Any NBA organization will state that the main goal is to create that team that contends for championship titles. But they would have you to believe that the NBA is a cyclical entity. Teams will be good and bad just like the stock market. Keeping the team constantly contending is next to impossible.
Enter the San Antonio Spurs.
For the past fifteen years, the San Antonio Spurs have been a constant in the NBA playoffs. Now take a moment and contemplate what is required to have that statement come to fruition. What have the Spurs done, for the past decade and half, which other teams are overlooking?
Many teams have tried to copy the "Big Three” model of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili. But they have not achieved the level of success as the Spurs.
The difference is not the talent level of the core, but the level of the surrounding cast’s embracing of their roles. “The Next Three” of Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter and Danny Green not only have the ability be top level supporting role player but the ability to take the lead role when any member of the "Big 3” are having an off game or sitting on the bench not able to play.
The Spurs have done a great job of building a team comprised of players that are okay with playing a specific support role, but have the ability to take over a section or an entire game when needed. This design has allowed the team to keep the effective role player at team friend numbers which are offset by the chance to get the allusive championship team.
Most teams, in today’s NBA, are designed around the one star player. The offense is an isolation based offense, with all the teammates standing around while team’s best player tries to create a shot or look for an open teammate.
Now with the level of the current superstars in the game, this is a valid and successful strategy as long as he is healthy. Should that star miss an extended part of the season, then the team is left trying to piece a new identity together on the fly. The role players are forced in to a role that they may have little experience in fulfilling.
Which leads to another dilemma, if the team enjoys success while the star is out, then what happens when the star is healthy again? How does the coaching staff re-integrate him in to the new offense?
That is why you see so many teams, these days, jumping back and forth from division winner to the lottery.
People say that the NBA is better with more teams being in contention for the playoffs. I would respond with there is a difference between teams playing a high level of basketball and battling for the playoffs versus a bunch of teams with five hundred win percentages stumbling over themselves to be part of the playoffs.