GMs on the Hot Seat Approaching NBA Trade Deadline

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistFebruary 6, 2014

GMs on the Hot Seat Approaching NBA Trade Deadline

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    David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

    We're talking about burned butts and roasted rear ends here. 

    The concept of a "hot seat" pops up just about every season, and it's that time of year for NBA general managers. With the Feb. 20 trade deadline looming in the not-so-distant horizon, GMs are running out of opportunities to swing deals and boost the strengths of their teams. 

    Organizations have decided whether they're buyers or sellers at the deadline, but there might be some conflicting interests. Especially for these five men, as they'll need to balance making the right move with pulling the trigger on a deal that could save their jobs. 

    Take Chris Grant and the Cleveland Cavaliers, for example. 

    Even though blowing things up is the best option at this point, he might end up making a move that ups the talent in Cleveland right now. It's his best chance at saving his job and getting off the hot seat for the time being. 

    Well, it would've been his best option, but Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported that he was fired on Feb. 6. 

    Yay for conflicting interests? They certainly do make things more interesting. 

    Of the 30 men calling the shots for NBA franchises, these are the ones with the biggest reasons to fear for their job security. And yes, they should be quaking in their boots, waiting to see if they get the, well, boot. 

    Grant is the first one to go, but someone will follow in his footsteps before too long. 

Honorable Mention: Chris Grant, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Mark Duncan/Associated Press

    UPDATE on Feb. 6 at 12:30 p.m. EST 

    Roughly 55 minutes after this article was published, Chris Grant was fired. 

    Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news with a tweet that read, "The Cleveland Cavaliers have fired general manager Chris Grant, league sources tell Yahoo Sports."

    So much for being on the hot seat...

    --End of update--



    The Cleveland Cavaliers are an absolute disaster. 

    Changes have to be made, and you'll note that the first word of this sentence is in its plural form. One singular change simply isn't going to be enough. 

    Mike Brown needs to go for failing to motivate his troops and maintain control of an increasingly ugly situation. Chris Grant needs to be fired for putting together this collection of "talent." Everyone needs to be placed on the trade block, including Kyrie Irving, as B/R's Dan Favale recently wrote about. 

    Hell, Dan Gilbert needs to fire himself. Perhaps he could write himself such a mandate in Comic Sans. 

    While the problems are rather widespread, it's Grant who deserves the most blame. After all, he's the one who put this rather pathetic roster together. 

    With this many top-five picks on the roster, there's no way that a team should be this bad. Bad enough to lose to the Los Angeles Lakers in embarrassing fashion—even though the Lakers only suited up eight players and had to invoke the seldom-used rule that you can't foul out when only five players are healthy and available. 

    Alas, those picks have turned into Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Anthony Bennett. Hardly an inspiring bunch, especially when other recent first-rounders include Tyler Zeller and Sergey Karasev. 

    But the picks are one thing. The state of the organization is another. 

    Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News recently painted a rather ugly picture of the mess in Cleveland, claiming that Luol Deng told a friend, "The stuff going on in practice would never be tolerated by the coaching staff or the front office back in Chicago. It’s a mess."

    The Cavs should be acting like sellers, blowing up the current roster and just starting from scratch. But instead they're going to continue acting like buyers, like they were when they acquired the increasingly disgruntled—but always professional—small forward from the Chicago Bulls. 

    That's the true sign of a GM on the hot seat. 

Joe Dumars, Detroit Pistons

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Joe Dumars has been working as the Detroit Pistons' president of basketball operations ever since the 2000-01 season, and it's largely been a successful venture. He has an Executive of the Year title to his credit, as well as the more important NBA title. 

    But lately, things haven't been going so well. 

    Detroit hasn't advanced into the postseason since 2008-09, and The Palace of Auburn Hills is having an awfully difficult time filling up on a nightly basis. According to ESPN's attendance figures, the Pistons finished dead last in home-attendance percentage during the 2012-13 campaign, filling up only 67 percent of their arena during the average home game. 

    When your arena is this large, that stands out. 

    2013-14 hasn't been much better, as Detroit's attendance has shrunk to 66.4 percent. That's better than the numbers boasted by the Philadelphia 76ers, but it's still a pathetic mark for a franchise with such rich basketball history. 

    Problem is, all of Dumars' moves are failing to make much of an impact. 

    He gambled on signing Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith, and it just hasn't worked out. Even given the weakened state of the Eastern Conference, Basketball-Reference showing that just two teams have played an easier schedule thus far and the sheer abundance of talent on the roster, the Pistons are bad. Really bad. 

    As in, way below .500 and not currently in the playoff picture bad. 

    Before the season began, Pistons owner Tom Gores told Bob Wojnowski of The Detroit News, "He’s not (on the hot seat). Joe and I collaborated on these moves, we talk every other day. He’s done everything we’ve asked, and his basketball organization is really solid. I’m excited where they’re at."

    The problem is that was while everyone thought the Pistons would be good during a playoffs-or-bust season. No one knew J-Smoove would be quite this awful while playing small forward. No one in the Detroit organization, at least. 

    "I do expect success this year,” Gores also said. “Last year I was hoping to get in the playoffs and I was disappointed. If we don’t get in this year, it’ll be a huge disappointment.”

    Let's allow that to speak for itself. 

Ernie Grunfeld, Washington Wizards

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    The Marcin Gortat trade before the season made it perfectly clear that the Washington Wizards were in win-now mode. 

    After dealing for the Phoenix Suns big man, the Wiz had enough talent to make a serious push at the playoffs. John Wall, Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, Nene and Gortat made for a formidable starting five, one more than capable of working its way past the 82nd game of the season. 

    However, things got off to a slow start, and it's taken a recent hot streak to push this team above .500 for the first time in four years.

    Seriously. Four years. 

    Here's what The Washington Post's Jason Reid had to say about such an accomplishment: 

    Although the long-struggling franchise has the talent to attain some of its goals, Washington first had to accomplish a modest one. Producing a winning record — even by only one game — this late in a season should instill confidence in a team figuring out how to win. Perhaps the District’s wait-and-see hoops fans will view the accomplishment as a move in the right direction. The Wizards couldn’t advance until they cleared a hurdle that was all in their heads.

    And that's the state of this organization in a nutshell—celebrating something that a team like the San Antonio Spurs wouldn't even notice. 

    Before the season, Washington owner Ted Leonsis said the following during an interview with WUSA's Dave Owens (via Dan Steinberg of The Washington Post): "We’re all on the hot seat. I’m on the hot seat. If the ratings aren’t good, you’ll be on the hot seat, too. I mean, we live in very accountable businesses, and we’re all accountable."

    And there you have it. 

    Of the five men featured in this article, Grunfeld is the safest. The Wizards are actually winning games, and they've risen to the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference, even if a double-overtime loss to the short-handed Spurs pushed them back down to .500. 

    But the gap between them and the lottery isn't too significant, and it's of paramount importance that they stay out of that portion of the standings. 

John Hammond, Milwaukee Bucks

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    Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

    ESPN's Chad Ford (subscription required) has been running what he calls "Tank Rank" throughout the season. It's a set of inverse power rankings, where the team at the top is the one doing the best in the pursuit of the 2014 NBA draft's No. 1 pick. 

    In the most recent edition, published on Feb. 3, the Milwaukee Bucks held down the top spot. And it wasn't the first time they found themselves in such a position. 

    No team in the Association has been less successful at winning games, as Milwaukee is the lone squad waiting for a victorious outing to push them into double digits. A 9-40 record isn't just bad; it's awful. 

    However, the problem is the Bucks' mentality. 

    There was no intent of tanking heading into the 2013-14 campaign. Instead, John Hammond seemed perfectly content to remain mired in mid-level mediocrity, making moves that would allow his team to fight for one of the final spots in the Eastern Conference's playoff picture. 

    How else do you explain signing O.J. Mayo? How else do you make sense of adding veterans like Luke Ridnour, Caron Butler and Carlos Delfino, knowing full well they'd play big roles at the expense of the young players who need developing? 

    The Bucks were actually trying to stay competitive, and they're failing at their goal. 

    CBS Sports' Matt Moore summed up their offseason thusly: 

    They mostly get a D for not having a vision. They don't seem to know where they're going or what they're doing, outside of praying for an "Angels in the Outfield" type situation. They don't have a star or a real core of players, but they added a bunch of window dressing veterans. They won't be as much of an issue in the locker room, but will they be better on the court? There are ways they can, but the overall impression is that they got worse without shedding money, and opted for prolonged mediocrisanity than crazed tank warfare.

    The Bucks, as always, are trying to have it all and wind up having very little.

    "Very little" is putting it kindly. 

    The Bucks aren't one of those tanking teams that appear poised to turn things around immediately. They're not like the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic or Utah Jazz. 

    Unless you really like second-round picks, there's not much to get excited about—other than Giannis Antetokounmpo, of course.

Steve Mills, New York Knicks

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    Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

    Steve Mills is in charge of running things for the New York Knicks. 

    Doesn't that say it all? 

    We're talking about the league's most unpredictable owner (James Dolan), one who could make any sort of decision for his organization during a losing season. If he fired Glen Grunwald after the previous GM put together a roster capable of winning 54 games and a playoff series, what's he going to do now? 

    The Knicks are drawing closer to a postseason berth, but they're still only 19-30. They would need to follow up the current three-game skid with an 11-game stretch of undefeated basketball just to reach .500. 

    Even the Washington Wizards are laughing at that. 

    The 2013-14 campaign has been an unmitigated disaster, even though Carmelo Anthony is playing fantastic basketball. The pieces in place don't work, Mike Woodson is a lame duck of a head coach and the losses just keep piling up. 

    It's not Mills' fault, but that doesn't really matter. He didn't put the roster together, but again, that doesn't really matter. 

    We're talking about the Knicks, after all.