Grading Every NBA General Manager's Draft Track Record
It isn't easy serving as an NBA general manager.
Every decision is scrutinized endlessly throughout the year. Fans want to make sure the man in charge is doing what's right for the organization, while members of the remaining NBA front offices are attempting to figure out how they can swindle other GMs at all times.
And the microscope is never more focused than during the draft. It's only fitting that the selection process comes in late June shortly after the NBA Finals draw to a conclusion. After all, this may as well be the front-office equivalent of the Finals.
That doesn't mean every GM is good at what he's supposed to do at that point in the offseason. Some of these decision-makers thrive during the draft, finding one gem after another. But others struggle immensely to either turn around the fortunes of their organization or continue the franchise along the right track.
In order to grade each of the NBA's GMs, we're looking back through his history in the role—in previous gigs with the same title when necessary—to see how the steals measure up against the busts. If your team's representative is providing more value than you should expect from the draft slots he's working with, he's going to outshine someone who consistently minimizes the value of his picks.
Teams in Flux
Though he's technically still in office, Danny Ferry has not returned to the Atlanta Hawks since the indefinite leave that followed his insensitive remarks about Luol Deng. According to a report from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jeff Schultz, he will not resume his duties this offseason, though he hasn't officially resigned or been fired. Those seem to be the only two legitimate options.
Whether the Hawks put Mike Budenholzer in charge of draft-day activity or hire a fresh face is entirely up in the air.
As reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, Pete D'Alessandro has left his role as the general manager of the Denver Nuggets to "serve in an operations position, answering to president Josh Kroenke." As a result, his old job is now vacant, leaving us with no track records to evaluate.
Vlade Divac, as he made clear in an interview with TNT's David Aldridge, will be heavily involved in all personnel decisions. But with no official general manager, this team remains in flux.
Boston Celtics: Danny Ainge
In the Role Since: May 9, 2003
Previous Experience: None
Danny Ainge has been leading the charge in the Boston Celtics front office for quite some time. Naturally, he's going to have his fair share of impressive finds during the NBA draft.
In this case, we're looking at Al Jefferson (No. 15 in 2004), Rajon Rondo (traded for after the Phoenix Suns took him at No. 21 in 2006), Avery Bradley (No. 19 in 2010), Jared Sullinger (No. 21 in 2012) and potentially Marcus Smart (No. 6 last year). But is that enough when he's had a dozen drafts to find usable players?
Probably not, and that's been especially true in recent years.
Since 2012, Ainge has added Sullinger, Fab Melo, Kris Joseph, Kelly Olynyk, Colton Iverson, Smart and James Young to the Boston roster, and those players don't exactly make up a stable of rotation contributors.
Ainge's true excellence comes when he's trading and making pitches to free agents, relying on the history of the Beantown organization in many cases. Success in the draft has often eluded him, even if his lengthy tenure virtually guarantees the occasional strong find and masks the overall struggles.
Brooklyn Nets: Billy King
In the Role Since: July 14, 2010
Previous Experience: May 19, 1998, to December 4, 2007, with the Philadelphia 76ers
Billy King is another general manager with a wealth of experience making decisions during the NBA's selection process, but much of his time in the relevant role came for the Philadelphia 76ers. He's only been with the Brooklyn Nets since 2010, and he has yet to add anyone sooner than the No. 22 pick, as he did with Mason Plumlee in 2013.
All in all, the list of players he's acquired in New Jersey/Brooklyn has been rather lackluster—Jordan Williams, MarShon Brooks, Ilkan Karaman, Tornike Shengelia, Tyshawn Taylor, Plumlee, Cory Jefferson, Markel Brown and Xavier Thames—but it's hard to expect much more when you're consistently picking at the tail end of the first round or after at least 30 players have come off the board.
Was he any better in Philly? Yes, but not by a hugely significant amount.
King has unearthed players who stick around for a long time. Nazr Mohammed (immediately acquired after the Utah Jazz took him at No. 29 in 1998), Speedy Claxton (No. 20 in 2000), Samuel Dalembert (No. 26 in 2001), Andre Iguodala (No. 9 in 2004), Lou Williams (No. 45 in 2005) and Thaddeus Young (No. 12 in 2007) were all quality finds.
However, superstars—or even stars, for that matter—have been few and far between. Iguodala and Young may qualify, but both were lottery picks, making it a bit less impressive that he added that level of talent to the Philadelphia arsenal.
Charlotte Hornets: Rich Cho
In the Role Since: June 14, 2011
Previous Experience: July 19, 2010, to May 23, 2011, with the Portland Trail Blazers
Even though Rich Cho had previous experience with the Portland Trail Blazers before Michael Jordan brought him on to turn around the fortunes of what was then the Charlotte Bobcats, Rich Cho had no draft history to lean on when he arrived in the Carolinas. He'd been hired a month after the 2010 NBA draft and only stuck around until the 2010-11 campaign was drawing to its conclusion.
Cho got off to a promising start with the 'Cats by landing both Kemba Walker and Tobias Harris with top-20 picks in 2011, but that hasn't worked out quite as well as hoped. Walker, though a quality point guard, has underwhelmed, and Charlotte traded Harris (along with many other pieces) on the same day it drafted him.
The three-team deal was a little bit more complicated than this, but the Bobcats' portion boiled down to the following:
- Charlotte trades: Tobias Harris, Stephen Jackson, Shaun Livingston
- Charlotte receives: Corey Maggette, Bismack Biyombo
If Biyombo had panned out, things would be different. But the No. 7 pick of the 2011 NBA draft hasn't progressed much, and it's now uncertain whether the Hornets should even extend him a qualifying offer this summer.
Since that trade, Cho has added Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (No. 2 in 2012), Jeff Taylor (No. 31 in 2012), Cody Zeller (No. 4 in 2013), Noah Vonleh (No. 9 in 2014), Semaj Christon (drafted at No. 55 by the Miami Heat and traded) and P.J. Hairston (drafted at No. 26 in 2014 by the Miami Heat and traded). Zeller and Vonleh have enduring upside, while Kidd-Gilchrist is an underrated defensive stopper, even if the No. 2 overall slot is forever going to look a bit weird next to his name.
To his credit, Cho hasn't added any massive busts to the roster—the raw Biyombo notwithstanding. He just hasn't helped the Hornets live up to their full draft-day potential either.
Chicago Bulls: Gar Forman
In the Role Since: May 21, 2009
Previous Experience: None
Have there been misses? Of course.
The NBA draft is ultimately an imperfect science filled with educated guesses, and it constantly necessitates extreme levels of luck. No general manager is ever going to have a perfect track record; the best merely have far more steals than busts.
And Gar Forman is one of the best.
So again, have there been misses? Between James Johnson (No. 16 in 2009), Marquis Teague (No. 29 in 2012) and possibly Doug McDermott (No. 11 in 2015 by the Denver Nuggets and traded to Chicago), there certainly have been, though none of the three is particularly egregious.
The hits have just been far more impressive:
- Taj Gibson: No. 26 in 2009
- Jimmy Butler: No. 30 in 2011
- Nikola Mirotic: No. 23 in 2011 by the Houston Rockets and traded for Norris Cole (No. 28 in 2011) and Malcolm Lee (No. 43 in 2011)
- Tony Snell (No. 20 in 2013)
That's quite the list for a man who has only been in his current role since 2009.
Butler is quite obviously the biggest steal of Forman's tenure—and one of the bigger ones in recent history regardless of the team and general manager doing the picking. But it's not like Mirotic and Gibson are too shabby.
Cleveland Cavaliers: David Griffin
In the Role Since: February 6, 2014
Previous Experience: None
At this point in David Griffin's front-office career, it's rather difficult to figure out how he functions when calling the shots. The Cleveland Cavaliers hired him on an interim basis after they fired his predecessor, Chris Grant, and it still hasn't been too long since the franchise decided to drop the interim tag on May 12, 2014.
Griffin has only been in charge for a single draft, and it's not like he had a particularly tough decision to make right off the bat. With the No. 1 selection in the 2014 proceedings, he could've justified taking either Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker. And after opting for the former, he traded him (and some of Grant's picks) to the Minnesota Timberwolves for a package that centered around Kevin Love.
The only other moves he's made around the draft involved selecting Joe Harris at No. 33 (seems to be a team favorite even if he hasn't done much on the court yet) and trading Alonzo Gee for Brendan Haywood and Dwight Powell (No. 45 pick in 2014 by the Charlotte Hornets).
Judging second-round picks after their rookie seasons are finished is often a foolish endeavor, and it's not like he could realistically have missed with the top selection.
Dallas Mavericks: Donnie Nelson
In the Role Since: March 19, 2005
Previous Experience: None
Not to be confused with Don Nelson, his father, Donnie Nelson has been leading the charge for the Dallas Mavericks ever since the 2005 offseason. But even so, this is an organization that usually disavows rebuilding through the draft, choosing to trade away first-round picks and go after big-name free agents.
Throughout his tenure, Nelson has made the following selections in the first round:
- 2005: None (no second-round picks either)
- 2006: Maurice Ager (No. 28)
- 2007: None
- 2008: None (no second-round picks, either)
- 2009: Rodrigue Beaubois (drafted by Oklahoma City Thunder at No. 25 and traded)
- 2010: None
- 2011: None (drafted Jordan Hamilton at No. 26 but traded him away)
- 2012: Jared Cunningham (drafted by Cleveland Cavaliers at No. 24 and traded)
- 2013: Shane Larkin (drafted by Atlanta Hawks at No. 18 and traded)
- 2014: None (no second-round picks, either)
First of all, that's not very many picks in the first round, and none has come in the lottery. Second, it's tough to find a single success story among them, and that's pretty true of the second-round selections as well.
Even the gems Nelson does unearth don't stick around for long. In this case, I'm primarily referring to Jae Crowder, who came out of Marquette in 2012 and was taken at No. 34 by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Along with Jared Cunningham and Bernard James, he was immediately traded to Dallas for Tyler Zeller and Kelenna Azubuike, but he didn't spend a long time in Dallas before packing his bags.
Crowder showed off his versatility for two years and was subsequently shipped off to the Boston Celtics, where he's already found a bit more success. And that's another draft pick who essentially wasn't used—well, he was used, just not for very long.
Perhaps this is more the fault of the Mavericks' drafting mentality than Nelson himself. It still doesn't look good.
Denver Nuggets: Tim Connelly
In the Role Since: June 17, 2013
Previous Experience: None
When Tim Connelly was assigned to the GM role by the Denver Nuggets, he was placed there so that he could grow in the job. He didn't have much high-level experience, and growing pains were expected.
They've taken place.
Ten days after the Nuggets officially hired him as the leader of the front office, Connelly drafted Rudy Gobert with the No. 27 pick of the 2013 NBA draft and subsequently traded him to the Utah Jazz for Erick Green and cash.
While Green has played just 43 games in the big leagues, instead spending time with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, Gobert has emerged as one of the best rim-protecting forces in the Association, anchoring the Jazz's dominant defense during the second half of the 2014-15 campaign.
One year later, Connelly picked Doug McDermott (No. 11), Nikola Jokic (No. 41) and Roy Devyn Marble (No. 56).
He traded the first to the Chicago Bulls for both Gary Harris and Jusuf Nurkic, which is a mixed result. There's obviously still time for Harris to improve, but it's problematic that while Nurkic emerged as a potential cornerstone, the Michigan State shooting guard earned fewer win shares (minus-0.7) than every other member of the 2014 class.
Marble was traded to the Orlando Magic, along with Evan Fournier, to reacquire Arron Afflalo, who didn't even last a full season in Denver.
Jokic, however, could be the saving grace. As Bleacher Report's Daniel O'Brien wrote after hearing that the Serbian big man could be joining the squad next season, "If the Nuggets implement Jokic appropriately, he could blossom into one of the best second-round steals in recent years."
Of course, there are no guarantees with young players, no matter how impressive they look while playing collegiately or across the pond. And given Connelly's brief track record, it's tough to tell exactly how excited the Mile High City faithful should be getting.
Detroit Pistons: Jeff Bower
In the Role Since: June 4, 2014
Previous Experience: October 1, 2005, to July 13, 2010, with the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets
Stan Van Gundy may be the head coach, president of basketball operations and face of the Detroit Pistons front office, but Jeff Bower is the general manager. And it's not his first time in the role either. From 2005 through 2010 (though not early enough on the front end to lead during the 2005 NBA draft), he was the man in charge for the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets.
Since signing on with Detroit, Bower hasn't had too many chances to make an impact in the draft. He picked Spencer Dinwiddie with the No. 38 pick, and he had moments in which he flashed his upside while making his comeback from the torn ACL suffered at Colorado.
Obviously, we have to turn to the Hornets in order to truly grade his track record. And that's not a good thing.
During his first three years in charge, Bower added Hilton Armstrong (No. 12 in 2006), Cedric Simmons (No. 15 in 2006), Marcus Vinicius (No. 43 in 2006), Julian Wright (No. 13 in 2007) and Darrell Arthur (No. 27 in 2008 then sold to the Portland Trail Blazers). That's not exactly a promising start, since not a single one of those players became a consistent starter for the franchise.
The 2009 selection process was at least a bit better.
Bower picked Darren Collison at No. 21 and traded future second-round picks for Marcus Thornton, both of whom contributed to the Hornets during their rookie seasons before leaving as sophomores—Collison in an offseason trade to the Indiana Pacers and Thornton to the Sacramento Kings during the middle of the 2010-11 campaign.
That doesn't make for a particularly strong resume.
Golden State Warriors: Bob Myers
In the Role Since: April 24, 2012
Previous Experience: None
Bob Myers hasn't been calling the shots for very long. He wasn't working in this capacity when the Golden State Warriors landed either of the Splash Brothers—Stephen Curry (No. 7 in 2009) and Klay Thompson (No. 11 in 2011)—but he was at least with the franchise as an assistant general manager under Larry Riley for the latter.
And since his remarkably quick promotion, he's done nothing but impress.
Landing Harrison Barnes at No. 7 in the 2012 NBA draft was a promising start, even if the North Carolina product hasn't lived up to the hype that accompanied him when he first headed to Chapel Hill. Festus Ezeli was a quality find at No. 30 that same year, and Draymond Green, drafted at No. 35, is emerging as one of the bigger steals in recent NBA history now that he's coming off a season that left him in contention for Defensive Player of the Year.
Myers didn't have any picks to work with in 2014, but he did the year before.
Cash and a 2014 second-round pick became Malcolm Lee and Andre Roberson; then Golden State sent the latter to the Oklahoma City Thunder for cash and Archie Goodwin.
After that, Lee and Goodwin were shipped off to the Phoenix Suns for Nemanja Nedovic, who bounced between the NBA's Developmental League and the Golden State Warriors as a rookie before suffering a stress fracture in his foot just prior to the start of the 2014-15 campaign.
There's still time for Nedovic to improve and become a contributor in the Bay Area, though he'd have to sign a new contract in order to do so. But even if he doesn't, Myers is building himself a strong resume if for no other reason than the virtues of the 2012 class.
Houston Rockets: Daryl Morey
In the Role Since: May 6, 2007
Previous Experience: None
Doesn't it feel like Daryl Morey has been around for a lot longer?
Perhaps it's because he's landed so many high-quality players later in the draft-day proceedings, even if he's struggled to find true stars.
During his very first draft, Morey added Aaron Brooks with the No. 26 pick in 2007, selected Brad Newley at No. 54 and traded both cash and a 2008 second-round pick to the Seattle SuperSonics for Carl Landry. That was an impressive haul, especially considering Brooks would eventually win Most Improved Player with the Rockets, and Landry was taken off the board in the second round.
He wasn't as successful in 2008 (parted with Nicolas Batum after taking him at No. 25) or 2009 (Jermaine Taylor, Chase Budinger and Sergio Llull added). But in 2010, Morey landed Patrick Patterson with the final pick of the lottery then got his hands on Marcus Morris and Chandler Parsons in 2011.
One year later, Terrence Jones came aboard—as did Royce White and Jeremy Lamb, which isn't exactly a good thing. And in the last two drafts, Morey has picked Isaiah Canaan, Clint Capela and Nick Johnson.
It's a mixed bag in Houston. On one hand, he has unearthed quite a few quality contributors late in the proceedings. On the other, he's missed with a handful of first-round picks and gotten a bit overaggressive with his desire to make trades on draft night.
Indiana Pacers: Larry Bird
In the Role Since: June 27, 2013
Previous Experience: July 11, 2003, to June 27, 2012, with Indiana Pacers
Larry Bird isn't allowed to do anything poorly in the world of basketball. While serving as the GM for the Indiana Pacers, he's found one steal after another, even if there have been some misfires between the strong picks.
Danny Granger, who would go on to make the All-Star squad and function as a tremendous scorer before injuries forced him into a premature decline, was Bird's second pick with the franchise. Erazem Lorbek wasn't a good choice at No. 46 later in the 2005 NBA draft, but finding Granger out of New Mexico at No. 17 was excellent and more than enough to trump the second-round mishap.
Indiana didn't have many picks over the next few drafts, but Bird landed another gem in 2008.
After picking Jerryd Bayless (No. 11) and Nathan Jawai (No. 41), he made a series of trades that added strong pieces to the Indiana rotation. First, he sent Jawai and Jermaine O'Neal to the Toronto Raptors for Maceo Baston, T.J. Ford, Roy Hibbert and Rasho Nesterovic. Then he traded Jerryd Bayless and Ike Diogu to the Portland Trail Blazers for Jarrett Jack, Josh McRoberts and Brandon Rush.
Impressed? You should be. And even if you're not, there's more.
It was Bird who managed to acquire Paul George at No. 10 and Lance Stephenson at No. 40 in the 2010 NBA draft. It was Bird who drafted Kawhi Leonard at No. 15, though he did send him to the San Antonio Spurs (along with Lorbek and Davis Bertans) for George Hill, who has been a rock-solid point guard in Indiana.
Again, no one is perfect. But some years, this Hall of Famer is pretty darn close.
Los Angeles Clippers: Doc Rivers*
In the Role Since: June 25, 2013
Previous Experience: None
Doc Rivers is both the head coach and the president of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Clippers, but he only has a wealth of experience in the former role. As a front-office decision-maker, Rivers is still learning the ropes, and he's made just a pair of draft picks since joining the Tinseltown organization.
First, he went with Reggie Bullock at No. 25 in the 2013 NBA draft, and the sharp-shooting prospect out of North Carolina was around for just more than one season before L.A. traded him to the Phoenix Suns as part of a larger deal that brought Rivers' son onto the roster. At the end of his LAC tenure, he'd played in just 68 games and spent 9.7 minutes per contest on the floor.
Rivers' second selection was C.J. Wilcox (No. 28 in 2014). But he hasn't been much more impactful, struggling to make the transition out of Washington and suiting up in only 21 games during his rookie campaign.
It's troubling that a team with virtually no workable bench has whiffed twice. But there's still time for the 24-year-old Wilcox to develop, and a sample size of just two picks isn't enough for us to make anything but a snap judgment on Rivers' drafting skills.
Los Angeles Lakers: Mitch Kupchak
In the Role Since: August 7, 2000
Previous Experience: None
Unlike most franchises, the Los Angeles Lakers don't really have to hit on each of their draft picks in order to be successful. GM Mitch Kupchak has done a fantastic job with free-agency pitches and trades, and they've kept his team quite competitive throughout the vast majority of his time in charge, which spans back to the beginning of this millennium.
"We don't have...the time to methodically and slowly build through the draft," he told Bleacher Report's Howard Beck this offseason, and that's been the mentality during so many years of his lengthy tenure.
But even still, Kupchak has landed his fair share of draft-day gems.
In 2005, he selected Andrew Bynum with the No. 10 pick.
While injuries and his penchant for frequenting bowling allies in recent years have sullied the big man's reputation, let's not forget just how impactful he was while developing with the Lake Show. He stuck around for seven years, made an All-Star squad and served as a rotation member for two title-winning squads—though his work in 2010 was admittedly much more important than in 2009.
Jordan Farmar, picked by Kupchak at No. 26 in 2006, was another successful find. So too was Marc Gasol at No. 48 in 2007, since he turned into Pau Gasol before playing a game in purple and gold, and that trade led directly to a pair of titles and three Finals appearances.
After that, Kupchak admittedly went through a bit of a dry spell. The 2008 (Joe Crawford at No. 58), 2009 (Chinemelu Elonu at No. 59), 2010 (Devin Ebanks at No. 43 and Derrick Caracter at No. 58) and 2011 classes (Darius Morris at No. 41, Andrew Goudelock at No. 46, Chukwudiebere Maduabum at No. 56 and Ater Major at No. 58) were all quite weak, though the LAL GM had no first-rounders to work with.
In 2012, he made Robert Sacre into Mr. Irrelevant, and he's still on the roster. That's impressive in and of itself, and Ryan Kelly (No. 48 in 2013) wasn't a bad find either. But it was in 2014 when he hit paydirt again, picking Julius Randle with the first lottery pick in over a decade and buying Jordan Clarkson from the Washington Wizards in the second round.
If the Lakers are going to get back on track, they better hope his fortunes have turned back to what they were like earlier in his tenure as GM.
Memphis Grizzlies: Chris Wallace
In the Role Since: May 19, 2014
Previous Experience: January 8, 2001, to May 9, 2003, with the Boston Celtics; June 19, 2007, to November 3, 2012, with the Memphis Grizzlies
During his brief tenure with the Boston Celtics, Chris Wallace hit on only one of his four draft picks. Joe Johnson, whom he brought out of Arkansas with the No. 10 pick of the 2001 NBA draft, was a huge success, even if he didn't break out until he left Beantown. Kedrick Brown (No. 11 in 2001), Joseph Forte (No. 21 in 2001) and Darius Songaila (No. 50 in 2002) weren't quite so good.
Then during his first stint with the Memphis Grizzlies, the current GM had a similarly up-and-down tenure.
Drafting Mike Conley at No. 4 in 2007? Obviously a positive. Picking Kevin Love at No. 5 one year later? Another positive...except Wallace then traded him and a few other pieces to the Minnesota Timberwolves for a package that centered around O.J. Mayo.
The low point came in 2009, when Wallace decided that Hasheem Thabeet had a future as an NBA star and picked him with the second selection. The 7-footer would become the highest draft pick to be sent down to the D-League, and he's now one of the biggest busts—literally and figuratively—in recent NBA history.
Unfortunately, it's not like DeMarre Carroll (No. 27 in 2009), Sam Young (No. 36 in 2009), Xavier Henry (No. 12 in 2010), Greivis Vasquez (No. 28 in 2010), Josh Selby (No. 49 in 2011) or Tony Wroten (No. 25 in 2012) worked out nicely either. Carroll has come into his own, but that didn't happen until years after the Grizzlies gave up on him and traded him to the Houston Rockets midway through his sophomore season.
Since Memphis brought Wallace back as the GM in May 2014, he's only added Jordan Adams (No. 22 in 2014) and Jarnell Stokes (No. 35 in 2014 by the Utah Jazz and traded). Neither of those prospects has made a big impact to this point, though it would be premature to write them off.
Miami Heat: Pat Riley
In the Role Since: September 29, 2008
Previous Experience: None
The Miami Heat just don't build through the draft. Particularly during the LeBron James era of this franchise's history, which almost completely overlaps Pat Riley's tenure as the GM, they've eschewed those late-June additions in favor of free-agency plays.
In fact, the following players are the only ones Riley has actually acquired in the draft, whether through Miami picks or trades during the proceedings:
- Patrick Beverley (No. 42 in 2009 by the Los Angeles Lakers and traded)
- Dexter Pittman (No. 32 in 2010)
- Jarvis Varnado (No. 41 in 2010)
- Norris Cole (No. 28 in 2011 by the Chicago Bulls and traded)
- Justin Hamilton (No. 45 in 2012 by the Philadelphia 76ers and traded)
- Shabazz Napier (No. 24 in 2014 by the Charlotte Hornets and traded)
That's not exactly a strong group, especially since Beverley never even played in a single game for the franchise, instead only suiting up with the Houston Rockets up to this point in his career. That means the six people who have come through the draft and ended up on a Heat roster during Riley's tenure have combined to start exactly 56 games for Miami.
Milwaukee Bucks: John Hammond
In the Role Since: April 11, 2008
Previous Experience: None
Joe Alexander, John Hammond's first pick as the general manager of the Milwaukee Bucks, was a massive bust. The No. 8 pick of the 2008 NBA draft, this former West Virginia standout played in only 67 games throughout his entire NBA career, and he was entirely ineffective during the vast majority of them.
But since then, Hammond has proved himself one of the more savvy draft-day GMs in the Association. His skill here is massively underrated while he works in relative anonymity.
He landed Luc Richard Mbah a Moute with the No. 37 pick that same year and then added Brandon Jennings (No. 10) and Jodie Meeks (No. 41) one offseason later. That's three quality finds in a row even if Jennings hasn't completely panned out.
In 2010, Hammond found Larry Sanders just outside the lottery. And while the Bucks did have to use the stretch provision after the big man decided to pull the plug on his NBA career this year, he was still a high-quality defensive anchor when healthy—good enough to earn a massive contract extension.
And recently, Hammond's skill hasn't just dissolved into nothingness.
In 2011, he managed to trade for Tobias Harris right after the Charlotte Bobcats took him at No. 19. In 2012, he landed John Henson with the final pick of the lottery. And in 2013, he absolutely nailed the No. 15 selection by drafting the extremely raw and mysterious Giannis Antetokounmpo, who now appears headed down a track leading to superstardom. To top it off, Jabari Parker (No. 2 in 2014) seemed like a strong choice before a torn ACL cut short his rookie season.
Hammond doesn't get nearly enough credit for his consistency during this process. He may have made the worst choice of his career when on the clock for the very first time, but he's bounced back rather nicely.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Flip Saunders
In the Role Since: May 3, 2013
Previous Experience: None
Flip Saunders has been around the NBA for a long time—he coached from 1995-2008, 2009-12 and 2014-15—but he's relatively green in this front-office role. Thus far, he's only had a chance to add prospects to the Minnesota Timberwolves' coffers in two separate drafts, and the results have been quite inconclusive.
In 2013, he traded for Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad, both of whom have been quite impressive after they were taken off the board at Nos. 21 and 14, respectively.
Dieng hasn't turned into a defensive stalwart, but his offensive development has been quite promising. And as for Muhammad, he was morphing into an offensive force before a finger injury and the following surgery that knocked him out for the remainder of the 2014-15 campaign.
One year later, Saunders brought Zach LaVine (No. 13), Glenn Robinson III (No. 40) and Alessandro Gentile (No. 53) to town. That first pick is really the only one that matters at this point, and while raw, he's shown off flashes of extreme potential.
Right now, it's too soon to judge the careers of any of these players. And for that reason, we can't really judge Saunders.
New Orleans Pelicans: Dell Demps
In the Role Since: July 21, 2010
Previous Experience: None
Does Dell Demps deserve credit for picking Anthony Davis at No. 1 in the 2012 NBA draft? There really weren't any other options, and the New Orleans Hornets basically didn't have to think twice about adding a potentially transcendent player to the roster. Since then, they've become the Pelicans and watched as Davis morphed into a bona fide superstar.
But what else have they done?
Davis was the first player drafted by Demps whom the franchise actually kept—Josh Harrellson was selected at No. 45 in 2011 and traded to the New York Knicks for cash. Since then, he's also taken Austin Rivers (No. 10 in 2012), added Darius Miller (No. 46 in 2010) and completed a trade that sent Nerlens Noel (No. 6 in 2013) to the Philadelphia 76ers for Jrue Holiday.
That's not a lot to work with, but it's a bit upsetting that Demps failed to find a quality player with the only non-Davis lottery pick he kept. Rivers was historically bad before New Orleans traded him to the Los Angeles Clippers, and he certainly hasn't justified the top-10 selection NOLA used on him.
There's still time for Demps to build up his overall body of work. But early indications certainly aren't too promising, even if New Orleans can't possibly complain about the first pick he made.
New York Knicks: Phil Jackson
In the Role Since: March 18, 2014
Previous Experience: None
Phil Jackson is another basketball lifer, between his days as a player and a ring-earning head coach. But this is a new job for him, and his first year with the New York Knicks hasn't exactly been smooth.
Thus far, Jackson has only been around for one NBA draft, and he was quite involved. The team went into the proceedings without any picks, but after trading Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to the Dallas Mavericks, he picked up Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Wayne Ellington, Shane Larkin and a pair of second-round draft picks. Those final assets are what we're interested in here.
Unfortunately, neither panned out during his rookie season.
Cleanthony Early (No. 34) played in only 37 games, spending much of the year in the D-League with the Westchester Knicks. Thanasis Antetokounmpo (No. 51) didn't even play in the Association, instead spending the entire year at Westchester.
On top of that, Jackson sent some cash to the Indiana Pacers for Louis Labeyrie, who continued to suit up for Paris-Levallois Basket in France's LNB Pro A.
Those are three picks and three players who didn't make an impact in 2014-15, though none were first-round selections, and all are young and raw enough that future breakouts could be in store. As a result, it's still too early to produce any sort of ruling on Jackson's ability in his current role.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Sam Presti
In the Role Since: June 7, 2007
Previous Experience: None
Sam Presti has been unbelievable when on the clock.
Just 21 days after he was officially named the general manager of the Seattle SuperSonics, who would become the Oklahoma City Thunder during his tenure, he was asked to make the No. 2 pick of the 2007 NBA draft. And though it wasn't a hard decision with Greg Oden already off the board, he landed Kevin Durant out of Texas then made a draft-day trade to acquire Jeff Green (No. 5 in 2007).
One year later? Presti added Russell Westbrook (No. 4), Serge Ibaka (No. 24), D.J. White (drafted by the Detroit Pistons at No. 29 and traded) and DeVon Hardin (No. 50). Obviously, two of them didn't work out.
But two did in a big way, and that's far more important.
In 2009, Presti drafted James Harden at No. 3, even though he had no idea the shooting guard from Arizona State would just continue growing out his follicular forest while developing into an MVP candidate. He didn't find any rotation stalwarts in 2010, and he had no picks in 2011. But he's gotten back on track the last three years.
He brought Perry Jones aboard at No. 28 in 2012, and he's shown flashes of promise when placed in a bigger role. Steven Adams (No. 12 in 2013) and Andre Roberson (No. 26 in 2013 by the Minnesota Timberwolves then traded) have both become key rotation members, and Mitch McGary (No. 21 in 2014) looks quite intriguing when he's healthy and on the court.
Even Presti makes inadvisable selections. But during his tenure as the general manager of this franchise, no one has been better at adding high-quality parts in the draft.
Orlando Magic: Rob Hennigan
In the Role Since: June 20, 2012
Previous Experience: None
When looking at the individual pieces, Rob Hennigan has done a nice job picking up parts who emerge as good values. He did that with Andrew Nicholson (No. 19 in 2012) and Kyle O'Quinn (No. 49 in 2012) right after the Orlando Magic officially hired him as GM, and he's continued to find solid players in the following years.
In 2013, he picked up Victor Oladipo at No. 2. Last year, he drafted Aaron Gordon at No. 4 and traded for Elfrid Payton, who was originally selected by the Philadelphia 76ers at No. 10. Gordon hasn't had a chance to shine yet, as injuries and his youthfulness held him back, but the 21-year-old has plenty of untapped potential.
The biggest issue here isn't whether Hennigan has acquired talent in the draft; it's whether he's put together pieces who can eventually fit into a puzzle.
As Zach Lowe wrote for Grantland in April, the future in Orlando can be described as both promising and uncertain:
The Magic aren’t even in that universe, and they're fighting uphill to create a functional NBA offense around two guards with unpolished jumpers. But every uptick in skill helps chip away at spacing issues, and Oladipo is showing encouraging signs as his second season comes to a close. When Payton and Oladipo are on, this team can produce some electrifying moments. That doesn't make the future any less murky, but at least the present is fun.
In a vacuum, Hennigan deserves a slightly higher grade. But context matters in the NBA.
Philadelphia 76ers: Sam Hinkie
In the Role Since: May 14, 2013
Previous Experience: None
Considering both the impact Sam Hinkie has had on the Philadelphia 76ers and his status as the rare household name in an NBA front office, you'd be perfectly justified in thinking he's been around for a long time. But he hasn't, only stepping into the GM role right before the 2013 NBA draft.
In that first selection process, he picked Michael Carter-Williams at No. 11, Glen Rice at No. 35 and Pierre Jackson at No. 42; then he sent Rice to the Washington Wizards for Arsalan Kazemi and Nate Wolters and both Jackson and Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans for Nerlens Noel.
Carter-Williams went on to win Rookie of the Year, benefiting from an uptempo system, some aggressive stat chasing, institutional ignorance of defense and a weak crop of first-year players. But now he's on the Milwaukee Bucks after a midseason trade in 2014-15.
Noel was the only other keeper, and he came on strong during the second half of this past season, thriving on the defensive end and displaying a working mid-range jumper.
Last year, Hinkie made it even more difficult to evaluate him. He took Joel Embiid at No. 3 and watched as he sat out the whole year; then he traded for Dario Saric, who stayed abroad rather than come to the NBA. At least Jerami Grant (No. 39) was a hit, and he ended up enjoying a strong rookie season that flew below the radar.
Hinkie inspires divides. It seems the world either loves or hates his team-building strategies, and it's tough to come down in the middle. However, given the talent levels of his picks but their inability to suit up for the Sixers, that's exactly what we're going to do here.
Phoenix Suns: Ryan McDonough
In the Role Since: May 7, 2013
Previous Experience: None
Another fresh-faced GM, Ryan McDonough has done a lot of good work in acquiring picks and adding pieces to his team via trades and free agency, but he's struggled to make impact selections during the two drafts he's led the Phoenix Suns into.
During the 2013 process, he took Alex Len at No. 5, Nemanja Nedovic at No. 30 and Alex Oriakhi at No. 57, then traded Nedovic to the Golden State Warriors for Archie Goodwin and Malcolm Lee. None of those players has become a star in the desert, though Len did show off some positive development during his sophomore season.
The results haven't been much better from the 2014 class: T.J. Warren (No. 14), Tyler Ennis (No. 18), Bogdan Bogdanovic (No. 27) and Alec Brown (No. 50).
Ennis is now on the Milwaukee Bucks after serving as a trade chip in the deal that brought Brandon Knight to Phoenix, and Warren was merely mediocre during his rookie go-round. The other two have yet to appear in an NBA game—Brown played with the D-League's Bakersfield Jam, and Bogdanovic suited up for Fenerbahce Ulker.
Though McDonough's overall grade for his success as a GM would be significantly better, his work in the draft is what's holding him back thus far.
Portland Trail Blazers: Neil Olshey
In the Role Since: June 4, 2012
Previous Experience: March 9, 2010, to June 4, 2012, with the Los Angeles Clippers
Damian Lillard is Neil Olshey's saving grace. The dynamic point guard was his first pick while in charge of the Portland Trail Blazers, coming off the board at No. 6 in the 2012 NBA draft. That remains the best decision he's made while serving in the GM role for either the Los Angeles Clippers or Rip City.
With his first team, he got off to a good start by trading for Eric Bledsoe, who was originally drafted by the Oklahoma City Thunder at No. 18 in 2010. Unfortunately, Willie Warren (No. 54) never really worked out, and Al-Farouq Aminu (No. 8), while a quality player, certainly didn't live up to the top-10 billing.
The 2011 draft was far worse. Olshey took a pair of Georgia Bulldogs in the second round, but Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie, as good as they may have been in Athens, have combined to play in 34 NBA games and are now both out of the league.
And that was it in Los Angeles.
In Portland, Olshey added Lillard right away, then had Meyers Leonard (No. 11 in 2012) and Will Barton (No. 40 in 2012) join him in that rookie crop. Barton is now playing for the Denver Nuggets, sent over as part of the 2015 deal that landed Arron Afflalo, and Leonard is just waiting to break out in a bigger role after showing strong rim-protecting skills during a 50/40/90 campaign in 2014-15.
The 2013 NBA draft wasn't as strong, since the GM picked C.J. McCollum at No. 10, Jeff Withey at No. 39 and Marko Todorovic at No. 45, none of whom has truly panned out. McCollum has shown signs of becoming a useful rotation player, but he's failed to stay healthy and turn around the struggling bench that has often held the Blazers back in recent years.
It's hard to be negative about Olshey, considering he was the one who unearthed Bledsoe, Lillard and Leonard. But he's also missed a lot in a relatively short amount of time.
San Antonio Spurs: R.C. Buford
In the Role Since: July 1, 2002
Previous Experience: None
Are the San Antonio Spurs allowed to employ people who don't know what they're doing?
General manager R.C. Buford certainly has his head screwed on straight, because he's dug up a ridiculous number of draft-day gems since moving into the lead role right after the 2002 NBA draft. That means he's not responsible for Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili or Tony Parker, but it's not like those are the only three hits the Spurs have had in the past decade-plus.
During the first three years of his tenure, Buford never had a chance to pick before 27 players were off the board. He traded away the 2003 first-round pick (Leandro Barbosa), grabbed Beno Udrih in the same spot one year later and took Ian Mahinmi at No. 28 in 2005.
Then, after adding zero rookies in 2006, the steals started flowing in.
Buford found Tiago Splitter at No. 28 in 2007, George Hill at No. 26 in 2008 and Goran Dragic at No. 45 in 2008, though he traded Dragic to the Phoenix Suns for Malik Hairston, cash and the 2009 second-round pick that would soon become DeJuan Blair—another rotation member in San Antonio for a few years.
Despite all of that, 2011 was his best year. He drafted Cory Joseph at No. 29, adding a strong defensive point guard who continues to play a part in San Antonio's success, then traded Hill to the Indiana Pacers for a package that centered around Kawhi Leonard, the versatile forward from San Diego State who was drafted at No. 15 that year.
Now, Leonard is a true star and appears to be the eventual face of the franchise. It was always going to take a lot to pry Hill, one of Gregg Popovich's favorite players, away from the Spurs. But Leonard was worth it, and Buford saw that.
Given how rarely the Spurs pick before the very end of the first round, the amount of talent Buford has added to this organization is pretty ridiculous.
Toronto Raptors: Masai Ujiri
In the Role Since: May 31, 2013
Previous Experience: August 27, 2010, to May 31, 2013, with the Denver Nuggets
Masai Ujiri loves taking risks. He's done that with the Denver Nuggets, and it seems that he'll continue to gamble on prospects with the Toronto Raptors, based on what he did for them during the 2014 NBA draft. He was on board with the Canadian franchise for 2013, but the team had no picks to work with in the proceedings, and he didn't trade to change that.
During the 2011 NBA draft, which he spent in the Mile High City, Ujiri took a chance on a little big man out of Morehead State who'd broken nearly every rebounding record imaginable. Kenneth Faried came aboard after 21 players had already been selected, and his tenure in Denver has produced mixed results. On one hand, he impressed the organization enough to earn his massive contract extension, but the disappointing follow-up campaign in 2014-15 is troubling.
Also in 2011, the Nuggets worked their way into a three-team draft-day trade, dealing Raymond Felton to the Portland Trail Blazers and landing Jordan Hamilton, Andre Miller and a 2014 second-round pick. Hamilton was the No. 26 pick in 2011, but he hasn't panned out well at all, and he's already played for four different teams.
In 2012, Ujiri picked three more players who aren't with the Nuggets any longer. Evan Fournier (No. 20) was shipped off to the Orlando Magic after a few years of development, Quincy Miller (No. 38) never lived up to his potential in Denver and Izzet Turkyilmaz (No. 50) is playing abroad for GKK Sibenik in Croatia, still with zero NBA appearances on his resume.
And somehow, he saved his riskiest pick for Toronto, as ESPN's Fran Fraschilla explained about Bruno Caboclo during the network's broadcast of the 2014 NBA draft:
This is the all-time swing-for-the-fences pick. First of all, he's described as the Brazilian Kevin Durant. He's 6'9". He's a terrific athlete. But he's so raw that he's about three or four years away, in my opinion, from playing in the league. ... He's two years away from being two years away.
Caboclo was the risky No. 20 pick by Ujiri, and that selection may ultimately determine how his drafting skills are viewed by the general public and NBA insiders alike. We won't know for years, so we're just left grading the earlier selections and acknowledging that while you're supposed to go after the guy you want, Caboclo likely would've been on the board later in the proceedings.
Utah Jazz: Dennis Lindsey
In the Role Since: August 7, 2012
Previous Experience: None
During his brief time as the general manager of the Utah Jazz, Dennis Lindsey has three hits and one major miss, though two of the hits are still in that category because of potential, not consistent production.
Trey Burke would be the miss.
Though the Michigan point guard had a game that often left him looking like a poor man's Chris Paul in Ann Arbor, he's been a complete bust since he entered the league. The Minnesota Timberwolves took him off the board at No. 9 in 2013, but Lindsey traded Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng for him, and that's a decision he presumably regrets.
At least he doesn't feel shame about everything else.
That same year, Lindsey traded Erick Green (No. 46) and cash to the Denver Nuggets for Rudy Gobert (No. 27), and the lanky French center has been a revelation at the 5. Not only is his offense developing, but his incredible ability to protect the hoop also helped the Jazz boast arguably the NBA's best defense during the second half of the 2014-15 campaign.
That's the absolute hit, and both Dante Exum (No. 5 in 2014) and Rodney Hood (No. 23 in 2014) could soon join their teammate in that category. Traditional numbers and metrics didn't love Exum's rookie season, but he was a force on defense and should only keep getting better, while Hood has already looked good as a floor-spacing shooter.
Washington Wizards: Ernie Grunfeld
In the Role Since: June 30, 2003
Previous Experience: April 23, 1991, to April 21, 1999, with the New York Knicks; August 13, 1999, to June 29, 2003, with the Milwaukee Bucks
Few men have this much experience in the draft.
Ernie Grunfeld ran the show for the New York Knicks from 1991 through 1999, then switched to the Milwaukee Bucks and continued on in the same capacity for another four years. And after he was done there, he joined the Washington Wizards, where he's still the GM to this day.
That's well over two decades of making draft-day decisions. Obviously, Grunfeld is going to have some good ones.
We can go all the way back to Hubert Davis, who enjoyed a few strong years at the beginning of his career after the Knicks took him with the No. 20 pick of the 1992 NBA draft. Drafting Charlie Ward at No. 26 in 1994 also worked out rather nicely, since the 6'2" point guard ended up suiting up for New York in 580 contests before he was traded to the Phoenix Suns.
But perhaps Grunfeld's best moment came in 2000, when he landed Michael Redd with the No. 43 pick. The shooting guard would go on to make an All-Star squad in 2004 and was outscored by only 28 players throughout the entire 2000s, all of which he spent in Milwaukee. Considering that 42 people were drafted ahead of him, that's rather impressive.
Unfortunately, this GM's tenure with the Wizards hasn't been as smooth. Sure, he landed John Wall (No. 1 in 2010) and Bradley Beal (No. 3 in 2012), but he's also played a big part in a number of poor choices.
Andray Blatche (No. 49 in 2005) was a steal and a great value pick before his attitude and inexplicable decision-making rendered him expendable. Nick Young (No. 16 in 2007) and JaVale McGee (No. 18 in 2008) also contributed to the overall leanings of the organization and were expunged as part of the franchise's culture change.
And that's saying nothing of the busts who simply weren't good at this whole basketball thing. Oleksiy Pecherov (No. 18 in 2006), Jan Vesely (No. 6 in 2011), Chris Singleton (No. 18 in 2011) and others just haven't worked out.
All in all, it's been quite the mixed bag for this long-standing GM. Though with so many chances, the lack of major steals is a bit troubling.
All stats, unless otherwise indicated, come from Basketball-Reference.com.
Adam Fromal covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @fromal09.