Creating the Perfect NBA Team: The Three Critical Rules

By Paul Grossinger

When you watch your city's basketball team, do you ever wonder, "what was that GM thinking, putting this awful group together?"

If you live in Washington, DC, you know what I mean.

Yet, constructing an elite NBA basketball team is not the secret mystery many basketball officials would like fans to believe; the 'secret sauce' for contention is actually quite simple.

Teams need an elite scorer, a top-notch distributor, a skilled post threat, and bench depth to contend for the NBA title.  Everything else is superfluous.
Like in NFL football, where teams need a top quarterback, elite offensive line, and exceptional pass rushers, success in the NBA is entirely dependent on these four crucial factors.  

The players who fill these critical roles do not need to fill certain positions, or conform to a particular style.  Scorer, distributor, and post threat does not translate to "shooting guard, point guard, and center.'  Teams can fill these roles with varied, elite players, so long as they fit the critical needs and blend their skills effectively.

Consider the most recent NBA titlists, the Miami Heat.  The Heat's performance relies primarily on the game's best playmaking scorer, LeBron James, facilitating an offense featuring one of the league's most lethal scorers, Dwayne Wade, and its most subtly-efficient, scoring post presence, Chris Bosh.  Wade is also an excellent distributor and James is an excellent scorer, enabling the two to blend their strengths on the court.

What about the 2011 NBA Champions, the old and "lucky" Dallas Mavericks?  The Mavericks ran their offense through the NBA's best pure distributor, Jason Kidd, one of its best pure scorers, Dirk Nowitzki, and elite postman Tyson Chandler.  Their positions may have been somewhat unorthodox – Nowitzki is a big man and the Mavericks lacked an elite scorer on the wing, which is traditionally part of championship success, but those subtle differences do not matter.  Dallas had the critical pieces, tied it to exceptional bench depth, and rode to the championship.

Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki

Jan 12, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) drives the ball past Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) during the game at the American Airlines Center. The Mavericks defeated the Grizzlies 104-83. Photo Courtesy By Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports.

The rule also applies to the great basketball teams of the past.  The San Antonio Spurs, who won four NBA titles in the 2000s and remain an elite team, dominated with Tim Duncan scoring in the post, Tony Parker distributing, Manu Ginobli scoring on the wing, and excellent bench depth from Robert Horry and (nominal starter) Michael Finley.  Ginobli and Parker may have been underrated most of their careers but there is no doubting their elite play helped San Antonio fill the critical pieces it needed to create a dynasty.

What about the unorthodox 1990s Chicago Bulls, the league's strange anomalous team that dominated the NBA for six titles without either a true point guard or a true center?  The Bulls won their titles on the back of Michael Jordan, the best pure scorer in basketball history, and coupled him with Dennis Rodman, who capably anchored the post by grabbing every available rebound.  They ran their offense through Scottie Pippin, one of the league's best ball-handlers and a true 'point-forward.'
The teams that lack one of these critical elements are unable to contend for the NBA title.  They may have strong records but they are pretenders.  Consider the Indiana Pacers, one of the rising teams in the East.  The Pacers lack an elite distributor, relying on George Hill and his combo-guard style, and rely on David West for their post-scoring.  Without a better distributor and an elite scorer in the post, the Pacers will not make it through the playoff gauntlet.

So, does your team have what it takes to win the NBA Championship?

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