Posted Feb 24 2010 10:18AM
Their job this season, for the most part, is done. What happens now is beyond their control. All that's left is to sit back, cheer, worry, evaluate and prepare for this summer. And then it starts all over again.
Such is the plight of the NBA general manager, post-trade deadline. The phone calls lasting well past midnight, the irritating yet necessary discussions with agents and the trades and signings are finished for now. This is the break in the season that gives them a chance to pause and reflect. And it gives us a chance to examine what they've done to improve their team, for the short and long haul.
Understand that being a GM isn't easy. There's no simple process, no flawless blueprint and no chance at being correct at everything. They are imperfect people judging other imperfect people. Even the very best make mistakes; Brian Cardinal owes his NBA career to Jerry West, who gave 7 years and $45 million to a journeyman.
But some are better than others. The key is to keep your mistakes small while hitting it big on the major decisions. Poor financial decisions can especially have devastating effects, given the economy and declining revenue and owners' reluctance to pay the luxury tax.
That's why GMs today are being particularly careful about contracts. The days of giving Jerome James $6 million a year to basically use the team's workout facility are over. And giving big contracts to players with questionable character is a risk not worth taking. Larry Bird is still paying the price in Indiana for dumping Stephen Jackson and Ron Artest and getting a bunch of bad contracts in return. For example, nobody wanted Mike Dunleavy or Troy Murphy at the trading deadline, even though they're decent enough players. Their contracts are horrible, from a team standpoint.
Since the "general manager season" is basically over, it's the right time to check the performances and see who did what:
He was the recipient of an unexpected bonus when Brandon Jennings fell in last June's draft, and then Jennings had a quicker impact than many expected. If anything, Hammond's best decision was finding a taker last summer for Richard Jefferson's albatross contract, something the small-market Bucks couldn't afford. In hindsight, given Jefferson's stumble in San Antonio, Hammond's timing was great.
The front-runner for executive of the year? Seems like it. He clearly had the best draft of any GM, getting Tyreke Evans and Omri Casspi (at No. 23) and setting the foundation for the Kings' rebuilding project. Then Petrie unloaded Kevin Martin, which officially opened the way for the Kings to be Evans' team. In the process, he grabbed Carl Landry, a power forward on the rise, who comes rather cheap. The money saved from Martin's contract gives the Kings flexibility to make a future run at free agents.
Last spring the Bulls took the Celtics to the limit in the postseason. But Paxson decided against building on that experience. He let Ben Gordon go and never found a replacement. He drafted Taj Gibson at No. 26, refused (for now, anyway) to fire Vinny Del Negro and then traded Tyrus Thomas rather than extend his deal. Paxson's goal was to free up enough money to make a run at Dwyane Wade -- perhaps the best strategy -- to pair with Derrick Rose.
No question, Ferry played his hand correctly during the intense days leading up to the trade deadline and grabbed Antawn Jamison, a better fit than Amar'e Stoudemire. Plus, Ferry kept J.J. Hickson, a promising player on the rise. But let's be fair. Ferry got Jamison and also Shaquille O'Neal last summer only because Dan Gilbert was willing to pay the luxury tax, an advantage most GMs don't have.
If the goal was to clear as much cap space as possible to fatten their wallets for this summer, mission accomplished. But it's been a mixed bag for Walsh. Dumping Jared Jeffries was costly, forcing the Knicks to essentially sacrifice three first-round picks (two plus Jordan Hill, their first-rounder last year). And Walsh passed on Brandon Jennings in the draft.
He stood pat at the trading deadline, but could afford to chill. Sund is still riding high on offseason pickup Jamal Crawford, the best of the offseason pickups. Crawford is almost the runaway favorite for the sixth man award and is the reason the Hawks are, at worst, fourth-best in the East. Sund also drafted Jeff Teague, who's beginning to eat into Mike Bibby's minutes at the point.
He took advantage of the Wizards' fire sale by filling two needs with a scorer (Caron Butler) and low-post defender (Brendan Haywood). Oh, and it's always nice when you have an owner, in this case Mark Cuban, to write checks to cover the luxury tax.
He received lots of back-slaps at the trading deadline, but we won't know for a while whether the Rockets helped themselves. They added Kevin Martin, who could be the outside shooter the Rockets need when Yao Ming returns next season. But it cost them Carl Landry. Morey also added a pair of assets with picks from the Knicks, which may turn into gold, but that depends on how quickly the Knicks build themselves into a contender.
The trade for Stephen Jackson was the turning point of the season for Charlotte. And then Tyrus Thomas was added to strengthen the front line. This was Jordan's best move since breaking Bryon Russell's ankles.
Shaun Powell is a veteran NBA writer and columnist. You can e-mail him here.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.
|Inside the NBA: EJ's Neato Stat|
Ernie has a gift for Shaq and celebrates Kenny's birthday as only he can with a special memorable gift.
|Mar. 5: The Daily zap|
Get the quick spin through Thursday's two games in the Daily Zap.
|Inside The NBA: Wesley Matthews|
The Blazers' Wesley Matthews speaks after suffering a ruptured left Achilles injury rendering him out for the season.
|Inside The NBA: Shaqtin A Fool|
Plenty of laughs in this gutbusting edition of Shaqtin' A Fool.
|Inside The NBA: Bleacher Report|
The Bleacher Report crew break down the rivalry between LeBron James and James Harden.