise must also have an intersection between said coach and star player at the right time in both of their careers in order for sustained success to occur. If you can copy that, well, bully for you. Most of the time though, unless your name is Phil Jackson, it is like capturing lightning in a bottle.
Which brings us back to Mr. Prada's work.
The main thing that you should take away from his analysis of the Washington Wizards, their ownership, and disposition as compared to the Thunder, is that there is a difference between "copying" and "being inspired by."
Here is the general formula for success for any failing team:
- Lose for a while.
- Be patient with the acquisition of assets. Don't overspend.
- Build through the draft.
- When the blue chipper comes along, lock him up.
- Continue to acquire pieces that compliment the blue chipper.
"I am not following [the] OKC plan -- I am following my plan as we created -- strategically-- tactically and culturally with the Washington Capitals. I am trying to replicate it in NBA as we did in the NHL. I then point to OKC as an example that it can work in the NBA." - Ted Leonsis, owner of Washington Capitals and Wizards
Here is a hypothetical for the Wizards and teams everywhere that are inspired by the "OKC model." When the draft rolls around and your team is sitting with the #3 pick, will management have the discipline and commitment to its own idea of team building to stay in the hand and pass on Stephen Curry and Tyreke Evans?