Max-WORTHY players only come through the draft

Players who led their team to championships in the last 20 years: Michael Jordan (6). Kobe Bryant (5). Tim Duncan (4). Shaquille O'Neal (4). Hakeem Olajuwon (2). David Robinson (2). Dwyane Wade (1). Detroit (1).

Shaquille and Kobe shared 3 of those wins, each winning without the other at least once. David Robinson and Tim Duncan shared 2 wins, with Duncan going on to 2 more on his own.

Dwyane Wade truly led the HEAT in that Finals series, but the HEAT don't get there without Shaquille, who was in the top 5 of the league MVP voting that year. The Detroit model - winning a chip without a superstar - has only been done once in 20 years. And really, wasn't done in the 20 years prior either. So let's call Detroit an "outlier".

Seven individual players on that list, accounting for the last 20 rings.

Those drafted by the team with whom they won a championship? Six.

Those NOT drafted by the team for whom they won the championship? One. Shaquille O'Neal.

Edit: forgot to include Boston. The Celtics won with Paul Pierce (draft) and Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen (draft).

Shaquille infamously forced the Magic's hand. He wanted LA. LA wanted him (well, duh!). He forced the trade in the biggest move (impactfully) in the league in the last 20 years.

This summer of 2010 might possibly give us another, if LeBron/Wade/Bosh team up somewhere on new teams. But the likelihood of that? Slim. LeBron and Wade are both leaning back toward their teams as of this morning.

So, what does this tell us?

Draft your own superstar.

Draft your own Max-WORTHY player.

If you can do that, you're very likely to keep him his entire career (since you will WANT to continue paying him max) and that's your best chance to win a championship.

The combo of Amare and Nash took the Suns as far they could go. I know it's hard to admit that, but it's true. Something had to change. And replacing Amare with Hakim Warrick will get us not closer to the big prize.

Sacrificing a season for the sake of a high draft pick, and possibly the next max-worthy, champ-worthy superstar in the game? Worth it. Especially, since the Suns will have the TEAM around that player to carry them all the way. Dudley, Clark, Dragic, Lopez and Frye are all key components to very nice system.

But you need stars. Quite possibly, the Suns could surround those role players with a very high draft pick and talented free agent/trade acquisitions (20 mil worth) by the beginning of the 2011 season.

The right draft pick seems to be the key. The Suns thought they had a couple in Nash and Stoudemire, but ultimately they didn't. And drafting 26th or lower every year will not get you another one.

Time to try, try again. And have the balls to hit the valley before rising to that elusive precipice.