I hear the term "luck" thrown around so often when it comes to the draft. Yes, there's a certain amount of inherit luck that is involved but I really don't think it's the blind shot-in-the-dark that some make it out to be. Just because something isn't guaranteed to be successful doesn't necessarily mean you're lucky when it does. If that was the case, everything in the NBA is predicated on luck as quite frankly, nothing is guaranteed. There are letdowns in the top five but more often than not you're going to get a good to great player at this part of the draft.
Then you're probably somewhere around the level of what the Raptors are today, although you'd be paying the roster a whole lot less because of rookie scale deals and you'd probably have a lot more flexibility to make changes. If one of the worst case outcomes of the rebuild plan is that we end up in the same vicinity as our current ceiling (fringe playoff team) then why is everyone so afraid to roll the dice considering the best case scenario would be so much greater?Then you have all sorts of other issues once you are lucky enough to get the talent: What happens if you don't get a franchise talent - just a couple of borderline all-stars? What happens if your star player becomes a prima donna and wants to go to a larger market? What happens if your all-stars aren't good enough to win on their own and bolt to join up with other all stars to win (or if they become UFA and just want to leave)? What happens if injuries destroy what you have built before it ever gets a chance to reach its potential? What happens if you max out your two all-stars and you don't have enough role players to field a winning team? What happens if you have a million dollar talent with a five cent attitude/work ethic? What happens if your NCAA-1st team, National Player of the Year is just not good enough to make the step to the NBA despite being hailed from all media and scouts as a can't miss? What happens if your star players don't gel on or off court? What happens if the player you draft never improves either through already maximizing talent or poor work ethic? What happens if the talent becomes a different person with millions at their disposal? What happens if it takes the player 5-6 years to put it all together?
Once again, there's a lot more that goes into a rebuild then just getting bad and hoping to land a James/Durant. It's about creating and maintaining flexibility; draft picks, assets and financial freedom. However if there ever were a time to tear it down with a high draft pick in mind, now would be the time to do it when there seems to be multiple franchise type talents available in 2014.
So in the end your theory is draft in top 5 for 2-3 seasons, get franchise talent, and voila championship contender. If this doesn't work, then it is the GM's fault then fire him (and the whole front office) and bring in someone else. I cannot begin to describe how simple minded and short sighted I think this is. If there was a cookie cutter approach to winning, everyone would do it.
The Pacers style of team building is MUCH more of an anomaly than the teams who did it through the lottery and high draft picks. I'm confident in saying that you could count the number of teams to just make a Conference Finals with no top ten picks on their roster on one hand.
I am not saying what you are advocating is impossible. What I am saying is there is more than one way to build a championship contending team and no way is a sure thing even with the best management. The hilarious thing in the NBA right now there are 4 teams who all were built in different manners competing for the title (San Antonio: injury "luck" leading to #1 pick combined with the best management in the game; Miami: free agency collusion among players; Indiana: a team built through 10-17 draft picks and a key free agent signing in West (a #18 draft pick!); and Memphis: one top 5 pick currently playing and trades/mid-level to lower tier free agents). The one team built in the manner you suggest is knocked out of the playoffs because CBA issues arose resulting in trading Harden and then an injury occurred to Westbrook.
I'm not saying that the tank strategy comes with a guarantee of success. It doesn't. But what I am sure of is that filling up your roster with overpaid and overlapping players that don't seem to fit isn't going to take you anywhere. I guess that's really what drives my desire to start over - I look at the current Raps roster and think it's inevitable in two years time anyway. Why spend those two seasons spinning the tires?