NBA General Managers Entering Make-or-Break Seasons in 2013-14
Determining which NBA general managers are on the hot seat doesn't take much detective work. For the most part, you just have to follow the money.
When the payroll increases, usually the expectations follow suit. Owners don't want to shell out big money for a losing product. They want a return on their investment, and if that doesn't happen, the person in charge of handling those investments usually gets the ax.
If you're not rebuilding or contending for a title, patience can run a little thin. With the owners of the following teams all pushing in the chips to varying degrees this offseason, the general managers tasked with making it work are entering seasons that could very well decide their futures.
Chris Grant: Cleveland Cavaliers
Cleveland Cavaliers GM Since: 2010
Best Move: Traded Jamario Moon and Mo Williams to the Los Angeles Clippers for Baron Davis and a 2011 first-round draft pick (Kyrie Irving).
Worst Move: Drafted Tristan Thompson over Jonas Valanciunas in 2011 draft.
We'll see if fortune really does favor the bold.
Cleveland Cavaliers GM Chris Grant hasn't been afraid to ignore projected draft position and target players he likes. Taking Anthony Bennett with the first pick was something virtually no one saw coming, but perhaps the "against the grain" selections of Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson in previous years foreshadowed it.
In addition to the bold draft moves, the Cavs made a splash in free agency this year with the incredibly high-risk, high-reward signing of Andrew Bynum. Grant also brought on Jarrett Jack and Earl Clark for over $10 million a year combined, effectively signaling that the time for a playoff run has come.
If that playoff run doesn't happen and none of Grant's home run swings connect, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert could run out patience pretty quickly. Remember, Gilbert was the man who proclaimed Cleveland would win a ring before LeBron James did. He may not be completely rational, and he's already down 2-0. Gilbert might not want to wait much longer to see if Grant's guys pan out.
Ernie Grunfeld: Washington Wizards
Washington Wizards GM Since: 2003
Best Move: Drafting Bradley Beal with the third pick in the 2012 draft.
Worst Move: Traded Oleksiy Pecherov, Darius Songaila, Etan Thomas and a 2009 first-round draft pick (Ricky Rubio) to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Randy Foye and Mike Miller.
Let's make one thing clear: Ernie Grunfeld should not have his job.
Grunfeld has either whiffed completely in the draft (Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton, Oleksiy Pecherov) or used picks on noted knuckleheads (JaVale McGee, Nick Young). He forfeited a top-five draft pick for Randy Foye and Mike Miller, traded a first-round pick for Javaris Crittenton, missed on nearly every free-agent signing and failed to capitalize on Gilbert Arenas' prime or rebuild properly afterward.
The buzzer should have already sounded, but the clock may finally be ticking down on Grunfeld's career. The expensive frontcourt of Nene and Okafor is already breaking down, and the team's top draft pick (Otto Porter) may start the year as a third-string small forward behind Martell Webster and Trevor Ariza while there are massive holes elsewhere.
The Wizards haven't won more than 30 games since the 2007-08 season, and if Grunfeld can't help right the ship and put the team back in the playoffs, perhaps Wizards owner Ted Leonsis will come to the conclusion that it's time for a change.
Joe Dumars: Detroit Pistons
Detroit Pistons GM Since: 2000
Best Move: Signed Chauncey Billups as a free agent in 2002.
Worst Move: Drafted Darko Milicic in the 2003 draft.
What a ride it has been.
Detroit Pistons general manager Joe Dumars started off his career with a few brilliant moves. Dumars helped hire Larry Brown, he drafted Tayshaun Prince, he signed Chauncey Billups, and he traded for Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace. The Pistons have a championship banner hanging in large part because of Dumars.
The question now, though, is how much time does a title and a Hall of Fame playing career buy you? Since winning Executive of the Year in 2002-03 and building a championship roster in 2004, Dumars' tenure has been littered with mistakes.
Drafting Darko and signing Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva handicapped the Pistons for years, but now the team has finally emerged with a new group of acquisitions. Josh Smith is absolutely an elite talent, but there are concerns with how he fits with the rest of the roster. Betting on Brandon Jennings is plenty risky as well.
With Greg Monroe set to receive a lot of money, this was the offseason for the Pistons to make their moves, and they did.
It's hard to imagine Pistons owner Tom Gores firing a Detroit legend like Dumars. Still, if the recent moves don't equate to more wins and a return the playoffs, it would be awfully hard for Gores to sit on his hands while a mismatched roster bumbles its way to another lottery appearance.
Rich Cho: Charlotte Bobcats
Charlotte Bobcats GM Since: 2011
Best Move: Traded Corey Maggette to the Detroit Pistons for Ben Gordon and a future first-round draft pick.
Worst Move: Trading for Bismack Biyombo.
You would think that time would be on Rich Cho's side, seeing as you can't really classify any of his big decisions as misses quite yet. It's too early to tell with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and the trade for Bismack Biyombo was part of a larger deal that could reap benefits down the line. So why is Cho listed here?
Because this is Charlotte, a place where organizational patience doesn't exist. Michael Jordan and company have ran out plenty of coaches and front office personnel in the past, and that could work against Cho this season if a scapegoat is required.
The signing of Al Jefferson would indicate that the organization is tired of getting unlucky in the lottery, and instead would rather try its luck at competing for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference. It's a questionable decision at this point of the rebuild, but perhaps Cho was feeling pressure, or perhaps he didn't have much of a say.
Either way, with Jefferson's big contract on the books, the objective has apparently changed.
Charlotte's future looks bright, but results might be required now if Cho wants to see it through.
Neil Olshey: Portland Trail Blazers
Portland Trail Blazers GM Since: 2012
Best Move: Drafting Damian Lillard sixth in the 2012 draft.
Worst Move: Too early to tell, but drafting Meyers Leonard over John Henson isn't looking good.
In a few NBA cities, every year is a make-or-break year for the general manager. Portland is one of those cities.
The Portland Trail Blazers have ran through plenty of smart, talented general managers in the past. Neil Olshey wouldn't be the first qualified candidate to get the boot.
That being said, Olshey has made some really nice moves in his short time at the helm. He drafted Lillard at a spot that initially looked like a reach and now looks like a steal, he added some nice bench pieces this season on the cheap in Dorell Wright and Mo Williams, and he gave up virtually nothing to take a flier on Thomas Robinson this offseason.
Still, Olshey's fate may depend more on what he hasn't done than what he has. Olshey chose his path when he kept the core of Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge and Wes Matthews together instead of blowing it up and rebuilding, and there will be playoff expectations with that group still intact.
If the Blazers can't reach the postseason this year, it wouldn't be out of character for Allen to bring in a fresh face as a remedy. Olshey can play the game as well as anyone and deserves to stick around, but he'll never truly be safe in Portland until the Blazers are contending for titles.
Billy King: Brooklyn Nets
Brooklyn Nets GM Since: 2010
Best Move: Traded Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, cash, a 2011 first-round draft pick (Enes Kanter) and a 2013 first-round draft pick (Gorgui Dieng) to the Utah Jazz for Deron Williams.
Worst Move: Traded Mehmet Okur, Shawne Williams and a 2012 first-round draft pick (Damian Lillard) to the Portland Trail Blazers for Gerald Wallace.
No general manager sacrifices the future for the betterment of the present quite like Brooklyn Nets GM Billy King. If that results in titles for Brooklyn? Great. But if it doesn't? This organization could be in an awful lot of trouble for quite some time.
Make no mistake: Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is not going to spend all that money for second-round playoff exits. With the Nets way over the salary cap now and for the foreseeable future, there aren't a lot of options if things go wrong. The team will owe draft picks to the Boston Celtics for a long, long time and Prokhorov's spending will be essentially capped.
If the Nets stumble in the postseason, King will almost certainly take the fall for it. He's pushed all the chips to the table with the three blockbuster trades and a new head coach in Jason Kidd. Now King has little else to do but sit back and hope he has the best hand.
Dell Demps: New Orleans Pelicans
New Orleans Pelicans GM Since: 2010
Best Move: Traded Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor to the Washington Wizards for Rashard Lewis and a 2012 second-round draft pick (Darius Miller).
Worst Move: Matching Phoenix Suns offer sheet on Eric Gordon.
There might be some concern that New Orleans Pelicans general manager Dell Demps is making compounding mistakes at this point.
Bringing back Eric Gordon on a max contract looks like a mistake because of Gordon's injury troubles, but that can't be held solely against Demps. While it looks like Demps also missed on Austin Rivers in the draft, we don't know that yet for certain.
Point being, this has the potential to get much worse. Adding very good players with the potential that Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday have can pay off, but if the fit isn't right, it could also backfire mightily.
By sacrificing the sixth pick in this year's draft (Nerlens Noel) as well as a top-five protected pick in next year's loaded draft class, Demps has essentially put his and the franchise's future on Evans and Holiday's ability to do what Gordon and Rivers have not been able to.
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