The San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat are in the NBA Finals, which start Thursday night on Biscayne Bay.
Their rosters were constructed in completely different ways.
The Heat largely found its talent playing on other teams. Not just SuperFriends LeBron and Chris Bosh. But Ray Allen, Shane Battier, Mike Miller, the Birdman. All proclaimed their NBA worth before hitting South Beach.
Pat Riley put together a great team by making proven pieces fit together.
The Spurs did no such thing. The Spurs put together a worthy contender by meshing unproven pieces.
You know where this is going. The Thunder has built its organization off the San Antonio model, from ownership to attitude to player development.
Now comes the off-season when that model is put to the test. It's time for the Thunder to rely on its player development and talent evaluation and culture building.
Time for the Thunder to trust its young players.
“We have to bring everybody along,” said Reggie Jackson, one of those Thunder youngsters. “Just be the best team from guy one through 15. That's kind of how we get things done here.”
That's how the Spurs get things done.
The Spurs' roster is amazing in its construction. Only two Spurs were lottery picks (by San Antonio or anyone else). Duncan was first overall in 1997. Tracy McGrady, who never plays, was picked ninth in the same year.
Only two Spurs were acquired by trade — Matt Bonner seven years ago for
Rasho Nesterovic and just-drafted Kawhi Leonard two years ago for George Hill.
Six Spurs were signed as free agents, but five were mid-season signings, which means they were rescued from the scrap heap. The other was Gary Neal, who was an undrafted rookie.
Plus, the Spurs hit on low draft picks like Tiago Splitter (28th overall in 2007) and Cory Joseph (29th in 2011).
The Spurs know what kind of players and people they are looking for. One man's trash is another man's treasure.
So Danny Green, waived by the post-LeBron Cavaliers in October 2010, becomes a starter on one of the NBA's best teams. Boris Diaw, waived by the lowly Bobcats in March 2012, becomes a San Antone mainstay.
Same thing has to happen in OKC, if the Thunder is to ever capture the NBA flag.
The Thunder has to hit on a Jackson, which it looks like is happening. Has to hit on a Jeremy Lamb. Has to hit on a Hasheem Thabeet.
“We'll always look at everything,” said general manager Sam Presti. “But as we've said before, the thing that's really been our engine for improvement on a year to year basis has been the internal development of our players.”
Same as the convergence of Duncan, Parker and Ginobili gave the Spurs the foundation for titles, the trio of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka makes the Thunder a perennial contender.
But they have to be surrounded with complementary accessories, and no money is left, at least not in OKC economics, for luxury. The Thunder can't make a $6 million mistake.
“We want to supplement them with players that complement them but also are continuing to grow,” Presti said, “as well as players who are stabilizing forces as we look to put the best team on the floor, not only today, but to put ourselves in position where year in and year out, we're within a handful of teams that can compete for a title.”
The Thunder won't always hit a home run on draft night or even looking through a rummage sale. Cole Aldrich didn't develop. Ronnie Brewer never got off the bench. Tibor Pleiss, the German draftee, still hasn't crossed the pond and might never.
The Spurs whiff some, too. James Anderson was a draft bust. T.J. Ford was a risk who didn't pan out. The Spurs waived Steve Novak, who became a valued Knickerbocker.
But the Spurs keep believing in their system and their organization. They know what they're looking for. They focus on what a little-valued player can do, instead of what he can't.
The Thunder has shown signs of that. But with Kevin Martin almost surely gone and Kendrick Perkins facing a reduced role, the Thunder has to find its own Danny Green. Its own Tiago Splitter.
“Our young guys, they haven't played a lot, but they've worked their tails off,” said Scotty Brooks. “And we expect to have another great summer of development. Those guys are a big part of our future.”
Forget the future. The future has morphed into the present. Time for the Thunder to fully endorse the San Antonio Way.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.