How does one build an NBA championship team?
Some feel there is a definite, proven way to do so, but history has shown that there are many potential paths toward claiming the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
This year, the NBA Finals will feature the Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets, two teams that have gotten to this point in very different ways.
Keith Smith pointed out that while the Nuggets have built their squad mostly through the draft and trades, Miami has relied heavily on free agency.
How they were built NBA Finals edition:
Draft: 7 players
Trade: 4 players
Free Agency: 4 players
Draft: 3 players
Trade: 3 players
Free Agency: 9 players
Further proof that there is no one way to build a team. Very curious to see how this changes w/ super tax.
— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) May 31, 2023
For decades, teams have been averse to building a team over a period of several years, but these two teams have been patient, and their patience has been rewarded thus far.
The Nuggets’ building project began in 2014, three years after former franchise player Carmelo Anthony left, with the selection of Nikola Jokic with the No. 41 pick in that year’s draft.
Jokic had a quiet rookie year during the 2015-16 season, and shortly afterward, they took Jamal Murray with the No. 7 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.
In the 2018-19 season, Jokic made the All-Star team for the first time while Murray started to show he had serious potential, and it resulted in Denver’s first playoff appearance since 2013.
The final pieces arrived via trade in the form of Aaron Gordon and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope over the last couple of years.
For the Heat, while Jimmy Butler arrived via a sign-and-trade in 2019, a number of their key contributors are undrafted free agents such as Caleb Martin, Max Strus, Gabe Vincent, and Duncan Robinson.
However, star center Bam Adebayo did arrive through the draft in the form of the No. 14 pick in 2017.