When the Sixers new GM Sam Hinkie traded away his “star” point guard Jrue Holiday to New Orleans for the draft rights of Nerlens Noel and a 2014 top 5 protected draft pick on draft night the ill-informed 76ers fans were up in arms. Fans didn’t understand how the team could trade away their lone All-Star for a player with a Kid-N-Play haircut coming off ACL surgery that potentially won’t play next season and a 2014 draft pick. Despite top NBA analysts such as Chad Ford praising the 76ers rookie GM for his bold move, many 76ers fans continued to call into the local sports talk radio to spew South-Jersey-word-vomit about the “dumb-ass trade.”
Admittedly for the first 15 minutes after the trade was announced I was confused myself, but after giving it some thought I began to see what Sam Hinkie was trying to do. He recognized that with Jrue Holiday the 76ers were never going be bad enough to receive the top pick in the NBA Lottery and were never going be good enough to be higher than a 6 seed in the playoffs. And in the end the goal isn’t to just make the playoffs, but to be the last team standing when the season is over.
Success in the NBA along with other American professional sports, with the exception of MLB, is measured by the amount of championships won. In MLB success is measured by individual success. Don’t believe me, then first ask yourself these two questions, how many World Series has Albert Pujols won and how many Super Bowls has Tom Brady won? The answer is two for Pujols and three for Brady. I’m guessing you were quick to answer the number for Brady, but had to give Pujols some thought. Now ask yourself who is the all time home run leader and who is the all time leader for passing touchdowns. Most likely you have a much easier time answering Barry Bonds than Brett Favre. Back to the point though which is NBA players, coaches, general managers, and owners are all remembered by the number of times they hoist their league’s championship trophy.
So with the goal of winning championships in mind the question becomes how do you get there? What players do you need? How deep does the team need to be? If your team has the scoring champion can you punch your ticket to the finals? Do you need to be proficient at 3 point shooting, or is stingy defense more important? Is having a liability like Rodman or Metta World Peace necessary for success? Does listening to Grisham novels on tape lead to more wins? In order to answer these questions and others the best way to do so is to look back at the past champions and see what they all have in common. And once we determine what it takes to build a championship team we should be able to more accurately rank the NBA in terms of how well positioned they are to win the Larry O’Brien trophy.