Grading Every NBA General Manager's Moves from the Past 3 Seasons
NBA general managers are already some of the most scrutinized professionals in the sport, so which ones have done the best and worst at their jobs?
While examining a "what have you done for me lately?" role, we'll only grade GMs on their performance over the past three years (or less, if newly hired).
Did your favorite team's GM pull off a blockbuster trade in 2009? Won't be considered here. Did that 2014 first-round pick turn into a bust? The selection will be granted immunity for this exercise. We're only concerned with recent job performance.
GMs often share duties with other members of the front office, such as team presidents and assistant GMs. While the general manager might not have put the finishing touch on a transaction, all moves by the team will be treated as if they were responsible, for better or worse. Only draft picks, trades and other moves from the summer of 2017 until now count.
Here's how every GM grades out over the past three seasons.
Incomplete Grades: Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons
Three teams—the Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets and Detroit Pistons—all either hired GMs after the league went on hiatus or are searching for one.
With Arturas Karnisovas transitioning from GM of the Nuggets to executive vice president of basketball operations with the Chicago Bulls in April, both teams have had to add new front-office members.
The Nuggets replaced Karnisovas with Calvin Booth, the assistant GM in Denver who spent 10 years as a player in the NBA with seven teams.
In Chicago, Karnisovas hired Marc Eversley, most recently the senior vice president of player personnel with the 76ers, to be the Bulls' newest GM.
The Pistons are searching for a general manager, with senior advisor Ed Stefanski handling most of the duties in the process.
Since neither Booth nor Eversley has had the opportunity to make a transaction, all three teams receive incomplete grades.
Travis Schlenk, Atlanta Hawks: A-
- Traded No. 3 overall pick in 2018 (Luka Doncic) to Dallas Mavericks for No. 5 overall pick (Trae Young) and 2019 first-round pick (Cam Reddish) in 2018
- Drafted De'Andre Hunter No. 4 overall in 2019
- Drafted John Collins No. 19 overall in 2017
- Traded for center Clint Capela in 2020
The former assistant GM of the Golden State Warriors, Travis Schlenk has begun molding the Atlanta Hawks into a mini-version of his former champion teams.
Trae Young has flashes of Stephen Curry in his game with his incredible range and tight handles, and shooting guard Kevin Huerter has a similar 6'7", 190-pound frame to that of Klay Thompson (6'6", 215 lbs).
Collins was a brilliant pick outside the lottery in 2017 and is already averaging over 20 points and 10 rebounds per game and shooting 40.1 percent from three, with a hefty contract extension likely coming.
We've yet to see Capela play a game since a trade from the Houston Rockets, but Hunter and Reddish look like quality starters at least.
Schlenk will ultimately be judged on his passing on Doncic in favor of Young and the draft pick that became Reddish. While Doncic is the greater talent, Young is already an All-Star starter in his second year.
There's a lot of young talent on this team, but the Luka swap and a poor 20-47 overall record this season hurt his grade a little.
Danny Ainge, Boston Celtics: A
- Signed Kemba Walker to four-year, $141 million deal in 2019
- Traded Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, 2018 first-round pick (via Brooklyn Nets) and 2020 second-round pick (via Miami Heat) for Kyrie Irving in 2017
- Traded No. 1 overall pick in 2017 for No. 3 overall pick (Jayson Tatum) and 2019 first-round pick (Romeo Langford)
- Signed Gordon Hayward to four-year, $128 million deal in 2017
Danny Ainge has been the GM of the Boston Celtics since May 2003 and probably has the most job security of any front-office employee in the league given his experience in Boston as both a player and executive.
While his tenure has resulted in a 2008 championship and one of the greatest trades of the past few decades (getting four first-round picks from the Brooklyn Nets for an aging Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce), only moves from the past three years count here.
Trading for Irving in 2017 seemed like a home run, even with giving up the Nets' unprotected first-round pick. Irving battled injuries and displayed poor leadership, resulting in his leaving in free agency just two seasons later. Getting Walker as a replacement in 2019 certainly helped make up for it, however.
Dealing the first overall pick to the Philadelphia 76ers in 2017 couldn't have turned out any better, as Boston still got its guy in Tatum at No. 3 with an additional first-rounder to show for it.
Hayward was having a fantastic 2019-20 season following his devastating ankle injury in 2017-18 and will most likely pick up his player option next season as well.
While this is still a backcourt-heavy team with holes at power forward and center, Ainge has done a great job of signing big-name free agents and pulling off trades when needed.
Sean Marks, Brooklyn Nets: A
- Traded D'Angelo Russell (sign-and-trade), Shabazz Napier and Treveon Graham to Golden State Warriors for Kevin Durant (who agreed to four-year, $164 million deal) and 2020 first-round pick in 2019
- Signed Kyrie Irving to four-year, $142 million contract in 2019
- Traded Brook Lopez and 2017 first-round pick (Kyle Kuzma) for D'Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov in 2017
- Drafted Jarrett Allen in 2017
Sean Marks has turned a broken franchise with few draft picks into a team with a real chance to win an NBA title next season.
Trading for Russell in 2017 was a tremendous move, as it gave the team a go-to star who helped lead Brooklyn back into the playoffs. Moving him for Durant was something Marks had to do.
While a run to the Finals next year with a healthy Durant and Irving would solidify Marks' grade as a perfect A+, there's still some crash-and-burn potential.
Irving lasted just 20 games this season before undergoing shoulder surgery, and we've yet to see what Durant will look like post-Achilles injury.
For now, Marks has made all the right moves, but his financial commitment to two injury-prone stars will decide his success.
Mitch Kupchak, Charlotte Hornets: C-
- Signed-and-traded Kemba Walker and 2020 second-round pick to Boston Celtics for Terry Rozier (who signed three-year, $56.7 million contract) and 2020 second-round pick in 2019
- Drafted P.J. Washington No. 12 overall in 2019
- Traded 2019 and 2023 second-round picks to Atlanta Hawks for 34th overall pick, drafted Devonte' Graham in 2018
- Traded Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for Miles Bridges, 2020 and 2021 second-round picks in 2018
- Signed Tony Parker to two-year, $10 million deal in 2018
While P.J. Washington and Devonte' Graham have proved to be tremendous picks for Mitch Kupchak, there's been some obvious mistakes in his two years running the Charlotte Hornets.
Bridges has been fine, but Gilgeous-Alexander would have been a franchise-changing type player at point guard.
The biggest mistake here was low-balling the best player in franchise history, Walker, while agreeing to give a career 38.0 percent shooter in Rozier almost $19 million per year.
Charlotte is 23-42, has the 28th-best offense in the NBA and is without an All-Star or even a player who looks like a lock to become one.
Koby Altman, Cleveland Cavaliers: C
- Traded John Henson, Brandon Knight and 2023 second-round pick to Detroit Pistons for Andre Drummond in 2020
- Drafted Darius Garland No. 5 overall in 2019
- Drafted Kevin Porter Jr. No. 30 overall in 2019
- Signed Kevin Love to four-year, $120 million extension in 2018
- Traded Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, a 2018 first-round draft pick (Collin Sexton) and a 2020 second-round draft pick in 2017
Cleveland Cavaliers GM Koby Altman was thrown into a tough situation in 2017, managing a trade request from Irving while trying to keep LeBron James happy in the final year of his contract.
While the Irving trade was mostly a disaster, it did lead to Collin Sexton, the team's leading scorer at age 21.
Signing Love to a mega-extension was a mistake. The rebuilding Cavs don't want to trade the 31-year-old Love just to get off his contract, but it's clear both sides know a split is for the best.
Darius Garland was OK as a rookie coming off a major knee injury in college, although Kevin Porter Jr. looks like he could become a star.
Getting Andre Drummond was an odd move, but the NBA's rebounding leader is still just 26, and Altman didn't give up anything of value to get him. Hitting on a 2020 lottery pick and moving Love this summer for anything significant would help Altman's case.
Donnie Nelson, Dallas Mavericks: A
- Signed Kristaps Porzingis to five-year, $158 million deal in 2019
- Traded DeAndre Jordan, Dennis Smith Jr., Wesley Matthews, 2021 and 2023 first-round picks to New York Knicks for Porzingis, Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee in 2019
- Traded No. 5 overall pick in 2018 (Trae Young) and 2019 first-round pick (Cam Reddish) to Atlanta Hawks for No. 3 overall pick in 2018 (Luka Doncic)
- Drafted Dennis Smith Jr. No. 9 overall in 2017
The Dallas Mavericks have done a brilliant job of restocking the talent base following Dirk Nowitzki's 2019 retirement.
While Young and Reddish would have been exciting, Doncic looks like a future MVP who already has the Mavericks in playoff position in just his second season. Taking the risk to trade up to get him could go down as one of the best moves in franchise history.
Porzingis looks like a great second option next to Doncic, and at age 24 he should only continue to get better.
Donnie Nelson has also done a great job of filling out the roster around the two stars, with Seth Curry, Maxi Kleber, Dorian Finney-Smith and Boban Marjanovic playing their roles perfectly.
Even with some future firsts tied up from the Porzingis trade, Nelson has this team in line to make the playoffs now and compete for championships in a few years.
Bob Myers, Golden State Warriors: B
- Traded D'Angelo Russell, Omari Spellman and Jacob Evans to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Andrew Wiggins, 2021 first- and second-round picks in 2020
- Signed Draymond Green to four-year, $100 million contract extension in 2019
- Signed Klay Thompson to five-year, $190 million deal in 2019
- Signed-and-traded Kevin Durant and 2020 first-round pick to Brooklyn Nets for D'Angelo Russell (who signed four-year, $117 million deal), Shabazz Napier and Treveon Graham in 2020
- Signed Stephen Curry to five-year, $201 million deal in 2017
Bob Myers was the Executive of the Year in 2016-17 after adding Kevin Durant to a 73-win team but has since been hamstrung by KD's decision to leave and a roster that's gotten considerably more expensive.
Getting Russell was a big win, especially since the Golden State Warriors didn't have enough cap space to sign him or any other big free agent outright. While swapping Russell for Andrew Wiggins' massive contract didn't make sense, the first-rounder acquired from the exchange could turn out to be quite valuable, especially if it's moved in a deal for another star player.
Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Thompson's contracts are more or less rewards for their years with the Warriors and likely won't match their production by the end of the deals, but Myers didn't really have a choice but to re-sign all three.
If the Warriors can flip Wiggins and the Timberwolves pick for another star, the Russell deal will look brilliant. For now, Myers' performance over the past three years alone has just been OK.
Daryl Morey, Houston Rockets: B+
- Traded Clint Capela, Gerald Green, Nene and 2020 first-round pick in four-team deal to acquire Robert Covington and Jordan Bell in 2020
- Traded Chris Paul, 2024 and 2026 first-round picks with 2021 and 2025 first-round pick swaps to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Russell Westbrook in 2019
- Signed James Harden to four-year, $170 million contract extension in 2017
- Traded Patrick Beverley, Montrezl Harrell, Sam Dekker, Lou Williams, DeAndre Liggins, Darrun Hilliard, Kyle Wiltjer, 2018 first-round pick and $661,000 in cash to Los Angeles Clippers for Chris Paul in 2017
Daryl Morey has been one of the more active GMs in the league since he took the job in 2007, and his trade for James Harden in 2012 was one of the decade's best.
While locking Harden into a $170 million extension kept his centerpiece out of trade rumors, Morey has spent the past few years trying to find the perfect co-star.
Chris Paul and Harden went as far as the Western Conference Finals, and moving the veteran point guard for Russell Westbrook proved costly. The Houston Rockets have just one more first-round pick they can trade (2022), meaning there are few other means of upgrading the team around Harden and Westbrook.
This is just another really good team in the West that probably still isn't talented enough to win a title.
Chad Buchanan, Indiana Pacers: B+
- Signed Domantas Sabonis to four-year, $77 million deal in 2019
- Traded 2020 first-round pick, 2021 and 2025 second-round picks to Milwaukee Bucks for Malcolm Brogdon in 2019
- Traded cash considerations in three-team deal to acquire T.J. Warren, 2022, 2025 and 2026 second-round picks in 2019
Getting Domantas Sabonis locked into a deal for $19.3 million per year was good value for Chad Buchanan and the Pacers given the 24-year-old big man is averaging 18.5 points, 12.4 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game.
The trade for T.J. Warren was one of the best of the past few years that rarely gets mentioned, as the 26-year-old forward is leading the Pacers in scoring (18.7 points per game) and is on a good four-year, $47 million contract, and Indiana collected a trio of picks simply for taking on his salary.
While the Pacers had to give up three selections (including their first-rounder this year) for a restricted free agent in Malcolm Brogdon, he's performed well this season with 16.3 points and 7.1 assists per game.
Michael Winger, Los Angeles Clippers: A
- Signed Kawhi Leonard to three-year, $103 million deal in 2019
- Traded Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, 2022, 2024 and 2026 first-round picks, 2021 and 2023 first-round picks (via Miami Heat) and 2023 and 2025 pick swaps to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Paul George in 2019
- Traded Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic and Mike Scott to the Philadelphia 76ers for Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala, Landry Shamet, 2020 and 2021 first-round picks and 2021 and 2023 second-round picks in 2019
- Traded Miles Bridges, 2020 second-round pick and 2021 second-round draft pick to the Charlotte Hornets for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in 2018
- Traded Blake Griffin, Brice Johnson and Willie Reed to Detroit Pistons for Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, 2018 first-round pick and 2019 second-round pick in 2018
The Los Angeles Clippers have undergone quite a makeover over the past few years, trading franchise star Blake Griffin and loading up on draft picks before cashing them in to land Kawhi Leonard and George.
The Griffin trade was painful at the time but has turned out great for L.A. As the Detroit Pistons look to offload the remainder of his $171 million contract, the Clippers used the picks to help reshape the roster.
Giving up that massive haul for George was necessary to get Leonard, moves that could backfire should both opt out of their deals and leave via free agency in 2021. Still, the Clippers have set up an incredible roster and are one of the most desirable locations in the league, meaning there's little risk either leaves his home city.
Getting quality role players like Ivica Zubac, Marcus Morris and Reggie Jackson have been positive moves as well. The Clippers are only a title away from Michael Winger, Lawrence Frank and the rest of L.A.'s front office getting an A-plus.
Rob Pelinka, Los Angeles Lakers: B
- Traded Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, 2019, 2021 and 2024 first-round picks and 2023 pick swap to the New Orleans Pelicans for Anthony Davis in 2019
- Signed Danny Green to two-year, $30 million deal in 2019
- Signed LeBron James to four-year, $154 million deal in 2018
- Traded Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson to Cleveland Cavaliers for Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye and 2018 first-round pick in 2018
Los Angeles Lakers GM Rob Pelinka has assembled two of the best basketball players in the world on one roster, no matter how many mistakes he made along the way.
Cap space had to be cleared via the Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. trade to make way for James, but it was ultimately up to the four-time MVP that he wanted to be a Laker, rather than the team's putting together a big recruitment effort.
L.A. had to give up a ton for one year of Anthony Davis, even if he's expected to re-sign after opting out this offseason. Brandon Ingram looks like a star, and Lonzo Ball is developing into a great all-around point guard.
The Lakers can't trade anymore first-round picks, with Kyle Kuzma remaining as the best available trade asset. Pelinka also put an awful supporting cast around James last season full of non-shooters (Michael Beasley, Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee, Rajon Rondo) and gave up Ivica Zubac just to get a few weeks of Mike Muscala.
While the Lakers are at the top of the West and have James and Davis, Pelinka's work is more a product of the assets accumulated before he got to L.A. and James' desire to be a Laker.
Zach Kleiman, Memphis Grizzlies: B+
- Traded Jae Crowder, Solomon Hill, and Andre Iguodala in three-team deal to the Miami Heat for Justise Winslow, Dion Waiters and Gorgui Dieng (from Minnesota Timberwolves) in 2020
- Signed Dillon Brooks to three-year, $35 million contract extension in 2020
- Signed Jonas Valanciunas to three-year, $45 million deal in 2019
- Traded Mike Conley Jr. to Utah Jazz for Jae Crowder, Kyle Korver, Grayson Allen and 2019 and 2020 first-round picks in 2019
- Drafted Ja Morant No. 2 overall in 2019
While the Memphis Grizzlies don't technically have a GM, executive vice president of basketball operations Zach Kleiman has taken on the same responsibilities along with team president Jason Wexler.
Hired in April 2019, it's been quite a year for both.
Drafting Ja Morant was absolutely the right choice, as the 20-year-old point guard is the favorite to win Rookie of the Year. Getting Brandon Clarke in a trade for the 23rd overall pick in 2019 plus a second-rounder was tremendous value as well.
The Conley trade looks great, as the veteran guard has struggled in Utah this season, and the 2019 pick was traded in the deal to get Clarke.
Dillon Brooks and Jonas Valanciunas are quality starters on good contracts, and Justise Winslow should become the team's starting small forward when the season resumes.
Having to eat all of Dion Waiters' money for this season and next ($12.6 million) hurts after the team waived the 2012 No. 4 overall pick, as he could have at least served as an expiring contract to match salaries with in a trade next year.
Andy Elisburg, Miami Heat: A-
- Traded Justise Winslow, Dion Waiters and James Johnson in three-team deal for Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill in 2020
- Traded Josh Richardson, Hassan Whiteside and 2023 first-round pick in four-team deal for Jimmy Butler (who signed a four-year, $142 million deal), Meyers Leonard and cash in 2019
- Drafted Tyler Herro No. 13 overall in 2019
- Signed Kendrick Nunn to three-year, $3.1 million deal in 2019
- Signed Duncan Robinson to two-year, $3.1 million deal in 2019
- Drafted Bam Adebayo No. 14 overall in 2017
With the exceptions of some bad contracts (Dion Waiters, Kelly Olynyk), the Miami Heat front office of Andy Elisburg and team president Pat Riley have hit plenty of home runs over the past three years.
While the four-team trade for Jimmy Butler will grab the most headlines, it's the signings of undrafted players like Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson that may be the most impressive.
Miami has hit on its draft picks as well, with Bam Adebayo making the All-Star team this season and Tyler Herro looking like a steal at No. 13.
The Heat will never have as good of an offseason as they did in 2010 when the Heatles formed, but this team has made plenty of smart moves both big and small that should have it at the top of the East for years.
Jon Horst, Milwaukee Bucks: B+
- Signed Khris Middleton to five-year, $178 million deal in 2019
- Signed Brook Lopez to four-year, $52 million deal in 2019
- Traded John Henson, Matthew Dellavedova and 2021 first- and second-round picks to Cleveland Cavaliers in three-team deal for George Hill, Jason Smith, 2021 second-round pick and cash in 2019
- Signed head coach Mike Budenholzer to four-year deal in 2018
- Traded Greg Monroe, 2020 first-round pick and 2018 second-round pick to Phoenix Suns for Eric Bledsoe in 2017
Jon Horst has helped transform the Milwaukee Bucks into one of the NBA's best teams with both his work obtaining talent and his decision to change head coaches.
Firing Jason Kidd to bring in Mike Budenholzer elevated the team from playoff hopeful to championship contender and helped unlock Giannis Antetokounmpo's massive potential.
Putting the right pieces around the reigning MVP has been important as well.
Keeping Khris Middleton was a must, even if it costs nearly $36 million per year. Being able to retain both Brook Lopez and George Hill in free agency spoke to the players' belief in Horst and the rest of the front office as well.
The 2020 playoffs will be a major test to see if Horst did enough, or if he'll have to scramble to reshape the roster before Antetokounmpo hits free agency in 2021.
Horst hasn't made any blockbuster moves, but he hasn't had to make any yet, either.
Scott Layden, Minnesota Timberwolves: B+
- Traded Andrew Wiggins, 2021 first- and second-round picks to the Golden State Warriors for D'Angelo Russell, Jacob Evans and Omari Spellman in 2020
- Traded Robert Covington, Jordan Bell, Keita Bates-Diop, Shabazz Napier and Noah Vonleh in four-team deal for Malik Beasley, Evan Turner, Juan Hernangomez, Jarred Vanderbilt and 2020 first-round pick in 2020
- Traded Dario Saric and No. 11 overall pick to Phoenix Suns for No. 6 overall pick (Jarrett Culver) in 2019
- Traded Jimmy Butler and Justin Patton to Philadelphia 76ers for Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless and 2022 second-round pick in 2018
- Traded Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and No. 7 overall pick (Lauri Markkanen) to Chicago Bulls for Jimmy Butler and No. 16 overall pick (Justin Patton) in 2017
Scott Layden is still the Minnesota Timberwolves' GM, although team president Gersson Rosas has had final say over the front-office decisions since he took the job in May 2019.
Combined, they've made over a roster that still revolves around Karl-Anthony Towns.
The Butler experiment was a failure, although they've used Robert Covington and Dario Saric in subsequent deals to help land players like Malik Beasley, Jarrett Culver and a 2020 first-round pick.
Offloading Wiggins' contract and acquiring Russell as a playmaker and friend of Towns was well worth the first-round draft pick, even in what looks to be a strong 2021 class.
A core of Towns, Russell, Beasley and Culver has strong upside, but Minnesota will need to sprinkle in a few more defenders and find an answer at power forward to complete the makeover.
Trajan Langdon, New Orleans Pelicans: A
- Signed JJ Redick to two-year, $26.5 million deal in 2019
- Traded 2021 and 2023 second-round picks to Utah Jazz for Derrick Favors in 2019
- Traded Nos. 4 (De'Andre Hunter) and 57 (Jordan Bone) overall picks and Solomon Hill to Atlanta Hawks for Nos. 8 (Jaxson Hayes), 17 (Nickeil Alexander-Walker) and 35 (Didi Louzada) overall picks and 2020 first-round pick in 2019
- Traded Anthony Davis to Los Angeles Lakers for Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, 2019, 2021 and 2024 first-round picks and 2023 pick swap in 2019
- Drafted Zion Williamson No. 1 overall in 2019
General manager Trajan Langdon and executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin have done a masterful job of reshaping the New Orleans Pelicans post-Anthony Davis, helped out of course by winning the 2019 draft lottery.
The Pelicans got a tremendous package of picks and players for Davis, and Ingram looks like one of the best offensive players in the league already. Ball's outside shot is much-improved, and the future first-round picks have put New Orleans in position to pull off trades.
Derrick Favors is the perfect veteran center for Jaxson Hayes to develop behind, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker has played four different positions while flashing his versatility as a rookie.
Williamson was an easy pick at No. 1, and his presence combined with Ingram, Ball, Jrue Holiday and Hayes could make this one of the best rosters in the Western Conference very soon.
Scott Perry, New York Knicks: D+
- Signed Julius Randle to three-year, $63 million deal in 2019
- Drafted RJ Barrett No. 3 overall in 2019
- Traded Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee and Trey Burke to the Dallas Mavericks for DeAndre Jordan, Dennis Smith Jr., Wesley Matthews, 2021 and 2023 first-round picks in 2019
- Traded Carmelo Anthony to Oklahoma City Thunder for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and 2018 second-round pick (Mitchell Robinson)
The New York Knicks decided to keep Scott Perry on as GM, even after making the switch from Steve Mills to Leon Rose as team president.
Starting with the positives, RJ Barrett appears to have been the right choice last summer and was playing his best basketball before the NBA went on hiatus.
Of course, free agency was a disaster, as the Knicks watched their primary targets sign elsewhere before settling for Julius Randle, Marcus Morris, Taj Gibson, Elfrid Payton, Bobby Portis and Wayne Ellington. Morris has already been traded to the Los Angeles Clippers, and none of the other signees look like long-term options.
Trading Porzingis in part for cap space didn't work out, but the Knicks do have a pair of future firsts to show for it. Dumping Anthony resulted in Mitchell's acquisition, though he still needs a bigger role to grow into his potential.
Sam Presti, Oklahoma City Thunder: A
- Traded Russell Westbrook to Houston Rockets for Chris Paul, 2024 and 2026 first-round picks with 2021 and 2025 first-round pick swaps in 2019
- Traded Paul George to Los Angeles Clippers for Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, 2022, 2024 and 2026 first-round picks, 2021 and 2023 first-round picks (via Miami Heat) and 2023 and 2025 pick swaps in 2019
- Signed Paul George to four-year, $137 million deal in 2018
- Signed Russell Westbrook to five-year, $205 million deal in 2017
- Traded Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis for Paul George in 2017
Sam Presti has been an absolute wizard for the Oklahoma City Thunder, both when it comes to the draft and pulling off blockbuster trades.
After losing Kevin Durant to free agency in 2016, Presti went out and got George and convinced him to re-sign on a four-year deal the following summer.
Even after losing in the first round last season, Presti was able to pull in a whopping 11 first-round selections and pick swaps for Westbrook and George in addition to getting a franchise point guard in Gilgeous-Alexander.
The Thunder are still a playoff lock this season after all their reshuffling, with credit due to both Presti and Chris Paul. While championship hopes have been put on hold, the Thunder have more future firsts than any other team and should be looking to cash some in for the next star player who hits the trade market.
John Hammond, Orlando Magic: C
- Signed Nikola Vucevic to four-year, $100 million deal in 2019
- Traded Jonathon Simmons, 2020 first-round pick and 2019 second-round pick to Philadelphia 76ers for Markelle Fultz in 2019
- Drafted Mo Bamba No. 6 overall in 2018
- Drafted Jonathan Isaac No. 6 overall in 2017
Despite a front-office makeover with John Hammond and president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman, the Orlando Magic are still a frontcourt-loaded roster that's only good enough for a bottom seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Orlando probably needs to trade Aaron Gordon or Jonathan Isaac at some point, and Mo Bamba wasn't picked in the top six to come off the bench his whole career.
Taking a chance on Markelle Fultz was smart, as he's shown flashes of becoming a dynamic point guard and only recently turned 22.
There's plenty of talent on the roster, but the pieces don't yet fit.
Elton Brand, Philadelphia 76ers: C
- Signed Ben Simmons to five-year, $170 million contract extension in 2019
- Signed Al Horford to four-year, $109 million deal in 2019
- Signed Tobias Harris to five-year, $180 million deal in 2019
- Traded Jimmy Butler and Mathias Lessort in four-team deal for Josh Richardson in 2019
- Traded Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless and 2022 second-round pick to Minnesota Timberwolves for Jimmy Butler and Justin Patton in 2018
Elton Brand has been leading the Sixers front office for just 18 months, yet he has made more big moves than most GMs do in years.
Taking a chance on Jimmy Butler had Philly just a Kawhi Leonard buzzer-beater away from advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals, and getting Josh Richardson after Butler made it known he wanted to leave for the Heat was a positive.
The Ben Simmons extension was a given, but Al Horford's deal was a huge mistake, and Brand may have to give up draft picks to get out of it. Despite his production, $36 million per year for Harris is probably too much, and he can't play his natural power forward position as much now with Horford on the team.
The Sixers have disappointed for much of the year but still have one of the most talented rosters in the conference. If Brand can move Horford for another big contract that fits better (Harrison Barnes? Chris Paul?), he'll redeem his biggest mistake.
James Jones, Phoenix Suns: C-
- Signed Ricky Rubio to three-year, $51 million deal in 2019
- Signed Kelly Oubre Jr. to two-year, $30 million deal in 2019
- Traded No. 6 overall pick (Jarrett Culver) to Minnesota Timberwolves for No. 11 overall pick (Cameron Johnson) and Dario Saric in 2019
- Traded Trevor Ariza to Washington Wizards for Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers in 2018
The signing of Ricky Rubio helped keep the Suns afloat at the beginning of the 2019-20 season, but much like it has in the past decade, Phoenix sank toward the bottom of the West.
Trading back in the draft cost the Suns the chance at Coby White, Rui Hachimura and Cam Reddish, who have significantly higher upsides than the 24-year-old Johnson. Saric could leave in free agency this offseason, too.
James Jones also traded T.J. Warren to the Pacers in a salary dump when the team needed floor-stretching wings to play between Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton.
If the Suns don't get better soon, how long before Booker asks to be moved?
Neil Olshey, Portland Trail Blazers: B
- Traded Kent Bazemore, Anthony Tolliver, 2024 and 2025 second-round picks for Trevor Ariza, Caleb Swanigan and Wenyen Gabriel in 2020
- Signed Carmelo Anthony to one-year, $2.2 million deal in 2019
- Signed CJ McCollum to three-year, $100 million contract extension in 2019
- Signed Damian Lillard to four-year, $196 million contract extension in 2019
- Signed Jusuf Nurkic to four-year, $48 million deal in 2018
Neil Olshey has built these Blazers from the ground up, starting with the draft selections of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum in 2012 and 2013.
He's since taken care of those players, with nearly $300 million worth of contract extensions for his backcourt. While McCollum's deal averages $33 million per year, the Lillard supermax has the potential to get ugly fast. Lillard is set to earn $54.3 million during the 2024-25 season, when he'll be 34 years old.
The trade for a starting-caliber small forward in Trevor Ariza came too late for a lottery-bound team, but the signing of Carmelo Anthony was well worth it.
Jusuf Nurkic is on a great deal, and if he can come back, Portland could get into the playoffs.
With so much money committed to a veteran backcourt in its prime, it's time for Olshey to trade some of the young pieces in Anfernee Simons, Zach Collins and Nassir Little to get some win-now help.
Vlade Divac, Sacramento Kings: D+
- Signed Buddy Hield to four-year, $86 million contract extension in 2019
- Signed Harrison Barnes to four-year, $85 million deal in 2019
- Traded Zach Randolph and Justin Jackson to Dallas Mavericks for Harrison Barnes in 2018
- Drafted Marvin Bagley III No. 2 overall in 2018
- Signed George Hill to three-year, $57 million deal in 2017
- Drafted De'Aaron Fox No. 5 overall in 2017
While Sacramento typically has to overpay free agents, the deals for George Hill and Harrison Barnes seemed absurd. Buddy Hield's contract isn't bad for a starting shooting guard, but he's become an expensive sixth man.
De'Aaron Fox was one of the few good draft picks Vlade Divac has made during his tenure, but passing on Luka Doncic (and Trae Young) for Marvin Bagley III could go down as one of the worst mistakes in draft history.
Divac handed out big-money deals to role players Dewayne Dedmon, Trevor Ariza and Cory Joseph in the summer. Less than a year later, only Joseph remains.
The Kings will need to re-sign Bogdan Bogdanovic this offseason and hope that Bagley has recovered from an injury-plagued campaign.
Divac has mostly done a poor job, with Sacramento likely missing the playoffs for the 14th straight year.
Brian Wright, San Antonio Spurs: C
- Signed Dejounte Murray to four-year, $64 million deal in 2019
- Waived DeMarre Carroll in 2020
Brian Wright took over the general manager position in July 2019 as longtime GM RC Buford moved to the role of CEO of Spurs Sports and Entertainment.
While Buford built a dynasty that's since fallen apart following the Kawhi Leonard trade, it's up to Wright to put together the pieces for a team on the verge of missing the playoffs for the first time in 23 years.
Dejounte Murray's $16 million-per-year deal looks like fair value, as the 23-year-old has upped his three-point percentage to 37.8 percent while averaging 10.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.7 steals in 24.9 minutes per game.
DeMarre Carroll signed a three-year, $21 million deal in the summer yet was rarely used by head coach Gregg Popovich. Wright waived Carroll after failing to find a trade partner, leaving him free to sign with the Rockets.
Murray has the potential to become one of the better defensive guards in the league, so getting him under contract was important. For now, Wright has not made enough moves to deserve a higher grade.
Bobby Webster, Toronto Raptors: A
- Signed Pascal Siakam to four-year, $130 million deal in 2019
- Traded Jonas Valanciunas, CJ Miles, Delon Wright and 2024 second-round pick to Memphis Grizzlies for Marc Gasol in 2019
- Traded DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a 2019 first-round pick to San Antonio Spurs for Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and cash in 2018
- Signed Kyle Lowry to three-year, $100 million deal in 2017
- Signed Serge Ibaka to three-year, $65 million deal in 2017
Bobby Webster took over GM duties for the Raptors in 2017 when he was only 32 years old, hired into the role by team president Masai Ujiri.
The crown jewel of the front office during the last three years was the trade for not only Kawhi Leonard but Danny Green as well. Getting both as starters on a championship team was well worth giving up DeMar DeRozan as painful as it may have been at the time.
Getting Marc Gasol as a defensive anchor played a large role for the title team, and Webster has done a good job of taking care of his existing talent as well.
After extensions for Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and Pascal Siakam, Webster will have to find new deals for Ibaka, Gasol and Fred VanVleet this offseason.
Keeping the Raptors near the top of the East even after losing Leonard and Green has been extremely impressive, and some credit is due to Webster and Ujiri.
Justin Zanik, Utah Jazz: B
- Traded Dante Exum, 2022 and 2023 second-round picks to Cleveland Cavaliers for Jordan Clarkson in 2019
- Signed Joe Ingles to one-year, $14 million contract extension in 2019
- Signed Bojan Bogdanovic to four-year, $73 million contract in 2019
- Traded Derrick Favors to New Orleans Pelicans for 2021 and 2023 second-round picks in 2019
- Traded Kyle Korver, Jae Crowder, Grayson Allen, 2019 and 2020 first-round picks to Memphis Grizzlies for Mike Conley
After taking over the GM role in May 2019, Justin Zanik shares front-office duties with executive vice president of basketball operations Dennis Lindsey.
In a year on the job, Zanik has helped modernize the Jazz, shipping out Derrick Favors and signing Bojan Bogdanovic to help space the floor between Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert.
Mike Conley got off to a brutal start in Utah but has since turned around his production. His presence will be greatly needed in the postseason when teams send extra defenders at Mitchell.
Clarkson has been a spark off the bench with his 15.6 points per game—even if other acquisitions such as Ed Davis, Jeff Green (who's since been released) and Emmanuel Mudiay haven't worked out.
Though better, the Jazz are still a few pieces away from being considered title contenders.
Tommy Sheppard, Washington Wizards: C+
- Signed Bradley Beal to two-year, $72 million contract extension in 2019
- Traded Aaron White in three-team deal for Davis Bertans in 2019
- Signed Thomas Bryant to three-year, $25 million deal in 2019
- Drafted Rui Hachimura No. 9 overall in 2019
- Signed Isaiah Thomas to one-year, $2 million deal in 2019
Signing Bradley Beal to an extension was smart, as it took him out of all trade talks for the season and will drive up the asking price this offseason if Tommy Sheppard is open to moving his star.
Sheppard took advantage of the Spurs' need to clear cap space for the failed Marcus Morris Sr. signing, getting Davis Bertans, who became one of the league's best three-point shooting big men this season.
Thomas Bryant is on a good contract given his age (22) and production, but bringing in Isaiah Thomas (minus-9.6 points per 100 possessions) was a waste of a roster spot for a rebuilding team.
Rui Hachimura was a surprising pick in the top 10, but he has had a solid rookie season and could be a quality long-term starter with an improved outside shot.
Sheppard should try to bring back Bertans in free agency while seeing what the trio of the Latvian Laser, Beal and John Wall can do.