5 NBA GMs in Way over Their Heads
It's easy to look at someone like Orlando Magic general manager Rob Hennigan and think, "Hey, that guy can't possibly handle that job, can he?" After all, the 30-year-old first-time GM is the youngest with his title in the NBA today and just traded the best big man in the game (Dwight Howard) for what amounts to something one might find on the menu at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company.
But Hennigan has a plan—tank for a while and build through the draft—and is well-trained from his days with the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
It'd also be reasonable (at first glance, anyway) to pity Charlotte Bobcats GM Rich Cho. He has the unenviable task of turning around a team that just posted the worst winning percentage in NBA history while working for a notorious egomaniac and tinkerer in 'Cats owner Michael Jordan.
However, like Hennigan, Cho is a disciple of Thunder GM Sam Presti and, unlike Hennigan, has previously proven his chops as a basketball mastermind, albeit during an abbreviated stint under another control-freak-of-an-owner, Portland's Paul Allen.
If you're seeking GMs who are ill-equipped to handle their jobs as desperately as Roberta sought after Susan, then look no further than these five front-office head honchos, all of whom have actually been around the proverbial block in the NBA.
On the surface, Billy King had himself a summer that most GMs would...ummm...give up their cap room for? He re-signed a slew of key players (Deron Williams, Gerald Wallace, Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries) and turned a collection of spare parts into an All-Star (Joe Johnson) on the way to transforming one of the league's laughingstocks into a playoff contender for the first time in half a decade.
So how is it, then, that the architect of the Brooklyn Nets finds himself on this list?
Well, for one, the success (or failure) of King's offseason was almost entirely dependent on a huge risk that nearly blew up in his face. As D-Will told Mike Mazzeo of ESPNNewYork.com, he came close to signing with his hometown Dallas Mavericks this summer but was swayed when news broke (while he was in Big D) that Johnson would be a Net.
King, then, was fortunate to find his house of cards still standing after shipping out two first-round picks and a promising big man (Derrick Favors) as part of a package to bring Williams to the East Coast in February of 2011.
He might not be so lucky, though, when the cracks in the foundation start to show. His team will be stuck in luxury-tax territory until the summer of 2016, with Williams, Johnson, Lopez and Wallace slated to earn more than $72 million combined in 2015-16.
That core should be good enough to make the Nets perennial playoff participants in the Eastern Conference (assuming Lopez's foot doesn't trouble him further), but hardly has the Nets looking like title contenders any time soon in the East, where the Miami Heat, the Chicago Bulls and the Boston Celtics currently run the show.
And lest you think King has the wherewithal to turn the Nets into one, keep in mind that he traded what became the sixth pick in the 2012 draft (Damian Lillard) for Wallace, an impending free agent, in a panic move at the 2012 trade deadline...and then spent $40 million to keep the 30-year-old forward in town.
Or, better yet, consider King's tenure as President and GM of the Philadelphia 76ers, during which he oversaw the rise and demise of the Allen Iverson era.
Then again, at least Billy King doesn't have James Dolan around to undermine him at every turn.
Glen Grunwald, on the other hand, isn't so lucky. In that sense, it's tough to fault the New York Knicks GM too much for any moves made by the front office, seeing as how there's no definitive way to tell which ones have been sullied by Jimmy D's fingerprints.
Was it Grunwald's choice to amnesty Chauncey Billups and sign Tyson Chandler last December? Did Grunwald authorize the decision to let Jeremy Lin field offer sheets before the Knicks extended one of their own?
And, subsequently, is Grunwald at fault for letting Linsanity join the Houston Rockets for nothing in return and replacing him with a chunky Raymond Felton and an aging Jason Kidd?
Surely, Grunwald can't be blamed for signing Amar'e Stoudemire to a massive deal or mortgaging the Knicks' future to acquire Carmelo Anthony. After all, he was only the assistant GM when those deals went down.
And it's not as though Grunwald hasn't succeeded in the past. He was responsible for bringing the likes of Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady and Chris Bosh to the Toronto Raptors and put together the squad that nearly cracked the Eastern Conference Finals in 2001.
But, as competent as Grunwald may be and has been on his own, he's ultimately stuck with Dolan. Unless he can somehow convince Jimmy D to back off—not to mention find a way to better mesh the considerable talent on his team's roster—Grunwald will be remembered as just the latest in a long line of GMs to have their work undone by the billionaire heir's prying hands.
Once upon a time, Joe Dumars was the preeminent GM in the NBA. He'd built a Detroit Pistons squad that played in six straight Eastern Conference Finals and back-to-back NBA Finals, claiming the title over the Los Angeles Lakers in 2004. For his efforts, Dumars was named the Executive of the Year in 2003.
But just as the Pistons were peaking, Joe D. seemed to lose his magic touch. He chose Darko Milicic over Carmelo Anthony in the 2003 NBA Draft, potentially avoiding a chemistry disaster for Detroit's champions but forfeiting the future of the franchise as a result.
In 2008, Dumars essentially swapped Chauncey Billups, a former Finals MVP and the lynchpin of that Pistons dynasty, for an even-more-over-the-hill Allen Iverson. To make matters worse, Dumars overpaid out the nose for Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva the very next summer.
As a result, the Pistons haven't won a playoff game in four years and appear to be at least another two or three years away from so much as sniffing the postseason.
And yet, Joe D. is still the GM, even after hiring Michael Curry, John Kuester and now Lawrence Frank to steer his wayward team from the sideline.
Of course, dismissing Dumars wouldn't likely be a popular decision. He was a Hall-of-Fame player in Detroit, a key cog in the "Bad Boys" back-to-back championship machinery and helped to turn the Pistons into a winner again from the front office.
Then again, Dumars' own popularity is wearing thin at the moment. The Pistons have some solid young pieces around which to build—between Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight and rookie-to-be Andre Drummond—but is Joe D. really the right man for the job?
If his recent track record is any indication, the answer should be clear.
Speaking of great GMs of yesteryear, what ever happened to Geoff Petrie? He turned the Sacramento Kings into a budding dynasty out West, only to see poor officiating and Chris Webber's knee injury send the whole operation down the proverbial tubes.
Well, that and the slow-burn of the team's dismantling, wherein Webber, Mike Bibby, Doug Christie, Vlade Divac, Peja Stojakovic and the rest of the gang were shipped out of town as part of a retooling effort of sorts.
Once longtime head coach Rick Adelman was shown the door, the team fell by the wayside. Trades, free agency and the draft yielded some good players (i.e. Ron Artest, Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins), but the constant shifting of the foundation made it difficult to establish any sort of continuity on the roster.
The revolving door to the coach's office didn't help any, either.
On the one hand, things seem to be on the rise again, what with "Boogie" emerging as a potential All-Star, Jason Thompson sticking around long term and incoming rookie Thomas Robinson joining a formidable front court of the future.
On the other hand, Evans has regressed since his Rookie of the Year campaign, Jimmer Fredette looks like the next Adam Morrison and the Maloofs have mismanaged the franchise at every turn, to the point that they can't even figure out whether they're staying in Sacramento or leaving town.
Much less where to.
In the middle of it all is Petrie, whose failures in the front office over the last seven years or so have only contributed to the decay of pro basketball in California's capital. The Kings are going on six years without a playoff appearance now, and could see that dubious streak extend closer to a decade if 'Reke doesn't get his act together and/or leaves town as a restricted free agent next summer.
All the while, the rest of the NBA continues to pass up Petrie, once the prince of personnel gurus but now nothing more than a pauper.
At least Geoff Petrie can claim to have been to the top of the GM mountain before. David Kahn, on the other hand, is still busy pushing rocks up a hill like a modern-day Sisyphus.
The Minnesota Timberwolves GM and Principal Rooney doppelganger has been the butt of every front-office joke ever since team owner Glen Taylor plucked him seemingly out of thin air to run the show in 2009. He's traded for and re-signed Darko Milicic, sent Al Jefferson packing for a whole lot o' nothin' and doled out a chunk of money to JJ Barea.
But none of that can quite compare to what he's done on draft day. Aside from turning the draft into his personal Trade Machine, the Not-So-Great Kahn's resume includes:
- Taking three point guards—Ricky Rubio, Jonny Flynn and Ty Lawson—in the first round of the 2009 draft and sending the most productive one to date (Lawson) to Denver.
- Picking up two wings—Wesley Johnson and Luke Babbitt—in the first round of the 2010 draft, trading one of them (Babbitt) for Martell Webster and watching the other (Johnson) lay more bricks than a certified stonemason.
- Trading for a second-rounder (Chandler Parsons) from the Houston Rockets in 2011, sending him right back on the very same day and watching him develop into a productive player as a rookie.
To Kahn's credit, Rubio was playing like a potential franchise point guard before he tore his ACL last season, and Derrick Williams, whom Kahn took with the second pick in 2011, showed flashes of something special as a rookie.
Then again, Rubio's breakout and Williams' potential precipitated (in part) Kahn's boneheaded decision to offer All-Star Kevin Love (whom Kevin McHale, Kahn's predecessor, acquired on draft day in 2008) anything less than a five-year max extension last season.
It'd hardly be a surprise, then, if Love, arguably the best power forward on the planet right now, ditches the Great White North for sunnier climes in the summer of 2015, when he can opt out of his contract.
Speaking of things that are light in shade, have you seen the roster Kahn put together for the 2012-13 season. The additions of Greg Stiemsma, Chase Budinger, Andrei Kirilenko and Russian import Alexey Shved to a group that already featured Love, Rubio, Barea, Nikola Pekovic and Luke Ridnour are enough to get the Channel 4 news team to wondering what ever happened to diversity in the first place.
But that's David Kahn for you, just a basketball beat writer-turned-GM whose own coach doesn't even like him.
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