|Surrounded by an ever-changing lineup, Dirk Nowitzki is Dallas' ace in place. (Getty Images)|
Updated March 20
Building in the NBA is pretty tricky. The easiest way is to be a big-market team that lucks into a superstar with the No. 1 pick when you already have some talent on roster. Or you can simply buy your way into a superstar squad thanks to their familiarity with each other and desire to play together. Not to take anything away from what Chicago or Miami have accomplished, but that's a pretty nice way to have things fall for you.
But at the trade deadline, we saw the other side of the tracks. Teams without superstar talent trying to remake their teams in significant ways, trying to find an alternative way to the Finals. Denver is accumulating quality assets while remaining a winning team -- so as to appear attractive as a place that can win. Golden State is trying to remake its culture. Milwaukee is doing the same. Houston continues to try and wait for the perfect moment.
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And then we have the teams which have consistently been at the top of these rankings. Dallas, San Antonio, Oklahoma City. All three have taken a long-term approach, building around a superstar with constant adjustments and adaptations. None of the three sat back and waited, nor did any make desperation moves. It has been a combination of patience and aggressiveness at the right moment that has gotten them where they are.
San Antonio has been a contender for over a decade with mostly the same core, and that's because they found a model that worked, then consistently adjusted to make it better as different interior elements changed.
Dallas has both the short term and long term always in mind, and the results have mostly been good, and finally paid off with a title.
Oklahoma City built around a tremendous set of young talent and then had the sense not to start swinging for the fences by bringing in veterans.
But the Spurs' approach remains maybe the most impressive. All three teams show that Rome wasn't built in a day. Also, you can't get too content in this league or you'll find yourself in over your head pretty quickly.