Commentary

Who needs to rebuild: Magic or Spurs?

Our Insiders debate which playoff team most needs to blow things up and start over

Originally Published: April 28, 2011
By Chris Broussard and Ric Bucher | ESPN The Magazine
Tim DuncanFernando Medina/NBAE/Getty ImagesBoth of these guys' teams are in need of roster overhauls.

The only thing Ric Bucher and Chris Broussard like to do more than report on the NBA is argue about the NBA. So we decided to combine those two skills for Insider's weekly One-on-One series, in which they'll debate the hottest topics in the association.

Question: Which playoff team most needs to blow things up and rebuild, the Orlando Magic or the San Antonio Spurs?

BROUSSARD: When you're a top playoff seed year after year, it's vital that you recognize when your team has reached the end of its run. If you've won a championship, it's understandable if you get sentimental with your core guys and keep them a bit longer than you should. But if your run has been title-less, you shouldn't hesitate to retool.

When I look at this year's top four seeds in each conference, I see five teams that will fall further away from a title next season because of either decline or stagnation -- the Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic, San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers.

Boston and the Lakers could get back to where they are by adding the right role players. Dallas makes good but not great changes every year and is not in danger of losing its superstar, Dirk Nowitzki. And San Antonio's reloading effort should come in the summer of 2012 when the contracts of Tim Duncan and Antonio McDyess expire. The way I see it, Orlando is the most desperate team of this bunch, because the failure to make the proper moves could result in the Magic losing Dwight Howard.

BUCHER: I'm not sure how many seasons there have been in which the second overall seed in the NBA has been in need of an immediate overhaul, but this is one of them. The San Antonio Spurs, if they want to get back to their championship-contending ways, have to face the harsh reality that their Big Three core -- Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker -- is not good enough and will not be good enough going forward to lift a fifth Larry O'Brien trophy. They posted their strong regular-season record because of the selflessness of their stars and the craftiness and flexibility of coach Gregg Popovich, who devised a penetrate-and-kick game with just enough post work by Duncan to thump every team not as good as them, almost without fail, and to beat a fair number of the teams better than them. In the regular season.

But they did it with a style -- playing fast and shooting 3s to hide a mediocre defense -- that they knew was not crafted to win a title. But what were they going to do? Play their old style, scratch into the playoffs and not be good enough anyway? I believe they did that the previous two seasons. They made the best of what they had this season and there's no shame in that. Still, it's clear that the time has come for them to rebuild.

Ric Bucher

NBA Reporter, ESPN The Magazine Senior Writer