Good read [thumbs up]Ok, two things here:
1. You're 100% correct that the teams that aren't big free agent destinations rely on luck to compete. This is one of those things in pro sports that nobody ever talks about because it doesn't make for a great story, but is completely accurate. From injuries to chemistry to lottery positions, chance plays an enormous part in success. For a perfect example, see how the raps won the lottery with low odds one year and got Bargs, while the Bulls won with low odds another year and got Rose. So much of what happens to a franchise is out of it's control.
But that doesn't mean that things like scouting, good cap management and good coaching and development don't play roles. Luck can land you a player to build around but the GM and the coach then have to bring in the right players, implement the right system and motivate the team to play the right way. See: Carter, Vince.
So yes, luck plays a huge role, but it only gets you so far. And it certainly doesn't mean that you stop trying or simply tank until you land a franchise guy, because the team is still a business and seats still need to be filled. Plus, you never know when a team is going to dump a disgruntled franchise player in your lap because you happen to have the right combination of contracts they're looking for in return. The Raps are doing the best with what they've got, all I'm saying is that unless something breaks right for them, they'll be stuck on that first round playoff exit treadmill.
2. Salary structure matters. A LOT. A perfect example is the Joe Johnson era Hawks, who had most of their money tied up in a core that lacked the talent to take the team deep into the playoffs. They were never able to add those veterans and extra pieces that might have allowed them to make a deep run, and in the end they had to blow it all up. This is exactly where I see the Raps heading; too much money invested in players with too little of an impact. It's not the end of the world though; fielding a competitive team that challenges for the second or even third round of the playoffs for the next 5 years would be a great step in the team's long-term evolution.