After years of success, several NBA teams blow up their rosters for no reason other than that they feel their championship hopes have stalled. Most recently, after moving Rudy Gobert to the Timberwolves and actively attempting to offload Donovan Mitchell to the New York Knicks, the Utah Jazz launched their rebuilding phase.
One can question the timing of such a collapse, but for many NBA teams, the best course of action may be to make plans for the future if the product for which you pay a premium for does not result in the achievement at hand. An NBA championship is the goal for the majority of playoff-bound teams.
What, then, is the defining common factor that all previous victors in 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 Bucks (1)
One characteristic I discovered to be consistent across all teams bar one is this: home-grown talent. This also implies that the player you selected must at the very least rank among the team’s top three contributions.
The Lakers were the only team I was unable to 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 postseason contribution ratio was far too insignificant to be included on 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 were all drafted by their championship team and all of them have a case for being one of the top three players on their championship rosters.
There seems to be two types of team structure within these championship teams, with the first being the San Antonio Spurs and the Golden State Warriors having drafted multiple players as lead contributors. Then we have teams that get taken to a championship-contending level once they have signed or traded for new, non-drafted players (LeBron leads this category by a mile).
What does this mean for the New York Knicks?
This means that either the Knicks’ current drafted players could develop enough to become a contending team, or that they have one or two pieces that could be an integral part of a great squad.
Only RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson have started enough games on the current roster to really qualify for this position. Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin might be able to join this list if they ever show adequate progress, but both players are heading into their third season in the NBA and still have not secured a starting position.
New York’s ability to emulate the San Antonio or Golden State model can only be questionable due to the extent of the current state of the team’s development. Having said that, those models also required generational players in Tim Duncan and Stephen Curry, so it was a tough ask to begin with.
The other route seems to be the route that the Knicks have to take. One glaring factor for this, however, is that the team needs to be attractive enough to bring on championship-level players. Three of these championship teams have added LeBron James to win a title. The other two teams either added Kawhi Leonard (who already had been part of the San Antonio model) or had Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Barrett’s chance of being regarded as a generational talent is very likely to have passed. He has clearly lagged behind his other top draft competitors, namely Ja Morant and Zion Williamson. Nonetheless, Barrett is the highest selected Knick within this criteria 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 a large portion of that was due to his offensive shortcomings.
This next season will be crucial in the development of these two players. Both have shown plenty of promise but it has come to a time where they need to demonstrate whether or not they can be key players on a title-contending team.