The 10 Worst NBA GMs in League History

Mike B.Correspondent IJuly 25, 2011

The 10 Worst NBA GMs in League History

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    David Kahn has been the Minnesota Timberwolves' President of Basketball Operations for a little over two years now.

    Some fans think he's been doing a fine job, while others think he's the NBA's worst general manager of all time.

    Kahn definitely isn't the league's worst GM of all time, even though he oddly drafted three point guards in the first round of the 2009 draft and then traded Ty Lawson, who's arguably the best of the three. 

    And it's quite disturbing that he referred to Darko Milicic as "manna from heaven."

    But you never know, Kahn might eventually build Minnesota into a championship team led by All-Star Kevin Love and co.

    Leave the "worst GM" label to guys like Isiah Thomas, Jim (not John) Paxson and Kevin McHale, who Kahn replaced.

    Here's a look at the top 10 not-so-spectacular GMs in NBA history.


10. Dave Twardzik

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    Twardzik makes the list because of the many stars that he passed up in the mid '90s while serving as GM of the Golden State Warriors.

    In the 1995 draft, he took Joe Smith No. 1 overall. The next four picks—Antonio McDyess, Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace and Kevin Garnett—all turned out to be All-Stars, something Smith would never accomplish.

    In '96, Twardzik drafted bust Todd Fuller with the 11th overall pick, skipping two future MVPs in Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash as well as fellow All-Stars Peja Stojakovic, Jermaine O'Neal and Zydrunas Ilgauskas.     

    The Warriors would suffer a bunch of losing seasons, but they wouldn't have if guys like Kobe and Garnett had headed to the Bay Area.

9. Rob Babcock

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    Although he was only the Toronto Raptors' GM for a year and a half, Babcock deserves a spot on this kind of list. 

    In December 2004, Babcock traded the team's franchise superstar Vince Carter to New Jersey in exchange for Alonzo Mourning, Eric Williams, Aaron Williams and two first-round draft picks.

    Mourning never ended up playing in Toronto, the Williams boys didn't do much for the team, and the picks didn't turn out to be anybody special.

    Babcock drafted disappointing big man bust Rafael Araujo eight overall in 2004, skipping the likes of Andre Iguodala, Josh Smith and Jameer Nelson. And he overlooked future All-Star Danny Granger the following year as he drafted Joey Graham instead.

    Babcock was fired in 2006 and was eventually replaced by Bryan Colangelo. 

8. Billy Knight

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    As GM of the Atlanta Hawks, Knight made a few brilliant moves like trading for Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby, and drafting Josh Smith and Al Horford.  

    In 2008, under Knight's watch, the Hawks reached the playoffs for the first time in nine years.

    Knight helped the Hawks go from a perennial loser to a perennial playoff squad, so why is he even on a list like this?

    Well, it's because of the mistake he made during the 2005 NBA Draft. With the Hawks in dire need of a point guard, Knight used the No. 2 overall pick on Marvin Williams, who didn't even start for his college team.

    Williams would turn out to be a 11.7 point-per-game scorer in the pros, while superstar point guards Deron Williams and Chris Paul, drafted third and fourth overall, were still on the board.

    If Knight had taken either one of those floor generals, the Hawks probably would have become a title contender. 

7. Wes Unseld

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    Unseld was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History. The 6'7" undersized center is the only player in league history other than Wilt Chamberlain to win both MVP and Rookie of the Year in the same season.

    Too bad Unseld's executive career wasn't as spectacular as his playing career.

    Serving as GM of the Washingtpn Bullets/Wizards, he was responsible for trading a young Rasheed Wallace for a much-older Rod Strickland and future four-time Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace for Ike Austin.

    He must have had something against players with the last name of Wallace.

    Perhaps Unseld's worst move was trading Chris Webber for a broken-down Mitch Richmond.   

6. Billy King

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    During his time as the Philadelphia 76ers' GM, King tried to find a star to pair with scoring-machine Allen Iverson.

    King could have found that star in the 1998 draft, but passed up Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce in favor of Larry Hughes.

    King later traded for Chris Webber, but he wasn't the same C-Webb that he was in Sacramento.

    One of King's worst moves came in 2006 when he dealt Iverson to Denver for just Andre Miller and two late first-round draft picks. And you can't forget about King handing Kenny Thomas an insane $50 million contract.

    However, King made some wise decisions in Philly such as drafting Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young and Samuel Dalembert.

    Currently the GM of the New Jersey Nets, King traded for All-Star point guard Deron Williams this past season. But can he get D-Will to re-sign? That's the big question.   

5. Jim Paxson

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    Paxson took LeBron James with the top pick in the 2003 draft. And that might have been about the only good thing he did as GM of the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

    The Cavs failed to reach the postseason in each of Paxson's six seasons mostly due to his horrendous drafting. He drafted busts like Trajan Langdon, Dajuan Wagner and Luke Jackson. He also drafted Jamal Crawford but traded him for "can't miss" big man Chris Mihm.

    Paxson traded Andre Miller for lottery bust Darius Miles and a dealt a first-round draft pick for Jiri Welsch. Yikes.

    And Paxson was responsible for the Cavs losing Carlos Boozer for nothing.

4. Kevin McHale

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    McHale teamed with legends Larry Bird and Robert Parish to lead the Boston Celtics to three titles in the 1980s. 

    Retiring from the game in 1993, he was named Vice President of Basketball Operations by the Minnesota Timberwolves two years later.

    McHale would select high school forward Kevin Garnett with the fifth overall pick in the 1995 NBA Draft and hired college buddy Flip Saunders as head coach.

    The additions of Garnett, one of the greatest players of all time, and Saunders, one of the league's better coaches, made McHale look like a genius.

    However, he made a lot of not-so-excellent moves as well.

    In 1998, McHale signed Garnett to a massive $126 million contract, making it extremely difficult to build a championship-caliber ball club.

    Later, McHale made an under-the-table deal with Joe Smith, costing the Wolves to lose three first-round draft picks.       

    McHale drafted NBA three-point career leader Ray Allen in 1996, but traded him for Stephon Marbury. And in 2006, he drafted Brandon Roy, but dealt him for Randy Foye. 

    In 2007, "McFail" traded Garnett to the Celtics in a deal for Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Gerald Green, Theo Ratliff, and two draft picks (Jonny Flynn and Wayne Ellington). So basically the Wolves gave KG to Boston.

    McHale is currently the head coach of the Houston Rockets.

3. Scott Layden

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    Layden was hired by the New York Knicks in 1999, after the team lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals.  

    Layden, though, would later make Knicks fans wish he never brought his services to the Big Apple.

    In 2000, he traded Patrick Ewing, one of the greatest centers ever, to Seattle in a four-team deal that sent the Knicks a past-his-prime Glen Rice, Luc Longley and others.

    The following year, Layden re-signed Allan Houston to a whopping $100 million contract. Houston was a pretty good player, but he definitely wasn't worth that kind of dough, not even close.

    And then in 2002, Layden dealt Marcus Camby and the seventh overall pick in the draft (Nene Hilario) to Denver for a banged-up Antonio McDyess.

    Layden was fired in 2003 and replaced by Isiah Thomas.

2. Isiah Thomas

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    Thomas is hands-down one of the top five greatest point guards in NBA history. "Zeke" led the Detroit "Bad Boy" Pistons to back-to-back championships in 1989 and 1990 and was a 12-time All-Star.

    Thomas was obviously a great player, however, as an executive, the word "great" shouldn't be mentioned anywhere close to his name.

    He drafted a few talented players such as Damon Stoudemire, Marcus Camby, Tracy McGrady and David Lee. But, he drove the Knicks into the ground with a bevy of ridiculous moves.

    Thomas traded for headcase Stephon Marbury and stupidly tried to pair him with Steve Francis in the backcourt later. He also gave superstar contracts to bench players like Jerome James and Jared Jeffries.

    Instead of rebuilding the Knicks through the draft and clearing up cap space, Thomas continuously added salary and traded away draft picks. 

    Because of Thomas' awful tenure as the Knicks' GM, many fans probably forget about his stellar playing career. What a shame.

1. Elgin Baylor

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    Like Isiah, Baylor is undoubtedly one of the best players the game has ever known. And also like Isiah, he definitely wasn't a good executive.

    Baylor spent 22 years as GM of the Los Angeles Clippers. And during that time, the team only made the playoffs three times and produced a miserable 607-1153 record.

    It seemed as if Baylor possessed a strong desire to draft the wrong players year after year.

    His countless number of bad draft decisions include passing up Scottie Pippen for Reggie Williams, Kobe Bryant for Lorenzen Wright and Dirk Nowitzki for Michael Olowokandi. 

    Baylor was named the NBA's Executive of the Year in 2006, but that was probably just because the league felt sorry for him after years of lottery appearances.