This year’s NBA playoffs has brought a handful of pleasant surprises. The Golden State Warriors and the Memphis Grizzlies are putting up great fights against the perennial powerhouses in the Western Conference known as the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder. In the East, the Indiana Pacers are shocking the New York Knicks who were favored to be the team with the best chance to defeat the Miami Heat. What’s more amazing is that these three teams are still playing in the month of May despite not having one or more superstars. Sure, the Warriors have Stephen Curry and the Memphis Grizzlies have Marc Gasol, but they can’t be compared to the Chris Paul’s or Tim Duncan’s of the NBA.
Out of the teams mentioned above, the Indiana Pacers have to be one of the best rosters still remaining in this year’s postseason. Paul George, Roy Hibbert, David West, and George Hill have lead this team throughout the season, and with the depth coming off the bench, the Pacers may have the roster to contend with and possibly defeat the Heat. Indiana has size, a group of players who know their roles and play them to perfection, and they have a great combination of youth and experienced veterans.
Paul George and Roy Hibbert aren’t exactly household names or players you look at as superstars, but they are becoming a new breed in the NBA. When they were drafted, there was no expectations of them being stars, but because the team they are surrounded by compliments their games so well, Hibbert and George have been given the chance to thrive and be successful. It also helps that the Pacers have David West, who can mentor these two rising stars for their respective team.
But more importantly, Indiana has a deep bench with feisty players like Tyler Hansbrough and Lance Stevenson who have provided the team with energy and points at crucial moments during games. When looking at this roster, most of the players were drafted by the Pacers, with a few being acquired via small trades. This team was assembled correctly and was built from the ground up. As we look into how the Golden State Warriors got deep into this year’s playoffs, they also took the same road as the Pacers, but went about building their team a little differently.
Golden State Warriors
Who hasn’t enjoyed watching this Cinderella story? The Warriors surprised everyone by defeating the Denver Nuggets in the first round, despite losing David Lee to a torn hip flexor. Now, Golden State is giving the San Antonio Spurs a run for their money, and are in a position to surpass them and advance to the Western Conference Finals. No one expected a young team like the Warriors, who aren’t overly experienced, to be playing like veterans. To illustrate how young they are, rookies Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green have been part of the Warriors main rotation in the postseason. Not only is this a testament to the players themselves, but Marc Jackson has had confidence in them from the beginning.
Just like the Pacers, the Warriors don’t exactly have a superstar. Stephen Curry is a rising star and starting to come into his own, but again, he hasn’t reached the status of being a household name. Although after this postseason, he deserves to be in the same conversation as Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, and Deron Williams.
Golden State’s playoff run and emergence as a tough team wouldn’t have come had the Warriors held on to Monte Ellis. Changes needed to be made, ushering in a new era with a new attitude. With a combination of trades, drafting right in the past NBA drafts, and signing decent free agents, Golden State became a better team almost overnight.
Again, the Warriors don’t have players who you’d see in TV commercials or in All-Star games every year, but they do have a collection of very talented role players who play together as a team instead of individuals. Jarrett Jack and Andrew Bogut bring veteran leadership that add the necessary ingredient to becoming a good basketball team.
Lastly let’s take a look at the Memphis Grizzlies, who unlike the Pacers and Warriors, rebuilt on the fly via trades and free agency.
Out of these three teams, the Grizzlies success in the second half of the season has been a surprise, especially since Memphis traded Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors. Many analysts believed that Memphis was going to be directionless without their general on the floor, but Marc Gasol, Tayshaun Prince, Tony Allen, Mike Conley and Zach Randolph took control of the team that now finds themselves two games away from the Western Conference Finals.
The way Memphis built this team was through trades and free agency, but two of their main contributors were players they drafted. Just like the Pacers and Warriors, the Grizzlies are yet another team in this year’s playoffs that does not have that LeBron James or Dwight Howard type player. Unlike the past few years, the remaining teams that are in the postseason are playing together as one and not looking up to one or two individuals to win games for them. Teams are beginning to dominate, not individuals, and the Grizzlies are proving that.
As this postseason has proven, teams don’t need a whole team of superstars to be championship contenders. They also don’t need to go out and sign or trade for the best players and overpay for them. The Pacers, Warriors, and Grizzlies all drafted either future stars and decent role players, signed or traded for smaller pieces that fit the puzzle, and have become vital parts to their team’s success.
If these teams fail to make it to the Conference or NBA Finals, it’s because they’re either too young or one or two pieces away. The way these organizations built these teams, they’ve allowed them to be competitive for years to come and possibly have multiple chances at winning a title. As these teams get older, it’s real important that they stay together or could find themselves from whence they came, rebuilding and struggling to compete in their respective conferences. The Pacers, Warriors, and Grizzlies aren’t big market teams, but if they continue being successful under their great coaching, there is a chance they could become a destination for future free agents.
These three teams got it right. For an organization like the Boston Celtics, who are on the cusp of entering a rebuilding period, they have three blueprints that they can follow. The only question is, will they?