Ranking the NBA’s general managers
It is once again time for my annual column ranking the league’s general managers. From the brightest minds in the game to the guys that couldn’t recognize legitimate NBA talent if it smacked them dead in the face, here’s my assessment of the league’s best GM’s, some of whom will most likely be out of a job at the conclusion of the 2006-07 season.
At any rate, here are my annual rankings on the NBA’s general managers.
Buford certainly doesn’t get as much notoriety as some of the other GM’s on this list, but I don’t think there’s a better personnel man in the entire league. Each year, he continues to surround superstar Tim Duncan with excellent role players and has built the Spurs into an international collection of talent that every team in the league is now trying to duplicate. To put it mildly, he is the best in the business.
Dumars isn’t far behind Buford when it comes to building a team. The Pistons have a core unit that has been built for the long haul – and Dumars seems to keep adding the right complimentary players each year. I think a lot of people are forgetting how good the Pistons are – but they will be forcefully reminded this year that this team isn’t going away anytime soon – thanks to Dumars.
Simply put, Paxson has been masterful in rebuilding the Bulls – and now has his team in position to be very good for years to come. He has drafted extremely well and has a vision that is nearly beyond compare.
Simply put, Colangelo was nothing short of ingenious in his time with the Phoenix Suns – and has been equally brilliant in his short stint with the Toronto Raptors – transforming a dismal team that finished last season in a clueless condition into one that already seems to have one of the most promising futures of any team in the league.
Pfund, like Buford, doesn’t get a lot of notoriety – especially with the legendary Pat Riley in South Beach – but Pfund has built the Heat into an excellent team that should still be very good even when aging stars, Shaquille O’Neal, Alonzo Mourning and Gary Payton are long gone. He will however, have his work cut out for him in the next few seasons replacing this trio.
Ferry has done an excellent job of, not only keeping LeBron James happy, but also surrounding him with competent role players who are giving his team a legitimate chance to win on a regular basis. Ferry seems to have an innate sense of just what his team needs and is only going to get better with each passing season.
Bernie Bickerstaf:f Charlotte Bobcats
Say what you want about Bickerstaff as a coach (and he’s pretty good on the bench) but he has built the Bobcats from an expansion team, to one of the most talented young teams in the league, wisely acquiring players who were winners at the college level – and one that expect to win in the pros as well.
Harris has quietly made several excellent moves in transforming the Bucks from perennial doormats to a playoff team with a bright future – and several talented young players like Andrew Bogut, Charlie Villanueva and one of the league’s best shooters in Michael Redd. Harris will however have his work cut out for him in helping the Bucks make the next transition to perennial playoff powerhouse.
Say what you want about West, but it is clear the man still has an eye for talent. The Grizzlies are an overachieving team with players that head coach Mike Fratello gets the most out of. Don’t look now, but his acquisition of rookie Rudy Gay could turn out to be one of West’s best moves ever.
Otis Smith must have learned a thing or two from his predecessor, JohnWeisbrod because he has been absolutely outstanding in building the Magic into one of the most promising young teams in the league. From his ingenious decision to re-sign Jameer Nelson to his intelligent acquisition of Darko Milicic and drafting of former Duke University sniper, J.J. Redick, Smith has shown in a short period of time that he has what it takes to build a team from the ground up.
I can’t believe I have Baylor this high on my list, but look at the Clipper now. Baylor has helped transform this team into a legitimate championship contender in the powerful western conference. If owner Donald Sterling would have loosened his purse strings years ago, maybe Baylor would have been able to build a contender and lure some legitimate players to Los Angeles a long time ago.
Lord knows, I love Larry Bird, but I have to say that Bird’s performance has only been so-so in Indiana. Yes, he’s done some wonderful things like drafting Danny Granger and reacquiring Al Harrington, but he also went out of his way to acquire the slow as a three-year-old, Sarunas Jasikevicius and got rid of Ron Artest for a player that has been in a steady decline for the past several years (Peja Stojakovic).
Depending on how the Pacers perform this year, Bird’s ranking could go either way.
I know D’Antoni isn’t really the guy who built the Suns into the team they are (that would be Bryan Colangelo) but he has been instrumental in the process and certainly knows what kinds of players he wants for his innovative system. His personnel moves will bear scrutiny the next few seasons, but I think he’s going to do just fine.
Kupchak hasn’t done a bad job during his tenure with the Lakers (although some people will say he should have kept Shaq) and seems to have his young team on the comeback. His acquisitions of veterans Vladimir Radmanovic and Maurice Evans should go a long way in helping Kobe Bryant and the Lakers get back to being a perennial powerhouse.
Succinctly put, Ainge has been absolutely perplexing since he took over as the Celtics head of player personnel. He has definitely helped the Celtics acquire some very talented young players, but he has also acquired too many young players while not doing a good enough job of surrounding superstar, Paul Pierce with players who can help him win now. Depending on how well the C’s do this year, Ainge could find himself out of a job, however, the most likely scenario in Boston is that Ainge will lay the blame at the feet of head coach Doc Rivers if Boston doesn’t make the playoffs.
Petrie has been solid if nothing else in his tenure with the Kings. Nabbing Artest for Stojakovic was a stroke of genius – and one that immediately transformed the Kings from a soft offensive team into a hard-nosed defensive-oriented unit that looks like it could make some noise this season. I also have to give Petrie credit for acquiring Shareef Abdur-Rahim when the Nets’ Rod Thorn idiotically backed off the former all-star like a scaredy-cat on Halloween night.
Grunfeld has done a credible job of building the Wizards into a perennial playoff team after years of futility. From Antawn Jamison to Gilbert Arenas, Grunfeld has made several excellent acquisitions for Washington. Now, if only he can find a coach to teach this crew how to play some defense.
Sure, getting Vince Carter has been something of a coup but for New Jersey, but backing away from Abdur-Rahim was extremely foolish and is coming back to haunt the frontcourt-thin Nets in the worst way. I will give Thorn some credit for draft Marcus Williams this year, who could really turn out to be a star some day. I really respect Thorn, but he had better get his act together and find some frontcourt players with the swiftness.
Kiki Vandeweghe transformed the Nuggets into a team that players actually wanted to play for by changing the overall atmosphere of the franchise. I don’t know much about Warkentien, but I do know the Nuggets need a shooting guard in the worst way – and have still yet to get one. Why the Nuggets ever messed around and let Vandeweghe leave town is beyond me, but guess what, Carmelo Anthony and his teammates will be paying dearly for that huge mistake for the next few years.
I can’t necessarily say that the younger Nelson has done a good job in his role as GM – especially since it was his father who pretty much built Dallas into the team that currently exists. However, he does get bonus points for staying out of dad’s way. I guess the next couple of seasons will tell exactly how competent he really is
Mullin seems to have a viable plan to get the Warriors back on track. Hiring his former head coach, Don Nelson was a good start.
Dawson hasn’t done much to improve the Rockets recently and trading away the rights to Rudy Gay could come back to haunt this team for years to come. And people wonder what the hell is wrong with the Rockets. Duh.
I’ve got to give Bower the benefit of the doubt for at least a little while. I will say that he certainly can’t be as bad as his predecessor, Allan Bristow.
O’Conner has done absolutely nothing to help ingenious head coach Jerry Sloan either. The Jazz always play the right way under Sloan and ar actually an overachieving bunch that plays hard every night. It’s too bad Utah just doesn’t have enough talent to really compete.
I don’t know how else to say it except – Sund should be out of a job. Let’s see, the Sonics drafted three centers in consecutive years with their first-round picks and have absolutely nothing to show for it. He also let head coach Nate McMillan get away after revitalizing the team a couple of years ago. Once again, this is why the Sonics are one of the most mediocre teams in the league.
Patterson certainly has his hands full trying to straighten out the mess that the Blazers have become. His predecessor, John Nash was absolutely awful and now Portland is paying for it.The Blazers have been lost in the wilderness for almost a decade now, although they may be starting to finally move forward in the right direction. Then again, until this team gets rid of head case supreme Zach Randolph, I just don’t see much progress happening.
Every year, I write the same thing about how I feel bad for Kevin Garnett and the fact that he doesn’t have enough legitimate talent to really compete in the western conference. I’m laying the blame squarely at the feet of Kevin McHale, who should know better from his playing days with the Boston Celtics that one man can’t beat five.
Billy Knight: Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks have been absolutely pitiful for a while now and Knight has done nothing but keep acquiring young athletic small forwards. You would think that he would have the common sense to try and nab a young point guard who can grow with their athletic wing players, but no, he doesn’t. I can unequivocally add that this will be his last year with the Hawks.
If I could have, I would have put King in the last spot on this list. However, he’s as close as it gets. His idiotic acquisition of an aging Chris Webber and equally foolish signing of Samuel Dalembert to an outrageously over-priced contract has handcuffed the Sixers for the next several years. Besides that, he openly shopped his best player (Allen Iverson) before meekly realizing that no trade would materialize, thereby putting Iverson in a lame duck situation – at least until mid-season. Point blank, if the Sixers want to get better in the near future, it will be without King at the helm.
Thomas has been downright dim-witted in his role a the Knicks GM. Thomas has frivolously thrown good money after bad and has nothing but underachieving, overpaid aging veterans to show for it. I say this team should keep Channing Frye, Nate Robinson and possibly Renaldo Balkman – and maybe Eddy Curry on his good days. Other than that, it may be time to strap Thomas with an IED and put him on a bus with the rest of his roster, especially Stephon Marbury and Steve Francis. Oh, my bad, aren’t they the same player?
Eric Williams is a sports columnist for the Philadelphia Sunday Sun and nationally syndicated freelance writer who can be heard every Wednesday at 3:15 eastern on www.BetUSradio.com. Contact Eric at [email protected]