So Howard was traded and we seem to be following the "OKC plan": tank, get cap space, young talent and rebuild. It seems many people think "top 5 pick=AllStar". The problem: this is not as easy at it sounds. To begin with, the so called "OKC plan" is not that revolutionary at all, in fact you could argue the Orlando Magic have alredy taken that path: they sucked for a couple years, then drafted Shaq and Penny and used their cap space to get Horace Grant. The problem: it is awfully hard to draft back to back superstars as OKC and Orlando did!
First, you need to suck in order to get good spot at the draft. Then you need to draft the right player, for this you need to do your homework, but also you need a LOT of luck. NBA draft history is full of underachievers, you might choose the most talented player but he might still fail in the NBA because of character issues, lack of work ethic, not a team player, bringing guns to your locker room, etc.
But that's not enough, you need to be lucky enough to suck in a year before a high quality draft. Even if you win the lottery and the player you draft turns to be the best NBA player you could have chosen, he might turn to be just a solid role player. And even if you suck before a draft with a hall of fame prospect a team with a better record might win the lottery and take him away.
Just check the Chicago Bulls:
They picked 1st in 1999 and made a solid pick: Elton Brand. Instead of Brand they could have chosen Steve Francis, Baron Davis, Lamar Odom, Rip Hamilton or Shawn Marion. All good players, but not game changers as Lebron, Dwight or Durant. They also drafted Ron Artest at 16th, great pick.
Next year in 2.000 they had three 1st round picks 4th, 7th, and 24th. They turned out out to be Marcus Fizer, Chris Mihm and Dalibor Bargaric. Mike Miller was rookie of the year, so is not that they had anything really great to choose. (Best NBA players they could have picked were Jamaal Magloire, Turkoglu and Michael Redd).
In 2001 they picked Eddy Cury with the 4th pick. Pau Gasol was picked just before Curry, and the Bulls missed on Jason Richardson and Joe Johnson. That year Orlando drafted Steven Hunter over Zach Randolph and Brendan Haywood. Then the Magic drafted Jeryl Sasser over Gerald Wallace, Samuel Dalembert, Tony Parker and Gilbert Arenas. In fact no one saw Arenas (30) or Parker (28) coming. Drafting is no easy task, and it involves a lot of gambling.
In 2002 The Chicago Bulls and the Golden State Warriors both had a 22.5 percent probability of acquiring the first overall pick, but the Houston Rockets, with an 8.9 percent probability, won the NBA Draft Lottery and selected Yao Ming. The Bulls picked Jay Williams with the 2nd pick, he showed some promise before a career ending motorcycle accident. Tough luck.
So from 1999 to 2002 the Bulls had a 1st pick, a 2nd pick, two 4th pics, a 7th, a 16th, and a 24th 1st round pick. Still, that didn't turn them into contenders. They draft wasn't horrible at all, they got the 1st pick and 4th picks in weak drafts. They were one player away from drafting Pau Gasol and Yao Ming. When did the bulls turn around their franchise? In 2008, when they had a 1.7 percent probability of obtaining the first selection, won the lottery and drafted Derrick Rose.
So let's hope we get lucky. Tanking and cap space won't we enough.