Kevin Durant brings his talented, young Oklahoma City Thunder team to the Verizon Center tonight, and in light of that, we've heard a lot of talk about how the Wizards are trying to replicate the Thunder's model for success. That model, essentially, is stink a lot with young talent, stick by them as they develop and then watch them all grow and become a force to be reckoned with in the future. The discussion was all spurred by Michael Lee's piece in the Washington Post, which prompted this response from owner Ted Leonsis.
I see the rebuild taking three full seasons. I know that is a lot to ask but we have to be honest with everyone. We will load up on young players. We will await the new rules (if any) in the NBA. We will add free agents. We will make trades. We will play the youngsters to gain experience and then I think we will have a very good team for a long, long time. That is the plan.
The Oklahoma City model looks a lot like the Washington Capitals model to me.
We can't argue with Leonsis that the Wizards are approaching the right model, nor can we argue that it worked with the Capitals. But the reality is that having a worthwhile model is just one step in the rebuilding process.
SB Nation's Thunder blog Welcome to Loud City reminds us that it's the execution that matters.
Here is the problem though; I feel like I'm witnessing the gnome underpants theory of economics all over again. Here it is in short form, constructed for an NBA team's pursuits:
- Lose a while, collect young talent through the draft, create salary cap space;
The equation makes perfect sense; if you are willing to lose for a while and rebuild through the draft, collect assets and make salary cap space, that after a portion of time wins will result. The problem though that you can see with the gnome underpants theory is that there is a missing step - that elusive ??? keeps getting in the way.
The middle step, essentially, is the execution. So far, have the Wizards executed the plan well. It's early, so the jury is still out. But I think this in particular is a really good point.
Here is what is missing, and in my opinion what separates [Thunder general manager Sam] Presti from the rest: he has brought a mindset to the team a philosophy on how to marginalize the team's exposure to risk. This risk is that of unhappy players, of bad contracts, of injuries, and of the changing rules.
In layman terms, this speaks to the two big "C" words that define the Thunder: "chemistry," and "culture." Do the Wizards have good chemistry or good culture? It's early, but I'm not so sure they do yet.