By all accounts, it’s a done deal… or is it? Well, are you ready for this mind-blowing announcement? Nets fans are exhausted! It’s no secret how I feel about all of this, preferring to go young heading into Brooklyn, even writing an open letter to Billy King, the Nets GM. However, it seems all of my efforts and thoughts may be for naught as the seeming inevitability of a group of strangers in Nets jerseys will soon invade my thoughts on NAS.
Yet, I feel like I still need to go down fighting (the Queens, NY in me… STAND UP!) and give one last effort despite being beaten up over the last 11 rounds AKA the last couple of weeks.
Ultimately, the goal of every basketball team is to win a title. Obviously. So, I was challenged in the comments of my open letter to name three teams in the last 25 years that won a title building through the draft. Below was my answer.
The Spurs won the title four times led by a trio of draft picks. Their first one was led by Tim Duncan, David Robinson and Sean Elliot. The next three had Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili.
The Lakers won five times in the past decade or so and they drafted Kobe Bryant (yes, he was traded for, but he was basically traded before the draft with the Hornets picking for the Lakers). Of course, Derek Fisher, whose been BIG for the championship teams was also drafted by the Lakers. And those two were kind of important. In the recent chips, Andrew Bynum has been an important piece as well.
The Celtics drafted Paul Pierce and made draft day trades for Rajon Rondo and Glen Davis, all of whom were important cogs in the Celtics’ 17th championship. Also, they acquired Ray Allen by basically trading their fifth overall pick in the 2007 draft ON the day of the draft. That group is still doing pretty good.
Of course the Bulls won six times thanks to drafting two Hall of Famers in Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Pippen was drafted by the Sonics, but traded ON that day for Olden Polynice who was selected by the Bulls three picks later. Also in that draft, they selected Horace Grant. The Bulls’ first threepeat had Jordan, Pippen, Grant, but also Bulls draftees B.J. Armstrong, Stacey King, and Will Perdue. The second threepeat was centered around Jordan and Pippen, of course, but also Bulls’ draftee Toni Kukoc.
The Rockets teams had draftees Hakeem Olajuwon, Robert Horry, and Sam Cassell play pretty important roles.
The Pistons teams had some important contributions from Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Dennis Rodman, and John Salley.
The earlier Celtics teams had Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Danny Ainge, all Celtics draft picks to thank for the 1980s dynastic teams.
The earlier Lakers teams could thank Magic Johnson, James Worthy, AC Green, and Michael Cooper for the team’s titles during their tenure.
I mean, draft day is important, there’s no doubt about it. Is it an exact science? Of course not, but we know that smart drafting will help your chances in winning a title. OF COURSE you need to make trades and sign other players, I’m not stupid. But if you look at championship teams, their main stars are usually drafted by the respective team and having more chances to pick (like the Nets currently do) will raise your chances in drafting that player.
So, there you go. Can a team build a championship comprised mostly of free agents and/or traded players? The 2004 Detroit Pistons proved it with Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton (a duo that may be coming to a Nets game near you), Ben Wallace, and Rasheed Wallace. However, they are the rare exception. The saving grace in all of this is that Brook Lopez, a Nets draftee, will still be on the team and should play a vital role in any championship-caliber team. Well, I know I’m thinking too far ahead and perhaps full of delusion, but the above proves it’s possible to build a champion through the draft. It’s all about being smart with those picks… something I don’t feel confident the Nets have right now.
I’m done. The bell is about to ring, but my final punch will be… building a contender that shows signs of incremental improvement and youthful excitement mixed in with steady leadership sells tickets too.