NBA

Here’s how the Knicks can build a championship team

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After years of success, several NBA teams are blowing their rosters for no reason other than the fact that they feel their championship hopes have stalled. More recently, after trading Rudy Gobert to the Timberwolves and actively trying to offload Donovan Mitchell to the New York Knicks, the Utah Jazz have embarked on their rebuilding phase.

The timing of such a collapse is debatable, but for many NBA teams, the best course of action may be to make plans for the future if the product you are paying a premium for does not not translate into achievement at hand. An NBA championship is the goal of the majority of playoff-bound teams.

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So what is the defining common factor that all previous winners of the past 10 years have in common?

Here are the teams that have won an NBA championship in the past decade:

  • Miami Heat (1)
  • San Antonio Spurs (1)
  • Golden State Warriors (4)
  • Cleveland Cavaliers (1)
  • Toronto Raptors (1)
  • Los Angeles Lakers (1)
  • Milwaukee dollars (1)

One characteristic that I have found to be consistent across all but one team is: homegrown talent. This also implies that the player you have selected must at least rank among the top three team contributions.

The Lakers were the only team that I couldn’t include in this criteria. Although Kyle Kuzma had the third-highest points-per-game average for the team during the 2019-20 regular season, his playoff contribution ratio was far too insignificant to include in this list.

Dwyane Wade, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Kyrie Irving, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and Giannis Antetokounmpo have all been drafted by their championship team and all have a case for be one of the top three players on their league rosters.

There appear to be two types of team structure within these championship teams, with the first being the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors drafting multiple players as primary contributors. Then we have teams that are taken to a championship level once they sign or trade new undrafted players (LeBron leads this category by a mile).

What does this mean for the New York Knicks?

This means that either the players currently drafted by the Knicks could develop enough to become a contending team, or they have one or two elements that could be integral to a great team.

Only RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson have started enough games on the current roster to truly qualify for this position. Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin might be able to join this roster if they ever show adequate progress, but both players are entering their third season in the NBA and still haven’t secured a starting position.

New York’s ability to emulate the model of San Antonio or Golden State can only be questionable given the current state of the team’s development. That said, these models also required generational players in Tim Duncan and Stephen Curry, so it was a tough question initially.

The other path seems to be the one the Knicks need to take. A glaring factor for this, however, is that the team must be attractive enough to bring in championship-level players. Three of those championship teams added LeBron James to win a title. The other two teams either added Kawhi Leonard (who had previously been part of the San Antonio role model) or Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Barrett’s chance to be considered a generational talent has most likely passed. He clearly fell behind his other top competitors in the draft, namely Ja Morant and Zion Williamson. Nonetheless, Barrett is the highest-selected Knick in that yardstick, and he seems to have the best chance of being that second or third player on a championship team.

The field goal percentage record was set by Mitchell Robinson, but much of that was down to his offensive shortcomings.

This next season will be crucial in the development of these two players. Both showed a lot of promise, but it came at a time when they need to demonstrate whether or not they can be key players in a title-seeking team.

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