Two statements annoyed the hell out of me leading up to these NBA Finals:
The casual fan refers to this vaunted "Spurs system" as what Gregg Popovich plugs his players into on the court, but that's simply incorrect. Team offensive basketball systems really only exist in high school and college. When I played in high school, my coach ran the same transition sequence every time down the floor, whether off a make or a miss from our opponent. If the transition scheme didn't result in a made basket with the speed of the Seven Seconds or Less Suns, we reverted into our traditional half-court set, and simply worked the ball around the perimeter while the guards rotated around screening bigs on both blocks until someone had a clear look at the basket.
As you can imagine, that grew predictable. The "legendary" coach piloted my school's program for 37 years and never won a state championship. System basketball works when you have far superior athletes and players, but on a level playing field, that washes away and the teams become predictable.
That does not describe the Spurs' style of offense whatsoever. The Spurs run several half-court sets that are basically 1-3-1 formations with a big man screening (Tiago Splitter) and/or moving the ball (Boris Diaw) above the foul line. But the set pieces aren't symmetrical by process, just by result. The Spurs' scheme is designed to simply space out their opponent's defense and attack the holes once the defense inevitably has a momentary breakdown or one player is late making a rotation.
Popovich's schemes might look the same to the casual observer, but the movement and player creativity that happens off the ball is never identical to any other Spurs possession. The magnificent plays they run which make us marvel are all truly organic.
To LeBron, Bill Simmons has made the ideal "the best player in the series usually wins" popular among NBA circles. But now we've seen LeBron James as the best player in an NBA Finals five times and his team fall short three. With hindsight being 20/20, the "I'm picking the Heat, well, because LeBron" people are praising the "Team vs. Individual" themed columns that are being published across the country today.
This isn't one of those columns, because Miami did build a cohesive team around LeBron. Ray Allen and Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade and Birdman and others are all complimentary players to his world-class game in theory, they just didn't have the physical capabilities of playing championship level basketball any more. The Spurs did. If Popovich wanted to plug Aron Baynes into meaningful minutes during The Finals, he probably would have succeeded.
And that's just the thought.
The Spurs don't run an offensive system like the public portrays it, but San Antonio clearly has the best organizational system in the NBA. R.C. Buford and Popovich know what type of players and personalities thrive under his coaching and, once they found a cornerstone in Tim Duncan, they've simply kept shuffling in different pieces around him.
So yes, this upcoming 2014 NBA Draft is absolutely crucial for the Sixers. It's the chance for Sam Hinkie and Brett Brown to draft their Duncan at No. 3 and maybe even find a Manu at No. 10. But still, this team's success will ultimately hinge on the organization's ability to find complimentary players to whichever young building blocks end up being on the Sixers' roster come opening day of the 2014-15 season.
Hinkie has so far shown the creative ability to scoop those types of players off the scrap heap that turned their career around in San Antonio. Brown himself, as the former Director of Player Development in San Antonio, might know better than anyone in the league how to develop young players into championship-contributing pieces.
The Sixers' title hopes are still years away. I can't stress that enough.
But seeing that San Antonio crowd deliriously cheer for a team they watched grow before their eyes has to make you hopeful and excited for what's brewing in Philadelphia: an organizational system that will likely compete for championships, because well, [INSERT NBA DRAFT PROSPECT OF YOUR CHOOSING].