It is often said that the NBA is a copycat league. Such is the nature of chasing success. When one franchise finds success with a specific formula, the rest of the league is usually sure to follow. This has taken the form of chasing scoring centers to trying to find the next Michael Jordan. However, regardless of the trends that come and go, several tried and true techniques have stood the test of time as reliable ways to increase your odds of winning an NBA championship.
The Big Three
Though recently popularized by LeBron James’ stint with the Miami Heat, having a big three has long been a go to method for bullying past the competition in the NBA. In this instance a big three would be defined as having three All-Star level players on your team, preferably in their primes.
An often overlooked key to having a successful big three is ensuring that they have varying skillsets. Though having three superstars that all look to score 30 points a night may make for a bombastic offense, they will likely step on each other’s toes. This is in fact an underrated reason for the success of the Golden State Warriors’ recent championship runs.
Stephen Curry is a dynamic scorer with untouchable handles, Klay Thompson is a catch and shoot marksman, and Draymond Green is the Swiss army knife defender that anchors their defense.
Best examples: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen.
The Transcendent Duo
Who needs a big three when two will do? Relying on two superstars instead of two to take you to the promise land requires that both players are top 5 players. The trick to succeeding with a transcendent duo is carefully putting the right pieces around them.
A collection of the best role players isn’t necessary so much as having players that complement your superstars well and capable of holding their own for brief stretches if neither player is in the line-up.
Best examples: Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
The Defensive Specialists
The mantra is as old as the game itself, “defense wins championships”. While that is clearly a drastic oversimplification, there is some truth to the trope. Having a defense that moves fluidly like an amoeba can create massive headaches for any match-up.
Offense still matters obviously and constructing a team that focuses on defense still requires that they meet certain criteria. Competent shooters, a capable playmaker and tenacious rebounding coupled with elite team-wide defense has been a proven formula for winning championships in the NBA.
Best examples: ’04 Detroit Pistons, ’05 San Antonio Spurs, ’89 Detroit Pistons.
The Fluid Offense
Non-traditional and difficult to pull off but effective nonetheless, is the fluid and well-coached offense. Rather than rely on the talents of superstar players, the fluid offense relies on capable but not extraordinary players that are put in an offensive and defensive scheme that maximizes their abilities on both ends of the floor.
Obviously, a fluid offense can be utilized with the presence of a superstar player, but the ego and expectations that stereotypically accompany most superstar level talents would make this more difficult. To be sure, this does not mean a team that is filled with border-line NBA talent.
A championship level team requires above level players at bare minimum. The difference in this case, is that the reliance is on the coach’s ability to game plan rather than a superstar being able to take over the action the stretch.
Best examples: 19 Toronto Raptors, 11 Dallas Mavericks, 15 Golden State Warriors.
Ideally, any NBA team would be wise to incorporate more than one of these tactics insofar as it would be possible. More important still to note is the fact that obviously none of these strategies guarantees an NBA championship. There are just too many variables to account for to guarantee a championship.
That being said, they are all a great start to getting a leg up on the intense competition.
Clint is an avid fan of the Los Angeles Lakers, and contributed to various sports publications prior to his work with Upside Hoops.