After just four years in Oklahoma City, the team formerly known as the Supersonics is on it’s way to the NBA Finals.
The team’s youth showed in the first two games of the series as they fell into a 2-0 hole against the Spurs, the hottest team entering the playoffs, but on the shoulders of the team’s young franchise core – Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Serge Ibaka – they managed to completely turn around the series, winning four straight. Sprinkled in there were some veteran plays by Derek Fisher and Kendrick Perkins, but in large, this series was won by the foursome drafted by Sam Presti and company. Even if they don’t win the title this season, they seem poised to dominate the Western Conference for years to come.
Needless to say, Joe Dumars and his scouting staff should be taking notes from Presti – the draft is absolutely essential to turning around a franchise.
Detroit has never been a major destination for high-profile free agents, so the draft is even more important to the Pistons than to teams in big cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, or Miami.
After a decade of mixed results in the draft, Dumars has hit homeruns in the last two drafts, snagging Greg Monroe in 2010 and Brandon Knight in 2011. Both players were solid coming out of college, but somehow ended up falling to the Pistons later in the top 10 picks. While both are still learning the ropes in the Association, it would appear that the duo – paired with other draftees Rodney Stuckey and Jonas Jerebko – will form the rebuilding core of the next several years.
While those players alone won’t suddenly turn the Pistons into contenders, they’re a step in the right direction after four seasons of failed trades (Allen Iverson for Chauncey Billups) and gross mismanagement of cap space (Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva). They also show that success in the NBA, regardless of how slow or quick is comes, occurs through smart drafting.
While the Celtics and Heat became successful through major acquisitions (both variations of the “Big Three” moniker), the Spurs and Thunder were dominating the more challenging Western Conference, all with their own drafted players. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, DeJuan Blair, Kawhi Leonard – all have only worn the Silver and Black during their careers. The Spurs own “Big Three” – Parker, Duncan, and Ginobili – are the reason that the team won titles in 2003, 2005, and 2007.
All in all, the teams that can draft well, do well. Sure, a good free agent signing would help, but with another solid draft or two, the Pistons could be right back to contending for something worthwhile in June.