The Denver Nuggets are showing a pathway that the Indiana Pacers could follow to the NBA finals. How did they do it and what can the Pacers learn from their dominant performance in the finals?
Here are a couple of learnings that the front office of the Pacers would be good to take to heart if we want to be in the same position in the next five years.
Consistency is key
The Nuggets have largely kept a young core of players together that have grown and continue to play better year after year. Of course, it helps when one is a two-time MVP and future Hall-of-Famer in Nikola Jokic, but it goes without saying that there are plenty of All-Time-Greats that struggled to win a championship (Reggie Miller, Karl Malone, Charles Barkley).
But amid trade rumors and other seasons where things didn’t pan their way, they stuck it out with Coach Malone, Murray, Jokic, and Porter Jr. And because of that they are seeing quite a bit of team chemistry on the floor as they continue to show people they are the best team in the NBA.
Building through the draft takes time and some luck
The Nuggets are a team that is primarily built through the draft, a hallmark of smaller market teams that don’t attract the big and flashy free agents. They drafted Jokic, Murray, and MPJ all themselves with the only significant addition via free agency being Aaron Gordon.
They are showing (along with a similar team design a few years ago from Milwaukee) that small-market teams can build a winner but it requires time to let young talent develop, and a little bit of luck. The fact that Jokic and Giannis developed into who they did required either excellent scouting on the part of the front office or a little luck in identifying the right player.
You must have a franchise cornerstone and player buy-in.
Neither Jokic or Giannis seem wishy-washy as to where they want to be playing, and a franchise cornerstone on a small-market team has to operate this way. If there is even a small sense of doubt, it’s probably not going to work out.
Pacers fans are hopeful that Tyrese IS that cornerstone that wants to be here and go to battle as an Indiana Pacer for years to come.