What the Washington Wizards Can Learn from NBA's Top Teams
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Easier said than done right?
The Wizards are a team that seems to continually take one step forward only to take two, or in some cases, three steps back. For every decent draft pick, there seem to be a few wasted ones. One good trade leads to two bad ones.
Clearly, no NBA team will take on this charity mission, after all, regardless of how bad the Wizards are, they're still the competition.
There are a litany of things that the Wizards need for long-term sustained improvement. Better draft picks, team health, are among them.
It's not as if the Wizards don't have some blueprints for success staring them in the face. After all, the NBA is not without its better franchises. I'm not talking only about those that have won NBA titles. There are teams that compete at a high level nearly every season.
How do those teams get to that point? What are their secrets? There's no sure-fire path to success, but there are things that teams can learn simply from emulating those very teams that they aspire to be more like.
Boston Celtics: Patience
The Boston Celtics have stuck with their three big stars through thick and thin.
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While Celtics fans might not always be thrilled with the path of their beloved Celtics, Wizards fans would probably be thrilled with a five-year set of win-loss records like this.
That all ads up to 269-119. It's only yielded one NBA title, but that's one more than Washington has had since the year 1978. The Celtics are getting older, and the era of "the big three" may come to a conclusion this coming summer when both Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett are free agents.
The track record is worthy of admiration, and through it all, there have been naysayers who have at various times voiced opinions that the team be broken up and embark on a path toward rebuilding and getting younger.
The Wizards don't have any veterans who resemble the likes of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen or Kevin Garnett, but patience can go beyond that. It might mean sticking with a coaching philosophy or a set of game plans and plays that don't appear successful at first but will yield great results if allowed enough time to be learned and executed correctly and consistently.
The Wizards have had four head coaches since the Celtics got their "big three" in the summer of 2007. They've shuffled players in and out of the D.C. metro area with frequency. Some of these players and coaches may have been bad fits; others might have panned out if given the chance.
San Antonio Spurs: Depth
Tiago Splitter is one part of a deep Spurs bench.
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Not many teams can win consistently without a decent bench. Each 48-minute NBA game is grueling. Then, when all of the games and travel are added up over the course of a long season, it's foolish to expect a team to survive long by playing their starters for extensive minutes with frequency.
The San Antonio Spurs have done an excellent job of recognizing this over the past few seasons. Their best players Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan are all advancing in age and have had to deal with injuries. In addition, Duncan who may go down as one of if not the best power forward of all time has been playing less and less minutes.
Those lost minutes haven't become a lot more losses. This year's Spurs team has a record of 42-16. They own the third-best record in the entire NBA. There are 11 players who see fairly consistent minutes on the Spurs, and the team gets contributions from each and every one of them.
The depth is also a big reason why the Spurs have been able to put together such a good record in spite of Ginobili missing 30 games to injury.
The Wizards don't have as many superstars as many of the league's best teams, but they're also missing the depth to surround them with.
Chicago Bulls: It Can't Be All About Just One Guy
The Bulls have been without reigning league MVP Derrick Rose for 23 games this season.
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If someone told you that the Chicago Bulls would lose the reigning NBA MVP for 23 of the 66 scheduled regular-season games, the odds are that most people would have predicted a significant drop-off in the number of wins the Bulls had from last season.
They'd have been wrong. The Bulls are once again right at the top of the league when it comes to best overall record. At 45-14, they currently have the league's best record.
The Bulls don't have the type of depth that the Spurs do, and they also don't have three future Hall of Fame locks like the Celtics have.
Instead, Chicago has a collection of talented, committed and tight-knit players who all share a common, burning desire to win.
It's an issue of quality over quantity.
Washington lacks quality, but more than that, they lack cohesiveness. The collection of talent feels wrong; the team acts disjointed on the court. Part of that is due to roster changes and coaching.
The Wizards shouldn't go looking for a single player to solve all their problems. Derrick Rose is one of the best players in the NBA, but what makes the Bulls one of the best teams is the cast of players they've surrounded Rose with.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Young Players Can Still Lead
Kevin Durant has the Thunder headed toward postseason success.
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In a perfect world, one's team would have a nice mix of young talent and veteran leadership. Nothing is ever perfect though, and while a collection of savvy, skilled and experienced veterans might be ideal, having some super talented young players can work out pretty well from time to time.
In Oklahoma City, the Thunder are learning that very lesson. Led by two players who aren't just among the best young players in the league, but among the very best players of any age, the Thunder are in position to claim the top playoff seed in the Western Conference.
Kevin Durant is 23 as is his cohort Russell Westbrook. The Thunder's top bench player and third-leading scorer James Harden is only 22. How's the team fairing with all those youngsters on the court? Just fine, thank you very much.
The Wizards already have John Wall ( 21) and Kevin Seraphin. Does the team need veterans? They might help, but then again, if you get the right mix of young talent, and they're committed to winning and in an environment that promotes it, those veterans might not seem as important as conventional wisdom dictates.
Los Angeles Lakers: Winning Will Cure Most Problems
The Lakers are 4-1 since Kobe got injured which means that Bryant can still smile on the bench.
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If you think about all the nonsense the Los Angeles Lakers have endured—Kobe Bryant's injuries, the drama created by the vetoed Chris Paul trade, the midseason drama surrounding the trade of beloved Laker veteran Derek Fisher, and of course, the occasional issues surrounding Andrew Bynum—the team still is looking pretty good.
The Lakers are heading toward yet another winning season, and it's that winning that ultimately keeps the heat off the Lakers. Yes, the team still faces scrutiny, but at the end of the day, issues that might overwhelm some franchises get placed in the rear view mirror more frequently, out in Los Angeles.
Witness the Lakers' current top concern. Kobe Bryant is injured. Missing a player of Kobe's caliber is a big story, but it's a lot easier for him and his teammates to deal with all the questions surrounding his status when the Lakers are 4-1 in his absence.
Washington has had it's fair share of off-court drama over the past few seasons. There was the infamous Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton gun incident. Andray Blatche has had some off-court drama as well.
When the team is losing, these off-court stories get piled on with the bad on-court ones to create a toxic atmosphere. When a team is winning frequently, often these types of stories can fade a bit faster. Although, I'm not so sure that would apply to the Arenas incident.
Indiana Pacers: Who Needs Superstars?
Roy Hibbert has the Pacers' sights set on lofty goals.
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The sixth-best record in the NBA and the third-best record in the Eastern Conference is held by the Indiana Pacers. The brightest basketball star on the Pacers is their president of operations—Larry Bird.
The actual guys who play basketball for Indiana are well-stocked with talent, but there's no big-name, NBA Star who occupies space on the Pacers' roster. You don't have to be considered a "star" to be a great basketball player.
Roy Hibbert and Danny Granger might not be household names, but they're both very good basketball players. To be a great NBA basketball team, you don't need big names, you do, however, need some great basketball players.
Often, those two labels are not mutually exclusive, but it's important not to get caught up in the "name" of the player as much as the quality of the player.
The Washington Wizards will have options to sign free agents. It's easy to get seduced by big names, but those players will come with bigger egos and demand bigger contracts. Sometimes, they're worth it, but sometimes, they're not.